Journalistic Jealousy Is Never Pretty


For those that do not know, journalism is not a life long replay of "All the President's Men". No, it is more "Gladiator", bloodspot practiced by those who gloat over drawing first blood and bemoan when others make a kill first.

Today's example is Silicon Valley Sleuth, who had a scoop with the first working One Laptop Per Child prototype video. Since then, they've fallen a bit by the wayside on breaking OLPC news, and yesterday, after being scooped on not just one, but two OLPC laptop names, got a little bitchy.

In the Really, it's 2B1. Or how the OLPC naming nightmare illustrates the flaws of the blogging echo chamber" post, they say nasty things about OLPC News, like:

In a classical case of information getting malformed in the blogosphere, the Aljazeera story was picked up by the One Laptop per Child News blog. Last Friday it spread to Arstechnica which incorrectly states that the OLPC has "announced" the CM1 name.
Um, SVS, You might wanna get your own information straight. The OLPC News story was first picked up by Engadget, and then Ars Technica, but only after everyone confirmed it on the official OLPC Wiki.

Silicon Valley Sleuth doesn't stop with the mudslinging there, though. They take the next step and accuse OLPC News of bad reporting when we were just relaying what Walter Bender, OLPC President of Software and Content, changed on the official OLPC wiki:

The OLPC News blog further added to the confusion, baselessly claiming that the CM1 name has been retired – and Engadget runs its blogging Xerox without bothering to check the information.
Actually, SVS, you might wanna check your own sources before you run a story. Your post about OLPC has its own misinformation. You confuse "likely" with "settled" when you say:
The One Laptop per Child project has settled on "2B1" as its launch name.
When Walter Bender, if he can still be trusted, says to VnuNet, your parent website(!):
"While we haven't settled on a final launch name, it is likely to be the 2B1"
Next time, before you get your panties all in a wad, check OLPC News. Trust me, it's not so hard. That way, you, we, your parent website, and even the "blogging echo chamber" can work together to keep the OLPC leadership straight.

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Normally I'd just shrug and move on after reading such comments, but these words of Silicon Valley Sleuth's are pretty harsh - after all, this blog is called "OLPC News", so we're pre-disposed to write about things like what it might be called.

What better source do we have than a page written by OLPC's President of Software and Content on a part of their wiki maintained (for which read "only editable") by OLPC themselves?

You will notice the story about 2B1 contains a link to the diffs between the original wiki, with CM1 references, and the current page, with 2B1 references. On visiting the OLPC wiki, there's even a divert for anyone going to the old "The Children's Machine" page to a new "2B1: The children's Machine".

That's a pretty definitive primary source for anyone to check before the story passes on and its why we posted. I rather doubt that engadget rubber stamp anything before they read sources such as these.

To all intents and purposes, the name CM1, which had been rocketing across the internet (try a technorati search on CM1), seems to be dead. Remember not so long ago Nintendo were working on their "revolution" console. As soon as they named it "Wii" the name "revolution" died. It may have been used internally and for test machines and dev kits, but to 99.9999% of the world, the "Nintendo Revolution" is no more.

Long live the Nintendo Wii

To say that reporting that the CM1 name is dead somehow compounds the inaccuracy we are accused of propagating is having your cake and eating it - we were wrong to say it was called CM1, we are wrong to say CM1 is not what it will be called.

There's no pleasing some people

There's no doubt that OLPC is doing a poor job at its PR. But then they are no different than the average open source project – a group of enthusiastic people who have more knowledge about technology than about public relations and press releases.

You should know that if you're with a news organisation (which this site is claiming to be). So when a the CM1 name start popping up on the internal wiki, you can either jump to conclusions or ask what's going on.

Nobody bothered to do the latter, and so assumptions were made about the CM1 name. Again, OLPC made a bad move by putting the name on their wiki without any explanation, but that doesn't justify jumping to conclusions. The echo chamber then took care of the rest: one site's assumptions are picked up and presented like facts on the next one. By the time it reaches Slashdot, all the subtleties are gone and what remains is a set of oversimplifications.

OLPC actually lists a media contact email on their website, and Bender is extremely responsive in responding to his email. So instead of speculating about CM1, you could have asked him.

This site has great potential. I guess I was mostly disappointed that it disappointed me.

SV Sleuth, you make a good a point, perhaps an email might be well sent in future.

However, this story seemed clear cut; the source was an uneditable public page on OLPC's wiki, posted by a senior member of staff and IIRC, linked to from the front page of the wiki (I can probably pull out the (diff) if you like).

It also matched a scoop on the name by a major news network, Al Jazeera, in a story that contained an interview with Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC's major domo.

Short of a comment here by Negroponte himself explaining the debacle, I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on the intricacies of this naming fiasco.

OLPC is MIT media lab in all but name - Media Lab alumni should know something about PR, especially as it relates to the internet.