Opinion

Anthony De Rosa

Friends, lovers, investors and the messy world of disclosure

Anthony De Rosa
May 17, 2011 16:39 UTC

Michael Arrington, the bull in the china shop that is the tech industry, recently revised his 2009 proclamation that he would divest himself from the companies he was covering and stop investing in startups to avoid a conflict of interest. In his revision, he announced he has begun investing in startups again and rationalizes it by making the investments public record. This has led to cackles from his peers, most notably from Kara Swisher who pointed out the hypocrisy of his boss Arianna Huffington to allow Arrington to be the sole exception to her policy of not allowing her employees to invest in the companies they cover.

Investments, however, are just one component of what can lead to a conflict of interest. I would submit that a far bigger conflict that goes unspoken and leads to much worse journalism are the relationships writers have with the people they cover. Friends, lovers and acquaintances muddle who gets covered and how they are treated by the people covering them. I can speak with some degree of seeing this with my own eyes when it comes to the New York tech startup beat and the founders they cover. Many of the same people writing about these startups are good friends with the principals, and the nearly flawless fawning coverage reads more like an extended arm of their public relations group than anything resembling real journalism.

On top of that you have people who hop between being journalists and working as either advisers or evangelists who participate in promotional events for products. The conflict of being an adviser or an evangelist is obvious, diluting the person’s journalistic ethics and their ability to be impartial.

The participation at various events can be harmless in some cases if it’s simply to cover the event and gain information about a product. Too often, though, the participants wind up becoming a shill for the very product and, in fact, in some cases, are even used in the promotional material. They also make their affinity for the product or service known through social media. These folks can no longer be taken seriously on any journalistic level.

Would disclosure help fix this problem? If there was better transparency of the investors, would the relationship the writer has with their subjects lead to a more informed reader who could take those biases into account when reading an article? In a study I was directed to by Boston.com’s Courtney Humphries, the answer is that disclosure may actually make writers less ethical.

Google raises Internet appliances from the dead

Anthony De Rosa
May 11, 2011 20:31 UTC

A decade ago, we wondered what happened to the product that Google just announced. The Chromebook, Google’s version of a netbook, finally has the ecosystem and infrastructure to support it. Many have declared the PC age on its deathbed, with mobile on the verge of overtaking its marketshare. Google simply believes the PC will evolve, into the cloud and beyond local based storage.

Google will make their notebooks, running entirely on their Chrome OS, available in June, partnering with Acer and Samsung for the hardware and Verizon for connectivity. Samsung will charge $425 for a Wifi only version and $499 for one that includes 100MB data service. Acer’s version will cost “$349 and up.”

The notebook has virtually zero boot time — hit power and you’re on. The battery is said to last an entire day. Your files, entirely in the cloud and accessible anywhere, have built-in security. Updates to software, purchased in the Chrome App Store, will be automatic.

Is this the end of Skype as we knew it?

Anthony De Rosa
May 10, 2011 17:03 UTC

The first time I used Skype I was in awe. The video quality, the effortlessness it allowed me to see and hear my family far away over my laptop computer screen was magic. It was even more magical when I tried it on my iPhone — a Dick Tracy moment. And it was more impressive than FaceTime because it allowed me to talk to anyone with Skype, not just with those who had an iPhone.

Today, Skype will likely begin to be lost in the maw that is Microsoft. Sure, Microsoft still remains one of the most valuable companies this country has ever produced but aside from the XBox, it hasn’t been on the leading edge of innovation in many years. Apple, Google and companies like Facebook and Twitter are seen at the forefront of the digital age. Microsoft, in comparison, seems like the once great star athlete, a Michael Jordan attempting to regain some glory by playing minor league baseball.

The best case scenario here is that Microsoft rolls Skype into a product like Kinect, which hasn’t quite taken the world by storm, and becomes a simple, easy to use videoconferencing device for the living room, that takes us beyond just hunching over our computers to interact with our friends who are far away.

Bin Laden death breaks on twitter

Anthony De Rosa
May 2, 2011 13:41 UTC

It began with the White House announcement that President Barack Obama would make a statement at 10:30pm ET. The speculation on Twitter was that this was either going to be a major update on events in Libya or that Osama Bin Laden had been captured or killed. Below is the twitter stream starting from last night with some comments in between that give it context.


[View the story "Timeline to History : Bin Laden Death Breaks on Twitter" on Storify]

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