By John Gruber
Flatfile: Never format messy spreadsheets again.
With regard to “Update 2” here.
Let’s make this very clear: certain parts of this tip were wrong. The new product pricelist started at $899, and it wasn’t a laptop, but a monitor.
The entire report was completely wrong.
The $99 is semantics, because the tipster saw the figure 8, and obviously didn’t get the $99 part.
The difference between $899 and $900 is semantics. The difference between $899 and $800 is a hundred dollars. If our source saw “899” and didn’t “get” the “99” part, it suggests our source is either visually or mentally handicapped. As a full-time technology blogger, I am fully aware that every computer Apple sells or has sold in recent history has a price that ends with “99”, and that an “$800 laptop” from Apple, semantic differences aside, would sell for a list price of $799.
There was however a pricelist, and the first item was a product close to the mark.
That said, I did not report that Apple was set to introduce an “$800 product”. Rather, I reported specifically that Apple was set to introduce an “$800 laptop”. There was no “could be a laptop” or “we think it’s a laptop”.
Second, there was a sub-$1000 laptop, but at $999 not $800. No one saw the monitor coming, and others, having seen the same list our tipster did, called it a laptop. That doesn’t excuse the inaccuracy, but it also highlights that we weren’t alone in not knowing about the monitor, and considering the first price on that list to be a laptop.
I reported a guess as a fact.
Sometimes in this game you print unsubstantiated tips.
Sometimes in this game you print unsubstantiated tips, but you describe them like this: “The information comes from a source we would categorize as reliable, would have access to such information, and who has been accurate in the past,” because if you described them as, say, “unsubstantiated” or “sketchily sourced”, far fewer people would believe it or link to the report.
Sometimes they don’t work out. I’ve actually not lost faith in the tipper either, because I confirmed the list later, it’s just the presumption that the first item on it was a laptop that ended up wrong.
I will continue to publish bogus reports from the same source.
If some people have issues with that, there’s little I can do to change your mind, but anyone who has ever worked in journalism or high level blogging knows the risks and issues around tips, and I’m not about to change the way I deal with them just because one wasn’t totally correct in what it included.
If I just keep digging, surely I’ll eventually get out of this hole.
If we hadn’t published this, someone else would have.
If I hadn’t completely trashed my own credibility, someone else would have trashed theirs, and they would have gotten all the attention and page views that instead went to me.