I just got back from reading the Chicago Tribune's various stories on the iPhone. The reviews were very positive, if not a bit reserved. Sales may have topped 500,000 units. And sales have been so good that the AT&T activation servers have been overloaded. All in all, a very good launch for the iPhone. Not perfect mind you, but nothing ever is.
So imagine my surprise when I checked Slashdot this morning to find that the only story on the launch is Activation Problems in iPhone Paradise. No mention of the 500,000 unit estimate. Nor is there mention of the strongly positive reaction by the market. The only thing discussed is the activation problems, which are blown incredibly out of proportion. From the "long-wait-short-celebration" department tag, to a link to an engadget poll that won't let you see the results unless you vote (There's no "I don't have an iPhone option?" WTH?), all the way to using a random blog of one guy's experience as the basis for what all ~500,000 users (estimated) are experiencing.
Maybe it's just me, but this has gone way too far.
Slashdot is a place where intelligent people tend to hang out to converse. Because these people know a lot, they easily become jaded. I know that I personally have struggled a great deal with becoming unintentionally negative. And it's not necessarily the problem of dealing with people who know less. That's a reasonable excuse for tech support reps, but it doesn't hold up for professionals. In fact, I often find that I can become so indoctrinated in a certain way of thinking (because I know quite a bit about it) that anything that seems to violate that doctrine must be wrong.
Of course, this is a very dangerous trap. There are always clever ways around problems without violating the laws of physics. In fact, the solution presented often solves the problem in a very unique way that requires a dramatic shift in thinking.
For example, hydrogen cars are often criticized for requiring grid power to generate the hydrogen. Thus many discount the option because it "doesn't provide an alternative fuel source". Which is true, but it misses the point. Hydrogen provides a shift in the way that our infrastructure works. Rather than having millions of inefficient, dirty, smog-inducing, portable combustion engines on the road, we could generate all the power from relatively clean and efficient sources like Nuclear power plants then distribute that power to a "vehicle grid" using hydrogen as the storage and transmission device. From that perspective, hydrogen suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. (Without diving into the logistics issues of converting fueling stations, of course.)
Thus I can't help but wonder, is Slashdot getting too negative for its own good? I've been noticing a sharp increase in stories that are either overblown or outright inaccurate. From PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games (the original interview states that PopCap is distinctly unaffected by clones), to W3C Bars Public From Public Conference (the newsie apparently couldn't understand English), to Judge Orders TorrentSpy to Turn Over RAM (Judge ordered web logging to be turned on), I'm beginning to wonder if the general status of the Slashdot users and editors isn't taking a turn for the worse. I'm seeing fewer and fewer stories with a positive slant. Those that do have a positive slant are either overblown claims (which results in a negative reaction) or misreported claims (which results in the same negative reaction, except that all of Slashdot is barking up the wrong tree).
While I understand that much of the confusion and negativity is pouring out of the press, it's important to keep a cool head on our shoulders and think critically about every piece of information we see. While I don't directly blame the Slashdot editors or the readers, I do think that all of us can make a contribution toward positive reenforcement on Slashdot. We readers can do two things:
1. Try to make sure that the stories we submit are correctly stated and reflect the true issue at hand.
2. Keep our replies civil. It's so easy for all of us (myself included) to get mad at the other guy thinking he doesn't know what he's talking about. Yet sometimes he actually does. So please be gentle when correcting each other. You'd be amazed at the smart people you'll develop a rapport with!
For the editors, I can offer one major suggestion: Apply critical thinking before smacking that "Approve" button. I know you guys see an absolutely incredible number of submissions day in and day out. The catch is finding the submissions that are worth posting to the front page of Slashdot. As of late it seems like submissions are being chosen more for their yellow (read: inaccurate) headline rather than their substantiveness as news. So please be considerate when choosing submissions.
Thank you all for listening!