Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field and the social web

The coverage of Steve Jobs' Macworld keynote was a great demonstration of the social web in action, and the benefits it can bring to news coverage. However, there is a down-side to such rapid-fire reporting -- it doesn't provide sufficient time for Steve Jobs' famous Reality Distortion Field (RDF) to wear off.

The coverage of Steve Jobs' Macworld keynote was a great demonstration of the social web in action, and the benefits it can bring to news coverage. We had multiple bloggers live-blogging from the event, AJAX-powered text and photo feeds from sites like Macrumors, and the self-appointed editors of Digg (i.e. users) continuously ensured that breaking news from the Moscone Center hit Digg's front-page within minutes. All of which was very much appreciated considering that Apple no longer provides a live webcast of the event.

However, there is a down-side to such rapid-fire reporting -- it doesn't provide sufficient time for Steve Jobs' famous Reality Distortion Field (RDF) to wear off.

From Wikipedia:

RDF is the idea that Steve Jobs is able to convince people to believe almost anything with a skillful mix of charm, charisma, slight exaggeration, and clever marketing.

RDF is said to distort an audience's sense of proportion or scale. Small advances are applauded as breakthroughs. Interesting developments become turning points, or huge leaps forward. RDF focuses less on outright deception and more on warping powers of judgment.

Now I don't mean to suggest that Apple's iPhone isn't a major breakthrough, because I think it is. Especially on the user-experience side -- Scott Karp rightfully points to the Multi-touch interface as an example of real innovation.

What I wish to highlight is that the near-real-time coverage that the social web enables doesn't leave much time for announcements to be digested (and any claims put to the test) before being tempted to hit the publish button. Having written a post for Read/WriteWeb several hours after the iPhone announcement, I experienced the dilemma first-hand as I was left scratching my head wondering what it all meant, while at the same time being very conscious of the need to get the post up in a timely fashion while the news was still fresh.

In the first round of coverage for example, most bloggers focussed on the fact that the iPhone runs OSX without realizing that it would be a closed version of the operating system (no 3rd party developers). With Steve Jobs, what he doesn't mention can be just as important as what he does say.

By the following day however, the blogosphere was filled with analysis of where the iPhone may fall short, as well as more on how it changes the game -- additionally, Techmeme was full of posts that had picked up on the fact that the device will be closed (for the time being at least).

Note: two days on - and plenty of time for Jobs' RDF to have subsided -  I do still want an iPhone. 

 

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