Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Telephone Game

I'm a fairly new user of Google Alerts, the service that sends you a notice when they come across a word of phrase you've specified.

Right now my alerts are all for gadgets. I have an alert for the Notion Ink Adam hoping to hear a solid US release date and price. I had an alert on the Viliv S10 Blade until it's pricing and features were finally released. I also have an alert on the Asus T101MT, the 10" version of the Asus T91MT netvertible.

I had an alert set up before the T101MT was released in some European country (can't remember, and it doesn't really matter which), and that press release certainly triggered a flood of alerts being sent to me. The release said that the T101MT would be released in the US in April. The first big tech blogs to remark on the upcoming April release have stated that the European version is selling for 499 euro, about $675 USD, but they're speculating that the price in the US, when it's released, will actually be about 500 USD.

Anyone who has set up a Google Alert to follow a new gadget or device has probably realized there are two (probably more) different kinds of posts. You know what, I'll say three kinds of posts:

First, there's the informative post thrown up when a new press release has come up or a site gets a tip from a company insider providing new information.

Second, there's the posts from people who are discussing a device's potential value and success, providing their insight.

Third, there's the giant sea of cookie-cutter blogs that just copy information from Wikipedia, press releases, and other blogs--probably utilizing bots in the process--to try and get a lot of traffic and ad revenue without actually doing a lot of work or in fact adding anything new at all.

I could veer off into a large speech about how this is one of the biggest problems search engines have to learn to solve--filtering out all the bot-generated sites that are masquerading as valuable content but in reality just make finding solid information harder to find. I won't veer off though, except for these two sentences to say that I could.

So if you set up an Alert for some tech item, you're going to get a handful of good blogs, and also a lot of the same info copied and pasted into generic blogs.

Even among the more legitimate sites, it's interesting how information changes as it changes hands.

As I said, the first few blogs that dared to speculate on the T101MT's US release said the price would probably be $500. Now pretty much every new article on the T101MT says it's going to be $500, without pointing out that that's just speculation.

Another annoyance for me, is that I don't consider "April" to be a release date. It's a release month, and anything that vague is usually more likely to change than a specific date would. So many blogs are popping up saying "T101MT US pricing and release date announced" or something like that, and then the actual post says April's the release date and $500 is the official price. $500 may very well be the price, but how would they know? It hasn't been announced yet, and they're not naming any sources.

The T101MT is supposed to have multiple versions released, with different amounts of RAM and a different version of Windows 7. Different prices. So when a site says, "coming out in April, $500," with no more information, I think I can reasonably assume they've just lifted a rumor off a previous blog without realizing that it's just a rumor.

I'll keep my alerts up and running. I'll keep wading through 30 daily posts repeating old (and speculative) information. Hopefully, Asus will make another announcement soon and put me out of my misery.


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