Sensationalist Titles. Journalism Fail. Advertising Win.

Sensationalist Titles

“Router crashes blamed on Windows XP SP3” rings the alarm bells of Australian Personal Computer. Thanks Dan Warne, now every owner of a router (that is, everyone connected to the Internet) is going to blame SP3 for weird internet issues.

Does this mean there is a series bug in XP SP3? Do all routers have this issue?

A concerned netizen, and Windows XP SP3 user: I click on the link and read the article.


Journalism Fail.

Billion, a premiuim brand of home ADSL internet router which I personally own, evangelise and enjoy, is blaming Windows XP SP3 for crashing one series of their routers.

According to Billion’s documentation (22nd May 2008) on this issue,

Windows XP SP3 uses Option 43 data in its DHCP packet; and Option 43 was not compatible with Billion’s Original defintion.

Further research into DHCP, and this “Option 43” using the industry’s specification, the Request-for-Comments (RFC) and specifically RFC 2132.

RFC 2132 details Option 43 in section 8.4 of the specification, a specification last updated in March 1997. 11 years ago.

In other words, Billion routers were not fully compliant with an 11 year old specification; or at minimum not tested in accordance with the RFC.

My contention is that the sensationalist title should read: “Billion 5200-series Routers need Firmware Upgrade for Full DHCP Compatibility”


Advertising Win.

The separation between editorial and advertising does not exist on the Internet. Truth in titles does not attract eye-balls, and more importantly, ad click-through stats.

Truth in titles, usually the domain of the little-talked about subeditor (known as copy-editor in Wikipedia), is the key to online readership in a dark-art called SEO. Search Engine Optimisation.

Secondly, as contextual advertising systems such as Adsense (sense is the operative part of online newspeak) is tied to the content of the story, ensuring a title that results in a series of highly valuable advertisements is paramount. In this example, writing a bland story on DHCP, Billion and Option 43 will probably result in niche books such as Douglas Comer’s appearing.

In both instances, the editorial side of the traditional chinese wall is broken. The precepts of truth and independence in journalism online are diminishing.


A Call

Come on, journalists (and subeditors) We do not want this fledgling world of Internet journalism to be further sullied.

And a call out to the online advertising engine community. Time to move beyond algorithmic big contextual text engines. The money behind these engines is corrupting journalism.

And for APC, please stop throwing fake rocks at Microsoft. By all means, blame us for when we do wrong. But the constant hailstorm of negativity hides the resonant truth.

8th June Followup:

3 thoughts on “Sensationalist Titles. Journalism Fail. Advertising Win.”

  1. Hi Nick, just saw this. Sorry I didn’t see it sooner. I must admit your comments are quite valid and I’ve just updated the story. The problem was that when I wrote the story (based on a press release from Billion, on the Queen’s Birthday) I didn’t have detailed info to hand about the exact nature of the problem. It is now clear that the bug was indeed in Billion’s code, not Microsoft’s.

    To be fair to Billion, though, the fact that the Billion routers had worked fine with every previous OS, including XP GM, SP 1 and SP 2 does suggest it’s not entirely inaccurate to say XP SP 3 is the cause of the router crashing. (Perhaps not “responsible”, because as you say, Billion wasn’t supporting an 11 year old standard, but certainly, the release of SP3 was the catalyst for the bug to show itself.)

    Anyway, I agree with your comments and appreciate you taking the time to critique.

  2. Actually, come to think of it, it wasn’t Queen’s Birthday when I received it — it was Saturday morning. (Not that the date is particularly material to the comment.)

  3. Dan

    Thanks for the response.

    *If* Windows XP SP3 actually did have a serious, general router crashing bug in DHCP, I can see how your article would have been very precient. And in that instance, Microsoft has every reason to explain why. So please keep the independent eyeballs on Microsoft, and every other company to keep us honest.

    My contention, maybe not clearly stated, is that generic Microsoft baiting for the sake of traffic is a little tiring. And speaks to a wider issue of new the Online Journalism where titles and content are tweaked for both SEO and contextual ad placement.

    Maybe this article was not the best example of this trend.

    All-in-all, thanks for the response.


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