Of Luddite rubbish and relative expertise

In a world created by Tubridy, we’d all still be scratching on the insides of caves. There’d be no electricity. Or we’d give a nod to the gentry on the way to the poor house. You see Ryan Tubridy went all John Waters on the topic of Twitter this morning. Apparently people on the Internet are liars. It’s a fulltime job being a liar. From morning to night we all work super hard at it. We instant message to swap tips, uploading pictures of ourselves practising to Flickr and podcast our holes off being liars. It’s hard work. Something that Tubridy knows nothing about.

Tubridy’s guests on the show this morning were blogger, Twitterer and legal eagle, Fergal Crehan and technology journalist for the Irish Times, Karlin Lillington. Karlin also keeps a blog.

Fergal was an early Twitter adopter in Ireland. He joined in December 2006 and is a regular user. So he knows all the  ins and outs. Compare this in stark contrast with Ms Lillington. She joined yesterday. But Karlin’s a quick study. She joined Twitter at yesterday lunchtime – Wed Jan 07 13:36:48 +0000 2009 – to be exact according to Twitter’s Show API method. She hasn’t even sent a message. Not a single tweet. Expertise is, indeed, relative.

She’s not even following anyone on Twitter either. If she’s reading Twitter via RSS as Bernie suggests, then what the fuck is she reading? She’s following no-one, so subscribing to that feed will be noisy (!). Is she subscribed to certain people’s feeds or the public timeline? And if she’s doing that, then why would she even open an account on the service? The mind boggles. Truly, it does. Because, that would be the height of ignorance.

All of this is, of course, hearsay. From what I heard on this morning’s Tubridy show she has a very, very shallow understanding of the medium. No mention of desktop or mobile clients, exciting geeky follows like the Mars Rover (was). There was nothing about the service’s growing pains, slowness during MacWorld, downtime or canning of SMS support. There was no discussion of how Facebook wanted to buy the service but the Twitter boys said no. Not a mention of similar services like Jaiku or Identica, but I’m not sure whether that’s down to ignorance or that they just aren’t worth mentioning.

Karlin did give a cursory nod at the way Obama used it, but no description of how historic one felt on Election night as the numbers rolled in and people shared a moment of ambient intimacy thousands of mile apart. No update on how the Obama team stopped using it all of a sudden.

Again, she hops in with the definition that Twitter is a “stream of text messages”.  Perhaps, it wasn’t the sub-editor? Glad she clarified, else I could have jumped to the conclusion that they were messages from God. Is  microblogging such a bad word? How can thirteen letters be so scary? Maybe it’s the blogging part. Is the tag “blogger”  worse than “liar”?

I, seriously, have no idea why Tubridy covers Twitter unless it is to demonstrate that he is a Luddite or why Ms Lillington is brought on the show as she just opened an account yesterday. Fergal was the voice of reason and sprinkled good sense and quirky fun into a zombie segment.

Couldn’t RTE have scheduled the item when Rick O’Shea was back in the office so they could have an informed, interesting and entertaining contributer? Someone that actually uses it everyday, but in a work context? Sorry, I forgot RTE stole his voice. It seems Luddite chat trumped it.

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  1. Didn’t hear the piece myself but wouldn’t have expected a lot from Tubridy. Any techology items he covers are derided. He somehow seems condescending to mere services on the web. Don’t understand why he does tech topics tbh.

  2. You expect technology when listening to Ryan Tubridy? I think his programme notes don’t pretend to take that approach. Ryan Tubridy covers technology as a social topic, so you’re not going to get tech to the depth that might interest you.

    I think that most of your readers would like a perspective of Twitter’s functionality that are wildly divergent than the interests of a national radio audience in a soft morning time slot.

    And how can you be sure that you know about the myriad of private Twitter accounts floating around? Do you really know who is behind various cloaked Twitter identities? It’s something that bothers Echelon analysts because some of the stuff they want for anti-terrorism could route around filters searching for keyword alerts.

    I have five Twitter identities. I know Karlin has at least two, ane one is definitely cloaked, locked down and private. How she uses that account and the length of her exposure to Twitter is only relative. Because in the Twitter kingdom, everyone is an expert–especially to an inquisitor like Ryan Tubridy.

  3. Fantastic post (as usual) Ms Golez.
    Was aching to hear this piece, had one ear on it as had visitors in the office at the time.
    Good job too as I’m not sure my blood pressure could take it, the bits (beginning and nearing the end) that I heard had me spitting bullets!

    Seriously, why allow Tubs of all people to talk about something like this, I’m sure he’s a grand chap and all but his height of technical knowledge extends to 75 rpm and no farther. This is not the person to speak on this. His choice of speakers clearly show this.

    Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean you can laugh at it Mr Tubridy.

  4. Nicely told..

    and it is infuriating to hear the word “filter” mentioned some many times in a broadcast.

    it’s a pity; tech does not really get too many slots on Radio 1; too so quickly start talking about those lying bloggers and those lying wikipedia articles just make me want to ring Joe Duffy and give out about this particular sinatra fan…



  5. @Bernie: I expect RTE to cover something with balence, clarity and fun. Most of all – expertise. That segment was none of those things.

    Were I searching for fluffy generalisations I’d be laughing. Compare that segment to Patrick Kavanagh’s. The subject was different, but it’s tone, delivery and technical knowledge was simply great. Fergal was the only person in the studio that had a clue what he was talking about, imho.

    I don’t make assumptions about audience, Bernie. You are making broad assumptions on the audience of a national radio show there. Do they not have a right to hear solid technical knowledge delivered with a light touch and a dash of fun?

    Bernie, you pointed us to the account and now you muddy the waters? Uh-huh. If she has so many identities, why create another blank one? And why would you point us to it? Hmmm?

    I’m sure a lot of people have accounts for Black Ops as well.

  6. Tubridy can indeed be quite appalling at times. His interview last week with a chap from the CSO was horrible. He couldn’t grasp it at all.

    In relation to Twitter – he did a similar ‘What’s it all about?’ piece on Heavy Metal a few months back. Which was pretty crap.

    I mentioned it on my blog at the time http://www.paddymetal.com/?tag=ryan-tubridy (not sure if you allow links)

  7. You could pitch your wish for pithy tech to tts@rte.ie but Ryan Tubridy has a bias towards credible broadsheet journos as guests, which is one reason Karlin Lillington is in the rota.

    I respect online privacy which is why I am not pointing to Karlin’s masked and locked Twitter account. I enjoy a powerful reach with my blacked-out account and wouldn’t like reforging another if outed.

  8. Hmm.. I can see how publishing a handle to a “locked” (and by that, I assume you mean “protected”) account is breach of privacy. Profile info and photos are sensitive.

    Don’t owners of protected accounts have to accept a request for someone to subscribe to their tweets?

  9. I have a grand total of 100 twitter updates to my name and had less than 80 when I was asked onto the show, so if you want to have a go at me for my lack of expertise, I’m as worthy a target as Karlin Lillington. She is a regular contributor to various radio shows on technology subjects – that is her expertise, and I assume that’s why she was chosen today.

    I know I’m going to regret this, but here goes…

    I have only met Karlin Lillington twice, but she is one of only a handful of journalists I have any time for. She has done outstanding work over many years on privacy, a hugely important subject which no other journalist and pathetically few bloggers are at all interested in. Some time ago yourself and others decided you didn’t like her. I don’t know what the cause of this is, but I find the regular bashing of her distasteful. I’m not saying you should stop – and I couldn’t make you stop if I wanted anyway – but I think there are more deserving targets.

  10. Heard the show and it came across quite clearly that Karlin and to a lesser extend Fergal weren’t 100% up to speed with the topic. Karlin was stuttering and stumbling at times.

    Alexia , the nail and the head are at the same place (what one of my German colleagues said to me yesterday).

  11. Fergal: Thanks for the comment.

    Well, were we calculating experience in terms of updates readily on the web viewable to the public, you’re infinitely more expert. In fact, more so. 80 times 0 is still 0, just as infinity times 0 is 0.

    As regards the issue of liking or not liking a person, bloggers did not make a collective decision to dislike her. There is no evidence of organised campaigns on the blogs.

    It’s not simply a matter of like or dislike. What there is, is reaction to the work done.

  12. I can’t quite make it out if Ryan Tubridy is an elitist or a luddite, or both.

    For example, when talking to Mick Fealty of Slugger O’Toole) and Cian O’Flaherty of Irishelection.com in 2006, he said: “take someone like Matt Drudge for example, take someone like Guido Falkes who I’d never heard of until this morning…

    Going on to say: “…now I’m pretty savvy, in terms of I read my papers and I listen to the radio and I watch the news, or whatever, I’m not as technical as you guys clearly but blogging doesn’t feature in my life whatsoever, because I feel I want to read professionals; I want to read people who’ve been to college and who’ve learnt their craft, and not a couple of guys knocking around with a laptop” (quotes from tcal.net).

    What to you expect his views on blogging to be? A few other points:

    Journalists not only can talk about things we do not take part in. It’s more often than not part of our jobs to do so. It’s central to most of our jobs.

    “…very shallow understanding of the medium. No mention of desktop or mobile clients… [etc]” …that whole par sounds like you’re expecting far too much from what was – I presume — a radio segment of normal length. Covering even half of what you mention for a general national radio audience would require a good deal of time. Radio as a medium, and in the formats used by broadcasters, is limited.

    “Is microblogging such a bad word?” … first, it’s Tubridy’s show (I’m still not sure if he’s an elitist or a luddite, or both). Secondly, it’s a general radio audience — you use terms that audience will know. It’s more likely the audience would have a better picture of what Twitter is by using the definition “stream of text messages” than using the term “microblogging.”

  13. @Cian: Thanks for commenting.

    Did you hear the piece itself? I assume journalists prepare when covering a topic. The piece was very badly researched. I would hope that a journalist takes the time to play with something and experience for themselves a piece of technology, before coming onto radio in segment designed to discuss it. While I’m no journalist, sound research shines through.

    What I mention are just examples of ways that the segment could have went. Any one of these could have added to the segment. Instead, Tubridy was allowed to walk all over the item with Luddite drivel.

    Research and speaking from a position of knowledge would have gone a long way in driving the segment from Ludditeland to somewhere interesting. This did not occur as the item was unprepared. I look to the journalist on the segment as the person who is supposed to have done the necessary research. Is that wrong?

  14. No, it’s not wrong. I have not heard the piece, — and sorry if I sound flippant here — but unless Tubridy has changed very recently, I’ve heard more than enough of his radio and TV work criticise it.

    On his TV show, even when there is somebody reasonable famous on as a guest, he still displays what you could call classic Tubridy. Or, in other words, he still talks over people as if he’s both interviewer and interviewee.

    In the case that “Tubridy was allowed to walk all over the item with Luddite drivel” (as per normal, I’d add) what ever the content was then was likely not the guest’s fault at all. They could have had more to say if it was not for Tubridy talking over them.

    Also along the lines of what Bernie said above, a lighter angle could have been taken by the guesses, talking into account it was Tubridy’s show.

  15. Thanks for telling me to do so… I was totally wrong in my last comment.

    I now find my self defending Tubridy too. It sounds like he has improved and I was being unfair. If he or any his staff or fans are reading — I’m sorry about my last comment, I was wrong, he does not talk over people in this (as I’ve heard him do so too much and far too many times before). He has improved as a radio broadcaster. Fair play to him.

    He was being a bit black and white about the topic of how do you not know if people are not lying, and his fate in the main stream media sounds a bit native and being a bit elitist. But even if it was time consuming, it sounds like he was genuine in his worries about what can be found on the internet. It sounded like there was an element of ludditism in there, but that sound wound likely come from a lot of non-tech savy people. So, I would stand by my comment made yesterday, just not the last one made earlier today.

    Withstanding the above, the piece did quite a good job at describing Twiter, it did so in the light style you’d expect from the show while also linking it in with a topical issue.

    And to be fair the comment about Obama, that comment was made after Tubridy said they had run out of time. Nevertheless, Lillington made quite a good comment there at the end about how you shouldn’t have to know you’re using something called twitter. One of the first rules of clear writing is to leave out the jargon, and we all might revert back the odd time, but it’s something the tech world is often blind to.

  16. I’m thinking that a lot of that elitist talk and claiming that many on the web are liars did more harm than good in the piece. Yes, they did run out of time. More impetus to the fact that the item was sidetracked to talking about the liars on the web than the technology they were charged to discuss. The web does not make people liars.

    What the item does raise though is Tubridy’s (and indeed many inhabitants of the mainstream media’s) fear that the web is killing their audience. I believe that’s where Tubridy was going. Given the rushed research and the off-topic jaunt into mirror-gazing, I think the segment demonstrated the point.

  17. As I said before, this isn’t about luddism, its about elitism, a belief that only certain people deserve to be listened to. That was always the way the segment was going to go – I was specifically asked to think about it in those terms in my contacts prior to the show. I don’t think Tubridy is especially interested in technology as such, so that whole issue wasn’t a sidetrack, it was the whole point of the segment, hence the lack of tech focus. He wouldn’t have been interested in doing the kind of segment you’re looking for.

    And to add to Cian’s point about jargon, didn’t Douglas Adams say that “technology is a word to describe something that doesn’t work properly yet”?

  18. So Fergal, the piece was not about Twitter? And your contact with the show prior to it indicated that this wasn’t going to be about the technology, despite it be billed to the audience as such? Was this then an organised assault on technology under the veil of a topical segment on Twitter? Interesting.

    And on elitism, the only elitism on show was Tubridy’s blind disregard for democratising power of technology. Given Internet access and the tools to access it, there are no barriers to entry for Twitter. There are barriers to entry for broadcast media, in this case, RTE Radio. One-way media is dying and it is scared of the future.

    And there appears to be a touch of luddism. It’s not just me, many listeners have said so.

  19. You could say the elitism which some in the media show and their anti-internet talk — if it is really a fear of their jobs being taking or a fear of the media being replaced — could be compared to the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution.

    The Luddites were right to fear for their jobs, at the moment most journalists have the more likely threat of job cuts due to owners of media companies looking for larger share of profit (such can be directly linked to jobs losses, or outsourcing, in Ireland, and the UK).

    On the other hand, sometimes there’s simpler reasons for why some elements of the media attacks the internet — it’s seen as an easy target.

  20. “And on elitism, the only elitism on show was Tubridy’s blind regard for democratising power of technology.”

    Yes, that’s precisely the point I was making.
    I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to say here, except that you disagreed with the general tone of the segment. I disagreed with it too, and voiced that disagreement on air, insofar as the format allowed. But it’s Tubridy’s show, he can do what he wants with it. He has plenty of listeners who like his approach, though I’m not one, and neither, I suspect, are you.
    “an organised assault on technology under the veil of a topical segment on Twitter” perhaps puts it a but strongly (I think the anti-technology stuff is more of an attitude than an organised campaign) but is essentially correct and would do equally as well as a discription of his report on blogs as quoted above by Cian.

    Was it billed to the audience as being about the technology behind twitter? I didn’t hear the build-up, so can’t comment. What specific tech-based issues would you have liked to have heard covered?

  21. “Disregard”.. I made a typo 🙂 Hence the confusion. Apologies. I have fixed the typo.

    It was billed as an item on Twitter. Not about liars on the Internet. More history on the service would have been nice. More context on the ways to use it (showing how people can transparently integrate into their communications arsenal) using their phones, web or voice messages.

    It would have been nice to do this as it would have been a step to dispel the anti-technology bias in some parts of the media. The segment, however, did a complete 180 from this opportunity – only to demonstrate the elitism of the show.

  22. Alexia,

    Friends of mine are split on Tubridy. Some say spawn of the devil; others one of the popular voices on Irish radio (if he weren’t holding down a big audience he’s be out of that slot tout suite.

    He’s also a wind up merchant. When he was interviewing me by phone, according to Cian O’Flah, he was making faces at the rest of the studio. Teach me for taking him too seriously. Then again he’s even driven poor Pat Kenny to distraction (Pat wants him gone back to Radio 2).

    As for liars on Twitter, and the net for the matter, of course they exist. So they do in MSM for that matter. It’s a wind up line; best ignored. And it’s certainly not the defining character. Besides, no one who matters amongst the tech movers and shakers uses Ryan as any kind of a marker for what’s in and what’s out.

    Not sure what your problem with Karlin is. She’s been blogging for a good deal longer than I recall, which is about mid 2002 (I know her current archives only go back a couple of years, but not everything is always quite as it seems on the net). I would have been very surprised to learn she was not an early adopter of Twitter.

    One thing I would say is that our Twitter worlds are very personal. What one person marks as the most formative moments; may not be available in quite the same way. I had a similar experience to you on the US election day. I picked up that YouTube footage in a Philly suburb of two men in apparent uniforms within minutes of it being tweeted; and a good three hours before it made it to Fox News.

    But the nature of my usage fluctuates madly depending on what I’m doing/thinking about.

    For me the downside of Twitter is that it’s a vortex. Much more than blogging it infects people almost with a sense of not being able to switch off for fear of missing something. Insomnia (madness?) and Twitter go together.


    “I think I decided I didn’t like Karlin when I found out she was American. She kept that secret didn’t she?”

    That’ll be why she has a banner pic of the Golden Gate Bridge on the top of her home page then.

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