Samantha and The Great Big Lie

How to get shanked doing what people say they want

don’t preach to me
Mr. integrity

(EDIT: removed the link to Samantha’s post, because the arments and the grubers and the rest of The Deck Clique got what they wanted: a non-proper person driven off the internet lightly capped with a dusting of transphobia along the way, all totally okay because the ends justify the means, and it’s okay when “good” people do it.)

First, I need to say something about this article: the reason I’m writing it infuriates me. Worse than installing CS 3 or Acrobat 7 ever did, and the former inspired comparisons to fecophile porn. I’m actually too mad to cuss. Well, not completely, but in this case, I don’t think the people I’m mad at are worth the creativity I try to put into profanity. This is about a brownfield of hypocrisy and viciously deliberate mischaracterization that “shame” cannot even come close to the shame those behind it should feel.

Now, read this post by Samantha Bielefeld: The Elephant in the Room. First, it is a well-written critical piece that raises a few points in a calm, rational, nonconfrontational fashion, exactly the kind of things the pushers of The Great Big Lie say we need more of, as opposed to the screaming that is the norm in such cases.

…sorry, I should explain “The Great Big Lie”. There are several, but in this case, our specific instance of “The Great Big Lie” is about criticism. Over and over, you hear from the very people I am not going to be nice to in this that we need “better” criticsm. Instead of rage and anger, volume and vitriol, we need in-depth rational criticism, that isn’t personal or ad hominem. That it should focus on points, not people.

That, readers, is “The Big Lie”. It is a lie so big that if one ponders the reality of it, as I am going to, one wonders why anyone would believe it. It is a lie and it is one we should stop telling.


Samantha’s points (I assume you read it, for you are smart people who know the importance of such things) are fairly clear:

  1. With the release of Overcast 2.0, a product Samantha actually likes, Marco Arment moved to a patronage model that will probably be successful for him.
  2. Arment’s insistence that “anyone can do this” while technically true, (anyone can in fact, implement this pricing model), also implies that “anyone” can have the kind of success that a developer with Marco’s history, financial status, and deep ties to the Apple News Web is expected to have. This is silly.
  3. Marco Arment occupies a fairly unique position in the Apple universe, (gained by hard work and no small talent), and because of that, benefits from a set of privileges that a new developer or even one that has been around for a long time, but isn’t, well, Marco, not only don’t have, but have little chance of attaining anytime soon.
  4. Marco has earned his success and is entitled to the benefits and privileges it brings, but he seems rather blind to all of that, and seems to still imagine himself as “two guys in a garage”. This is just not correct.
  5. In addition, the benefits and privileges of the above ensure that by releasing Overcast 2 as a free app, with patronage pricing, he has, if not gutted, severely hurt the ability of folks actually selling their apps for an up-front price of not free to continue doing so. This has the effect of accelerating the “race to the bottom” in the podcast listening app segment, which hurts devs who cannot afford to work on a “I don’t really need this money, so whatever you feel like sending is okay” model.

None of this is incorrect. None of this is an ad hominem attack in any way. It is just pointing out that a developer of Arment’s stature and status lives in a very different world than someone in East Frog Balls, Arkansas trying to make a living off of App sales. Our dev in EFB doesn’t have the main sites on the Apple web falling all over themselves to review their app the way that Arment does. They’re not friends with the people being The Loop, Daring Fireball, SixColors, iMore, The Mac Observer, etc., yadda.

So, our hero, in a fit of well-meaning ignorance writes this piece (posted this morning, 14 Oct. 15) and of course, the response and any criticisms are just as reasonable and thoughtful.

If you really believe that, you are the most preciously ignorant person in the world, and can I have your seriously charmed life.


The response, from all quarters, including Marco, someone who is so sensitive to criticism that the word “useless” is enough to shut him down, who blocked a friend of mine for the high crime of pointing out that his review of podcasting mics centered around higher priced gear and ignored folks without the scratch, who might not be ready for such things, is, in a single word, disgusting. Vomitous even.

It’s an hours-long dogpile that beggars even my imagination, and I can imagine almost anything. Seriously, it’s all there in Samantha’s Twitter Feed. From what I can tell, she’s understandably shocked over it. I however was not. This one comment in her feed made me smile (warning, this wanders a bit…er…LOT. Twitter timelines are not easy to put together):

I can see why you have some reservations about publishing it, but my gut feeling is that he would take it better than Nilay.

Oh honey, bless your sweet, ignorant heart. Marco is one of the biggest pushers of The Big Lie, and one of the reasons it is such a lie.

But it gets better. First, you have the “hey, Marco earned his status!” lot. A valid point, and one Bielefeld explicitly acknowledges, here:

From his ground floor involvement in Tumblr (for which he is now a millionaire), to the creation and sale of a wildly successful app called Instapaper, he has become a household name in technology minded circles. It is this extensive time spent in the spotlight, the huge following on Twitter, and dedicated listeners of his weekly aired Accidental Tech Podcast, that has granted him the freedom to break from seeking revenue in more traditional manners.

and here:

I’m not knocking his success, he has put effort into his line of work, and has built his own life.

and here:

He has earned his time in the spotlight, and it’s only natural for him to take advantage of it.

But still, you get the people telling her something she already acknowledge:

I don’t think he’s blind. he’s worked to where he has gotten and has had failures like everyone else.

Thank you for restating something in the article. To the person who wrote it.

In the original article, Samantha talked about the money Marco makes from his podcast. She based that on the numbers provided by ATP in terms of sponsorship rates and the number of current sponsors the podcast has. Is this going to yield perfect numbers? No. But the numbers you get from it will at least be reasonable, or should be unless the published sponsorship rates are just fantasy, and you’re stupid for taking them seriously.

At first, she went with a simple formula:

$4K x 3 per episode = $12K x 52 weeks / 3 hosts splitting it.

That’s not someone making shit up, right? Rather quickly, someone pointed out that she’d made an error in how she calculated it:

That’s $4k per ad, no? So more like $12–16k per episode.

She’d already realized her mistake and fixed it.

which is actually wrong, and I’m correcting now. $4,000 per sponsor, per episode! So, $210,000 per year.

Again, this is based on publicly available data the only kind someone not part of ATP or a close friend of Arment has access to. So while her numbers may be wrong, if they are, there’s no way for her to know that. She’s basing her opinion on actual available data. Which is sadly rare.

This becomes a huge flashpoint. You name a reason to attack her over this, people do. No really. For example, she’s not calculating his income taxes correctly:

especially since it isn’t his only source of income thus, not an indicator of his marginal inc. tax bracket.
thus, guessing net income is more haphazard than stating approx. gross income.

Ye Gods. She’s not doing his taxes for him, her point is invalid?

Then there’s the people who seem to have not read anything past what other people are telling them:

Not sure what to make of your Marco piece, to be honest. You mention his fame, whatever, but what’s the main idea here?

Just how spoon-fed do you have to be? Have you no teeth?

Of course, Marco jumps in, and predictably, he’s snippy:

If you’re going to speak in precise absolutes, it’s best to first ensure that you’re correct.

If you’re going to be like that, it’s best to provide better data. Don’t get snippy when someone is going off the only data available, and is clearly open to revising based on better data.

Then Marco’s friends/fans get into it:

I really don’t understand why it’s anyone’s business

Samantha is trying to qualify for sainthood at this point:

It isn’t really, it was a way of putting his income in context in regards to his ability to gamble with Overcast.

Again, she’s trying to drag people back to her actual point, but no one is going to play. The storm has begun. Then we get people who are just spouting nonsense:

Why is that only relevant for him? It’s a pretty weird metric,especially since his apps aren’t free.

Wha?? Overcast 2 is absolutely free. Samantha points this out:

His app is free, that’s what sparked the article to begin with.

The response is literally a parallel to “How can there be global warming if it snowed today in my town?”

If it’s free, how have I paid for it? Twice?

She is still trying:

You paid $4.99 to unlock functionality in Overcast 1.0 and you chose to support him with no additional functionality in 2.0

He is having none of it. IT SNOWED! SNOWWWWWWW!

Yes. That’s not free. Free is when you choose not to make money. And that can be weaponized. But that’s not what Overcast does.

She however, is relentless:

No, it’s still free. You can choose to support it, you are required to pay $4.99 for Pocket Casts. Totally different model.

Dude seems to give up. (Note: allllll the people bagging on her are men. All of them. Mansplaining like hell. And I’d bet every one of them considers themselves a feminist.)

We get another guy trying to push the narrative she’s punishing him for his success, which is just…it’s stupid, okay? Stupid.

It also wasn’t my point in writing my piece today, but it seems to be everyone’s focus.

(UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR)

I think the focus should be more on that fact that while it’s difficult, Marco spent years building his audience.
It doesn’t matter what he makes it how he charges. If the audience be earned is willing to pay for it, awesome.

She tries, oh lord, she tries:

To assert that he isn’t doing anything any other dev couldn’t, is wrong. It’s successful because it’s Marco.

But no, HE KNOWS HER POINT BETTER THAN SHE DOES:

No, it’s successful because he busted his ass to make it so. It’s like any other business. He grew it.

Christ. This is like a field of strawmen. Stupid ones. Very stupid ones.

One guy tries to blame it all on Apple, another in a string of Wha??? moments:

the appropriate context is Apple’s App Store policies. Other devs aren’t Marco’s responsibility

Seriously? Dude, are you even trying to talk about what Samantha actually wrote? At this point, Samantha is clearly mystified at the entire thing:

Why has the conversation suddenly turned to focus on nothing more than ATP sponsorship income?

Because it’s a nit they can pick and allows them to ignore everything you wrote. That’s the only reason.

One guy is “confused”:

I see. He does have clout, so are you saying he’s too modest in how he sees himself as a dev?
Yes. He can’t be equated to the vast majority of other developers. Like calling Gruber, “just another blogger”.
Alright, that’s fair. I was just confused by the $ and fame angle at first.

Samantha’s point centers on the benefits Marco gains via his fame and background. HOW DO YOU NOT MENTION THAT? HOW IS THAT CONFUSING?

People of course are telling her it’s her fault for mentioning a salient fact at all:

Why has the conversation suddenly turned to focus on nothing more than ATP sponsorship income?
Maybe because you went there with your article?
As a way of rationalizing his ability to gamble with the potential for Overcast to generate income…not the norm at all.

Of course, had she not brought up those important points, she’d have been bagged on for “not providing proof”. Lose some, lose more. By now, she’s had enough and she just deletes all mention of it. Understandable, but sad she was bullied into doing that.

Yes, bullied. That’s all this is. Bullying. She didn’t lie, cheat, or exaagerate. If her numbers were wrong, they weren’t wrong in a way she had any ability to do anything about. But there’s blood in the water, and the comments and attacks get worse:

Because you decided to start a conversation about someone else’s personal shit. You started this war.

War. THIS. IS. WAR.

This is a bunch of nerds attacking someone for reasoned, calm, polite criticism of their friend/idol. Samantha is politely pushing back a bit:

That doesn’t explain why every other part of my article is being pushed aside.

She’s right. This is all nonsense. This is people ignoring her article completely, just looking for things to attack so it can be dismissed. It’s tribalism at its purest.

Then some of the other annointed get into it, including Jason Snell in one of the most spectactular displays of “I have special knowledge you can’t be expected to have, therefore you are totally off base and wrong, even though there’s no way for you to know this” I’ve seen in a while. Jason:

You should never use an ad rate card to estimate ad revenue from any media product ever.
I learned this when I started working for a magazine — rate cards are mostly fiction, like prices on new cars

How…exactly…in the name of whatever deity Jason may believe in…is Samantha or anyone not “in the biz” supposed to know this. Also, what exactly does a magazine on paper like Macworld have to do with sponsorships for a podcast? I have done podcasts that were sponsored, and I can retaliate with “we charged what the rate card said we did. Checkmate Elitests!

Samantha basically abases herself at his feet:

I understand my mistake, and it’s unfortunate that it has completely diluted the point of my article.

I think she should have told him where and how to stuff that nonsense, but she’s a nicer person than I am. Also, it’s appropriate that Jason’s twitter avatar has its nose in the air. This is some rank snobbery. It’s disgusting and if anyone pulled that on him, Jason would be very upset. But hey, one cannot criticize The Marco without getting pushback. By “pushback”, I mean “an unrelenting fecal flood”.

Her only mistake was criticizing one of the Kool Kids. Folks, if you criticize anyone in The Deck Clique, or their friends, expect the same thing, regardless of tone or point.

Another App Dev, seemingly unable to parse Samantha’s words, needs more explanation:

so just looking over your mentions, I’m curious what exactly was your main point? Ignoring the podcast income bits.

Oh wait, he didn’t even read the article. Good on you, Dev Guy, good. on. you. Still, she plays nice with someone who didn’t even read her article:

That a typical unknown developer can’t depend on patronage to generate revenue, and charging for apps will become a negative.

Marco comes back of course, and now basically accuses her of lying about other devs talking to her and supporting her point:

How many actual developers did you hear from, really? Funny how almost nobody wants to give a (real) name on these accusations.

Really? You’re going to do that? “There’s no name, so I don’t think it’s a real person.” Just…what’s the Joe Welch quote from the McCarthy hearings?

Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

That is what this is at this point: character assasination because she said something critical of A Popular Person. It’s disgusting. Depressing and disgusting. No one, none of these people have seriously discussed her point, heck, it looks like they barely bothered to read it, if they did at all.

Marco starts getting really petty with her (no big shock) and Samantha finally starts pushing back:

Glad to see you be the bigger person and ignore the mindset of so many developers not relating to you, good for you!

That of course, is what caused Marco to question the validity, if not the existence of her sources. (Funny how anonymous sources are totes okay when they convenience Marco et al, and work for oh, Apple, but when they are inconvenient? Ha! PROVIDE ME PROOF YOU INTEMPERATE WOMAN!)

Make no mistake, there’s some sexist shit going on here. Every tweet I’ve quoted was authored by a guy.

Of course, Marco has to play the “I’ve been around longer than you” card with this bon mot:

Yup, before you existed!

Really dude? I mean, I’m sorry about the penis, but really?

Mind you, when the criticism isn’t just bizarrely stupid, Samantha reacts the way Marco and his ilk claim they would to (if they ever got any valid criticism. Which clearly is impossible):

Not to get into the middle of this, but “income” is not the term you’re looking for. “Revenue” is.
lol. Noted.
And I wasn’t intending to be a dick, just a lot of people hear/say “income” when they intend “revenue”, and then discussion …
… gets derailed by a jedi handwave of “Expenses”. But outside of charitable donation, it is all directly related.
haha. Thank you for the clarification.

Note to Marco and the other…whatever they are…that is how one reacts to that kind of criticism. With a bit of humor and self-deprecation. You should try it sometime. For real, not just in your heads or conversations in Irish Pubs in S.F.

But now, the door has been cracked, and the cheap shots come out:

@testflight_app: Don’t worry guys, we process @marcoarment’s apps in direct proportion to his megabucks earnings. #fairelephant

(Note: testflight_app is a parody account. Please do not mess with the actual testflight folks. They are still cool.)

Or this…conversation:

Good job guys. Good job. Defend the tribe. Attack the other. Frederico attempts to recover from his stunning display of demeaning douchery: ‏@viticci: @s_bielefeld I don’t know if it’s an Italian thing, but counting other people’s money is especially weird for me. IMO, bad move in the post.

Samantha is clearly sick of his crap: ‏@s_bielefeld: @viticci That’s what I’m referring to, the mistake of ever having mentioned it. So, now, Marco can ignore the bigger issue and go on living.

Good for her. There’s being patient and being roadkill.

Samantha does put the call out for her sources to maybe let her use their names:

From all of you I heard from earlier, anyone care to go on record?

My good friend, The Angry Drunk points out the obvious problem:

Nobody’s going to go on record when they count on Marco’s friends for their PR.

This is true. Again, the sites that are Friends of Marco:

Daring Fireball

The Loop

SixColors

iMore

MacStories

A few others, but I want this post to end one day.

You piss that crew off, and given how petty rather a few of them have demonstrated they are, good luck on getting any kind of notice from them.

Of course, the idea this could happen is just craycray:

@KevinColeman .@Angry_Drunk @s_bielefeld @marcoarment Wow, you guys are veering right into crazy conspiracy theory territory. #JetFuelCantMeltSteelBeams

Yeah. Because a mature person like Marco would never do anything like that.

Of course, the real point on this is starting to happen:

you’re getting a lot of heat now but happy you are writing things that stir up the community. Hope you continue to be a voice!
I doubt I will.

See, they’ve done their job. Mess with the bull, you get the horns. Maybe you should find another thing to write about, this isn’t a good place for you. Great job y’all.

Some people aren’t even pretending. They’re just in full strawman mode:

@timkeller: Unfair to begrudge a person for leveraging past success, especially when that success is earned. No ‘luck’ involved.
@s_bielefeld: @timkeller I plainly stated that I don’t hold his doing this against him. Way to twist words.

I think she’s earned her anger at this point.

Don’t worry, Marco knows what the real problem is: most devs just suck —

I have a saying that applies in this case: don’t place your head so far up your nethers that you go full Klein Bottle. Marco has gone full Klein Bottle. (To be correct, he went FKB some years ago.)

There are some bright spots. My favorite is when Building Twenty points out the real elephant in the room:

@BuildingTwenty: Both @s_bielefeld & I wrote similar critiques of @marcoarment’s pricing model yet the Internet pilloried only the woman. Who’d have guessed?

Yup.

Another bright spot are these comments from Ian Betteridge, who has been doing this even longer than Marco:

You know, any writer who has never made a single factual error in a piece hasn’t ever written anything worth reading.
I learned my job with the support of people who helped me. Had I suffered an Internet pile on for every error I wouldn’t have bothered.

To which Samantha understandably replies:

and it’s honestly something I’m contemplating right now, whether to continue…

Gee, I can’t imagine why. Why with comments like this from Chris Breen that completely misrepresent Samantha’s point, (who until today, I would have absolutely defended as being better than this, something I am genuinely saddened to be wrong about), why wouldn’t she want to continue doing this?

If I have this right, some people are outraged that a creator has decided to give away his work.

No Chris, you don’t have this right. But hey, who has time to find out the real issue and read an article. I’m sure your friends told you everything you need to know.

Noted Feminist Glenn Fleishman gets a piece of the action too:

I’m not actually surprised here. I watched Fleishman berate a friend of mine who has been an engineer for…heck, waaaaay too long on major software products in the most condescending way because she tried to point out that as a very technical woman, “The Magazine” literally had nothing to say to her and maybe he should fix that. “Impertinent” was I believe what he called her, but I may have the specific word wrong. Not the attitude mind you. Great Feminists like Glenn do not like uppity women criticizing Great Feminists who are their Great Allies.

Great Feminists are often tools.


Luckily, I hope, the people who get Samantha’s point also started chiming in (and you get 100% of the women commenting here that I’ve seen):

I don’t think he’s wrong for doing it, he just discusses it as if the market’s a level playing field — it isn’t
This is a great article with lots of great points about the sustainability of iOS development. Thank you for publishing it.
Regardless of the numbers and your view of MA, fair points here about confirmation bias in app marketing feasibility http://samanthabielefeld.com/the-elephant-in-the-room …
thank you for posting this, it covers a lot of things people don’t like to talk about.
I’m sure you have caught untold amounts of flak over posting this because Marco is blind to his privilege as a developer.
Catching up on the debate, and agreeing with Harry’s remark. (Enjoyed your article, Samantha, and ‘got’ your point.)

I would like to say I’m surprised at the reaction to Samantha’s article, but I’m not. In spite of his loud declarations of support for The Big Lie, Marco Arment is as bad at any form of criticism that he hasn’t already approved as a very insecure tween. An example from 2011: http://www.businessinsider.com/marco-arment-2011-9

Marco is great with criticism as long as it never actually criticizes him. If it does, be prepared a flood of petty, petulant whining that a room full of bored preschoolers on a hot day would be hard-pressed to match.

Today has been…well, it sucks. It sucks because someone doing what all the Arments of the world claim to want was naive enough to believe what they were told, and found out the hard way just how big a lie The Big Lie is, and how vicious people are when you’re silly enough to believe anything they say about criticism.

And note again, every single condescending crack, misrepresentation, and strawman had an exclusively male source. Most of them have, at one point or another, loudly trumpted themselves as Feminist Allies, as a friend to women struggling with the sexism and misogyny in tech. Congratulations y’all on being just as bad as the people you claim to oppose.

Samantha has handled this better than anyone else could have. My respect for her as a person and a writer is off the charts. If she choses to walk away from blogging in the Apple space, believe me I understand. As bad as today was for her, I’ve seen worse. Much worse.

But I hope she doesn’t. I hope she stays, because she is Doing This Right, and in a corner of the internet that has become naught but an endless circle jerk, a cliquish collection, a churlish, childish cohort interested not in writing or the truth, but in making sure The Right People are elevated, and The Others put down, she is someone worth reading and listening to. The number people who owe her apologies goes around the block, and I don’t think she’ll ever see a one. I’m sure as heck not apologizing for them, I’ll not make their lives easier in the least.

All of you, all. of. you…Marco, Breen, Snell, Vittici, had a chance to live by your words. You were faced with reasoned, polite, respectful criticism and instead of what you should have done, you all dropped trou and sprayed an epic diarrheal discharge all over someone who had done nothing to deserve it. Me, I earned most of my aggro, Samantha did not earn any of the idiocy I’ve seen today. I hope you’re all proud of yourselves. Someone should be, it won’t be me. Ever.

So I hope she stays, but if she goes, I understand. For what it’s worth, I don’t think she’s wrong either way.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated John C. Welch’s story.