Disclaimer: I love MG Siegler. I think he’s one of the best writers on the Apple beat today. He’s smart, has access, quotes popular movies to make his points and uses foul language. He’s the complete package. That said, I have a beef, which started taking shape a couple of weeks ago.
When the Times ran its hit-pieces on Apple’s China manufacturing, I was plenty pissed. I waited for other tech writers I respected to vent their speen, but the outcry from people I expected to go after the Times didn’t happen. Gruber’s response didn’t really shock me. He linked to some stuff by Krugman about how people who criticized Apple didn’t understand how global manufacturing worked. I guess for him to step out against a news source largely identified as “left-leaning” would have resulted in some kind of Directive 4 shutdown. I also looked to Siegler and got something, but it was not the profane, knife-twisting that would provide my point of view with vindication. It was decidedly weak tea. After some delay, I began banging out some screed, but I was largely disappointed that the big names covering Apple had apparently phoned it in.
Fast forward to the recent Path fiasco. Straight up: I don’t give a shit about Path’s purported jacking of my address book. There’s a lot more profitable companies with some pretty mediocre products jacking my personal information. I think the practice in general is shitty, but I’ve been conditioned to the point where unless the jacking is balls-to-the-nose obnoxious or done by an app that exchanges it for no value, my sentiment is anecdotal and mostly based on how well it’s executed. Path didn’t execute its jacking very well. It didn’t allow users to opt-in and it got outed by a geek Carrier IQ-style. Path double-clutched, people got mad, Path relented and did the right thing. Case closed, right?
That’s where things break down a little for Siegler. For context: MG moved from mostly-writing to sometimes-writing and mostly VCing, which is great for him. I thought his talents were largely wasted by pointing out the obvious to Apple naysayers.
Anyway, he now spends a lot of his time with Michael Arrington managing CrunchFund, which is a VC fund started when Arrington still headed TechCrunch, but is now autonomous. I thought the fact that TC created a vehicle funded by and sponsors of businesses in the sector about which TC writes was stinky cheese, but I threw my feelings in the big bucket labeled “Michael Arrington”, shrugged and moved on. Until Path, that is.
You see, in the course of all the gang-stomping Path was bound to take, most of it warranted, Arrington called out the Times’s Nick Bilton for drawing out Path’s transgressions in all of the comically one-sided and selectively factual style that I’ve come to expect from them (minus the dozen anonymous sources leaned on in the Apple-Foxconn articles). The fact that CrunchFund is an investor in Path made it a little inappropriate. Then MG piled on, and in that bless-his-soul writing style I’ve come to know and love began a piece that ripped Bilton a new one, then proceeded to rip the tech writing practice in general a new one, in summary: “Most of what is written about the tech world — both in blog form and old school media form — is bullshit”. As someone similarly sick of the phenomenon, the words were directed straight at the choir, but in the context of his new role, belied an obvious conflict of interest. It got worse. He went after a Gawker’s Ryan Tate, something I’d normally celebrate naked, but did it in defense of Path. A perfect opportunity to char-broil the blog network guilty of the most legendary mishandling of user information in recent memory (which cost me money just last week – #fuckyouNickDenton) was squandered. Meanwhile, the people who might take exception to Siegler’s screed – and that boy had compiled quite the list – now had a 50′ strawman to light up. While numerous writers nibbled around the juicy center, the writer who ended up wielding the torch was none other than Dan Lyons. He got ahold of the issue and – strike me dead for saying this – wrought a piece of damning firebrand that had me nodding my head with respect and self-loathing in equal parts. MG, who is the only person I’ve read who possibly hates Lyons more than I do, retaliated. Arrington tried to high-road him, which is just about as funny to actually read as it is to envision reading. To channel Siegler, this was about the time in Animal House when Belushi yells “Food fight!” and the cafeteria explodes into a cloud of flying lunchgoods.
To me, MG Siegler represented one side of Apple’s coverage: informed, aligned with reality, speaking truth to stupid. Lyons was firmly entrenched on the other side: almost always contrarian (where the establishment is represented by “logic” and “facts”) and one of the most articulate pure click-baiters in the blogosphere. I’ll continue to read Siegler, but I’m a little disappointed that he’s letting his current involvement with Arrington and CrunchFund compromise his attempts to righteously crucify idiots like Lyons. By definition, he can never be right about Path. Every word used to take down those who want to pile on will be another squirt of gasoline on the fire, no matter how smart, astute or funny they are. The smartest thing he can do at this point is to stop writing about it. I hope it’s a lesson he carries with him in his future VC endeavors. Let Arrington wave his hand dismissively at those pointing out the inappropriateness of mixing self-interest and content – no one expects more from him. Let other hacks walk into punches like this.
And screw you for making me concede anything to Dan Lyons.