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Heard Any Good Rumors Lately?

Posted by CheapyD, 22 September 2008 · 892 views

On CAGcast #133, Wombat and I discussed how major gaming blogs seem to post any and all gaming rumors with little consideration given to the credibility of the source or the plausibility of the story. As an example, I talked about an Xbox 360 relaunch rumor that was posted by a random user on the forums of VGchartz.com.

Even though the source of the rumor described it as "batshit crazy", "creative bullshit", and "practically complete bullshit", not only did the story find its way onto several major gaming news blogs, it was treated as completely feasible.

During our CAGcast discussion, I complained that these gaming blogs should at least do a little bit of fact checking (or perhaps some deductive reasoning) before posting items like these and that labeling them as rumors should not give them the green light to post any screwball story that comes along. We also mention that since bloggers are paid by the story, have quotas, and can even receive page view related bonuses, it can be in their best interest to post rumors.

In the middle of my rant, Wombat came up with an impromptu idea for a contest. He asked our listeners to post a fake news item in our forums and if a major gaming site ran it as a story, that listener would win a free game. You can listen to the entire 3 minute clip here. As you can hear, there was no premeditated intent of making anyone look stupid. There wasn't even much thought put into it all as it was just a little idea that came off the top of Wombat's head. I did have some apprehensions about the contest, but I said I would provide a prize to the winner. My biggest worry was that our site would be overrun with people posting bullshit stories. It turns out my worries were a bit misplaced.

In response to our contest, I only saw two fake items posted on Cheap Ass Gamer (although now I'm told there were a few more); a forum post about Rock Band receiving Beatles DLC and completely silly user blog entry about Xbox getting a name change to Xbox Pure. Somehow, the silly one about the Xbox name change spread through the internets like crazy. Even though; the story makes very little sense and this particular user blog has no other legitimate entries, the photo of this "leaked memo" bears no resemblance to any corporate memo that I've ever seen, and the memo is devoid of any corporate letterhead, this source was deemed reliable enough to be posted on many big gaming news sites.

Eventually, the story wound up on Kotaku and was even posted by Brian Crecente, the site's Managing Editor. Almost immediately, several of Kotaku's commenters posted about Wombat's contest and Crecente updated his post with the following text (which leads me to believe you won't be seeing any more CAG sourced items on Kotaku):

UPDATE: It appears that this rumor story could be CAG throwing their credibility out the window as part of a contest. Kotaku's decision to run rumors is always based on the credibility of the site and the information contained within it. In the past CAG has proven to be a reliable site, having broken a number of stories through apt reporting. It appears that may no longer be the case.

I feel it's important to note that this story originated from one of our users' personal blogs and was not promoted in anyway by the CAG staff. We did not submit it to any sites as news and it did not appear on the CAG front page where a big story like this would wind up if I was certain of its truthfulness. I'm proud to say that in the 5+ years that I've run CAG, I've never posted a false rumor on our front page. I'm not trying trying to blow my own horn here, just letting you know where I stand on posting rumors on my own site. We're in a different business than a typical gaming blog and highlighting rumors on our front page would be confusing to our readers. Oh, and in case you were wondering, although a huge number of sites posted the story, none of them bothered to contact myself or the story's author to check on it's validity.

After this all went down, I started explaining the whole situation to my wife. One of the great things about my wife is not only is she very intelligent, but she does not hesitate to tell me when she thinks I'm wrong. As I start complaining about gaming news sites posting any and all rumors, she starts shaking her head in disagreement, and after 5 minutes convinces me that I've made an error.

She tells me I have no right to complain about these sites posting unfounded rumors. Clearly none of them are pretending to be the New York Times of gaming news. There are plenty of (gaming and non-gaming) sites out there that post rumor after rumor, and people eat it up! Hell, there are publications that make their living posting nothing but rumors, many of them with little basis in reality. Ultimately it is up to the publication to decide its position on posting rumors. If Kotaku and other blogs want to run fast and free with rumor postings, it's really none of my business. I run my website according to my rules, and it's up to their management to make their own. When it comes down to it, there is nothing inherently wrong with sites like Kotaku posting unsubstantiated rumors if that is inline with their policy. Of course if a website decides to run articles likes these, it becomes a bit hypocritical for them to question other sites' credibility. After the Xbox Pure story made the rounds, it's quite obvious that most sites have little or no rumor vetting process, yet many seem to pretend that one is in place.

I like Brian Crecente. I've socialized with him on several occasions and he has been nothing but polite and friendly during our encounters. I even took both Kotaku Brians (Crecente & Ashcraft) to a Sumo match during last year's Tokyo Game Show. However, I feel his comment "CAG [was] throwing their credibility out the window" is unfair, and judging by the whirlwind of comments on Kotaku, CAG, and several other gaming forums, many others do too. I can understand that Brian would feel a little embarrassed and betrayed, but really, what percentage of rumors like this get posted and turn out to be actually true? I bet it's insanely low. Do bloggers act similarly when they post other rumors that turn out to be false? Does it matter that those rumors were not inspired by a contest, but by an individuals' desire to spread misinformation? By throwing this one-time contest, we encouraged a few more people to post false stories in the community areas of CAG. Considering the huge numbers of false rumors that get posted by bloggers every week, I don't really see why this is such a big deal. The end result is that we publicly illustrated how anyone with no reputation whatsoever can easily spread a bullshit story through the blogosphere and some bloggers that fell victim to it are embarrassed.

I'm not telling anybody what they should do, but if I ran a major gaming news blog like Kotaku, i would make a few small changes. It would make sense to run a wide variety of rumors because they are fun, generate page views, and I wouldn't want my readers to potentially miss out on a big story. I probably won't have time to fact-check every (or any) rumor that comes along, but feel my readers deserve something more than just adding "Rumor" to a headline. I like the idea of establishing some sort of bullshit scale and adding a rating to every rumor post. This way, my readers still get access to all sorts of interesting rumors and the discussions that follow, and will receive the added benefit of a clear indication of its likely accuracy from the knowledgeable video game writer who posted it. The additional insight would be valuable and would add an extra level of fun (and all-important ass covering) to these items. On top of this, I would write up a few sentences about my site's policy on rumors and link to it in every rumor post. It might be worthwhile to add a rumor filter option so if my readers wanted to avoid these posts altogether, they could do so easily.

Even though we weren't out to teach anybody a lesson, I hope bloggers and their readers can take away something positive out of all this. I've certainly changed my mind about rumors and their place on gaming blogs. My expectations of blogs have definitely been altered, and that's not meant to be a snub to the blogosphere. I think we all read blogs to not just be well-informed, but also be entertained, and rumors are an important part of the equation.




On CAGcast #133, Wombat and I discussed how major gaming blogs seem to post any and all gaming rumors with little consideration given to the credibility of the source or the plausibility of the story. As an example, I talked about an Xbox 360 relaunch rumor that was posted by a random user on the forums of VGchartz.com.

Even though the source of the rumor described it as "batshit crazy", "creative bullshit", and "practically complete bullshit", not only did the story find its way onto several major gaming news blogs, it was treated as completely feasible.

During our CAGcast discussion, I complained that these gaming blogs should at least do a little bit of fact checking (or perhaps some deductive reasoning) before posting items like these and that labeling them as rumors should not give them the green light to post any screwball story that comes along. We also mention that since bloggers are paid by the story, have quotas, and can even receive page view related bonuses, it can be in their best interest to post rumors.

In the middle of my rant, Wombat came up with an impromptu idea for a contest. He asked our listeners to post a fake news item in our forums and if a major gaming site ran it as a story, that listener would win a free game. You can listen to the entire 3 minute clip here. As you can hear, there was no premeditated intent of making anyone look stupid. There wasn't even much thought put into it all as it was just a little idea that came off the top of Wombat's head. I did have some apprehensions about the contest, but I said I would provide a prize to the winner. My biggest worry was that our site would be overrun with people posting bullshit stories. It turns out my worries were a bit misplaced.

In response to our contest, I only saw two fake items posted on Cheap Ass Gamer (although now I'm told there were a few more); a forum post about Rock Band receiving Beatles DLC and completely silly user blog entry about Xbox getting a name change to Xbox Pure. Somehow, the silly one about the Xbox name change spread through the internets like crazy. Even though; the story makes very little sense and this particular user blog has no other legitimate entries, the photo of this "leaked memo" bears no resemblance to any corporate memo that I've ever seen, and the memo is devoid of any corporate letterhead, this source was deemed reliable enough to be posted on many big gaming news sites.

Eventually, the story wound up on Kotaku and was even posted by Brian Crecente, the site's Managing Editor. Almost immediately, several of Kotaku's commenters posted about Wombat's contest and Crecente updated his post with the following text (which leads me to believe you won't be seeing any more CAG sourced items on Kotaku):

UPDATE: It appears that this rumor story could be CAG throwing their credibility out the window as part of a contest. Kotaku's decision to run rumors is always based on the credibility of the site and the information contained within it. In the past CAG has proven to be a reliable site, having broken a number of stories through apt reporting. It appears that may no longer be the case.

I feel it's important to note that this story originated from one of our users' personal blogs and was not promoted in anyway by the CAG staff. We did not submit it to any sites as news and it did not appear on the CAG front page where a big story like this would wind up if I was certain of its truthfulness. I'm proud to say that in the 5+ years that I've run CAG, I've never posted a false rumor on our front page. I'm not trying trying to blow my own horn here, just letting you know where I stand on posting rumors on my own site. We're in a different business than a typical gaming blog and highlighting rumors on our front page would be confusing to our readers. Oh, and in case you were wondering, although a huge number of sites posted the story, none of them bothered to contact myself or the story's author to check on it's validity.

After this all went down, I started explaining the whole situation to my wife. One of the great things about my wife is not only is she very intelligent, but she does not hesitate to tell me when she thinks I'm wrong. As I start complaining about gaming news sites posting any and all rumors, she starts shaking her head in disagreement, and after 5 minutes convinces me that I've made an error.

She tells me I have no right to complain about these sites posting unfounded rumors. Clearly none of them are pretending to be the New York Times of gaming news. There are plenty of (gaming and non-gaming) sites out there that post rumor after rumor, and people eat it up! Hell, there are publications that make their living posting nothing but rumors, many of them with little basis in reality. Ultimately it is up to the publication to decide its position on posting rumors. If Kotaku and other blogs want to run fast and free with rumor postings, it's really none of my business. I run my website according to my rules, and it's up to their management to make their own. When it comes down to it, there is nothing inherently wrong with sites like Kotaku posting unsubstantiated rumors if that is inline with their policy. Of course if a website decides to run articles likes these, it becomes a bit hypocritical for them to question other sites' credibility. After the Xbox Pure story made the rounds, it's quite obvious that most sites have little or no rumor vetting process, yet many seem to pretend that one is in place.

I like Brian Crecente. I've socialized with him on several occasions and he has been nothing but polite and friendly during our encounters. I even took both Kotaku Brians (Crecente & Ashcraft) to a Sumo match during last year's Tokyo Game Show. However, I feel his comment "CAG [was] throwing their credibility out the window" is unfair, and judging by the whirlwind of comments on Kotaku, CAG, and several other gaming forums, many others do too. I can understand that Brian would feel a little embarrassed and betrayed, but really, what percentage of rumors like this get posted and turn out to be actually true? I bet it's insanely low. Do bloggers act similarly when they post other rumors that turn out to be false? Does it matter that those rumors were not inspired by a contest, but by an individuals' desire to spread misinformation? By throwing this one-time contest, we encouraged a few more people to post false stories in the community areas of CAG. Considering the huge numbers of false rumors that get posted by bloggers every week, I don't really see why this is such a big deal. The end result is that we publicly illustrated how anyone with no reputation whatsoever can easily spread a bullshit story through the blogosphere and some bloggers that fell victim to it are embarrassed.

I'm not telling anybody what they should do, but if I ran a major gaming news blog like Kotaku, i would make a few small changes. It would make sense to run a wide variety of rumors because they are fun, generate page views, and I wouldn't want my readers to potentially miss out on a big story. I probably won't have time to fact-check every (or any) rumor that comes along, but feel my readers deserve something more than just adding "Rumor" to a headline. I like the idea of establishing some sort of bullshit scale and adding a rating to every rumor post. This way, my readers still get access to all sorts of interesting rumors and the discussions that follow, and will receive the added benefit of a clear indication of its likely accuracy from the knowledgeable video game writer who posted it. The additional insight would be valuable and would add an extra level of fun (and all-important ass covering) to these items. On top of this, I would write up a few sentences about my site's policy on rumors and link to it in every rumor post. It might be worthwhile to add a rumor filter option so if my readers wanted to avoid these posts altogether, they could do so easily.

Even though we weren't out to teach anybody a lesson, I hope bloggers and their readers can take away something positive out of all this. I've certainly changed my mind about rumors and their place on gaming blogs. My expectations of blogs have definitely been altered, and that's not meant to be a snub to the blogosphere. I think we all read blogs to not just be well-informed, but also be entertained, and rumors are an important part of the equation.
Nicely said Cheapy, I hope Crecente has the balls to admit he exaggerated the situation and did not have to say CAG lost its credibility, after all when he posts rumors from other sites he doesn't say those other sites lost credibility also. I think he got caught up in the moment and when he found out this was a contest promoted in part by Wombat and Cheapy he felt stupid and tried to blame someone else.
I just think that it is funny that a site, like Kotaku, will jump on an obviously faux topic like the Xbox Pure, and then angrily point the finger at CAG when it was his own fault he fell for an obvious blatant joke.

If it matters, Cheapy, you guys didn't do anything wrong and in retrospect, CAG didn't really do anything at all. That one post just showed how easily fooling a website can be when they desperately want to be the first on the web to post news so they can brag about it later.
Well said Cheapy, I think this whole experience has been a generally positive one, in getting people to think about what they read and/or post on the Internet. You also seem to have learned something new, which is always important.
Well said. I think all that really needs to occur for a number of people to stop looking at certain people in a bad light from this whole thing (lookin' at Crecente here mostly), would be to make some sort of statement regarding this (as well as back out a number of the bans that were clearly emotionally fueled, like mine). There were a few people that deserved bans (as with most comment pages), but most were just calling out the bullshit and got burned for it. Hopefully by now those that got embarrassed have calmed down, realized what has occurred, and do the right thing to rectify it.
Amen. (I believe.)
now every time you see Brian Crecente its going to be awkward lol
^ yeah no sumo this year huh?
Actually, TGS is later this year than last, so there won't be any Sumo anyway.
Well stated, Shinytop. I particularly enjoyed the irony of Crecente saying that CAG's credibility is hurt when his vetting process (or lack thereof) is what got him in this situation to begin with. BTW, since Mrs. Cheapy is clearly the brains of this intercontinental union you should have her on the CAGcast. Then again, this is all probably far beneath her.;)
Yea i was wondering wtf was up with these sites posting all these retarded ass rumors. When I saw the xbox pure thing, I knew it was bullshit right away. It didn't make any sense, there was no source and it JUST DIDN"T MAKE ANY SENSE! It's kinda like we caught those sites eating shit out of the toilet or something, i mean thats the level of stuff we are talking about here...
I want to say kudos for the impromptu social experiment. It was harmless and was informative to where we get our news or kill time. Even before this challenge, Kotaku was getting grey . Hopefully this will inspire them to actually dig up some real news or create new content like the Simon Vikland interview.

But I hope you guys champion this experiment and create some new ones in the future. This goes right next to the Xbox360 crash poll.
Brian Crecente just has a stick up his ass. It's his fault for running a story with no credibility. The fact he called CAG un-credible is appalling considering how many rumors they post on the site just to attract attention.
I actually saw Xbox Pure rumor first on Kotaku. I actually LOLed when I saw it was from CAG. I couldn't believe that they were pwned by one of the users here. Well, Cheapy and Wombat proved your point and I hope the Kotaku guys learned something too. I think Crescente overreacted though... Rumors are rumors, not news. It would be interesting what wull happen when you guys meet at TGS or somewhere else. Get ready to pay for each other's (whatever you guys prefer)... lol!
I'm not very happy with the way this turned out, even though it's still unresolved. I don't like to see CAG get snubbed in return for something that initially was a silly thing. I understand that Crecente might have written that addendum while still feeling sheepish for posting that ridiculous rumor under his name, but why would someone who has a huge reputation attach his name to a rumor post in the first place? Doesn't Kotaku have interns?

Though I think Kotaku was in the wrong on this matter, I worry that it'll be Kotaku that holds the grudge. Even though they're just a blog, they're also an 800-lb gorilla in the gaming world. I hope that this is one bridge that isn't burned.
Indeed, well said.

Like I said in the forum thread regarding this (and Wombat mentioned it as well), it's perfectly fine for some of these blog sites to thrive on rumor and gossip, like say the National Enquirer, or some other tabloid; it's entertainment and people enjoy it. But Brian Crecente, at least in my opinion, is trying way too hard in trying to establish Kotaku as something it's not. He runs that site, so that's his business, but don't start throwing around that sites are losing their credibility when yours doesn't have any to begin with. And don't act surprised when you're called out on it.
I'm not Kotaku's biggest fan but I think there is an important distinction not being addressed here in regards to Crescente's reaction.

On the face of it, it appears that CAG is purposefully setting out to "punk" blog sites with this contest. You can't mess with a man's bread and butter like that and expect him to just shrug it off.

I'm not saying his statement was completely justified, just saying I can understand.
Nicely said.
Hopefully our community will receive some sort of an apology...

By the way, the title of this entry was a reference to Pee-Wee Herman right? :lol:
I've rarely seen you write something more than a few lines Cheapy. Very well put and excellently worded and it makes me proud to be a CAG. Now go drop some big ass chains you $$$$a, you.
I know that you are Crecente are collegaues, and friends, and I understand totally, why you're offering a public apology to Crecente. However, do I think that you were wrong, Absolutely not, DO I think Wombat, and all of CAG was wrong.. Absolutely NOT. How can Kotaku ever be more than just a blog if they keep posting any and everything. Kotaku is News and CAG is deals. If CAG had inaccurate deal postings, and didn't try to validate any of the deals (which is easier to do than validate a story) CAG wouldn't have lasted very long. In that aspect, Kotaku (in my opinion) needs to do better in terms of just posting any and everything as news. I'm a member of Kotaku, and I appreciate all the information that they provide. But if I want garbage news, then I can find that anywhere, but people go to Kotaku, because there is that high degree of reliability. Anyway, like I said, I understand the apology, but Cheapy, Wombat, showing Crecente that he needs to take more responsibility in regards to the information that is being posted is something that you guys DO NOT need to apologize for. If Crecente looks at the situation and uses this experience as an opportunity as inspiration to make Kotaku more credible, then I think you guys have made the world of the internet (at least in our gaming news end) a much better place to receive our info.

For that, I'd have to say Thank you!

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