On the fraught morality of impeding the Holy Process of Marketing

The Gizmodo dudes took TV-B-Gones to this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

There's only one thing you can do with a TV-B-Gone, and CES is full to the brim with big-screen TVs over whose remote receivers nobody thought to put a piece of tape.

So the inevitable happened.

Frankly, I found the older Apple Remote Front Row prank more amusing, but the sight of a video wall full of advertising going dark still warms my heart.

But man, check out some of the (500-plus!) comments on the Gizmodo page. Plenty of people just think it's funny, but there are many others accusing the pranksters of destroying the livelihood of the poor working stiffs at the show, endangering Gizmodo's own precious press "access", and thereby mis-serving their readers by reducing the chance that Gizmodo will be able to keep on covering the latest and most exciting developments in the world of high technology.

Bull, if I may coin a phrase, shit.

First up: Gizmodo are working stiffs too. They paid to go to the stupid show in the God-forsaken sweaty spangle-hole that is Las Vegas, and once they got there they couldn't quite figure out why they'd bothered.

I'm only peripherally associated with the gadget-blog world, and can only imagine how spiritually corrosive it is to be right at the coalface of Western society's ceaseless pursuit of boundless superconsumption of stupid crap, every day of the damn week.

I give a standing ovation to anybody who can cope with this strain by merely turning off a bunch of flatscreens, rather than taking systematically directed advantage of Nevada's easygoing firearms laws.

Former Gizmodo head Joel Johnson wrote, memorably, about the issue of gadget-mania a while ago. It is, as he says, insane to ceaselessly pursue every latest new gizmo, when long experience has taught you that new gizmos are always just as buggy and disappointing and unlikely to turn your life around as every previous device.

Devices that actually can change your life for the better do exist, but they're less than one per cent of the market, for reasons cogently explained in the above-linked Ten Reasons We're Doomed piece. And, hell, wait five years and you'll probably be able to pick up a bugless version for ten bucks. If you haven't been given six months to live, mellow out and see if you can't have just as much fun with a toy from yesteryear.

Secondly: I'm not sure exactly what Gizmodo (a site with Google PageRank eight, versus only six for dansdata.com) would have to do to get public relations people to shun them.

I don't think urinating on each and every PR person they met would quite do it.

Stabbing them might.

Turning off their video walls? That doesn't make the cut.

Oh, and when I used to do trade-show stuff years ago, we'd get at least one dude a day who thought it was fun to just yank cables out of the back of our gear. If the cable had a screw-in plug, you'd better leave it unscrewed, or a whole computer could be taking a ride off the top of your chintzy glass display case.

We freakin' dreamed of an attack that could be defeated with a few squares of electrical tape.

UPDATE: Gawker staffer banned from CES OMG.

(Said "staffer" is Richard Blakely, who did indeed do the dastardly remote-control deed but is not actually even one of the standard Gizmodo writers, so won't necessarily have any need to go back to CES anyway, even if they don't completely forget about the ban.)

And here's Joel Johnson again, on the subject "Do Gadget Blogs Hurt the Environment?"

UPDATE 2: Brian Lam, Gizmodo Editor, cordially invites the haters to lighten the hell up.

14 Responses to “On the fraught morality of impeding the Holy Process of Marketing”

  1. loseweightslow Says:

    Cant agree with you on this one Dan. If the price of one good invention is to put up with 99 bad ones then its worth it to me. Most of the time the $10 bugless version will never exist if we don't get the expensive buggy version first. If you don't like it then don't buy it. I dont see the issue.
    If you think its annoying to you that some turd unplugged the cables at the back of a computer and thats not cool, I don't see how you think its OK to do the electronic equivalent.
    I'm surprised your normally accurate moral compass here diverges so far from mine on this one.

  2. Daniel Rutter Says:

    If the price of one good invention is to put up with 99 bad ones then its worth it to me.

    So you're happy to spend $39,900 for one iPhone? Nice to see you here, moneybags!

    If you just mean that it's fine that those other gadgets exist, then sure, I agree. But if you make them a major focus of your life, with the implied serious expectation that they will work and make you happy, then you are an idiot.

    CES is the Carnival of the Idiots.

    I don’t see how you think its OK to do the electronic equivalent.

    There ain't nothin' you shouldn't do to a PR guy.

    And if someone presses the power buttons you left floating out there in the breeze, the blame's at least partially yours. No, yanking a cable out is not the same thing.

    (And before you ask, no I don't think there's anything wrong with connecting to someone's unsecured WiFi to check your e-mail. I do think there's something wrong with picking the lock on their door so you can plug your laptop into their wired network, though.)

  3. RichVR Says:

    I recently got a "Micro Spy Remote" from ThinkGeek.


    Since the purchase I've not gone anywhere that it might be useful, but I will... I will. Until then it works great as an emergency mute when the girlfriend hogs the remote.

    "You want to watch WHAT? Okay. Watch it without sound. Hey I can hit this button as many times as you can. Okay, let's talk compromise."

    Greatest Device Evar! :-)

  4. mythos Says:

    You're kidding me, right?
    You're actually condoning a sophomoric prank that served absolutely no purpose except to show how immature the Gizmodo kids are?
    I agree with the first poster - usually my moral compass points in the same direction as yours, which is generally 180 degrees from bullshit.
    Still, whatever you think of CES and slimy, PR-infested pit of capitalist despair it represents, you fail basic ethics if you think your opinion entitles you to do whatever you want. It entitles you to nothing, and the fact the the Giz kids pulled a stupid prank that caused consternation and confusion for what are most likely "working stiffs" just like them is in no way improved by claiming some higher moral ground.
    If you think CES is reprehensible, ignore it, or tell your readers why, and then ignore it. Is there a need to act like you just stepped off the short bus?

    And before you ask, turning off TVs like that /is/ the same as yanking out a cord - like the first poster said, it's the electronic equivalent. Which has absolutely nothing to do with B&E (? where did that come from).

    Pretty surprising for me. You're totally off base.

  5. Daniel Rutter Says:

    This is an issue of ethics only if the Drama Llama is your faithful steed. For everyone else, it's five minutes of mild amusement or mild annoyment, as the case may be. If you feel sympathetic rage on behalf of some guy whose presentation about stuff nobody needs was mildly impeded, it is my considered opinion that you are wound a little too tight.

    And no, I do not feel like ignoring bad things. I will not make the annihilation of dumb trade shows my lifelong crusade, but neither will I STFU about them just because you think I should.

    If you've got nothing nice to say about someone, and they're doing bad things, then you should say bad things about them.

    In any case, this post right here represents the only time I've said anything actually about the Consumer Electronics Show on either of my sites. It's been mentioned in passing on a couple of other pages, but that's it.

    And, for the benefit of the hard of thinking, my WiFi analogy compared pointing a remote at someone's TV with connecting to their unsecured WiFi, and compared yanking the cable out of their gear with sneaking in to plug in an Ethernet cable.

    (I guess I'd better not ask you guys about Ralph and Vikings.)

  6. RichVR Says:

    This isn't about ethics. It's about a humorous prank. You folks have a very low threshold of indignation if something like this sets you off.

  7. Chazzozz Says:

    Oh dear, Dan, you seem to have gotten a burr stuck under your saddle blanket on this one. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the home-spun homily.)

    It appears to me that most people are reading more into this than is necessary. Sure, what the Gizmodo guys did was a bit childish and of questionable value, but how much actual inconvenience did they cause? How hard can it be to turn a monitor back on? Seriously, if the design of said monitors is such that turning them back on is, you know, DIFFICULT then why are they being touted at CES as the New Hotness anyway? Maybe Gizmodo is doing them a favour by performing some real-world QA testing.

    Now, if they'd continued to persistently turn off monitors to the point where it *did* disrupt proceedings, that, I believe, would have been taking things a bit too far. The Motorola presentation may have suffered some bumps, but the presenter sailed merrily along nevertheless. Heck, if it made the show mildly entertaining then maybe the attendees would've actually paid closer attention and taken more of it in. That would warm the cockles of any Marketroid's heart.

    Desipte the so-called ban, I think the only real concrete consequence of this you'll see is at next year's show when squares of black gaffa tape will suddenly become a fashonable monitor accessory.

  8. RichVR Says:

    I showed the video to my girlfriend. She laughed and made a pretty reasonable comment.

    "I'll bet they're wondering about how their software failed instead of checking the power buttons."

  9. mythos Says:

    You can throw as many glib jabs into your post as you like, it doesn't change that you're wrong.

    Whether the inconvenience was minor or not or even if it was humorous is irrelevant. Of course I laughed, it was funny - but that's where it stopped. Actually condoning the idea that you can do whatever you like to someone or thing just because you don't like said thing is bullshit, plain and simple.

    And in any case, where do you draw the line? When you (arbitrarily) thing something is no longer funny?

  10. Nogami Says:

    I tend to agree with Dan for the most part. Clicking the video walls off was pretty darn funny - but screwing with the guy's presentation was taking it a bit too far.

    That said, conventions like CES take themselves WAY too seriously. After being to the one this year (and unfortunately missing the gizmodo stunt), I don't know if I'll be back. The big-name vendors are, for the most part, simply "too busy" to talk to people unless you have the name of a fortune 500 company on your badge. Infact the main convention centre displays were pretty much a waste of time. I didn't learn anything in person that I couldn't have learned just by visiting various websites that had staffthere.

    The real innovation and people who were fun to talk to were the smaller startup companies in the Sands Convention Centre. Granted, there were a million asian vendors selling "MP4" players and "Photoframes", but once you got past that, you could have a lot of fun there.

    Personally, I think I'll stick with NAB from now on. Much better IMHO.

    (I even checked the website for the Adult Entertainment Expo that was also conveniently located in the Sands, but as soon as I saw the list of what was "banned" (ie: everything, including showing pretty much any skin whatsoever), I knew it was a waste of time).

  11. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Actually condoning the idea that you can do whatever you like to someone or thing just because you don't like said thing is bullshit

    Yes, it is. Gee, it's lucky that that I didn't actually say that, isn't it?

    As you say, it comes down to where you draw the line.

    For most people, I think the line should be drawn somewhere after "asking impertinent questions". For PR dudes, I think it should be drawn somewhere short of "setting his car on fire".

    Thank you, and goodnight.

  12. LolololWTF Says:

    I'm a tech journalist. I loathe PR people. They're always wasting my time telling me far too much about everything except whatever it is I actually want to know about. When I try to talk to the handful of people who actually create stuff and make real decisions, there's usually some PR asshole standing in the way making sure no information escapes from the company.

    PR goons insult my intelligence, and my readers' intelligence, with their constant gush of self-serving content-free bullshit.

    Yes, I hate PR people (did I mention that already?), but I think what Gizmodo did at CES was utterly pathetic. I'm ashamed that anyone might think I'm in the same profession as that bunch of arrogant kids.

    Where do you draw the line with stunts like this? If it's OK for the professionals at Gizmodo to get pranky, can anyone else disrupt a presentation for laughs?

    If our victims tape over their infra-red receivers, shall we bring radio transmitters next time and screw with their wireless microphones. Let's take cell phone jammers too, and then we can giggle at videos of tired, harried folks having their calls home interrupted repeatedly.

    Let's throw some stink bombs, too, or maybe a little pepper spray, that'll clear the presentation out! Awesome! Maybe an electromagnetic pulse generator could wipe out a whole booth!

    We'll get some kickass clips for teh Gootube, yes let's all go to CES next year and play journalist and give it some lulz. It'll be a riot.

    You can impede the Holy Process of Marketing as much as you like, but when you do, try to have a little fucking respect for your fellow human beings, whether you think they deserve it or not... and that way you'll keep a little bit for yourself, too.

  13. Daniel Rutter Says:

    See, now this is that "where you draw the line" thing again.

    Once again, since it really doesn't seem to be sinking in:

    I did not say it would be an awesome idea to kick the guy giving the presentation in the nuts and then take a flamethrower to his company's stand. Neither, I think you'll find, did Gizmodo. I said I found it mildly amusing that a few TVs were turned off. As did they.


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