Curious Rat



The Xbox Hoax →

A gamer with no ties to Microsoft released some bogus rumors to some gaming and tech blogs about the next Xbox console.

Unsurprisingly, these sites ran with the unverified story (thanks to PocketLint.com for being the first to fall on its sword), but that's to be expected. Most blogs, regardless of their respective industries, fail to do even the tiniest amount of research and source checking necessary to verify if a rumor is plausible or not.

The real shame comes in the form of the non-apologies (or, even worse - no apologies) offered by the offending sites. For example:

Gizmodo - No apology.

Tech Digest: No apology.

CNet:

Update: This story was a hoax, it has been revealed. The original story follows below, if you're interested in the current state of the Xbox rumour mill.

Come one, come all, and gaze upon the "Xbox rumour mill." The dangerous deformities! The atrocious abnormalities! We aren't doing anything to fix it, but we'll certainly pretend we're as fed up with it as you are.

VG 24/7:

UPDATE: Since the time of writing, VG247 since understands this story to be false and the result of a hoax. Disregard everything below.

Quick and dirty. No apology and no link to the original source.

Now Gamer:

UPDATE: X-Surface has now claimed this story a hoax. Obviously, the information below should now be treated with an even bigger pinch of salt than previously suggested.

Or, you know, no pinches would work, too.

Venture Beat, in a ballsy turn of events, replaces the original text of the article with an apology and prefaces the headline with "Hoax Watch".

On top of that, the author then plays off the whole thing like he totally knew the rumor was bad and then rattles off logical reasons for this to be the case:

We apologize for the error, and it’s something we’ll be keeping an even closer eye on as we approach E3 in June. This particular rumor had an ounce of credibility since it seemed to fit into next-gen Xbox details leaked a few days ago. And I’ll maintain that the name “Xbox 720″ still doesn’t make much sense.

And finally, we have the original harbinger of bad information: Pocket-lint, who, much like its namesake, carries little credibility.

But now I must invoke the lost Seder question nobody asks between bites of nose-crippling horseradish: Why is this update different from all other updates?

Because first, Pocket-lint's Rik Henderson thinks his flimsy disclaimer at the end of the original article absolves him of all wrongdoing:

However, he conveniently ignores the fact that at the end of our posting, we did finish the story above with a disclaimer. "Naturally, when a tipster is anonymous, there is some degree of trepidation attached to believing what they say verbatim. However, considering the facts Pocket-lint has been given, and the lack of outlandish claims, everything our source says is plausible," we wrote. And that's just it, everything said in the fake "tip" was plausible.

Plausible or not, you don't get out of doing your due diligence if you want to be taken seriously as a news resource. If the source seemed fishy, wait and see what some (any) research might've uncovered.

Instead, you ran with an un-sourced story because, "Hey, close enough." Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

We did suspect that we could be taking a punt on the validity, as the paragraph above and in the original story shows, but decided to publish anyway because, like you, we like to read rumours and hearsay.

Uh-huh, and where in the piece was that clear? Was it in the headline?

Xbox 720 will just be called 'Xbox', to be hub for X-Surface 7-inch tablet and more

Or did I miss it in any of these sentences (emphasis mine)?

The Xbox 720 will not be called that when it is finally announced. Instead, Microsoft will be reverting to the name of its first games console released 11 years ago, Xbox.

In addition, it will be seen as a hub to a number of devices to carry an "X" branding, one of which will be the much-rumoured 7-inch gaming tablet, which Pocket-lint has learnt will be called X-Surface, not Xbox Surface as previously thought.

The whole piece goes on like this. It isn't until the very end when Henderson's wimpy disclaimer comes into play.

And to make matters worse, he then goes full "disappointed Danny Tanner" on the prankster as the reason why we can't have nice things:

Sadly then, X-Surface has fooled us, and in doing so has perhaps swayed us against bringing you genuine tips in future, such as the Opera Ice browser exclusive we ran at the end of last week, which also started out as an anonymous tip, but grew into so much more. That's perhaps the saddest part of all.

Boo hoo. How awful that it took one person to show you your model for reporting news is a farce and that you might want to do some actual investigative journalism before publishing every rumor that crosses your inbox.

To paraphrase the wise and sage-like Dr. John Zoidberg, "Your reporting's bad and you should feel bad."