Thursday, July 05, 2007

Beware of Blogstorms in the Weather Report

If you trolled around Blogland last weekend, you would have the impression that Apple and AT&T's iPhone activation process was a disaster. Assorted bloggers shared their tales of woe (very real); perhaps the most unfortunate was Josh Hallett of Hyku, whose activation took days. People who should know better cited web polls showing nearly 40% of users unhappy. (Of course, web polls are about as statistically valid as checking in with a Ouji board, but what the heck!)

That makes this news item in which AT&T says that there were problems with 2% of activations interesting.

Now, AT&T may be using some definition of "problem" that doesn't make sense, but for the moment, let's assume that not having a problem means your iPhone was up and running with, say, an hour. That's pretty reasonable.

2% is not something to congratulate yourself over; the goals should be 0%, of course. But 2% is not a disaster, either.

But if you were relying on blogs to find out what was going on, you'd have a rather different impression, wouldn't you? This points to the limitations of blogs as journalism. In the iPhone story, the big picture is important. That wasn't available by reading individual accounts, but that didn't stop a rush to judgment.

Note that I'm not criticizing anybody for sharing their story - that's interesting, that's appropriate for blogging, and that's potentially quite helpful to somebody experiencing problems and looking to see what's happening to others. It's the ongoing online conversation.

But the tendency to look to blogs for some deeper truth about something happening right now is troubling when that truth depends on taking a step back and looking at some quantitative information.

Meanwhile, for all of you who went through hell getting your phones activated - hope it's over and you are enjoying your new Object of Desire! It's made me a little bitter about my Blackjack, but I keep reminding myself that pre-iPhone it was doing everything I wanted it to, and that hasn't changed...

1 comment:

Maureen Rogers said...

John - Good point. Based on some of the blogging I've seen, I was thinking "horror show." Still, I'm just as happy that I'm a second wave adopter. I want an iPhone, but I'll wait until it's cheaper and the problems are sorted out.