Where’s the “tech” in tech blogging?

A minor scandal has gently rocked the tech world lately, as the CrunchFund-…uh…-funded startup Path was caught uploading its users’ entire Address Books from their iPhones to Path’s servers. Path quickly rationalized, then apologized, then did a reasonably good job of making amends, but it stirred up a lot of concern (which probably should have been stirred up much sooner) about social networking platforms harvesting too much private Address Book data, and Apple’s iOS, in particular, not doing enough (which is to say, anything) to warn users that this was going on.

But more attention is now being drawn to the playground fight between former TechCrunch writer, current CrunchFund investor, Michael Arrington acolyte and self-serving tech blogger M.G. Siegler, and former Fake Steve Jobs, ongoing Newsweek technology editor and self-serving tech blogger Dan Lyons. I’m quickly learning that while it’s not possible to agree with both of them, it’s quite easy to disagree with both. In this situation neither seems nearly as concerned with the actual technology involved — nor in finding a technical solution to the dilemma of startups that want to offer their users the benefits of social integration while respecting privacy — as in proving their own awesomeness while ripping the other to shreds.

In short, it’s becoming a lot harder to see where technology fits into all of this ostensible tech blogging.

For quite a while I’ve been on M.G. Siegler’s side. To be honest I haven’t paid Dan Lyons much attention. He seemed like a gimmicky hack when he was pretending to be Steve Jobs, and just a bitter hack afterwards. M.G. Siegler isn’t necessarily much better. I have long loathed Michael Arrington’s work and anything associated with it (as I’ve documented here before), with the lone exception of Apple-focused M.G. Siegler. Which isn’t to say I am a huge Siegler fan (despite how frequently I have cited him on The Undisciplined Room); his favorite topic, I have learned, is not Apple but himself. He also peppers his writing with far too much gratuitous profanity for my taste. (Not that I don’t swear like a fucking sailor most of the time, but swearing just to make your writing seem edgy has been passé since shortly after Rolling Stone started doing it 40 years ago.) But even if I bristle at his style, I usually find his writing engaging, if not informative.

When the late, great Clara Peller famously asked “Where’s the beef?” (yes, I just went there), she wasn’t calling for a grudge match between two Silicon Valley pseudo-journalists; she was looking for something of substance. And substance is in as short supply in money-driven tech blogging as it was in fast food in the ’80s. (Thank goodness for Wendy’s and its public service campaign that fixed that, once and for all.)

To find the substance, we can go back to a voice that has been engaged in this Path discussion from the very beginning, one of my new favorite (real) tech bloggers, Matt Gemmell. Not only is he focused on solving the problem of Address Book privacy rather than on inflating his own stature in the blogging world, he actually knows what he’s talking about and has described a brilliant solution to the problem that I think every company that is collecting personal data from its users should employ.

In short, it’s easy to figure out which tech bloggers to side with: the ones who actually talk about technology, instead of each other.

Uh… excluding this post… by me… of course.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have enough of an audience to matter. (And with that attitude I never will either, I say in my head, in the voice of Agnes Skinner.) The majority of my traffic is one-time visitors searching Google to figure out why their Macs aren’t working right, or trying to get Drupal out of their lives, or wondering why open water on maps scares them so much, or trying to make sense of that weird Brooks Brothers logo. You know, the important stuff.

Reflections on (my own) uninformed speculation as pertains to a possible “iTV” from Apple

I don’t have any inside sources of information on the inner workings at Apple. I get most of my information from a handful of well-regarded tech blogs. (See the link list at the bottom of this post.) In fact, I would probably be doing the world a service by deleting my blog entirely and setting up my URL as a redirect to daringfireball.net.

But my lack of well-sourced information doesn’t preclude the formation of opinions, based on what I’ve heard. On rare occasions, those opinions might even merit sharing with others, and today I think may be one of those times.

The topic is an Apple-branded television, and whether or not such is coming in 2012, or ever. I was inspired to reflect on this after today’s post on the topic on Revert to Saved.

Past performance as an indicator of… something

I have a poor record regarding Apple rumors. I insisted in early 2007 that Apple couldn’t possibly be developing a smartphone. (You won’t find any traces of that insistence here, however, as I did have the good sense not to publish anything about it.)

Most smartphones then on the market sucked. I couldn’t envision what an Apple phone might look like, especially one with a touch screen and only one button. Much like The Homer, my mental abomination would likely resemble a cross between a Nintendo DS and the Cinco-Fone. Besides, it would have to be called the iPhone, and Cisco already owned that name. We know how that turned out.

In late 2009 and early 2010, I couldn’t imagine Apple releasing a tablet. (And that time around I had plenty of stupid stuff to say on the matter.) Every tablet I’d seen before that sucked, and I was certain there would be issues with screen resolution.

We know how that turned out.

Now, an Apple-branded TV, or, as the rumors would have it, iTV. Most TVs today suck, and there are few pieces of technology known to humanity more craptastic than a cable TV set-top box. There are open questions pertaining to the potential device’s screen dimensions. (Today’s flood of rumors says they’ll come in three sizes.) And, of course, ITV is already the name of a British network.

Given the eerie similarity of this scenario to the seemingly insurmountable challenges Apple previously faced with the iPhone and iPad, therefore, I am forced to deduce that Apple must have a TV in development, and… we know what it will be called.

Don’t listen to me

Where Apple excels is not in creating whole new technologies, but rather in combining existing and emerging technologies in novel ways, and optimizing the hell out of their performance. And they integrate their hardware seamlessly with software platforms that deliver content and experiences to create a cohesive and engaging ecosystem that no one else can match.

So, my inability to predict or even imagine what Apple has in the pipeline is partly a failure of imagination, and partly a lack of knowledge of the kinds of hardware and software engineering that Apple is keeping under wraps, guarded with jealous secrecy unmatched by any business or government agency on Earth.

So what?

So what, indeed? What is Apple doing, and more importantly, will it be awesome? Scratch that: How awesome will it be?

But the biggest question I actually have right now is: How much of this (hypothetical) iTV was invented before Steve Jobs died, and how much of Apple’s mojo did he take with him? In the coming months we should have an answer. This will be Apple’s first major product introduction of the post-Jobs era, and it will tell us how well that obsessive attention to detail has truly been woven into the “Apple DNA.”

Further reading

As promised, here’s a list of some of my favorite tech blogs/podcasts at the moment. I subscribe to their RSS feeds and check them daily.

Post script

I cranked out the bulk of this post in the Notes app on my iPhone while standing in a hallway, waiting for SLP. I had the idea in my head and I wanted to get it written before I lost it. I’m not sure what that really says about anything, but I thought it was worth noting.