Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Anatomy of a (Mini) Web Panic

Big News Soon | PVRblog

Here's an example of the Blogosphere at its worst. Okay, not really at its worst since we're only talking about Tivo not world peace or the fate of the Republic. Still, when we get looked down on by the old media as pajama-clad idiots, it's situations like this that are the cause.

Before I begin tearing him to ribbons, let me say that PVRBlog is daily reading for me. Tivo is the greatest thing since sliced bread and this blog is a great source for info on Tivo and the personal video recorder scene generally. But (yes, there's always a but)...

Sometime early this evening, PVRBlog posted a brief entry foreshadowing big (and, by implication, bad) news for Tivo in tomorrow's LA Times. No hint of what it might be, no real news, just four lines which set off a low grade panic among the Tivo faithful. It should be said that Tivo die-hards are a paranoid lot because we love our Tivos and because, to date at least, Tivo has been such a great company. Since all good things must end, we are each waiting for Tivo to screw us. Posts like this make us believe that the screwing has begun.

Over the next five hours or so, comments started coming in to PVRBlog speculating as to what the big news might be. The author declined to provide any hints, presumably out of a perfectly honorable desire not to step on the toes of anyone at the LA Times. The panic spread to Tivoblog, Tivo Community Forum and probably a dozen other sites that I don't read.

Finally, just before 11pm in the East, someone found the article in question freshly posted to the LA Times site. Turns out that it is nothing more than the addition of some interactive advertising possibilities to Tivo. Nothing terribly intrusive, by the sound of it. Big news? Maybe. Bad news. I don't think so, though it depends on your threshold for pain, I suppose. Personally, I believe that anything that helps Tivo stay afloat financially without compromising the basic functionality of the device is a good thing.

Bringing us back to the beginning, the problem with this entire incident is that it was sparked by a posting that included just enough information to get people worked up but not enough for them to know whether it was worth getting worked up over in the first place. All the author of PVRBlog really accomplished was to show that he knew something before the rest of us did. Who cares? If you're writing a blog whose primary purpose is to be informational (and that is definitely not the mission of TheMediaBlog), why post something that tells your readers absolutely nothing? What purpose did this post serve?

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