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Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, February 22, 2007
15 years ago2,955 views

What do you think about Google rumors? When does a rumor deserve some coverage? Is it a good idea to write that you found some code about a music player in an obscure JavaScript file or that Google bought a new domain: googlemusicplayer.com? Or we should wait until something more revealing comes up?

Another example: http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/02/21/possible-major-google-announcement-tomorrow/

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I posted this just before:
http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-02-22-n90.html

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Yeah, we posted on this in synchronicity :)

> Or we should wait until something more
> revealing comes up?

I think it's a very tough question Ionut, and there's no easy answer. It takes constant evaluation when to post something. Sometimes you will have an article ready but you feel that there's not enough substantially precise or new stuff in it to justify posting, so you may want to aggregate more bits. Also, you can't just constantly post rumors on something, it doesn't help anyone (unless these rumors are posted in background channels, where they help to slowly evaluate a situation, I think).

Example: "Google Reportedly Acquires AdScape." http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-02-16-n21.html
I waited some hours before posting this even though I had the story basically ready. The reason was that it added very little of relevance to what had already been posted that day on other sites (posting an unverified rumor is better when you're the very *first*, because at least there's value in that), but I also knew that eventually I had to post something. So while I was waiting for more information to accumulate by doing background checks, I knew that eventually I will have to go live with yet another post in the blogosphere citing Red Herring/ ZDNet (the only two original sources I saw). I did manage to at least get a first-hand comment from Google, even if it was a "no comment," so then I went live. It would have been cooler to go live only when you get the "final proof" but this proof may never come, and then your readers won't be informed in time, right?

Tough question though, and again I don't think there are easy answers to this!

Garett Rogers [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I don't think it should matter how early you report a "rumor" as long as you clearly label it as speculation and don't give any specific timeframes.

Finding buried references to things that don't exist yet should still worth noting.

Brinke Guthrie [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

GDrive. Let's say it again. GDrive.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Tough .. ?? Indeed it' so!!..

Its a judgement call.. at the end of the day..one needs the intergrity to say a mea culpla.. in case one is wrong.. there's nothing wrong with that!!

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> I don't think it should matter how early you report
> a "rumor" as long as you clearly label it as speculation
> and don't give any specific timeframes.

Yes but there are circumstances in which one may be close to turn the rumor into a fact, and it does matter IMO how early you report on a fact (or rather than "fact" we may say, "a story which you communicate as being very, very likely, and not a rumor..." etc.) If 100 people report on a rumor that week but you're the first to actually publish verified details, and details no one else has, then that's better for readers I think...
On the other hand if you're absolutely certain it's going to stay a rumor for a long time and you have no chance of verifying this, and you believe the rumor has enough substance, then I believe it matters that you post this as quickly as possible, but one shouldn't frequently report on updates of this rumor as that doesn't add any "delta"...

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Yes, but how can you be sure if a rumor is close to become reality? For example, Google has been working on some features/products for months. Like the charts in Spreadsheets. Garett reported a long time ago ([1]) there's code that indicates they'll add that (and it's an obvious feature). Some days ago, I checked the code and I saw there's new stuff, but most of it was related to implementation and the types of charts. I didn't published it because I didn't want to generate new press on a feature that could've been released the day after or next month or next year.

[1] http://blogs.zdnet.com/Google/?p=262

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I don't think it's a good idea to write:
"It's likely that Google will make an important announcement about Google Apps tomorrow." (TechCrunch)
and that's all. Your story had much more details and it actually was a story.

Garett Rogers [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I report things as I find them. I know my readers enjoy that, and that's why I don't apologize for writing about some "obvious" things way before it is considered a "fact".

Everyone has their own style.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I agree with Garett.. jus report things as your find them --after all bloggin is all about ones' opinion and thoughts. The more details one has, the more juicier becomes a story.

But then again, just creating an echo chamber of "rumors" just leads to creditablity failure too. you may get away with it once, but soon everyone will come to know that the story/article/post is just to be taken with a pinch of salt.. and not seriously!!

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

It was more like a general question, not a personal attack.

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I guess it depends on the definition of "rumor".

For example, when Google Spreadsheets was first released, anyone could have started a rumor saying that Google would include charts one day even though there was no evidence to support it. Posting rumors like this (with no evidence whatsoever) is more like posting predictions, and whilst interesting to read, they have no real value.

However, once people started to find clues to charts being developed, it was obvious that the rumor would become fact sometime in the future – although it's obviously difficult to say exactly when it would become fact.

In conclusion, I think it's fine to post rumors where there's at least some evidence to backup the rumor – even if it's the same old rumor but some new evidence has just emerged.

I also think it's fine to post about things you've found even if you're not really sure what they mean. For example, back when I posted about the base.google.com subdomain back in October 2005, I had no idea what it was going to be used for but this gave other people the chance to speculate and watch things unfold. Of course, I could have kept the discovery secret and waited to see what appeared there a couple of days later myself. Whilst it's always good to get a detailed scoop, it's also good to share your findings to give others a chance to help you in your quest...

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Yeah, you're probably right, Tony.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I think there's no hard rules here, just taste, experience, balance, and everything judged for specific blogs in the context of what this blog carried the preceding weeks and months. You can't ever be sure a rumor turns into reality... and if you already wrote about a rumor there's no big use in repeating this rumor in the blog unless you have substantial new information. Sometimes, you need to act fast, and sometimes, you are the only one holding a scoop and you can carefully prepare its release. These are questions that even top journalists have to ask themselves over and over, and make decisions often based on gut feelings, like we all do. I can't see anything wrong with Google Operating System style, or Googling Google style, both have their own focus and do a great job IMO!

For some good insight, the Associated Press Reporting Handbook contains many use cases of how stories were made. Journalists are confronted with questions like:
- conflict of interest; how close am I to the source? is it not a friendship?
- do I use a source who requests to be kept anonymous?
- when do I go live with a story? (over the AP wire, which is then used in newspapers all across the US!) it's speed vs accuracy; maybe you have 90% details now, and it will take you 5 hours to reach 95%, and 3 weeks to reach 98%. At what percentage do you publish your findings?!
- in interviews, how do you go beyond the "media portrait" people shield themselves with?
- what's neutrality? do we *want* neutrality? can we reach it?
- how do you get ideas for a story? what's a story anyway?
- "meticulously sourcing" your info, as they put it! where exactly does the info originate? URL, name of person, etc.?
- when do you confront e.g. a company with a story you're doing on them, waking sleeping dogs and potentially alerting them to your research (which may make more research tough)?
etc....
http://www.amazon.com/Associated-Press-Reporting-Handbook-Schwartz/dp/0071372172/

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