Two days ago, Clark Hoyt of the New York Times published an article discussing the potential conflict of interest for David Pogue to the extent that he makes a living off of writing manuals for tech software like OS X, while at the same time he’s required to objectively review them.
It is no intended knock on Pogue’s integrity — he has panned Apple products and praised those of competitors — to point out that the review put him in the kind of conflict-of-interest situation that The Times regularly calls others to account for: doctors with a financial interest in the drugs they recommend, or a presidential adviser whose clients have a direct interest in certain legislation. In this case, the better Snow Leopard sells, presumably the better Pogue’s “Missing Manual” on how to use it will sell…
Pogue and his editors said they talk frequently about how to deal with his varied interests, and the editors praised him as a straight shooter who has developed a large following precisely because of his honest assessments of hardware and software. Pogue said the conflict in his case was “kind of an imaginative cause and effect. I can’t imagine someone saying: ‘This is a good product. I’ll buy the reviewer’s book.’ ” He pointed out that he savaged Apple’s iMovie ’08 in his Times blog, even as he was writing a “Missing Manual” for it.
The thrust of the article was that, yeah, there’s a conflict of interest going on, but like other NYT writers with similar conflicts, the Times is taking steps to minimize the influence such conflicts create. One solution mentioned by the Times was the simple act of full disclosure, which in the case of Pogue, means letting readers know about his gig writing “Missing Manuals” for a variety of OS’s such as OS X and Windows 7.
Personally, I’ve been reading David Pogue in a variety of mediums since 1993 and can attest that his reviews are pretty on-point and never seem to be influenced by outside factors. And especially in the somewhat self-regulated Mac community, Pogue would have been called out years ago if there was any hint that he was posturing as a means to peddle more books.
In any event, Dan Lyons, writing as Fake Steve Jobs (sorta), was quick to jump on the Times story and lambast Pogue yet again.
The coolest thing is that Mr. Big Smartypants Clark Hoyt didn’t seem to even notice the real issue here, which isn’t simply that Pogue makes millions on Apple manuals while also reviewing our products. It’s that in this most recent case, with Snow Leopard, Pogue raved about the product and called it “Apple’s sleek upgrade,” even though he later admitted to VentureBeat that Snow Leopard was causing him to experience seriously bad issues (ie crashes, loss of data) with Photoshop and Microsoft Word. Oh, and his printer had crapped out. I have to tell you, when we saw that VentureBeat item, we all figured our pal was dead meat. Photoshop is crashing every 5 or 10 minutes? Word just blanks out? And you just failed to mention this in your Times review? In fact, instead, you told people to go out and buy the product?
Again, Lyons categorizes the post under “Filthy Hacks”.
Yesterday, Pogue responded yet again to Lyons jabs, leaving the following comment on Lyons’ blog:
“Photoshop is crashing every 5 or 10 minutes? Word just blanks out? And you just failed to mention this in your Times review?”
No–evidently you just failed to READ it. My review identified all of the software glitches I’d been having, and recommended that readers look over an online incompatible-software list before buying.
You’re shocked–SHOCKED!–that the OS might be good even though there are some glitches with older software (it’s Photoshop CS3 I had trouble with, after all). But this is standard procedure for new OS releases, including Windows and Mac OS X. You wait a couple weeks, and the patches come, and the glitches go away. This isn’t a reason to condemn the whole OS.
Furthermore, Dan, I see that you continue to repeat the misinformation I corrected here last week, where you say that I write “Missing Manuals for Apple products.”
There are over 100 Missing Manual titles–far more about Windows products than Apple ones. Including my own books on Windows Me, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.
Soon thereafter, Lyons published another post seemingly mocking Pogue’s career of writing Mac-centric books.
So what the hell is going on? Why is Lyons obsessed with Pogue, a writer whose integrity has never been an issue or suspect? Lyons can sometimes be funny with his Fake Steve Jobs column, but for the most part, he’s coming across as pathetic and bitter. It’s well-known that Lyons was pissed that he never received the same level of access to Apple that his predecessor at Newsweek, Steven Levy, had. Perhaps Lyons is projecting this frustration onto Pogue. Maybe Lyons’ attacks on Pogue are rooted in professional jealousy. Maybe Lyons wishes that someone would pay him money to write books about technology. Maybe, just maybe, Lyons is bitter because he’s been more successful as the “Fake Steve Jobs” than he’s ever been as the real Dan Lyons.