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Heard Any Good Rumors Lately?

Posted by CheapyD, 22 September 2008 · 1047 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.

I didn't apologize!
I changed my expectations of gaming news blogs. There is a big difference!
Cheapy, well said (and very well thought out I might add). You hit the nail on the head, and really if anyone deserves an apology it's the CAG community and you in particular. I have a very high level of respect for both CAG and Kotaku (they are the only two video game sites I keep bookmarked at all times) and I will continue to go to both sites. In this case though, Kotaku (and Crecente in particular) made the mistake of rushing to a conclusion on the story and then holding it against CAG once the truth came out. In truth the contest wasn't aimed at any site in particular and wasn't meant to embarass anyone, it just so happened that the story spread like wildfire in this instance.

I'm sure this will all be resolved soon enough and I do think Crecente is good enough to at least partially explain himself and apologize to the CAGs. There are just way too many times the two sites have worked in harmony and it'd be a major shame to see any bad blood between them after all this time. My guess is things will go over just fine, just give it a little time =)

Oh and PS: I can't wait to hear the next podcast. I have a feeling this will be a good chunk of the conversation. I'm sure Wombat has a thing or two to say about it...
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.

WHAT? Kotaku messes up and somehow they blame cag?
Cheapy has absolutely jack shit to apologize for. Kotaku has a lot of nerve trying to make CAG look bad. To me, it's asinine for Crecente to have made that kind of accusational and inflammatory comment when a simple, "ah it's confirmed to be a rumor, we get the joke" would have sufficed. Those guys need to man up, take it in the chin, and move on.
It's not like it's that big of a deal. Crecente just needs to do one of his little things where he puts a line through the text and inserts a witty comment debunking it and move on. There was no reason to cheap shot our community. Unlike Kotaku, who christened Mondays as "Banhammer Monday", I'd like to think we value our community..
Exactly, scorch. It's just par for the course for a website that values site hits more than it's readers.
Oh LOL... you know I still like Kotaku, but I guess we all are forced to change our expectations since we know this is how Kotaku (and many other blogs) operates. Once I read the part where your wife was saying you were wrong, I figured the apology was coming! LOL
Funny, remember during E3, and you and Bigred (shipwreck) was there, and during one event, they were treating Crecente like some super VIP guest. Funny, how he's a big shot VIP media person at E3, but in reality he posts information like a 2-bit national inquirer esq newspaper.

oh well, good non-apology Cheapy
What's worse than posting a crazy fake rumor? Posting something real and calling it fake. Take a look at this article posted on Kotaku about the Metal Gear headset: http://kotaku.com/37...eadset-was-real

The author of the article explains that he got the information straight from the designer's blog but just because he thinks it isn't real he reports it as being fake. Wow.
Kotaku has been getting so smarmy lately. This is just another in a long series of dick moves by them. His comment after he realized he fucked up was to blame other people. How childish is that? Nevermind losing credibility from posting bullshit rumors, they lose more and more credibility every day just by being their asshole selves.
Dear Brian Crecente,

Kindly stop being a little bitch. You post anything and everything to generate ad-views and this time it bit you in the ass. Grow a pair.


The Internet
Dude honestly, who gives a Fuck? Why is this such serious news?

Kotaku could of just said "oh we found out it was false through a CAG prank, sorry for the inconvenience" instead of Crecente crying and trying to blame everyone but himself, but instead he insisted on bickering with his own users about how disappointed he was with losing his time and stamps his feet at CAG.

I am pretty sure there are tons of other rumors that never get this sort of attention. Lesson be learned: LIST YOUR DAMN SOURCES AND GIVE YOUR READERS A RELIABILITY RATING ON THE SOURCE.

Fuck, this is retarded.
Very nice, Cheapy. I find that I am consistently impressed by your humility. It's a refreshing characteristic that is unfortunately uncommon in the impersonal internets. It's important to be able to honestly assess your perspective and make adjustments when necessary. This is why I come back to the CAGcast every week... humility and poop jokes. Keep it up!
^ What Angryemu said. Rather elegant and intelligent commentary on the situation without resorting to any name-calling or judgmental crap. Well done!
Kotaku is crap anyway. :)

You proved a point, albeit, in a very sneaky way. It's a tough business, and there's two sides to every coin. Good post.
Well said, but I think you're doing a major cop-out and are back tracking big time. These sites should check their facts. Bottom line. Don't make excuses for their sloppy work.
Kotaku is the only gaming site that I go out of my way to avoid, and have done so for 2 years.
I'm usually pretty skeptical when it comes to any post that says "rumor" in the title. That being said, I'd rather hear early about a potential story than wait until it's confirmed (ever hear Microsoft's answer when asked about something in the future?).

THAT being said, I would think that to post a rumor, a decent gaming blog would need something more than a fake little "corporate memo" that looks like it was modified clipart.

To get pissed at CAG over this is absurd.

(Also alashhhhh, you are so right. Page views and ad revenue are all it comes down to. Being the first person to post about 'XBox Pure' = $$$. He couldn't let the chance pass him by.)
Not bad, needed more "Wombat is awesome"


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