Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

How many phone calls does it take to write a BusinessWeek article?

Posted by metaphorical on 3 December 2006

BusinessWeek has an interesting article on Microsoft Vista. What’s interesting isn’t BW’s take on Vista (BW’s take on anything is unlikely to be interesting), rather it’s that the 1400-word piece, by Catherine Holahan is based entirely, it seems, on a couple or three blog entries.

The first was by Joel Spolsky, who, in his Joel on Software blog, back on 23 November, had an article about the large number of different ways there are to shut down your computer or put it to sleep.

The next day, Moishe Lettvin, in his MOBLOG, commented on it, saying that he, a former Microsoft programmer, worked on that very piece of functionality. He then described the rather baroque and somewhat disfunctional way things worked at Microsoft, without which there probably wouldn’t be nine different ways to leave your digital lover. Spolsky posted to his blog again, on the 24th, and that was the entry that swept the blogverse. It’s the one that I saw, and I imagine it’s the one that Holahan saw.

Holahan has, in her spacious word allotment, pretty much nothing to say beyond what Spolsky and Lettvin say, and she hews so closely to their blog entries that her dek (“How many geeks does it take to shut down a computer?”) uses the same meme as the title to Spolsky’s second blog entry (“How many Microsofties does it take to implement the Off menu?”).

She certainly doesn’t sincerely question the premise that an overabundance of mechanisms to do one thing is a terrible failing in a piece of software, though she does have a grudging alternative-opinion pair of paragraphs down at the very bottom. And she doesn’t hide the two blogs, mentioning both in ways that make them easy to find. (She doesn’t even hide her nearly-copying of Spolsky’s title.) Still, what’s Business Week’s going rate for a 1400-word article? As a journalist I gotta envy any any zero-source gig.


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