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7 things Silicon Valley needs to stop doing in 2017

Mike Elgan | Jan. 3, 2017
I love you, Silicon Valley. You know I do. But there are a few things you keep doing that exasperate everyone.

Facebook is the leading hypocrite in this realm. It's an aggressive filterer of News Feed content, showing you a fraction of the posts sent by friends using secret criteria designed to boost "engagement," and in the process, determining which of your relationships you tend and which you abandon. It strongly censors posts based on its values or, barring that, the values of its critics who have shamed them in the court of public opinion.

Facebook is the biggest source of news in the history of mankind. But when confronted with its role in the spread of fake news, it first threw up its hands and said, "hey, we're not a media company."

(After public pressure Facebook backtracked, and announced that it will work with FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, ABC News, the Associated Press and Snopes.com to fact-check stories, then label fake stories as such.)

Too many Silicon Valley companies want it both ways. They want to "disrupt" or displace traditional media organizations and gain all the influence, power and money, but then claim to bear no responsibility for the quality of information delivered to the public.

I say: Stop pretending you're not a media company. Step up and take responsibility. Or get out of the content distribution business.

3. Tech journalists: Stop pretending you're better than your audience

Access journalism has tech journalists rubbing elbows with the seats of power, so to speak, and Silicon Valley arrogance is contagious.

I read too many tech posts and listen to too many tech podcasts that refer to their audience as "normals" -- which is a condescending euphemism for "people who aren't awesome enough to be tech journalists." Some tech journalism these days reveals a cringe-worthy superiority complex among bloggers, podcasters, reviewers and writers -- especially among newer, less experienced publications and podcast companies.

Here's the problem: Tech journalists get access, junkets, review units, invitations and a modicum of notoriety, then confuse all that for personal achievement. From that vantage point they view the priorities of their audience -- you know, people who actually have to buy stuff and deal with the consequences -- as flawed.

Here's what newer tech journalists need to learn, and quickly: Among your audience are people who are better at what they do than you are at what you do. There are people who are more technical than you, too. They probably know less about the subject of your article in part because they have better things to do than obsess over the minutiae of every new app or smartphone. So they turn to you for help, information and perspective, not condescension.

Stop doing this, Silicon Valley tech journalists. Be suspicious of your own technology priorities and take the priorities of your audience as gospel. View your audience as a partnership for mutual learning.

 

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