If you don’t know what I am saying: Here, here, here, here and here.
Yeah well, here’s the thing. Mobilers program is- in a nutshell- and based on what many have said it- a voluntary promotional program. Bloggers are chosen and are invited- and its fairly obvious during the communication that you as a blogger referred to as promoter and they give you an entire schedule. Verbal agreement has no value- no matter how credible you are. It should be on papers. This way, everyone is on the same page. If CJ said that the PR had an agreement- then he’s not really into mobilers program is he? Its purely voluntary if you want to go forward with it or not.
Why not mention bloggers? Well- it doesn’t really have an established meaning as “reporter” or “journalist” or “promoter”. Bloggers can be anyone out of this, but calling one as a promoter is being specific.
Is it wrong? No. Isn’t it obvious that companies will promote their products? That question should be asked to a writer if he’s comfortable. I personally don’t see it wrong if you are someone will extremely limited influence, connections, money for such activity and resources, but I wouldn’t participate.
Well, you’re going there and your arrangements are mostly taken care of by Samsung. It costs a lot of money for an individual to go alone. You go there and get exclusive hands-on- something where you have to be influential and have sources/connections. Not everyone has them mind you. Most do not have it, some do. Do note: knowing people and having strong connections are 2 different stuff. Remember, as a country we as a tech writer- a credible and well respected from companies and readerbase- have a long way to go, so if people are planning a long term career by owning their own tech review/news site, its a very good exposure. Ethics and your code of honour and obligation towards your readers, however is a different story. It also goes without saying that you get to meet people along the way- and that may lead you towards building connections- for that you need to be a people’s person and learn the art of charm and all that jazz. Its more of a tradeoff. Its not that bad- unless you’re like one of those guys to take an opportunity to bash other brands senselessly- this is plain wrong- and by the looks of it I seriously doubt Samsung would ask them to do that on paper. That’s how you start at first to generate those “hands-on” content. How much would you have to spend for Visa+ return tickets+ hotel stay for any expo, let alone IFA?
I am not into mobile/gadget tech, but I am familiar with faces of handful Indian tech bloggers and met some here and there. Some of these guys need little bit attitude adjustment (especially to that douchebag who said PC gaming is extinct and PC gamers will pretty much end when Windows 8 comes out- respectfully, you’re wrong and its good you’re not in the same genre of writing as those writing about games and PC) and there are some who know what they’re saying. I never met CJ at all. I never knew about that site either. Again, no disrespect intended.
But he’s into this for a while now as far as what I’ve been told. Few years, maybe? Did he read the T&C for Samsung mobilers? If it was specific that we would be deemed as “promoter” on paper should he accept it, why did he go for it knowing what was expected from him on paper? As far as I’ve read till now, there was some verbal agreement with the India PR. Why not in the paper to be on the safe side? Did CJ ask for a clarification on paper? If he did, he wouldn’t have been under the mobilers program, would he? Maybe some NDA or some agreement, deeming him as a reporter rather than promoter. That’s a big question that’s unanswered and it seems to be conveniently overshadowed due to circumstances. If CJ is really that experienced, he should have been specific on that part.
But in another corner, the whole situation where CJ was intimidated that he would be stranded in Berlin should have been avoided. The choice of words where pretty much most sources have told in their posts is downright disturbing. Then again, I am more interested in the conversation that provoked that kind of reply. Maybe CJ must have said something wrong- maybe he didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I still say its wrong and poor choice of words, but would you be surprised if CJ used poor choice of words as well?
I know, due to multiple humping from all angles and series of miscommunication, best way to avoid the situation and end it was for Samsung to apologize and clarify. But here’s the thing, as Livemint pointed it out:
That’s why Joshua Topolsky, editor of technology network The Verge, tweeted, “Bloggers: when you take a junket, you become an employee of the company you took the trip from. Please don’t confuse what it means.”
Read the sentence above. Its true. If you’re accepting stuff like this with this condition, that’s how it is. If those choice of words were not used by Samsung’s PR, most of the people’s point of view would have been different and we would be looking this case as nothing more than misunderstanding T&C. Long story made short, make sure the terms and conditions on paper is clear. But if its verbal agreement, that’s between you guys, but I don’t think even if you trust that individual he wouldn’t mind have those alterations to deem you as a “reporter” if he and the company is cool with it.
In any case, Samsung needs a Karma cat. There was a group of virtually unknown and unheard Indian tech bloggers came together and started bashing Samsung/Indiblogger contest that happened few months ago. When I used to be around Indiblogger at first (and I was making up my mind if I should stick to PC Desktop only or should I plunge my hands in mobile tech- eventually decided to PC Hardware only), I didn’t participate. I participated in something else before that which personally I didn’t like and decided not to participate in contests, makes no sense. Back to this- It was clearly obvious its more of a contest where you promote one by writing something unique (although most were basically writing specification in a paragraph form) and you get the goodies should they choose one of them- like galaxy tab. Most of those guys didn’t like it. A lot of them didn’t. What they don’t realize was that it wasn’t only for tech bloggers and tech bloggers and tech bloggers. It was for the entire blogging population in general. Some written songs and poetry and stuff that people like us probably wouldn’t really read unless you’re into it. But conspiracy stories were made and Samsung bashing striked again. They were throwing some fancy words. One of them was journalistic ethics- and second was democracy. I didn’t care who written it but the entire stuff was a lol. The point is- bloggers don’t read properly. Sad part is, you are a writer should be a good reader as well. You can take a lot of time to understand- and that’s all good. BUT- you need to understand. Samsung didn’t say that you need to write their specification in paragraph format or re-write their press release for galaxy tab. People need to stop doing this. You’re sabotaging. Yes, you are. That mob trashing from bunch of senseless idiots will make someone who takes care of APAC scene will ignore India as a whole. You should rather be diplomatic, charming, round them up and still be clear and not beating around the bushes. Like I said- be a people’s person.
We- as people- need to read properly and be humble and be patient. We- bloggers, PRs, journalists- doesn’t matter. Also, a level of mutual understanding and honesty has to be maintained no matter who you are. Also, some people need to tone down their attitude. Its not just PRs alone- also journos/bloggers need to do that. I don’t understand all that PR Vs. Journo/blogger crap. The way I see things, douche bags are everywhere and we have them in both sides. You can be representing a bigass chipset company- or a small tier 3 level- you have to listen. Bloggers also has to do the same.
And also, please enhance your skill-set. One of the Indian tech writer basically said that an SSD with synchronous flash and asynchronous flash and toggle flash NAND based SSDs are basically the same (no he didn’t directly say that, but judging by the benchmarks he did which was the same compared to synchronous, asynchronous and toggle flash nand- and he didn’t mention that- the difference was more on the type of Flash NAND). I lol’d it out, because not only he didn’t do his research properly and he should have done more tests with different fills, but that drive with that firmware has TRIM issues so bad that you can see the values fall down even when you do benchmarks one after the other.
In another corner, There was this PR who wasn’t really able to understand what I was saying about the a particular product via phone (or maybe refused to acknowledge), and rather than forwarding it to someone from technical side to answer the question, she asked me not to publish. Na-ah! Lady. That ain’t going to happen. I evaluated something and it has an issue. Its obvious I will highlight it. I am still being respectful to you as long as you do the same, but if I am right you need to take it as a feedback. We have to have that communication. We will say our finding and wait for your clarification- and heck maybe if you send a replacement I’ll test it to confirm (which didn’t happen). You’re taking care of tech- not the brand of a vest/boxer shorts that some 50 year old actor with obvious signs of mid life crises. Communication. Read properly. Listen. Patience. Humbleness. Honesty. Not all can follow it to the letter since some get orders from their respected high command, but clarity in expectations is the least expected?
Code of honour. Its not in written format, but it applies without saying. Some of us were kids and even ranting against useless Indian tech sources. Sadly, 10 years+ have passed- and the foundation isn’t really that strong as it should have been- mostly likely due to the reason people here don’t get paid as much as international counterparts too (In India, its somewhere between $300- $500 for starts?) As Mithaljee of Indian Broadband Forums pointed out in Google+ (if you’re reading this- 2 gud DA!!!! :p ), those who write about technology even in mainstream media need to know the difference between a hack and information leak. Stop embarrassing the little guys like us.
But ofcourse if someone is doing the opposite, You have 2 choices: Ignore them. If they still affect you in any way, treat them with the same respect. That will shut them up.
Its our job- and that’s the only way we can function. Indian tech scene is so small and mostly insignificant by international standards. That’s all the more reason we need to use this as a stepping stone- build a strong foundation, build contacts and use it ultimately to build a network between you as a tech writer with company personnel and readers- mostly readers because that’s the point in doing all this. You as a tech writer need to have that skillset to make things work for you, but also follow ethics for your own good health. If you have a problem with someone and if affects you badly, do mention their name/publication/brand- or atleast something where you don’t say it directly, but most can figure out who can talk about. But if you do that, make sure its not your fault.
In any case, the general credibility of Indian tech writers still lacks foundation that we can honestly call ourselves respected and trusted by a lot of people. Number of people reading content is not equal to number of people deeming your source/post/article as credible. But we kill it before people make an effort. Promotion isn’t bad. Getting exclusive hands on this way isn’t bad as long as you conveniently calling hands-on experience as review. Being in a job where you’re neutral entity and you’re endorsing it isn’t cool and it will destroy your credibility, so your honour as a tech writer plays an important role. If you do not have that honour and don’t know how to handle things, you’re in the wrong line of work. Maintaining neutral stand and honesty is more on the writer because you are facing the crowd directly and that’s what counts the most. If companies say you will get access to exclusive and you have to generate “reviews”, they will say it and from their part is not wrong. The wrong and Right applies more on you as a tech writer/contributor.
To conclude, CJ should have read the samsung mobilers T&C properly and asked for a re-corrected T&C assuming the PR agreed to it. The PR’s poor choice of words making anyone convinced that CJ would be stranded in Berlin is wrong. Both shouldn’t have done that for their own sake, but CJ as a tech writer should be the one to take care between the because he is addressing his readers directly. If you weren’t comfortable, you shouldn’t have taken it. But you did take it- as you were tempted for a great exposure with most of your expenses taken care by a company. But it blinded you and you made an oversight. A big oversight.
Hopefully one will learn something out of it. Be careful, stay informed and be clear. If you’re not confident, don’t go for it. Many well known sources fund their own trips, so you should work hard to do that. If they offer you a trip and on paper all they ask is talk about their products- be clear and ask them upfront if its not clear enough for you. If its within your own code of honour as a writer, your call.
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