Legendary coder and blogger Dave Winer is frustrated with the New York Times because it doesn't cover technology as "seriously" as it covers other things.
"When they started doing software reviews in the early 80s it was with the usual Times flair. It worked for me, because I made software for people who were likely Times readers, the same way people who perform opera make music for those same people. But somewhere along the line they stopped taking tech seriously."
Unfortunately, Winer is a little vague about what he likes about the NYT's serious side: "a perspective", "more to think about", "a way of looking at things that makes sense to me". So, not much help for the troops on 8th Avenue. There is, however, an exploration of what's wrong with it.
"They're treating software largely the same way the tech industry does. Toys for teens to help them explore being a teen. But not much substance for people who have their degrees, mates, children, who are living their lives, as opposed to looking forward to living their lives. Nothing wrong with looking at tech from the young person's perspective, I would read those reviews too. But today, adults are largely left out of it. … Anything beyond superficial twitchware, the stuff that lets you express grunts and snorts, gossip and beginner's sexuality, it's as if it doesn't exist."
Winer's point about intelligence, seriousness and depth is mundane. Those are really nice things to have in journalism, yes! But his association of these qualities with age over youth is trite—as trite as it ever was, even before David Winer found a way to make it sound like something David Brent would say.
Take, for example, his analogy between The Times' tech reportage and Saturday morning cartoons. This is such a strange and forced point of comparison. I can't help but wonder how many other people have sat down with their iPad RSS reader and read something by Nick Bilton or Jenna Wortham, then thought, "You know, in an abstract kind of way, that was just like reading about an episode of The Paw Paw Bears."
Perhaps this is why no attempt is made to set his critique of the Times against anything actually published by the Times. How could such a bizarre train of thought make any sense at all when applied to anything specific?
And I'm not even going to go near "beginner's sexuality."
That the New York Times no longer writes principally for an audience of people like Winer (with, and could someone please help him out with this, his "adult's appreciation of art") should be more obvious than this. Just as the wonderful world of software is no longer exclusively the playground of middle-class male privilege, nor are the lives of those using it, and nor is the culture of writing around it. The unargued, unsupported association of youth with uncultured frivolity is not merely parochial: it's a sad place to be yelling from, especially if you're playing life on the lowest difficulty setting.
Dave, I so hate to break this to you, but young people–even ones who have yet to have "degrees, mates and children"–are living lives. The fact that they are not looking forward to living yours? Not The Times' problem.
UPDATE: On twitter and in a follow-up post, Winer accuses me of racism here. Baffling. But here's how I think his logic works. Referencing his privileges in life—terms he established in wanting the NYT to offer coverage for "people who have their degrees, mates, children"—was, in his perverse view, ageist and sexist. As ageism and sexism are similar to racism, that means we're racist, too.
I still thought it odd, though, that he'd write a whole "rebuttal" demanding to know why it's "tolerated". But then I spotted this:
He'd deleted it, but not before it had caused much offense and screengrabs were posted.
So, if you're wondering why Dave Winer wrote a blog post about how "racist and sexist" I am, it's because his brain boiled over thinking about privilege, then coughed up a stunningly racist and sexist remark about how he should "get" brown-skinned women to work for him to cover his ass, and then had to spend the afternoon eating shit on Twitter.
It's not the good Sheriff's first rodeo, of course. Just a few months ago, he wrote a similarly offensive post about "women programmers". He's thinking about that, today, too: