Weblogs Inc., TUAW and Procrastinatr

I’ve had mixed feelings towards the Weblogs, Inc. stable of blogs — not because I’m hostile towards pro blogging (since I are one myself), but because of the quality issues inherent to how they compensate bloggers. When you pay people $4 $x per post, you’re rewarding quantity over quality, and even in my favourite Weblogs, Inc. blogs (like Gadling) it sometimes shows: a lot of mediocre posts, either weak on content or weak on analysis. You don’t get occasional posts of substance, but a flood of more mundane material. The signal/noise ratio is worse than it could be.

(And yet, the model works from a financial perspective: on The Map Room, the more I post, the more I make, roughly. Steady traffic — brought by frequent posting — is rewarding. I’m probably just as guilty.)

So the bloggers are motivated to post, post, post: if your contract says 125 x posts for $500 $y each month, that’s a lot of work to do, particularly if you’re up against eight other bloggers who might beat you to the punch if you’re not quick. That encourages sloppy posting without a lot of checking.

Case in point: yesterday, on The Unofficial Apple Weblog, David Chartier posted a link to Procrastinatr, putatively a time management app. Chartier installed it and, after a quick check, didn’t see any difference, so posted it to the blog. Problem was, the app was a gag: it lives up to its name by adding a week to all the deadlines in your iCal calendars. In other words, it hoses your calendars. Chartier didn’t notice this because all his calendars are subscribed, and he didn’t read the readme; others who tried it ended up with a nasty surprise. Apologies from Chartier followed, as did calls for his head. A fix was also offered later in the day, but the blog’s credibility took a hit.

Now, I’ve posted entries to The Map Room without checking the content too closely myself; the difference is, I’m usually posting maps and articles, not desktop apps. (Though sometimes I am.) While some commenters on the Chartier/Procrastinatr fiasco were taking a downloader-beware attitude, blogs about software have to be careful not to fall into a liability trap. That goes for me, too — though a version-number upgrade of an established application is probably not a great risk. If nothing else, I may have to stick in a disclaimer.

In short: be careful, fuckos!