Rumors Of McNealy's Resignation Greatly Exaggerated

from the watch-the-bouncing-facts dept

There’s a common children’s game that I knew as “Telephone” growing up, but which apparently goes by many names. The premise is simple — and it’s likely most of you played it as well. A bunch of kids stand in a line, and the first whispers something to the next, who turns and whispers it to the person on the other side. This continues to the end of the line, where the resulting phrase is announced out loud, and everyone is amused at how much the message changed from the beginning to the end. It seems like we too often see a similar game being played online — even when no whispering seems to go on at all, but the facts are clearly laid out. Take for example, this headline that made it to the front of Digg: McNealy Resigns, Will Google Buy Sun Microsystems?. That seemed like big news here. Scott McNealy actually resigning from the company he founded and has run for over two decades? Wow! Except it’s not true at all. The Digg post links back to a Blog Critics post which, does, in fact, use the same headline. In that article, the first paragraph (despite the headline) doesn’t say that McNealy has resigned. It selectively cuts out the context and quotes an analyst saying McNealy “will soon move on from the company.” From this, it still sounds like McNealy has made his intention to leave clear. Yet, we move on one further step in the game to the original Forbes article and find a very different story. There, the headline reads “Sun CEO Could Move On” which has pretty much been true forever. He could move on, but that doesn’t mean he will any time soon. Instead, the article quotes a random analyst who thinks that McNealy may leave Sun soon, despite the fact that McNealy specifically told him: “he was staying on ‘until the job is done.'” So, if you follow the trail back, we have McNealy saying he’s staying until the job is done, to an analyst saying McNealy may leave soon, to Forbes focusing on how McNealy may be leaving, to someone at Blog Critics saying he’s resigning soon, to someone at Digg saying it’s a done deal and McNealy is gone — while also saying that Google is “getting closer” to buying Sun (an aside that got introduced somewhere in the middle of this mess). And you wondered why people felt the internet wasn’t trustworthy?

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Comments on “Rumors Of McNealy's Resignation Greatly Exaggerated”

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Kyle (user link) says:

Internet not trustworthy?

To remind you of one of your core themes (which I wholeheartedly agree with), saying the Internet isn’t trustworthy is really misleading. The Internet is not the issue. People aren’t trustworthy, whether they’re exchanging emails and IMs or telegraphs or handwritten letters on parchment with wax seals. This is reinforced by the children’s game example you cite.

No, you can’t believe everything you hear on the Internet. But it’s much more correct to simply say you can’t believe everything you hear.

Mark (profile) says:

telephone game

Reminds me of something I read once when still in grad school. It was an book on Cretan archaeology that mentioned off-hand burnt human remains in a sacrifice site. I was interested in that, so I followed the footnote to a source that cited a source that cited a source that finally pointed back to the original … which said something completely different. What was found at the site were small clay replicas of human body parts that had been burned in a fire. So the report of human sacrifice was perfectly accurate except for two small details: the remains weren’t human and it didn’t appear to be a sacrifice.

So the lesson here, I guess, is that we should count ourselves lucky that Digg isn’t accusing McNealy of committing human sacrifice.

ehrichweiss says:

Get this to Johnny on the grapevine...

Vermon is going to kill Johnny’s brother at the savoy theater tomorrow night. Got it.
Polly: Got it.
Polly: Vermon is going to kill Johnny’s brother at the savoy theater passit on.
Prisoner: Vermon is going to kill Johnny’s brother at the savoy theater tonight pass it on.
Prisoner: Vermon is going to kill Johnny’s mother at the savoy theater tonight pass it on.
Prisoner: Vermon’s mother is going to kill Johnny tonight at the savoy theater pass it on.
Prisoner: Jibberish.
Prisoner: There’s a message an the grapevine Johnny. .
Johnny: Yeh. What is it?
Prisoner: Johnny and the mothers are playin’ stompit at the savoy in Vermont tonight.
Johnny: Vermon’s going to kill my brother at the savoy theater tonight.
Prisoner: I didn’t say that.
Johnny: No, but I know this grapevine.
–Johnny Dangerously

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