Never Dupe Your Readers

I normally stay out of the fray when somebody in our industry does something stupid — because it happens so often — but what Jason Calacanis did to his readers on Twitter last night and this morning is as clear an example of pomposity and disrespect as you’ll ever find:

Jason, with a good-sized Twitter following of over 90,000, began sending out tweets with details about Apple’s new tablet before it was officially announced this morning. He claimed to have been given one by Apple, for press purposes, and began reeling off details in separate tweets, such as:

“Does Jason Calacanis really have an Apple Tablet? What do you think of his specs? : http://(link to Jason’s company: mahalo)”

“Also, the apple tablet is really amazing for newspapers. Video conferencing is super stable, but nothing new.”

“Yes, there are 2cameras: one in front and one in back (or it may be one with some double lens) so you record yourself and in front of u.”

“Off to bed, but I assure you I’m not joking and the specs are real…. Most of all that this is best gadget ever made and NOT overhyped.”

You get the picture.

Several media outlets including TechCrunch, the Wall Street Journal, and thousands of individuals picked up Jason’s tweets and that’s how I found out about them (I don’t follow Jason). Upon inspecting the tweets, I immediately knew how this was going to end: badly. As someone who’s followed Apple closely for most of my life and also someone who doesn’t really give Jason Calacanis credit for much of anything besides incessantly promoting himself, I knew Apple would never give a guy like that a device in advance under any circumstances, for any reason.

Sadly, and predictably, however, Jason was able to fool thousands of others. He’ll be the first to try and convince you his tweets were too absurd to be construed by any reasonable person as true, but we’re not just talking about country bumpkins who were duped here. Look no further than Robert Scoble’s first comment in the comment thread on CrunchGear (or any of his comments on Twitter). He doesn’t appear to think it’s a silly joke upon first read. Neither did Neil McIntosh at the Wall Street Journal. And neither did many thousands of Jason’s “followers” throughout the world.

Let me see if I can make this as clear as possible:

Never dupe your readers.

Never dupe your readers.

For someone who seems so dead set on being a lot more influential than he actually is, it’s the height of irony that Jason would do something like this. The fact that it occurred only on Twitter and was a lot more believable than it could have been if it were really just an altruistic joke really tells us all we need to know about the motivations here. It went something like this:

  1. There’s a huge Apple event coming up and nothing stirs press like a huge Apple event.
  2. I have an ego, a Twitter account, and a company to promote (probably in that order) so I’ll post some fake, but borderline believable stuff and see what kind of linkage/followership I can get.
  3. If things get out of hand, I’ll make my tweets increasingly outlandish and just claim it’s all a big joke and anyone who believed it is an idiot.

Well, mission accomplished, I suppose.

This sort of thing makes me shake my head because I’ve seen it before and it just never turns out well… and it’s never forgotten. I remember a few years ago in our little corner of the tech industry — web design and development — two reasonably well known colleagues started a high-profile fight on their blogs, each accusing the other of “borrowing” various design elements and outright creative theft at times. It went on for a few blog posts and some of us began taking sides in the comment threads, trying to defend the good names of our friends. After a day or two, both people revealed that the whole thing was not real and meant to “illustrate a lesson” about creative license. As you can imagine, we were all pretty livid. Not even necessarily because it was a waste of our time or anything, but because we had been purposely duped by people we trust. It didn’t matter that the intentions were not evil. Nobody likes to be duped.

Which brings us back to our story about Jason and the ruse he pulled on his followers. I’ve felt this way for a few years now, but there are many people in our industry who think they are a lot more important than they really are. Some examples that come to mind are:

  • The majority of tech writers. If you’re in the minority who are actually really good journalists, please don’t take offense to this statement. You’re doing a great job. But some of these “lifelong pundits” who’ve never created a damned product in their entire life and want to tell you their thoughts on “gestures” or “lifestreams” or “the future of {insert-overhyped-technology-here}”? Please consider writing in a diary instead.
  • Relentless self-promoters. This is the group Jason fits into. I’ve only met Jason once, when I worked at ESPN and he worked at Weblogs, Inc. I posed a question to him on a panel about when Engadget would start to put more advertising on their site. He claimed never, which of course turned out not to be true. I respect Jason for one thing: selling Engadget to AOL. That’s a great accomplishment. That’s about it though. Everything else I know about him is based on what he puts out there for everyone to see: someone who loves the sound of his own voice, will say anything to get ink, and has very little regard for the truth.
  • People who measure themselves by false metrics such as Twitter followers, Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, or any other data that doesn’t actually measure the amount of good you’re bringing to the world.

If you want to be influential, lead by doing, not by talking, and certainly not by duping. If what you create is really good, other people will talk about it for you.

It’s perfectly ok to talk about your own product and do some promotion when appropriate, but what it’s never ok to do is dupe your readers. Don’t make the same mistake yourself. If you want respect, be respectful first.

91 comments on “Never Dupe Your Readers”. Leave your own?
  1. meks says:

    This is that fat guy with the comb-over right? With the amount of blowhardery and deceptive bullshitters out there, it’s kind of weird that this guy got you so upset. Did you briefly believe it and get jealous that Apple didn’t give you a preview?

  2. john andrews says:

    You wrote “jason” 14 times in the article. I think that he only needs 11 in an article to get off, so you probably made him happy.

    Oh, wait a sec, YOU didn’t make him happy. HE made HIMSELF happy, by MAKING you write about him.

  3. Mike D. says:

    meks: Haha… no. Strangely, this was the first Apple release — probably ever — that I haven’t been excited about at any point along the way. Didn’t want a preview and don’t really want a device at this point. I think at a certain price point, you just buy it anyway as a toy, but $499 isn’t it for me.

    john andrews: I look at it this way — if I wrote something every time I cringed at something Jason did/wrote/said, I would have written a lot of shit by now. But this is just one post, so it could be worse. :)

  4. Rob L. says:

    You know, Mike, you just don’t have enough P.T. Barnum (or dare I say, Jason Calacanis) in you, which means you have absolutely no chance of ever hitting the big time by selling a startup to a giant media company…

    Oh, wait. Um, never mind.

  5. Scott says:

    I think the blame lies with the WSJ and TechCrunch for being so incredibly gullible.

    If Calacanis is guilty of anything it’s overestimating the critical thinking skills of his Twitter followers. A solar panel on the back for recharging? A custom Farmville application? Clearly satire. Plus why would he get one to test in the first place and why would he break his NDA? None of it made any sense from the outset.

  6. Jason says:

    Thanks for the feedback Mike.

    First: Hope everything is going well at MSNBC. I respect what you set out to accomplish with Newsvine and as I’ve told you I think it is/was an interesting experiment and fairly well executed–but perhaps a little too early. You could say I’m a fan of your work.

    Second: I don’t judge myself by twitter follower count–I think such things are absurd and I’ve been fairly clear about that from the start. Additionally, I never asked to be a “weblebrity” or whatever folks choose to call folks who get 5x the attention of an average person online.

    I simply build products that I think people will enjoy and find helpful, and that I enjoy building. The 100+ blogs at Weblogs, Inc, Silicon Alley Reporter, TechCrunch50, This Week in Startups, Mahalo and Open Angel Forum (to name a few) are all project I took on and created because I had a passion for the space the folks who would consume and use the products.

    Since you’ve made this personal I will tell you that I try not to judge myself too much, I try to just be a good person and doing things I enjoy. When I do take the time to reflect I base my worth on if I’m a good husband, father, friend, brother, son, teacher, mentor, angel investor and human. There is a human behind the persona that has become Jason Calacanis.

    I certainly do not judge myself on my Twitter count–especially since half of it was gamed from offing free Nexus One phones and a Mac Book Air. :-)

    Getting that out of the way, in all honesty, I didn’t think I was fooling anyone. I actually thought I was making a joke. What you left out of the tweets above were the ones where I said:

    a) the iPad had a solar panel for charging ($200-300 in cost)
    b) the iPad had an HDTV tuner ($150-250 in cost)
    c) the iPad had a DVR (a DVR!!!) ($500 in cost)
    d) the iPad had a wireless pad you could lay it on to charge ($300 in cost)
    e) the iPad had two cameras front and back so you could do augmented reality video conferencing ($500 in cost)
    f) the iPad had facial recognition and that was how you logged in.
    g) the iPad and biometrics on either side where you could login with your thumbpring and flip through pages ($100-200 in cost)
    h) the iPad had a mesh gaming network for playing a custom Farmville application that let lifestock move from one iPad to another.

    It was intended to be an absurd joke and 95% of the feedback I was getting was from folks who were laughing saying it was a brilliant joke.

    So, I went to bed and slept well only to wake up to the fact that a couple of blogs and the Wall Street Journal took my spec and said it was fact. They didn’t look at the other half of the conversation on twitter where EVERYONE was laughing and joking.

    If it was a performance, and well, the WSJ didn’t see the audience laughing. They didn’t look at the RESPONSES to me from that night.

    The device I describe above would be well over 7-10 pounds and have at least $2,000 in parts. The hard drive and memory of that device would make it a VIDEO GAME LEVEL LAPTOP FROM ALIENWARE! There is no way it could be designed for $499 in a 1.5 pound package!!!

    Only a lazy person or someone who was so hopeful and drunk on Steve Jobs ability to bend the laws of physics and economics would ever believe this was possible….. or a journalist who was soooooooo desperate to get page views that they would print an OBVIOUS joke as reality.

    … or perhaps journalist who doesn’t think about the laws of physics and economics.

    In that way my simple joke that the JesusPad was everything and I that I was blessed to get one for 10 days before anyone AND in that position of trust was willing to destroy Steve Jobs’ keynote, was SO ABSURD only a zealot, an idiot or someone playing along would believe.

    It seems our industry has become filled with Apple zombies who believe that Steve Jobs can walk on water, and it’s obvious that the iPad is no better than the HP Slate or an HTC running Google’s Chrome. In fact, Bill Gates built better tablets five years ago!

    Steve Jobs pulled the wool over everyone by making them believe this product was a revolution, and I inadvertently exposed the fact that some folks loose all common sense when it comes to Apple products.

    The Reality Distortion Field is strong!!!

    That being said, I’m sorry to have designed a device that everyone wants in the face of Steve Jobs’ tablet which, apparently, is underwhelming when compared to the Jason’s Tablet–also known as the JTab.

    If you want to pre-order the JTab please send $2,500 to my paypal at jason at DISCLAIMER: If you are too stupid to know that was a joke, and you do send me $2,500 I will donate it to Haiti under the name of Owa Tagoose Iam.

    all the best,


  7. […] epic comment back to Apple fan boy haters Just posted this response to the dude who founded Newsvine. […]

  8. Simon says:

    Ahhh, so you’re the reason people have to put /s into their obviously sarcastic posts.

  9. Bob says:

    I was duped. Mike, you said it perfectly.

  10. Sherrie Sisk says:

    Except not everyone SAW each and every tweet. We saw — OK, I saw — rehashed copies, some of which left off the more incredible features Calacanis mentioned. Which made it all look quite legit, if flabbergastingly uncool to mention what with the whole NDA specter floating around.

    I’m with Mike on this one. Incredibly unwise. Sort of reminds me of that PiPhi recruiting chair who got so much press this week with her six-page opus on “appropriate dress code” for pledglings to her house, and when the heat got too much for her, had her “sisters” and frat-boy friends pile on with claims that it was “just a joke!”

    When clearly, it was just a stupid idea.

  11. Sherrie Sisk says:

    Oh- and then there was the whole perpetuation of it after the reveal with the incredible claims of “Oh, I have the 2.0 version coming in October.”

    Which, come to think of it, was the point where I knew it was bullshit.

    BTW, not all of us are technical geniuses (genii?). That’s why we follow people who ARE, not to mention why we depend on them for insight and info. It doesn’t make us stupid in general – just unknowledgeable about one particular subject. The claim otherwise? Offensive. And that’s always a good idea – piss off your readers by insulting them. ([/sarcasm], by the way)

  12. Jason says:

    OK, I lied. Steve called me and he was, understandably, upset about my tweets.

    I do, in fact, have the iPad 2.0. He needs my feedback on it and he gave me both the 1.0 and 2.0 versions. I can’t keep track of details and I gave out the 2.0 spec coming in October.

    My bad. I promise I will not break another NDA… including the one for the Google Pad and Microsoft’s Open Source Windows 8.0.

  13. Bill C says:

    Anyone who fell for what Jason said is a moron. It was plainly obvious he was joking. Two cameras, solar panels built in? Come on people, use your brains.

  14. Jared Kesler says:

    Hahah wow, you guys are getting seriously butt hurt over a twitter joke!?

    I honestly believed jason’s tweets until I saw a few of the ones about solar panels and facial recognition, then I realized what was going on.

    Lighten up for christs sake!

  15. Eric Wallace says:

    You guys are kidding right? Anybody with a brain can tell that this was a joke from the onset. Shame on techcrunch and the WSJ for not doing the proper journalistic research on such outlandish claims that Jason was making.

    It was a hoax and anybody could have seen that by digging a little more into their thick skulls to realize it. We live in a society where we want answers fast and we don’t want to do the hard work of verification. Yep I blame the morons at Techcrunch and WSJ for egg on their face.

  16. Jason says:

    Jared, Eric & Bill,

    I suspect you are dealing with Apple fanboys here…. their hearts were broken yesterday by the arrival of the DudPad.

    We’re gonna need to let them lash out at me for another two or three days before they accept the fact that Steve Jobs just released a bigger iPhone and called it a revolution.

  17. Rob says:


    Remember not to tell them about that new PS4 you got with the VR technology. Oh and don’t tell them about the special “brain wave” controller either. Don’t want to leak any information on that.


  18. Rafael says:

    Regardless of whether it’s a joke or not, it still stinks of attention-seeking.

    Besides, it’s just not funny or original.

  19. Jared Kesler says:

    On the contrary, If it wasn’t original it wouldn’t have tricked so many people =p

    And when I realized it me and my fellow co-workers got a good laugh :)

  20. Eddie says:

    Mike, IMO the key point in your post is:

    “I’ll post some fake, but borderline believable stuff and see what kind of linkage/followership I can get.”

    I believe this is more a case of tweetbait than duping. Unless you believe the two are the same.

  21. Mike D. says:

    Ok, two quick things before I respond:

    1. I agree that the iPad is a disappointment and was massively overhyped. My thoughts do not come as someone trying to defend Apple, the iPad, or the hype surrounding either.

    2. My opinion also doesn’t not come as someone who either a) follows Jason, or b) was fooled here. I’m not “sore” about anything. I don’t have a horse in this race.

    Jason: Thanks for chiming in. Let me first say that although I’m getting a little personal about your style of doing business, none of my comments should be construed as flowing through to your home life, your integrity as a dad/husband, or anything else that is not business related. This is merely a comment about what you expose of yourself in your business life.

    You mentioned you don’t judge yourself or care too much about follower counts and things like that, but at one point, didn’t you offer to pay $250,000 to get yourself onto Twitter’s suggested user list and thus have your followership go from 90,000 to over a million? Was that not a serious offer? Maybe not, I don’t know. It sounded like one though, and you certainly have the cash to do it. Aren’t you also running some sort of contest where people can follow you on Twitter and win some sort of prize? I don’t have the details on that one, but I seem to remember hearing something about it during the Crunchies maybe? Anyway, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that one but it again is not congruous with your statement about not taking follow counts very seriously.

    You also listed a lot more of your tweets for clarity sake, and that’s fine. However, as commenter Sherrie said above, not everyone has a linear printout of all of your iPad tweets taped to their computer screen. Even what has been mentioned as possibly the most outlandish of the tweets — the one about the solar panel — is not totally unbelievable on its own, given there is actually technology available now to charge devices in even more amazing ways. The point here is not that all of your posts, read as a whole, are clearly a joke. The point is that you put out information, piece by piece, to people who trust you, and led them on a trail of first curiosity, then intrigue, then excitement, then doubt, and then the reveal of deceit. If a follower read this stuff after the fact, then all of that happened within a few seconds, so it’s not a big deal. But if you’re following it as it happens, it’s a completely different story… especially when you’re at-replying to questions from people you’ve obviously duped, duping them even further.

    Aside from that — and totally unrelated to the duping — I agree with the last half of your comment. Everything surrounding this launch was absurd. Even the speech was absurd. At least 10 lines from it could have been mistaken for parodies (i.e. “You can fit an entire web page on the screen. Isn’t that amazing?”)

    Sherrie: Yep, I agree. We all depend on smart people in the industry to help keep us informed. This is why I would never, ever intentionally give anyone any reason to doubt me. Like Anil famously said, “Your April Fools Joke Sucks”… even more so if it’s not on April 1st.

    Bill C., Jared, and Eric: It’s really great that you — like the majority of the world — have no trouble telling that Jason’s tweets were fake, once you saw them all. Give yourselves a big gold star for that if you’d like. You’re missing the point entirely. One should never disseminate information that has the effect of fooling one’s audience, ever. Doesn’t matter if it was 5% of the audience, 10% of the audience, or 100% of the audience. The fact that you weren’t fooled is not germaine to this conversation.

  22. Kingzos says:

    It’s a bit like Milli Vanilla – 15 minutes of fame, but it was all a bunch of bulls–t – and now everyone knows that, they’re a laughing stock forever.

    Calacanis wasn’t exactly the last word in credibility *before* this stunt.

  23. Jason says:

    What’s the point in feeding into Calacanis’ ego? No one likes him anyways, he is the Donald Trump of tech:

    1. terrible hair
    2. shameless self promoter
    3. loves to think he knows celebrities
    4. Not even close to the most successful in his industry

    Beyond these, he is by and far the most hypocritical entrepreneur in the search game (Mahalo is a spam farm, a far cry below our other larger LA startup that essentially is puling off the same scam: Rich Rosenblatt’s Demand Media).

    The only reason Calacanis does this stuff is he would rather be hated and have a public following, than be hated in the silent offices of the Mahalo communist regime he is running.

  24. Jason says:

    I would like to comment on the hair issue: I think it’s doing fairly well for 39 years old, and I’ve always had a big forehead.

    When it’s time for it to go I will certain pull a billy corgan and shave it off.

    Additionally, I’m far more successful than I ever should have been–on that I agree. I’ve been playing with the houses money and been way over my head for a decade!

  25. Brade says:

    Mike, I thought of Anil’s classic posts as well. That sums up this situation pretty well. I have to say, though, that Jason defended himself adequately. It was all merely a gullibility exercise, in the vein of “Punked” and “Borat.”

    But I must admit, my first reaction as a Kutcher/Cohen victim would be to punch them square in the face.

  26. Sarah says:

    Not sure either party is getting their point across well at all.

    Using personal attacks, or accusations that just sound like hearsay & assumptions, is never a way to get your point across. But treating your followers or fans like idiots, whether they were fully informed of every single tweet of yours or not is just gross. Not very professional in the least.

    Jason, your post-reaction makes it feel slimy to use your products. The “if you didn’t get it, you’re stupid” defense is tired and has obviously upset people. After this, no apology, just more passive aggressive insults.

    Whether these people are Mac fan boys or not – you sell a product, treat your fans like crap and not give a shit because you have money…this story sounds familiar, does it not?

  27. Jorge Vargas says:

    Did the follower count went up or down?

  28. I get it – this was that @jason giving away free Nexus One phones? I have not heard about the fake specs tweets until this post, but I’m with Mike – never ever perpetuate Twitter hoaxes! There are enough of them out there already, with fake amber alerts, RIP Jonny Depp, etc. It looks disrespectful to your followers, some of them may have only seen one or two and taken them at face value.

    For shame!

    (And before I’m accused of being an Apple fangirl, I’m quite the opposite. This is not about Apple; this is about creating and perpetrating a HOAX.)

  29. Hans says:

    From the The Jason Calacanis Weblog.

    Social Media Lesson 37: How to add 20,000 followers in two days.

  30. CameraAddsTenPounds says:

    Actually, it was all fun and games until his last tweet. Assuring his audience that he wasn’t joking (when, of course, the difficult part of any internet communication is a joking tone) just shows how desperate he was to be taken seriously.

  31. […] Posted on 31. Jan, 2010 by Ian Betteridge in Apple, iPad As someone who’s followed Apple closely for most of my life and also someone who doesn’t really give Jason Calacanis credit for much of anything besides incessantly promoting himself, I knew Apple would never give a guy like that a device in advance under any circumstances, for any reason. via […]

  32. Non says:

    I wouldn’t trust that Jason guy. He doesn’t know the difference between lose and loose.

  33. John Dowdell says:

    Howdy, Mike… I didn’t follow that subplot deeply, but for what it’s worth, I had assumed the teasing was a reaction to the “controlled leak” manipulation of the blogosphere over the past few months.

    Clear, open, honest communication works best. But it’s always a puzzle how to best deal with those who act otherwise.


  34. Byron says:

    Jason’s responses remind me of watching John Edwards or Eliot Spitzer in a press conference or faux apology interview — it’s all about him and the public face of a narcissist. Earlier in the week, Anil Dash wrote a post urging us to love Obama as much as Jobs. He was calling out his peers to do good with their blog skills. It’s not his style to call people out so bluntly, but many I’m sure wished he was more direct. Thank you for doing so in your post.

  35. Pete Mortensen says:

    Don’t you guys get it? The iPad is a flop, unlike a truly revolutionary platform like Mahalo, which innovatively combines the features of Wikipedia and a spam blog with the charm of neither.

  36. Anon says:

    Some are showmen, some just showboats. I agree with Non @33. Might be a good way to tell the difference…

  37. Jan says:

    The Buddha then impressed upon his son the importance of speaking the truth.
    “Rahula, for anyone who has no shame at intentional lying, there is no evil that that person cannot do. Therefore, you should train yourself like this: ‘I will not tell a lie, not even in jest.'” -Ambalatthikarahulovada Sutta, 7

  38. Brian says:

    Absolutely “spot on” post. Nicely done.

  39. Sean Fitzroy says:

    If Jason wanted his readers to know that he was joking, he could have said the iPad included support for Flash.

  40. David Geller says:

    Great post. Dead on.

    I’ve only met Jason a few times. I don’t always appreciate or admire his style but recognize his incredible ability to self-promote. A few people I know are close friends with him and he’s been kind enough to engage in conversations with me a few times, so I won’t attack him personally. But, Jason is part of a group of people that have gained notoriety covering technology topics without really being strong technologists themselves. I feel this way, dare I say, about a lot of tech writers that aren’t part of major news organizations.

    And you’re right, of course, about follow and friend numbers. They’re poor indicators or measures of technical acuity.

  41. macsimcon says:

    Honesty, I’ve been listening to Jason’s opinions and thoughts by podcast for awhile now, and I’ve always found him to be insightful and self-effacing. If he made a mistake in judgment and went a little too far, big deal. We’re all adults here. I have over a dozen Macs, but I’m no fanboy. I try to be objective and not be taken in by Steve’s RDF.

    Before anyone thinks I’m a sycophant, I think Jason is wrong about the iPad. I think it IS the next paradigm for computing BECAUSE it is simple. It’s an appliance, a way for people who don’t want, or can’t, fix a computer to still use one.

    I’m a Mac consultant, so that is the last thing I want to see happen, but it will.

  42. scottdot says:

    I side with Jason on this one. If you don’t think the joke is funny, don’t read into it, or better yet unfollow the guy. Nobody’s force feeding you info from the guy, you’ve OPTED IN for his opinions and news.

    ’nuff said.

  43. Jamshid says:

    Jason you’re too good a self-promoter (tip: that’s a nice way of saying “bullshit artist”) for anyone to believe that “in all honesty” you thought you weren’t fooling anyone.

    Yes, it was gullible of me to overlook the “solar panel” comment, though hey there are solar-powered cases, and certainly wireless chargers.

    But just about everything else you said is totally believable and even sensible. Ok, not at $300 all-included, so yes I should have been reading more carefully if you said that it was.

    A Farmville App that uses the iphone/ipad’s GameKit api for enhanced local network gameplay? Sure Farmville is stupid, but similar apps already exist and it would sell big to all the couch potatoes (ipad target audience) currently addicted and playing on their netbooks.

    An HD tuner? Sure, like that Elgato usb stick. The Japanese watch tv on their mobiles all the time. Don’t know why you think functioning as a DVR would add $500 cost, it’s just saving a stream.

    Claiming the ipad had a camera and usb port isn’t absurd, it’s more absurd that it doesn’t. Maybe as creator of mahalo, and as someone who sold Engadget and a few other blogs to AOL for $25 million, you aren’t the best judge of absurdity.

  44. Peter says:

    “… we’re not just talking about country bumpkins who were duped here. Look no further than Robert Scoble …”

    I’m not following this logic? Scoble is a country bumpkin. You were aware of that, weren’t you?

    Your quotes from Calacanis’s Twitter stream are extremely deceptive. You are the one who is lying. Quote any five *sequential* quotes from his iPad comments (which were spewing out quickly. Any five sequential quotes taken as a whole are obviously fake, except to Scoble.

  45. K. Steinberg says:

    It’s not news that Jason Calacanis is an enormous douche. He used to be amusing but now most of his interactions and commentaries are sarcastic, bitter, and passive-aggressive in nature.

    He thinks there is a prize to be won by being the most obnoxious guy in the room.

    I do not wish to minimize his past accomplishment of pulling on AOL by selling Weblogs Inc. but his recent accomplishments have all fizzled. Mahalo is a virtual sweatshop in the age of hyper-intelligent algorithms. It’s on the wrong side of history and will eventually go away.

    With regards to twitter, there is an important point that he misses — Twitter is not consumed in a linear fashion. Each tweet is taken in without context. So when you try to build a narrative, no matter how ridiculous it is, it’s going to be misinterpreted. I do consider that stunt to have gone horribly wrong and damaged whatever credibility he had.

  46. Mike D. says:

    Brade: I see no adequate defense.

    Eddie and Hans: Yep, more blatant evidence. It’s pretty much indefensible at this point.

    Jan: Wow, droppin’ some Buddha! Heavy…

    scottdot: You’re missing the point. Readers don’t “think the joke is funny” (or not) because they don’t know it’s a joke. But yes, if I were a follower, I would unfollow. I have no need for false information paraded as humor.

    Jamshid: Well said.

    Peter: I will say nothing of Scoble other than he’s someone who one would *think* would have a pretty good grip on industry news. His presence in this article is only meant to illustrate that people from all walks of life were deceived here… not just “people with no brain cells” as some commenters on Jason’s blog have called them. With regard to the quotes I chose, I just picked a few… can’t even remember how. It’s funny to me that you — and a few others — choose the “anyone would know this is obviously fake” argument even in the face of evidence that clearly states the opposite.

  47. James says:

    Lesson of the Day for tech “journalists”… What happens on Twitter, stays on Twitter. (Unless you are willing to, you know, actually research, verify, get confirmations, mark your articles as ridiculous “rumor” – etc etc.)

  48. John Booty says:

    “One should never disseminate information that has the effect of fooling one’s audience, ever. Doesn’t matter if it was 5% of the audience, 10% of the audience, or 100% of the audience. The fact that you weren’t fooled is not germaine to this conversation.”

    Maybe Jason’s ideas about his audience are a little different than your ideas about his audience.

    Maybe Jason has no desire to be followed by people that aren’t savvy enough to release that he doesn’t reallllly have an advance copy of the iPad 3.0 that comes with a 1TB solid-state drive and worldwide 5G networking for life, or whatever.

    As a writer (or any other sort of artist or communicator) you simply can’t try to appeal to the absolute lowest common denominator. You have to draw the line *somewhere.*

    Mike, just as you apparently assume that your readers known what an iPad is, Jason clearly wants to communicate to an audience that can go one step further and understand a joke about an iPad.

    My grandmom, who’s never touched a computer, would find your web page as utterly inscrutable as Jason’s ridiculous iPad parody. Just as I have absolutely no idea what’s going on when I read a few pages of Finnegan’s Wake. Wrong? I really don’t think so; in each case the author has some kind of minimum bar they’ve set for readers.

    Sorry to anybody that couldn’t clear Jason’s bar. Which was pretty low in my opinion, but hey.

  49. Justin says:

    I was going to quote a specific part of Jason’s reply, but what’s the point?

    Some people are so far up their own behinds that they can’t see outside of their own distorted world view. Perhaps they should check for their own Reality Distortion Field before making jokes about others’.

  50. Mike D. says:

    John Booty: The “clearing the bar” analogy makes no sense in this case, unfortunately. When you offer to pay $250,000 to get onto a list that essentially nets you about a million inactive or otherwise unengaged subscribers (the Twitter suggested user list), you’ve already indicated that you don’t care about the “quality” of your followers. If you further write a post talking about how these sorts of stunts increased your follower levels, you’re again saying the same thing: “I want followers and I don’t care where I get them”. In other words, there is no bar.

    When a scientist uses technical terms a layperson doesn’t understand in a medical journal, *that’s* a bar. When an author writes a novel at a college reading level, *that’s* a bar. But when someone exploits his position by breaching trust with (even part of) his audience, that’s just bad judgement.

  51. chas_m says:

    The summary of the criticism of this article boils down to this:

    “We think it’s okay for someone to be a self-promoting (read: egotistical) lying douchebag, as long as its obvious to clever people.”

    That’s as good a summary of what’s really wrong with America (and Americans) as anything I’ve read.

  52. […] much more on this earth that is much more your own than your own words – spoken or written. Never. Dupe. You’re readers. It’s just foolish. (via Daring […]

  53. JPWP says:

    Calacanis’ raison d’être is to generate monetizable attention at *any* cost. Those who don’t know that, don’t know him. Seems pretty obvious that, in this case, his costs have and will be extremely high.

  54. […] Never Dupe Your Readers | Mike Industries Never dupe your readers. (tags: personal_publishing) […]

  55. bob says:

    From reading all the comments, I’d say Jason C. has all the class.

  56. ” but we’re not just talking about country bumpkins who were duped here. Look no further than Robert Scoble’s first comment in the comment thread on CrunchGear (or any of his comments on Twitter). He doesn’t appear to think it’s a silly joke upon first read. Neither did Neil McIntosh at the Wall Street Journal. ”

    So it’s not that Jason duped people, it’s that he duped reporters who should have known better.

    Funny, when were talking about top commentators and news organizations, I think it’s no longer a problem with a faulty source, but the person who made no effort to verify or look at statements with a cynical eye.

    I think Jason (be it by design or accident) did a public service by showing us all how empty headed, gossipy, and amateurish many of the people who are collecting paychecks to report on tech are.

    But at least this was a situation where the truth would be known in under 24 hours. How many press members (tech or otherwise) are duped by sources with agendas? How many press members have agendas of their own that causes them to be duped, or worse activly dupe the public.

    Who out there is the tech press has been acting level headed, not going overboard with praise or scorn. The whole business should be ashamed of itself . The National Enquirer seems to have more credibility right about now.

    Just as readers use the willing suspension of disbelief to better enjoy a story, they need to try suspending their automatic belief in news and non-fiction (and not just for reports they don’t agree with).

  57. Strangely, I’m reminded of Penny Arcade here. A few years ago, Jerry Holkins realized that he needed stop using his posts to enhance the jokes in that day’s comic. PA’s readers know that all sorts of ridiculous assertions can be made in the comic, and it’s nothing but comedy, but once Holkins started “playing along” in his posts, people started to misinterpret and take him seriously. As he put it:

    “…adding comic information out here in the “clean zone” of the post is indistinguishable from lying to you, and I’m sorry.”

  58. Josh says:

    I think Calacanis is being a bit obtuse. People aren’t taking the opportunity to abuse him because they’re Apple fans. They’re doing it because he’s a f***wit.

  59. Jonathan says:

    Actually, sometimes it’s a good strategy to dupe your readers.

  60. Mark Sigal says:

    Awesome post, Mike, and a great job calling the post-facto intellectual dishonesty behind Jason’s stunt.

    For better or worse, you can be sure that whatever the next event there is worth making “All About Me,” Calcanis will find a way to get behind the wave and ride it, something that I blogged about here:

    Meme Schemes and Attention-Seekers

    To be clear, I have seriously mixed emotions on this one, inasmuch as while I find much of the gamesmanship distasteful, it is indeed a game, and by a bunch of measures, Calcanis is good/great at it.

    No less, you will find few in the blogosphere that would do anything other than cheer these types of shenanigans, which says plenty about the way new media works (put me in the bucket of people in glass houses…).

    Then again, was the old media way really that much cleaner?


  61. […] Never Dupe Your Readers "If you want to be influential, lead by doing, not by talking, and certainly not by duping." Well said, Mike. […]

  62. basetta says:

    you’re totally right and calacanis has been already removed from my twitter feed.

  63. Ben says:

    I was very disappointed when I saw the real announcement. Jason, you lost my respect. I’m not following you on twitter or at any of your various blogs. I hope a lot of people do the same.

  64. Chris says:

    Jason may be in the wrong… but there’s no excuse for shitty journalism.

  65. Keith L says:

    So… No solar, then?


    Want to know what’s funny? The people who are using this comment thread to promote themselves. Typical.

    Good post and good responses by most.

  66. Aylw says:

    If the ‘industry’ can be thrown for a loop by some guy having fun on HIS OWN TWITTER ACCOUNT (TWITTER, for god’s sakes!), perhaps it’s the industry that needs to take a look in the mirror, not this Jason douche.

    That goes double for people who’s feelings were hurt because they got so riled up while looking for info about some toy they wanted. Unfollowing Jason won’t help you. Growing a pair and USING YOUR BRAIN will.

  67. Stephen says:

    I find it amusing that someone as supposedly tech-savvy as Jason didn’t know that Apple filed a patent (via MacRumors) in 2008 that detailed how they would incorporate solar panels under the iPhone’s touch screen.

    Also, the critical flaw in Jason’s argument that what he said was in his test iPad would cost way more than the iPad’s $499 price tag is that NOBODY KNEW EXACTLY HOW MUCH THE IPAD WOULD COST when he Tweeted those specs the night before Apple’s announcement!

  68. […] está teniendo cierto eco en los Estados Unidos, ya lo comenta ampliamente algún artículo como Never Dupe Your Readers, sirve como ejemplo para cualquier persona con dos dedos de frente e interesados en temas de […]

  69. Mike D. says:

    Stephen: Nice find! Very interesting. Also, yes, I should have pointed out the unknown price-point thing… that struck me as odd the first time I heard it used as an argument.

  70. […] from a commentary about Jason Calacanis’ fake pre-launch tweets about the iPadNever Dupe Your Readers, Mike […]

  71. Torsten says:

    “This sort of thing makes me shake my head because I’ve seen it before and it just never turns out well… and it’s never forgotten.”

    It turns out well for Jason. He has done this kind of stunt several dozen of times – and he has still 90000 Twitter followers.

  72. Mike says:

    What Jason did was only cruel because he described the exact dream iPad we all wanted. One day we’ll get it I’m sure.

    With that said, Jason is always spot on with the next trend in tech and he really knows where this industry is going. I will always be a fan because he makes me look good when talking to others :p

  73. I don’t trust him anymore.

  74. Mike D. says:

    Mike: He “makes you look good when talking to others”? What the hell is that? Sounds more like a hair club ad than an assessment of an individual.

  75. Paul Boutin says:

    I’ve stopped following JC about 6 months ago for the exact reasons you talk about. Ego, ego and ego. It gets boring real fast.

    I friend of mine I follow fell for the prank which I started reading. After tweet 2 I knew it was a fake, it also confirmed why I stopped following JC. Let’s all stop talking about him now…

    By the way, he must have called in his troups in this comments thread… damn..

  76. Mindflayer says:

    I don’t listen to TWiT when Jason Calacanis is on the show. Same with Ryan Block. Neither of them add anything of any real substance – just ego and flash. I disregarded the re-tweets of the “leaks” as attention seeking.

    That all said, the hype about the ? iPad was generated by the same people that bought this shit as reality. Apple never released information and people just went crazy. As a realist and cynic, I expected something less than desirable (iPod HiFI?) and was rewarded with something pretty slick.

  77. Cam says:

    Jason uses the price point, and weight of the iPad as reasons the specs he tweeted should not have been believed:

    “There is no way it could be designed for $499 in a 1.5 pound package!!!”

    The problem with that is the price of $499, nor the weight of 1.5 lbs, had been announced at the time of the tweets.

    Just sayin…

  78. Considering says:

    Playing a joke/prank on your readers — whoever they are — can be risky, and I (think) Jason screwed up on this one. But I don’t believe we should throw the parody and social commentary baby out with the badly-implemented (in this case) bath water.

    In my opinion Jason made two big mistakes:

    1) He mistook the nearly context-free Twitter for blogging. We’re meant to read it as a stream… it flows by during the time we’re reading it and even THEN we rarely see everything. Anyone following more than a couple dozen people is extremely unlikely to read everything tweeted by those they follow. And it’s ludicrously unlikely when the context here is “tech bloggers talking about iPad at that time”.

    2) His defense, echoed by many others,is that only idiots (or drunk-on-koolaid types, etc.) would have been duped, so– if your “mistake” was only a mistake to STUPID people, it doesn’t actually count as a mistake, right?

    Anyone who lists, say, three of the more outrageous tweets Jason made as evidence for the stupidity of readers is, frankly, displaying a lack of understanding of Twitter, and viewing it through a naive/newbie “it’s like a blog, except with smaller posts” lens.

    I actually thought his tweets were fascinating and I was enjoying it as a puzzle/mystery to figure out if he was telling the truth, and wondering when or if you’d finally see the thing that was CLEARLY too outrageous. And had it been a blog or even series of blog posts, I think far more people would have enjoyed it as well.

    But to craft a joke — via Twitter — that depended ENTIRELY on readers seeing ALL of his tweets in order to “get” the joke, –I believe he is normally much smarter than that. He just made a mistake and now wants to blame the readers who seem to “get” the nature of Twitter far more than Jason does.

  79. foobar says:

    A cursory glance at his twitter page shows over half his users don’t have an avatar, which suggests they’re fake accounts. Don’t get worked up over his supposed 90K followers – they aren’t all real.

  80. Anonymous says:

    >Oh and don’t tell them about the special “brain wave” controller either.
    Those actually exist, moron.

  81. Val says:

    Just one problem Jason: the device you described, 7-10 lbs, $2000? “There is no way it could be designed for $499 in a 1.5 pound package.” But u didn’t know it was $499 and 1.5 lbs. What kind of assbackyard reasoning is that? To argue after the fact using information you learned later that your premised device couldn’t possibly fit is the most retarded argumentation I’ve seen. Wow. Schmendrick.

  82. Jeff Croft says:

    I’m late on this, and I never really had much of an opinion on Jason or his little ruse before tonight (I’m also not a follower, but am familiar with his work), but after reading his comments in this thread, I can really think of no other appropriate word than “douchebag.”

  83. Keith says:

    I know from experience (being one of the designers in your example) that any kind of trickery played towards readers is a very risky business. Our stunt wasn’t meant to dupe anyone, we honestly thought it was constructed in such a way that it was clear we weren’t serious and in a way that proved a point.

    Yet, I’ll admit we didn’t really think it through and because of that there were quite a few folks who were upset and concerned about the situation and we both felt really bad once that sunk in.

    I do want to make two things clear.

    We didn’t intend to “purposely dupe” anyone. The intention was not to have people believing it was a real fight, it was more to lampoon and make light of some quick “copycat” finger-pointing that had been going on. I can see how that might have been assumed, but going in we honestly thought it was clear it was a joke.

    As well, it was clarified almost immediately, like within hours, in the original posts as well as via IM to individuals and in comments on other blogs. There was no Twitter for real-time clarification, and we did the best we could. I know I personally didn’t really understand why people were upset at first, and did a fair amount of arguing about that, but we clarified that it was a joke right away.

    Still, regardless of the fallout, it wasn’t a smart thing to do and all I can say in my defense is that I was really surprised at the reaction and had I known people would be genuinely upset I wouldn’t have been a part of it. Of course I didn’t want to upset anyone and, at the same time, the point of the whole thing was completely missed.

    We are certainly guilty of not thinking it through and not considering the reactions of our readers, but implying that we intended to trick or upset people isn’t accurate.

    Sometimes we can’t know the influence we’ll have or how people will react. We often tend to look at these things through our own lenses and group others according to that. I see something like this and think, “meh, wouldn’t bother me much.” But that’s me and when you’ve got an audience you need to think about how others might react. And trust me, ever since I’ve taken that into consideration with everything I write.

    To me, that’s the key here. The people who were upset were upset because they felt their trust had been betrayed. That wasn’t the intention, but it doesn’t matter. Like you say, no one likes to be duped. If you think you’re even slightly misleading you might want to think twice.

  84. Mike D. says:

    Keith: Yep, your last paragraph sums it up well. In your case, I agree, it was an altruistic attempt to illustration something, and it just wasn’t well thought out. There was really no ulterior motive and that’s why it’s easier forgiven. With Jason, however, it’s clear that it’s just one more tool in an arsenal of weapons designed to get attention.

  85. […] Davidson nails it in a recent article discussing Jason Calacanis’s iPad lies: If you want to be influential, lead by doing, not by […]

  86. Aaron says:

    Something about this line “The fact that it occurred only on Twitter and was a lot more believable than it could have been if it were really just an altruistic joke” reminded me of an article I read (, which basically made the point that for some reason info on Twitter is more believable, especially if it comes from a source that has built up credibility.

    My guess is the majority of Calcanis’ readers will still find him credible, but the tech press might pause next time.

  87. […] Jason Calcanis showed how not to blog: see Never Dupe Your Readers. […]

  88. […] Mike Davidson has posted a great article in which he poses that celebrity bloggers and pundits are little more than know-it-alls who […]

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