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The Media Editorial

The Most Powerful Man in Technology Journalism 205

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the old-man-murray-notwithstanding dept.
prostoalex writes "The Wired magazine takes a look at Walt Mossberg, technology columnist for Wall Street Journal Personal Technology section. The magazine quotes some of the technology advances and fixes, for which we should be thankful to Walt Mossberg: 'RealNetworks overhauled its RealJukebox player. Intuit revamped TurboTax. Mossberg even forced Microsoft to scrap Smart Tags, which would have hijacked millions of Web sites by inserting unwanted links to advertisers' sites. Few reviewers have held so much power to shape an industry's successes and failures.'"
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The Most Powerful Man in Technology Journalism

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  • Someone is using Steve Jobs RDF and he is going to be pissed!
    • Someone is using Steve Jobs RDF and he is going to be pissed!

      He probably would be, if mossberg wasn't on the pro apple side from time to time. I haven't read enough of his stuff to know if he's really solidly apple, but there are often links from Apple's hot news [apple.com] site to articles about how walt has enjoyed iPods and iMacs.

      Two RDFs... it could split the planet in two... wahey hey.
      • I haven't read enough of his stuff to know if he's really solidly apple, but there are often links from Apple's hot news site to articles about how walt has enjoyed iPods and iMacs.

        I'll repeat my offer for tinfoil beanie discounts that I mentioned in a previous post. Just email me at wankerbait@ridiculousparanoids.com [mailto] and I'll set you up with case pricing.

        Mossberg likes Apple products? He must be a shill! Burn the witch!

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:16PM (#9079821)
    Mossberg also has one of the most powerful positions in all of tech journalism... The Wall Street Journal is read by an audience of stock investors.

    In short, if you're a tech company and you don't do what he says, Wall Street's going to notice what he called you out over. That'd be harmful to your stock price...
  • Waaaah? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:18PM (#9079835)
    CmdrTaco isn't the most powerful man in technology journalism?
  • Impossible! (Score:5, Funny)

    by klasikahl (627381) <klasikahl&gmail,com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:18PM (#9079839) Journal
    RMS is clearly the most important voice in technology. Duh!
  • Wow.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dingeaux (768490) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:19PM (#9079843) Homepage
    ...Jon Katz is going to be pissed too...at least until his next book arrives....
  • by zeruch (547271) <zeruch&deviantart,com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:20PM (#9079851) Homepage
    ...what this really tells me is that anyone who is fortunate to write for the WSJ wields a stupdi amount of power over a lot of folks with stock portfolios, who in turn knee-jerk their way to whatever thing they read next in the investment bible of choice. Mossberg is not evil, stupdi, or a hack, but he isn't writing gospel (even if some folks seem to think he is).
    • the WSJ wields a stupid amount of power over a lot of folks with stock portfolios, who in turn knee-jerk their way to whatever thing they read next in the investment bible of choice.

      Not only investors, but police as well. Remember Kevin? [kevinmitnick.com]
    • by catbutt (469582) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:30PM (#9079928)
      what this really tells me is that anyone who is fortunate to write for the WSJ

      Yes, fortunate....in fact WSJ picks its journalists via a lottery, and he just happened to win.
      • Point is that while the man may not be Rob Enderle, some of his comments are pretty damn inane. As are those in the Wired article (since when was Star Office even open source, let alone an open source darling?).

        Or to paraphrase Gizmodo, he sure as hell must've given somebody a blowjob for that article.

    • oh for a sec i though you were talking about a mossberg shotgun and got nostalgic for the specialists half life mod.
    • by qengho (54305) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:38PM (#9080361)


      anyone who is fortunate to write for the WSJ wields a stupdi amount of power over a lot of folks with stock portfolios

      Sigh. Did you bother to RTFA? Mossberg wasn't "fortunate", he bloody well earned his spot on the WSJ, and he has done nothing to tarnish his reputation, ever. Listen, I have a good deal on tinfoil beanies for you. Email me at wankerbait@ridiculousparanoids.com [mailto] and I'll set you up with a system guaranteed to repel the onslaught of devious WSJ writers.

      • Yes I read the fucking article, but I still say that it is fortune. There are plenty of talentedjournalists who still get stuck in the margins. Being at a job is not just skill at the task (if that was the case, management would not be the lost art that it seems to have become), but also a lot of intangibles...right place, right time, political office savvy, and whatever forms of chance and palm-greasing also may or may not apply. I actually *like* reading Mossberg on occasion, but as I said, just becaus
        • > There are plenty of talentedjournalists who
          > still get stuck in the margins. Being at a job
          > is not just skill at the task (if that was the
          > case, management would not be the lost art that
          > it seems to have become), but also a lot of
          > intangibles...right place, right time,
          > political office savvy

          So maybe one day the dream of collabroatively-filtered journalism will come true, and then only the ideas, and not the people who have them, will count.

          But don't hold your breath. Next centu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:21PM (#9079860)
    "Few reviewers have held so much power to shape an industry's successes and failures.'"

    Now all we need him to say is that Linux is ready for the desktop, and we are so there.
    • Re:Make it so... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by inphinity (681284) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:33PM (#9079953) Homepage
      One of the reasons Mossberg is so well-respected is because he doesn't say things like 'Linux is ready for the desktop' without a thourough evaluation in the end user's interest. Because, as much as the /. community might think it is, Linux is unfortunately well away from mainstream Windows-dependent crowd.

      And although he doesn't often put in a good word for Linus and the gang, he does frequently preach the virtues of 'alternative software', and isn't afraid to take on issues like ridiculous DRM .

      So, in a nutshell, that is what makes him a good reporter!

      • Re:Make it so... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:48PM (#9080053)
        And for that reason, he likely won't say ever say that "Linux" is ready for the desktop... he's waiting for a major distribution to truely have a product that's ready for businesses to use. When that happens, he'll endorce that one.

        I think he's on record as saying Lindows, er, Linspire isn't that one.
    • Just once, I would like someone to see someone try to make a convincing argument that Windows is ready for the desktop.

  • by scaltagi_the_pirate (777620) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:22PM (#9079875) Homepage
    "I don't give a fuck about your stock price!" Finally, a man with a vision. I mean, great, he might be right sometimes, but how many good technologies might this man stop with a simple off-the-cuff remark in an article? A little too much power I think.
    • Sure, if he had proved himself to be a glaring idiot (somehow obtaining said power anyway) i would worry about that. That doesn't seem to be the case however.

      Having a great amount of power is like having a monopoly, it's usually only bad when you start being an asshole about it.

      ps. do you worry about GNU/Linus shutting down what could be some earth shatteringly wonderful project with some unthought off-the-cuff remark?

      • The problem with a monopoly isnt that its only bad when you start being an asshole about it, its that just the existance of a monopoly places unfair stress on a market thereby denying opportunities to other technologies (or what have you). This can occur without you even knowing about it - I can drive the price of something down and push a potential competitor out without even knowing about them - and I would be practicing good business, and I might even do it for good (non-asshole) reasons!

        And everybody
  • Mossberg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:30PM (#9079926) Journal
    Mossberg might be powerful in terms of the flow of money (ie: entropy), but the collective minds of Slashdot readers will always be more powerful in terms of long-term product/service viability because it's communities like Slashdot that truly direct the whole world-influence; if we see shit, we call it shit, and if we see gold we call it gold. Sites like Slashdot influence informed technology purchases, I would think, much more than someone like Mossberg could.
    • Re:Mossberg (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yanokwa (659746) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:38PM (#9079986)
      Yeah, we all know well Slashdot can predict technology. iPod [slashdot.org] anyone?
      • Re:Mossberg (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HuguesT (84078) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:47PM (#9080433)
        The Slashdot article you refer to is very interesting. CmdrTaco made a comment on the submission ("No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame."), a mistake which no respectable journalist would make (let the fact speak for themselves).

        However the bulk of the article comments, the real mind of Slashdot, most of the +5 insightful comments were saying: "wait a minute, this is *not* lame: firewire, small form factor, cool software, 5GB is plenty, this is gonna fly", which it did.

        Don't confuse one editor with the Slashdot collective. I'm always interested by the mixture of inane and extremely insightful comments that Slashdot generates.
      • by mfh (56)
        > the collective minds of Slashdot readers will always be more powerful in terms of long-term product/service viability

        What part of the above statement confused you?
    • Re:Mossberg (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) *
      However, in order for Slashdot to have an opinion on a product, it first has to be made... Mossberg's early reviews can end up killing a company so that its later products never come out. He can reject things in the theory stages that way.
    • the collective minds of Slashdot

      Brothers from the basement, let's gather into the Hive and sing our hymn, Radio Zerg !

      Burps...

      Having this post modded up informative really disturbs me... :)

    • Your CIO does not read slashdot. Your CIO reads the wall street journal.

      TO be fair WSJ is one of the most influential publications in the world in all matters. These people sway elections for gods sake. I think getting your boy elected the president is more important then getting linux on the desktop for most people.
      • While the CIO reads the WSJ, at my company the IT director makes the purchacing decisions, not the CIO. The director makes these decisions based on the recomendations of his staff (namely my boss, among others). Who do you think does the studies and writes the recomendations that are presented to the director? I do, and I read Slashdot. This is the mechanism that mfh is pointing out.

        At the moment, I'm trying to get a few of these opteron based servers in for testing [hp.com] to run oracle on linux to replace some

    • Yeah right.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pranjal (624521)

      Like when slashdot collectively said that the I-Pod mini is crap and it turned out to be a hit?

      You are speaking about that right?
      • It is crap but is also a hit. Popularity != excellence; popularity == what people want. People don't want excellence--which is not an entirely bad thing.
  • by xmas2003 (739875) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:30PM (#9079931) Homepage
    I've subscribed to the Wall Street Journal since the mid-80's, so have read his columns since they started in 1991. They aren't bad - definately written from the non-geek point of view (which is the right target audiance), but they just have never seemed that difficult to me.

    I.e. get some new devices, play around with them, and write the obvious stuff about them. The article talks about how he "stopped" Smart Tags and Turbo Tax licensing ... but I'd argue "DUHHHH" ... everyone agreed these were bad ideas ... but if the WSJ writes about, then I guess it must be true! And his comments on the user interfaces aren't exactly rocket science. Note that since he is such as "name", he gets amazingly early access to stuff, and folks I know in "bizness" say he has a HUGE influence.

    It has seemed in the last few years that his assistants are mentioned more often in the columns, which leads me to wonder if he has scaled back his workload/reviewing/writing and just coasting on his name/column.

    I.e. I'm not sure that whoever is the technology editor at the WSJ makes that much difference - as long as they are reasonably competent in their reviews/writings, they will be well read.

    Having said all of the above, he has an column read by millions in the WSJ ... where all I have is my personal web page! ;-) [komar.org]

    • Walt's column could be in Good Housekeeping. Maybe back in the day, reviewing gadgets on a regular basis was novel, but today Walt is indistinguishable from the crowd of gadget reviewers. The Wired article was a puff piece that vastly overstated his impact (sensationalism from Wired? I'm shocked!)
      • by Forgotten (225254) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:02PM (#9080146)
        Better still: a slobbery article in Wired vastly overstating the importance of tech journalists. Journalism is mostly logrolling, but this sort of thing is right at the top of the incest dogpile (hmm, if it's phrased that way maybe John Ashcroft will decide he has to do something about it).

        That said, being obvious, mundane and not terribly insightful is kind of the point of a column like Mossberg's. He's simply a clearing house for new crap - the person you send it to with an outlook pretty much equivalent to his readers'. They can't try out all the new kit individually, so someone was elected as guinea pig. And from that perspective he really doesn't have much "power" at all, because he has to write pretty much what his audience would have written, or they won't read him. Nothing limits the scope of what one can say like popularity.

      • He's in PRINT. his target audience are not geeks.
        from the publication of the WSJ, you can assume his reviews are read by ceo's of fortune 500 companies, regularly..

        and you think it is no different than say? Gizmodo? [gizmodo.com]

    • quoth:
      The article talks about how he "stopped" Smart Tags and Turbo Tax licensing ... but I'd argue "DUHHHH" ... everyone agreed these were bad ideas ...
      /quoth

      well sure, i thought they were shitty ideas too. so did most of the slashdot/tech community...BUT does anyone think microsoft/other-huge-corporation-that-changes-our - lives-just-by-doing-business cares about what we think?

      do you think all of us who said DUH could have changed the situation for the better? I for one am glad Mossberg is around

      • Dever,

        I don't disagree with you - yep, the Slashdot crowd has very little affect on those types of decisions, but ideally, someone at those companies SHOULD have been thinking about some of these bad decisions - so yes, it's good that Mossberg "stopped 'em", but I think the market would have eventually self-corrected 'em ... but darn shame Microsoft and Intuit couldn't figure the DUHHHH out for themselves.

        I still think an "Average Joe" with half a brain (who happens to be the WSJ technology editor) coul

    • It has seemed in the last few years that his assistants are mentioned more often in the columns, which leads me to wonder if he has scaled back his workload/reviewing/writing and just coasting on his name/column.

      Pretty sure he had a heart attack in there, and was laid up for a good while.. still working, but at a much reduced pace. And it's only relatively recently that he's gone full bore back into it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:35PM (#9079966)
    Belonged to Cowboy Neal!
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:38PM (#9079983)
    In general his columns are nontechnical and harmless almost to the point of being fluffy. Walt has good intentions but I can't put his commentary above the other hundreds of gadget dudes providing pedestrian reviews of consumer electronics.
  • PBS (Score:5, Funny)

    by pipingguy (566974) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:43PM (#9080024) Homepage
    Boy, I bet Cringely is pissed.
    • Boy, I bet Cringely is pissed.

      I think Cringley is well aware that he's better known as a historian than a journalist. His greatest works were two documentaires that covered things well after they happened.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... look like a genius.
  • Robert [daringfireball.net] Enderle [eweek.com]
    • by Xenographic (557057) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:26PM (#9080290) Homepage Journal
      Enderle is the one who called Linux users "terrorists [technewsworld.com]" and who thinks that SCO should win its case [eweek.com]...

      So, ummm, why would anyone listen to that guy, again? I mean, he decides to fling allegations of "terrorism" when he gets hatemail for being an idiot online, and (worse!) tend to discredit or disbelieve his oh-so-insightful analysis.

      The man may be oft-quoted, but he's not exactly the brightest I've ever met... Seems to be one of the "contrarian" archetypes--that is, those who think that anything widely believed must be wrong. That includes, of course, both popular misconceptions and utter nonsense...
  • thankful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by noelo (661375) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:55PM (#9080104)
    We should be thankful that at least he understands what he's writing about event from user rather than geek level. There are a lot of people out there who write reviews/opinions without the full facts etc...
  • Oh yeah?!? (Score:4, Funny)

    by rtilghman (736281) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:59PM (#9080125)

    Well I've got that beat.

    This morning I woke up, ordered the sun to rise, and it rose high into the sky. The only possible conclusion is that I am the most powerful man in the world.

    Point, game, match.

    -rt
    • This morning I woke up, ordered the sun to rise, and it rose high into the sky. The only possible conclusion is that I am the most powerful man in the world.

      Utter nonsense. You're only the most powerful man in the world if you can make it stay in the sky... until then, I will continue to prove you as inferior by commanding the sun back down out of the sky!
  • by JoeBuck (7947) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:05PM (#9080158) Homepage
    In today's column, he urged Google to provide an alternative version of Gmail (possibly with a charge) that would have better privacy features, and no scanning messages to insert ads. If Google listens, then maybe he has power.
    • ..or they just decided to do it on their own. It's not like that's a new idea; tons of free sites allow one to buy a subscription which allows one to skips the ads.

      That's the problem I have with most of the things Wired attributes to Mossberg's doing; they're obvious suggestions that the companies probably would've done anyway.

  • I'm always on the look out for great tech journalists to read. My standards are pretty high though ( I'm an EE with an MBA - aren't we all? :( . I eagerly checked out Mossburg but came up feeling "where's the beef"? right now I read only three guys: goodwins, dvorak and cringley but I'm always looking for others with a decent S/N. Who are you guys reading on a consistent basis?
  • I wonder who else you believe might be as influential as him.
    The first person that comes to my mind is Tim O'Reilly, albeit Tim's orientation is more directly towards the engineer audience.
  • by cacheMan (150533) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:28PM (#9080302)
    Have you ever read anything by this guy? Me neither.

    My point is that he is not writing to tell you and me what is up. He is 57 years old and he is writing to tell my partents what is up. And frankly, I think he does a good service. My folks are clueless when it comes to using their Tivo and iMac and miniDV camera. The fact that Wall Street gives him so much credit makes sense, old people have more money.

    If you are starting a company that needs Wall Street support, or needs old people's money, by all means, appeal to this man. If you are like me and don't give a darn whether or not you are one of 100 or one of 1 million people using the BEST of what is around, you can feel free to ignore everything this guy says.

    I have had a very fullfilling time finding my own favorite tech gadets and software, I don't need this guy to tell me anything. I will point out his column to my Dad though.

    • I am 32. Doubt I am old enough to be your dad. I read Mossberg all the time. I happen to like the WSJ.

      His influence on me is about the same as that of most tech journalists, close to none. But this is because I tend to like to evaluate things myself. But Mossberg is in fact one of the best tech journalists out there. I'd recommend him to young and old alike. If you don't have time to evaluate gadgets and software yourself, Mossberg won't steer you wrong.
  • he should have let MS commit Internet Explorer suicide.
  • by Chowpok Perkange (776917) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:39PM (#9080368) Homepage
    Here's an upcoming test of Mossberg power:

    He suggests in today's Wall Street Journal that Google should offer an ad-free Gmail for a nominal fee, much like Slashdot's ad-free version.

    In its current form, he fears that Gmail, will undermine Google's integrity, something that is perhaps more important than their technology. He says, "I'm calling on Google to preserve its sterling reputation for honesty and customer focus by offering an alternative form of the new Gmail service. The company should offer Gmail accounts without the ads, and without the scanning, for a modest annual fee. That would put the choice where Google has always placed it: in the hands of its users."

    Here's the link, but unfortunately you'll need to be a WSJ online subscriber to see it:

    Clean Image Is So Key To Google's Success, Why Take Gmail Risk? [wsj.com]

  • I have nothing against the journalist so don't take my comment in that manner... This just goes to show how much power the capitalists have over everything. I can guarantee you that he has the impact that he does simply because WSJ is read by investors and executives.

    Sivaram Velauthapillai
  • by cwg_at_opc (762602) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:05AM (#9080582) Journal
    because all the PHBs are folks that don't know what their product actually _is_ or how _real_ people
    would use it and they need someone to slap them a bit so they can see the problems. If a lot of tech
    companies actually spent any time _using_, testing, and refining a product before releasing it, things
    could be a lot better. The bottom line is that many technology products need to be like the proverbial
    toaster/phone; it does exactly what you think it should do and you don't necessarily need a manual to operate it.

    At any rate, I agree with his philosophy, i.e. that much of technology products today are too hard to
    use when they don't have to be. Part of the problem is really analysing what the function
    purpose/workflow is; If you don't actually _use_ a product you designed or test it on someone not
    familiar with its purpose, you might not see all those places that break your train of thought or the flow.

    When I went to college(1979), a CS degree was more programmer/analyst and less code
    monkey/god. As a result, while I'm not the greatest programmer, I write easy-to-use, reliable,
    maintainable, functional programs that do what they're supposed to, the way the operator
    wants them to work. I spend a lot of time _in_ the process so I can feel the way the workflow is going.
    In a production environment, things that break the flow or require you to go someplace else to get
    required information encourage operator error. It's also less efficient.

    We shouldn't worry so much about how optimised the code is(see /. article) [slashdot.org] as we
    should be worrying about whether people will continue to use a product again and again(and recommend
    it to others) because it's easy to use and it works as advertised.

    Computers are way fast enough as it is for 95% of the work that gets done on them, so spend more time refining!

    I don't want to get into a platform flame-fest, so i'll be brief;
    I still prefer to use my Mac simply because it's just easier. Dialog boxes, file browsers, etc. that are
    too complicated and especially inconsistent like in many "designed for Windows" products
    are my pet peeve(this applies to Open Office too.) The order of the file formats in "open" dialog boxes
    seem like they're never the same from app to app; "all formats" is sometimes at the top, sometimes at
    the bottom. Just pick one way and keep doing it that way!

    Here are some of the things I've learned over the years:
    For Designers:
    - Pretty doesn't necessarily mean useful.
    - Consistency, consistency, consistency.
    - Can your Mom use it without calling you?
    - Simplicity over complexity.

    For Programmers:
    - Whoever wrote, "If it was hard to write, it should be hard to read" should be caned.
    Please write good comments and documentation. I've had to ponder over too many
    modules with two-letter variable names.
    - Assume that You will be supporting the code you just wrote for the next Ten Years off and on.
    Will you remember why you wrote that module that way ten years later?
  • Dag. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zebra_X (13249) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:08AM (#9080601)
    Debatable. For instance in the case of real networks, the show "Car Talk" dropped real media distribution of their audio based on the fact that it was too difficult to aquire the free real player. It's not about one mans voice, but about the ears (or lack there of, listeners)
  • The most powerful man in technology journalism just got 60 days notice from Comcast.

    Seriously, The Wall Street Journal is not the New York Times, but they do put thier own spin on things. I haven't taken them seriously in years.

  • It's important to always realize when something advertizes itself in its name such as "smart tags", they're probably tags, but definitly not smart.
  • Smart Tags (Score:2, Informative)

    by lastberserker (465707)
    Mossberg even forced Microsoft to scrap Smart Tags
    How's that true? Smart tags are in Word, Excel, Outlook - one of the most useful and "smart" technologies out there.
    • But they are not in Internet Explorer, without the user asking for them, and in the case of less knowlegable users, without their consent or quite likely even their understanding that it is their browser, and not the web site, adding the tags. (Not everyone posts to Slashdot.)

      The definative Smart Tags article [alistapart.com].
  • SmartTags (Score:2, Informative)

    by Down8 (223459)
    SmartTags may have been scaled back, but they continue to exist. Anyone using Office2003 will tell you so. Surprisingly, they aren't very obtrusive, and they are actually useful in a lot fo situations (address in a document? click, click, you've got driving directions).

    -bZj

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