A New Low In Tech “Journalism”

I take my self-imposed semi-retirement from the world of technology blogging pretty seriously. So it takes a fairly egregious example of ass-hatery to drive me back to the keyboard. sadly just such an example was delivered yesterday afternoon when Bloomberg.com posted a masterpiece of faecal effluvia titled “Apple’s IPhone[sic] Software Snafu Has Links to Flawed Maps” authored by Adam Satariano and Tim Higgins (link omitted for obvious reasons).

To recap, this week Apple released a software update for iOS 8 intended to resolve a few bugs. Most pressing of those bugs was one that caused Apple to pull all HealthKit enabled apps from that App Store after the initial launch of iOS 8. As anyone with an internet connection knows, this 8.0.1 update itself contained a serious bug that disabled cellular communications and TouchID on some iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus handsets. Understand that I am in no way attempting to mitigate the effects of this mistake, or to act as an apologist for Apple. This was a serious fuck up and it shouldn’t have happened. Although it should be noted that Apple’s response was to immediately pull the offending update, post a recovery procedure online, and post a new iOS update that resolved both the original set of bugs as well as restored cellular and TouchID functionality within a day. As responses go, I don’t think you could ask for better.

Which brings us to the Bloomberg story and the focus of my ire. To summarize the story briefly; the authors, on the word of the ever-popular “people familiar with the matter”, took it upon themselves to reveal the name of a “mid-level manager overseeing quality assurance for Apple’s iOS mobile-software group” and assign him the blame for the bug. Additionally the authors attempt to tie this individual to an earlier Apple software “fiasco”, the less-than-stellar roll out of Apple’s native iOS mapping solution. The rest of the article is irrelevant to my comments here.

Of course this being the Internet, several supposedly “respectable” tech sites have parroted the report, with varying degrees of obfuscation of the individual’s identity. For the sake of shaming the guilty, a list of some of the more prominent offenders as of the time of publishing is listed here:

In addition to this sorry lot there are the usual collection of shitty “content aggregation” blogs looking to make a quick page-view buck.

Let me state this as clearly as I possibly can. Outing a mid-level manager and exposing him or her to public scorn over this issue is one of the most vile, petty, and unethical acts that I have seen perpetrated by a member of the technology press—and remember that I spent almost 4 years specifically exposing myself to the shittiest the tech web has to offer for you fuckers’ amusement. Satariano, Higgins, their editor at Bloomberg and anyone else who repeats this story are the lowest of the low. Look at the list of offending sites and note who (currently) isn’t there. When you somehow manage to find yourself on the wrong side of an ethical issue that Gizmodo is (currently) getting right you have really fucked up.

I want to be clear. This isn’t an issue of, “we don’t know all the facts”. I don’t give a singular fuck if the cause of the iOS 8.0.1 cock-up was a single individual deciding that he or she was done with this world and just slamming his or her head against their keyboard until a random iOS build was crapped out into the world. There is simply no justification for publicly shaming a non-public Apple employee for this. Exactly two people at Apple bear public responsibility for this issue: Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi and CEO Tim Cook. As far as I’m concerned, they have done exactly what they needed to do publicly: fix it, apologize, and move on. Of course Apple should, and no doubt will, investigate this issue to determine the breakdown in process that allowed such a major bug to make it into a public release. However, that is Apple’s business and exactly none of ours. As someone who is an actual Quality Assurance Engineer (albeit not in software exactly), I’ve watched this exact scenario happen on more than one occasion. Software is produced by people and people are, at best, imperfect. What matters is correcting the process.

Unfortunately the sort of thinking that leads to vile character-assassination attempts such as Satariano and Higgins’ piece is become all to common online. It’s a destructive confluence of call-out culture, Internet Outrage™, entitlement, and page-view whoring. Sadly I expect to see this sort of thing repeated in the future. The sick need to feed the page-view monster with the faeces generated by the Internet Outrage Machine™ combined with our new-found sense of entitlement to know the intimate details of anything that we set our sights on (cf. the whole celebrity nude thing) all but guarantees that this will happen again. My only consolation is that relatively few tech sites have run with this non-story.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a properly compassionate take on this issue from iMore and Nick Arnott. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write about this issue.