Media Problems + NERDRAGE

Recently, Molly Wood, a CNET Executive Editor, did a video review on the Nokia new hero phone, the Lumia 1020. The review is just so full of inaccuracies that it’s shameful. Normally, the intrepid staff of the Non Blogosphere doesn’t wade into tech journalism, but here we felt compelled.  Also I happen to own said hero phone. SO THIS SHALL NOT STAND!

So the hackery begins early on, when she proclaims not only that the iPhone 5 is the “best camera phone on the market and the main reason some people keep that phone.” Yeah, no. The iPhone hasn’t had the best camera on the market for a couple of years. But if you only live in the iUniverse of products, I can see how you’d think that. The HTC One has a better camera than the iPhone. The Lumia 920 which is a year older than the model Molly is currently reviewing, was the first camera phone that included optical image stabilization. That makes the Lumia better in low-light situations any for any shots where motion blur might occur with photos or video. Engadget did a comparison over a year ago that clearly showed the Lumia performing better than its contemporaries, including the iPhone 5. But hey, maybe CNET people are honor bound to ignore their tech blog competition — although interestingly, CNET Asia also has an article giving the nod to the HTC ONE.

It gets so much worse. Wood is all over the map with the review, describing the 41-megapixel camera with words like “stunt and “gimmick” or phrases like “so many megapixels it’s almost a novelty.” But then she immediately reverses course and says the pictures are “amazing.” and that she’s “really impressed with the images.” I’ll get into the actual tech of the camera later but if the 41 mp camera it’s just a “stunt” or more “megapixels than you’re every going to use” then why are the pictures “amazing?” Just pick a side, woman! But when the winner comes out in this review, it’s based on remarkably inaccurate premises:

Mainly though, I think everybody uses their smartphone to just take snap shots and upload them somewhere. The snap shot part is pretty good. The upload part is problematic. So you can upload a photo directly to Twitter. It doesn’t integrate that way with Facebook. Then the most crushing drawback of all is you can take these beautiful snapshot and you cannot Instagram them.

wp_ss_20130915_0001OK, so those two “problematic” areas are both entirely false. First of all, Windows phones have had the best Facebook integration of any phone OS since 2010. Not only can you upload to Facebook easily on command, you can set your phone to automatically upload all shots directly to Facebook or Skydrive. Secondly, like any other smartphone, you can share your photos pretty much everywhere. This includes text wp_ss_20130915_0002messaging, email, and all of your social networking sites, as you can see from these actual screen shots from my phone.

Near as I can tell, the reason she only had five choices for sharing was because Ms. Wood couldn’t be bothered to set up her phone in any way at all. Now that’s just lazy. Even on the iPhone, you have to download the Facebook app and set it up — not to mention Twitter, Instagram, and almost everything else.

Now, her point about Instagram has a little bit of merit. There is no official Instagram app for the windows phone ecosystem. However, saying that there’s no way to upload to Instagram is woefully inaccurate. There are several third-party apps that let you upload images to Instagram — Instance, Hipstamatic Oggl are just a few. So while it’s fair to mention that there’s no official app for Instagram it’s not true that you can’t share your photos that way or that the phone is “super crippled” because of it.

Next up is shutter speed. Again she starts up with what could be a reasonable point if she:

  1. provided some proper context, and
  2. knew what the hell she was talking about.

Based on her demo, I’m fairly certain that she is conflating shutter speed and processing speed, since she takes issue with aspects of the phone’s camera functionality related to both. But the point is that the Lumia’s camera is slower to take shots than most smart phone cameras.

Reasonable people might weigh the trade-offs here. Yes, the pictures you get on the Lumia 1020 are markedly better than any other smartphone on the market today, but it takes longer to get those shots. It’s better in low light situations, better at shots where there is chaotic movement and the zoom is second to none. But are those features actually what will make this camera worth it for you? A person whose job it is to provide insight into tech should know that the reason this specific camera app takes longer to take a picture is because the camera is actually taking two shots simultaneously. One shot is a 38-megapixel masterpiece, and the other is a 5-megapixel simple shot for sharing. And if you don’t care about the reason for the delay, and you only care about speed, then at minimum you should know that you can also use the stock camera on the Lumia 1020, which takes shots about as fast as any other phone on the market. But that may be too much to ask of a person who couldn’t figure out how to share a photo on Facebook.

This being the internet age, no one can ever just be wrong. So she updated her review to reflect the following:

One note on the  Nokia Lumia 1020: the 6tag app, available as of Aug. 21, is the first API-compliant Instagram app for Windows Phone, and is a worthwhile add-on. It was not available at the time we tested the Lumia 1020. In addition, an update to the official Facebook app released Aug. 29 apparently adds more integrated photo sharing.

Ok, now this is just sad. She never said anything in her review about API-compliant Instagram apps. Only that there was no way to upload to the site. Why is API compliance suddenly the bar that needs to be crossed? And how is it possible to know about application programming interfaces but not know how to upload a photo to Facebook? And on to her next point about Facebook, yes the app was updated on August 29th. But that update didn’t add any new photo sharing abilities heretofore unknown on the platform. You could share photos on Facebook on the platform since it’s inception back in November of 2010. I just wish people could just say sorry, missed the mark here, we’ll do better next time.

Finally, speaking of the internet age and doing better next time, it’s fair to point out that Ms. Wood isn’t the only person who comes out worse for the existence of this review. The CNET / YouTube comments section — always a treacherous place — ends up being the real problem here, along with some other toxic offshoots of the internet response to this piece. Look, I’ll admit my bias — as a Windows OS fan and a Lumia 1020 owner, this piece really rubbed me the wrong way, and the obvious inaccuracies pushed it over the line. But I think it’s fair to say that in order to be an advocate for fairness and reasonableness in reviews, you don’t make a compelling case when your own tactics are horrible. Saying Ms. Wood is did a terrible job on this specific review is one thing. Saying she’s a silly girl, dumb blond or other sexist nonsense only takes away from the actual substantive arguments to be made about her review. Instagraming her pictures from your Windows phone is reasonable. Blowing up her Twitter page with insults is not cool. Grow the fuck up already, Internets. Let’s try it this way: This review doesn’t make female tech journalists look bad. This review makes tech journalists look bad.

The best possible result from this whole multi-sided debacle? I vote that Ms. Wood at least try to release a more even-handed, fact-checked review of the next high-profile Windows phone on the market, and that the comments trolls stand down just enough let her do it in good faith.



Categories: Geekery

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