Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Swallowing the Doublethink

I've spent the morning scanning news, blogs, and tweets regarding Versiontracker. In case you missed yesterday's Slog entry on this, I'll replay it here (it's short!):
"CNET has just killed one of my favorite web sites, (a repository of links to and reviews of Mac software). They acquired the site a couple years ago, and gave it a half-assed refresh, introducing lots of new problems (sound familiar?), and today they folded it completely into CNET Downloads. The jillions of reviews are wiped (as is my alert list, which was painstakingly built up over many many years). All that goodness, summarily flushed."
I'm fascinated to watch how this is playing out. CNET, which, like many large corporations, thrives on Orwellian doublespeak, outdid themselves on this one:
"We know how important the information on the VersionTracker website is, which is why we wanted to preserve it, enhance it, and make it part of the CNET experience."
By "preserve it and enhance", they mean strip it and dump it. What made Versiontracker a useful resource were its user-generated software ratings and reviews, and the ability to track a custom watch/alert list of software titles. The reviews are gone, as are the custom lists. What remains is the same bland CNET Downloads site as ever. No preservation or enhancement, though, yep, it's all very much a part of "the CNET experience."

But what's really interesting is watching the Mac blogs, forums, and news sites. Nearly everyone is blindly accepting the corporate doubletalk. Of course, blind acceptance of spin is bread-and-butter for many journalists (e.g. their collaboration with President Bush's propaganda run-up to the Iraq invasion, food reporters' penchant for rotely punching in press releases, etc., etc.). But aren't bloggers and forum posters, for all their foibles and biases and cloddish amateurism, supposed to apply greater skepticism?

Nope. They're buying the "fold-in" line (easily checked and disproven) that the content remains and only the name and format have changed. A small sampling:

From Mac news site
"Now, this long-time staple of the fairer platform has completely lost its identity, getting folded directly into CNet’s blandly generic site."
Posting to mobypicture
" integrated into CNET Downloads. Too bad. Look horrible now."
Even the venerable Tidbits (grandaddy of Mac news sites):
"CNET, which acquired VersionTracker several years ago, is merging VersionTracker into CNET Downloads. It doesn't look like the overall functionality will change much, but the VersionTracker name will go away."
How about this, from TUAW, "The Unofficial Apple Weblog" (background: MacFixIt was acquired by CNET in the same deal, and has been completely dissolved):
"I don't think MacFixIt was improved any by the CNET takeover, and I don't have high hopes for VersionTracker, either, but I'm going to keep an open mind."

Joseph Goebbels famously said that a lie repeated thousands of times becomes a truth. These days, you only have to say it once.

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