Saturday, October 01, 2005

Technology writers and India

There are times when I am envious of the Western media, I mean really envious. And when it comes to technology writers - NYT and The Guardian have people whose work is on the whole rather well researched and they know what they are talking about. Now in India the problem is not just limited to ToI which suddenly discovers Google Earth or as I discovered via a link on Codey's blog, a connection between Spyware and Porn, today the clueless about technology attack struck The Hidustan Times. Its about some American website selling a DVD called 'Sex Life of the Prophet' (back cover here). Now, HT in all its innocence (because they quote Ankit Fadia over here - I may not be a tech guru - but I know tens of guys better than him) - now here HT advocates that because some minority community are upset (and quite understandly so, imagine what would happen if they found out that American soldiers are trading pics of dead Muslims from Iraq and Afghanistan to access porn sites) that the site hosting the DVD be cyber-attacked. The problem is that there are 430 Google results over hundreds of sites when I did a search for the topic. The sites selling the DVD are perfectly legal commercial sites selling porn, while I agree that the DVD title is in slightly bad taste there is no need to get your panties in a twist over this.
Now better still, the article advocates a 'DOS attack' and it took me 30 seconds before I realised they meant 'Denial of Service' attack - which should be spely DoS - but then again there are very few journalists who understand technology in this country, so I won't get all hyper about a capital 'O'. Something which is highly illegal and the guys can have their panties sued after this - because the nitwits put it in print. 'Start a cyberwar' - on what grounds? And a DoS attack will take a website down for what, a couple of hours here or there, at best. Argh!
Anyway, the lack of knowledge of all things technology among my peers is quite shocking at times. There is a very famous editor in India who is completely computer-phobic and I believe that he should be removed from his job for that. I have had to spend hours explaining 'caching' on Google to one colleague - then there was the tech writer in a former place of work whose first hour with a digital camera almost gave me a heart attack, maybe because this woman used to think of herself as 'tech guru-ess' - the time when we got a PDA to test was even funnier - I managed to coerce the tech reviews section and have handled such reviews ever since - currently I have a Samsung Miniket VP/M 2100 with me. I don't know how many of them have heard of CNet, let alone Gizmodo or Engadget. I don't know how many of them have even seen a PS2.
You may think that I am being snobbish over here. No, I'm not. I am syaing that to be a tech writer you need to have started out on computers when you were six years old (I started out on a ZX Spectrum+ from Sinclair Research with 48Kb RAM when I was six - it was cutting edge for that era and I got an Atari 2600 too when I was a bit older) but for gods sake, until you have some basic knowledge of computing - you should be banned from writing about any technology. It is quite sad to see guys go to Tech Pressers and just write whatever the hell the guys of stage say - and companies too take advantage of this lack of knowledge - the amount of times I have heard 'But we have ERP' in a vain attempt to impress me.
I am not saying there aren't any knowledgable guys writing about Tech in India, the problem is that there are too few. Way too few.
EDIT : Of course, there are times that Gizmodo goes beyond gadgets - way beyond gadgets!
Now for a nice healthy dose of K-linx.
Urban Asshole Notification Cards - I think they should launch these in Delhi f'sure!
How to dispose of your parents bodies (from Vice Magazine)
A complete archive of every MAD magazine cover - Wow!
Photoshopped manga characters made from photo's of real-life celebs - the pic is of Anime Aishwariya - not too bad and some of the others are really nice!


shyam said...

It is understandable that most guys on the tech beat do not have a grasp of the tech to the level of figuring out what exactly might packet sniffing be, but what is disconcerting is that just because they are covering a tech issue, the eds on the desk allow them to get away with murder and more. It is almost like the standard defaults to some five notches down on the scale.

K said...

The eds are evn more clueless. When they started out the Telex machine was considered high-tech and there was a mini rebellion when Electronic typewriters came out. When DTP was introduced it took some of the large papers years to move over. Even once they changed, they never updated. The tech systems at some newspapers and magazines is scarily ancient.
And then they go say 'India Empowered'!!!!
Its a scary world.
But now the tech reporters on TV I see are also dimwits!

Anonymous said...

If k's writing in tech is considered insightful, the Lord save us all!

K said...

I never said that my tech writing is insightful or specatcular - but it is not incorrect or outright stupid. And if you do want to comment on my writing, please be sure to leave your name.

Anonymous said...

that Anon was not me... though I've earlier commented on your post on the topic of .."..incestuos media".

I totally agree that jounalists in the West are far ahead when it comes to technology, whereas most Indians are still grappling with what maybe termed as 'relatively' rudimentary ...

But when I saw NYT, in the light of Judith Miller out of prison after 85 days, I wanted to ask your views ( as a journalist) on protection of confidential sources?
But dropped the idea, since it's not germane to the topic. Now that I've dished it out, its your wish to respond or ignore ...

-- Anon.

K said...

I will do that - next week maybe! It is Saturday night, I still believe I have some semblance of a life left!

r.sukumar said...

Well, not only did you find my now dormant blog sir, I must tell you that the infotech CEO you have mentioned actually reads your blog. Only, instead of referring to you by name or size (fat f, if you must know), he keeps calling you C's son.

thalassa_mikra said...

K, I think I disagree with your assertion that you need to start out very young to make sense of technological innovation. Most of my professors grew up in the pre-PC age, some had even used punch card programming to do research way back in the 80s, but almost all of them are uniformly very tech savvy. They use fairly complicated programmmes (at times doing a bit of programming themselves) for their research.

K said...

Sukumar : What?????????????????? I can't have such hight-profile readers?

Anonymous said...

TOI takes the cake. Seeing the articles, it seems that it either calls the different companies asking for press release or the latter calling them to publish the press release. Never knew that the armchair journalism would become this dominant.

Anonymous said...

You'd be surprised how many technology writers in the United States are clueless boobs too. You have to pick and choose news sources selectively - just picking up "Wired" off the newsstand is not only a cheap copout but implies a trust that is granted rather than earned. People who placed that same level of trust in the New York Times learned the hard way. Still when I read you had to spend hours explaining caching, I both laughed and understood. Even here you still have to convince internet n00bs that cookies aren't evil every now and then, because there's so much paranoia and misinformation out there that many people will assume it's true just because they read it somewhere or heard it on TV.