December 4, 2006 11:00 PM | Simon Carless
I will try to be relatively polite, but one of the reasons that the 'new era' of blogs annoys me sometimes is this Joystiq story on 'Xbox 360 sales below expectations' - or more specifically, the way in which it was dumped onto _the_ major game blog unfactchecked and then retracted in a half-assed manner.
So, the linked story itself is from the Smarthouse News site in Australia, and explains that: "Microsoft shares have declined after it was revealed that worldwide sales of Xbox are not hitting their estimated targets... Bloomberg.co.uk is reporting that sales of the Xbox in the USA trailed Analysts expectations by 33%, for the month of November." OK, fair enough - maybe someone got hold of Thursday's NPD numbers early?
However, you may note that, due to some comments, Joystiq has updated: "Update: Apparently this is a false story that has been circulating the web chain-letter style. Let's wait until the official NPD numbers come out and add them to the weekly Japanese numbers." Ugh... 'this is a false story' as a phrase abdicates the Joystiq folks of _any_ necessity to factcheck, don't you think? Let's see where this story originally came from.
Well, the starting point is clearly Google News - where a search for 'Bob Austrian', the named analyst in the piece, reveals a Play.tm story from December 2nd. The Smarthouse News guys simply plagiarized the first couple of paragraphs of that story (yes, plagiarized - check out the missing apostrophe and odd capitalization on 'Analysts'), adding some Australian-relevant comments as the article descends into registration-only land.
Eh, so some minor plagiarism, all 'well and good' - but the original Play.tm story, if you look closely, is very clearly dated 'saturday, 14th dec 2002', and refers to the original Xbox. Play.tm is the new name for UK site Ferrago, which has been around for a good few years, and looking at Google News further reveals that their RSS feed has gone a little lunatic, and is dumping a lot of old stories up in addition to newer ones - for example, a story on the Atari 'TV game', also from December 2002.
So how did it get from there to Joystiq? Well, Gaming-Age Forums regular 'sonycowboy', who is normally a pretty smart guy, picked it up off Google News and posted it on the rabid GAF, and I'll bet my bottom dollar that Joystiq poster Justin Murray saw it on GAF, then just went ahead and dumped it straight onto the site without any further checking. And that, my friends, is where the problem lies.
If you're posting to the most-read game blog around, shouldn't you at least go check Bloomberg.co.uk and make sure you can find the story? That requires a minimum of effort. There are plenty of other giveaways here if you're on top of things - Michael Pachter's NPD preview released this morning clearly says that it's "arriving ahead of the actual NPD results, which will likely debut after market close on Thursday, December 7", and I've personally never heard of Bob Austrian, the cited analyst. (The last Banc Of America analyst related to games that we cited on Gamasutra was Gary Cooper, much to Chris Kohler's amusement.)
In effect, however, this is a minor wrinkle compared to the horrors of Digg, which make me screw up my fists and bawl like a little baby every time I peruse the tabloid-slanted headlines that shoot up to the main page. For example, as I look at the Digg gaming page now, I see 'USA Legalizes Abandonware', which is _explicitly not true_, and I should know, because I co-authored the original DMCA exemption.
There's even 'PlayStation 4 in 2010, Sony Execs Say', which is also an untrue headline - even the actual story itself (from the idiot Xbox story reprinters Smarthouse again, but not plagiarized this time!), notes: "A PS4 will be launched by Sony but not until at least 2010 claims the Vice President of Technology for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Paul Holman".
But it offers no specific quote to back this up, and indeed seems to have major trouble with quotations, punctuation, and spelling mistakes throughout - and that's been picked up by GamePro and even Engadget, despite the shockingly inexact nature of the source article. If "To say that there will be no PS4 because of a management change is a bit far fetched" is a confirmation of a PlayStation 4, then my powers of logic must be deserting me this evening. And that, my friends, is why Internet journalism sucks in '06. Time to go get a beer!