May 042011
 

Observe the haymaker-inducing smirk.

Apple is a company that brings out the worst in some people.  Whether they be fanboy-bashers or CEOs of bloated software juggernauts, there’s something about Steve’s condescending little smirk that drives people absolutely batshit.  I get it.  I really do.  For most of these individuals, the knowledge that I work with a superior OS is satisfaction enough.  But for a select few, the magnitude of their assholery cannot be dismissed by that melodic C Major chord.  These are the members of Douchebag’s Row.  This series is designed to honor those who, through word and/or deed, have distinguished themselves as something more than mere assholes.

Let’s begin, shall we?

In TMA’s informal query – or the factual equivalent of the average analyst’s survey – Wall Street criminals rank 1/2 notch above pedophiles on the “most loathsome creatures on the planet” list. And much like pedophiles, many Street analysts no longer get to do the thing they love the most because it’s thoroughly illegal. Take the case of Henry Blodget.

Young Henry made a name for himself pre dot-com by predicting that Amazon would reach $400 a share. According to an article in Forbes, that prediction alone landed him a gig at the now-beloved Merrill Lynch, where he proceeded to spew prognostications for internet start-ups that were all over the map. He predicted big things for eToys, only to have them fold 3 years later. His “stopped clock analysis” continued garnering attention despite its pretty dismal track record. Leading up to the dot-com bubble burst, not everyone was chalking up Henry’s schizophrenic recommendations to the fact that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Turns out Blodget didn’t necessarily believe everything he was saying publicly about the companies and that’s kind of a no-no. The Securities and Exchange Commission got a whiff of Merrill’s – and Blodget’s – “inconsistencies” and launched an investigation. In 2003, Merrill settled with the State of New York for $100 million. The SEC fined Blodget $4 million and banned him from the securities industry for life. From the SEC’s press release:

“Blodget, of New York City, issued fraudulent research under Merrill Lynch’s name, as well as research in which he expressed views that were inconsistent with privately expressed negative views. Blodget’s conduct constituted violations of the federal securities laws and NASD and NYSE rules, which require that, among other things, published research reports have a reasonable basis, present a fair picture of the investment risks and benefits, and not make exaggerated or unwarranted claims.”

Understandably Blodget doesn’t talk a lot about the settlement. And he gets a little annoyed when he’s forced to. I’m sure he thinks he did nothing wrong. If you shell out multiple millions in order to not have to go to trial, not only are you guilty, you’re probably guilty of 500 times more shit than you’ve been accused of. Did you want exoneration? Then you should have gone to trial. GUILTY.

After the SEC told Blodget that he couldn’t get a job talking up the value of something worthless and profiting from it, he no doubt spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of gig would allow him to take his finely-honed fomenting skill and make money with it. Where else could one use a background in technology to disingenuously misdirect people and profit from it? I’ll leave my readers to reconcile the SEC directive that Blodget be “banned from the securities industry” with Blodget’s current title of “Co-Founder, CEO, and Editor in Chief of The Business Insider, a blog about internet business trends”.

So what pearls of wisdom has Henry bestowed upon the technology community? Most recently, he’s been butchering the “OMG Android will so crush iOS any day now” riff  worse than the intro to “Smoke on the Water” at an Intro to Electric Guitar class. But Blodget persists, despite the fact that several smart people have made rational arguments as to why the claim is little more than rhetorical masturbation. In his own words, here are some of the precocious one’s most valuable gems:

About the aforementioned Android market share: “As we’ve said before, Apple is fighting a very similar war to the one it fought–and lost–in the 1990s…Importantly, it’s not a question of which platform is “better.” (This is irrelevant.) It’s a question of which platform everyone else uses.”

On “Locationgate”: “Apple built a system into your iPhone that secretly tracks and records everywhere you go.  This system records your exact location and the exact time you were there–down to the second…Please explain, with a straight face, how that could possibly be a ‘mistake.'”

Henry Blodget is a valuable lesson to all of you career-minded individuals who have been dealt a setback – say, a $4 million fine – that challenges you to reinvent your most valuable asset. One day Blodget was fellating value onto something worthless to make money off idiots who took his advice; now Blodget is fellating value onto something worthless to make money off pageviews from people who want to tell him how much of an idiot he is. Now that is making a silk purse out of sows’ ears.

So it is my distinct pleasure to welcome Henry McKelvey Blodget to Douchebag’s Row. Although he is its youngest member, he has provided us with one of the earliest examples of why we currently hate traders slightly more than lawyers. Equal parts dishonest broker and spin doctor, Blodget has shown us that the mantle of douchebaggery can be carried proudly by my generation.

Apr 282011
 

Google has come to fancy themselves as sophisticated manipulators of the media, which isn’t saying much since the collective media hivemind is about as sharp as a sack of wet mice. Witness the “user study” released by Mountain View today touting how awesome location-relevant mobile ads are. Given that this report uses data from the end of 2010, one would wonder why Google chose now – almost 5 months later – to release data about the effectiveness of mobile advertising?  The obvious motivation is the last clause of the topic paragraph:

“71% of smartphone users search because of an ad they’ve seen either online or offline; 82% of smartphone users notice mobile ads, 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping, and 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day.” (emphasis mine)

Let’s connect the dots. Yesterday, Apple responded to frothing media and political questioning about a .db file that contained what (to some) looked like a chronicle of user locations. Apple debunked the “tracking” myth by explaining that the locations discovered in the file were actually the locations of all nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers “to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location.” In a phone interview with Ina Fried, Steve Jobs also went on record as saying that Apple would be certainly be appearing before Congress about Apple’s practices that he would be interested to see how “lazy” the press would be in pursuing other location data collectors (i.e. Google), intimating that others might not be as “hands off” with location data.

I will bet anyone that this “Mobile Movement” Survey will be cited no less than 743 times by Google representatives during congressional testimony.

“So why is it that you need to actively track location and have that information sent back to Google on an ongoing basis? Apple doesn’t need to do this.”

“Apple and Google have very different business models. Consumers query Google using their mobile devices with an expectation of receiving location-relevant results. As we discovered in a survey we released earlier this decade year, an overwhelming percentage of people click on search results that are geographically relevant. In order to maintain these high quality results, it is necessary to track users wherever they go.”

The timing of the release of this survey was anything but arbitrary. It’s laying the groundwork for a more invasive level of user tracking and will serve as a justification for how “up in your shit” Google is when Congress calls them out.

Apr 272011
 

Compare:

“Today at Where 2.0 Pete Warden and I will announce the discovery that your iPhone, and your 3G iPad, is regularly recording the position of your device into a hidden file. Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps. We’re not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it’s clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations.”

With:

“Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location”

But I’m sure you sold out the talk no one would otherwise give a shit about by proffering completely incorrect information. Shame on O’Reilly for giving these asshats a stage. That name used to mean something in tech.


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