In Search of the Lost Chord: The Musician’s iPhone and iPod touch

Apple’s App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch is vast and brimming with so many interesting apps that it’s hard to get a handle on it all. The price of most commercial apps is so low that the price difference doesn’t matter so much, especially when competing apps are the same or nearly the same price (between $2.99 and $4.99 for most apps; the most expensive in this list is $19.99). It turns out that the time you spend playing with the app is more valuable. You can’t try everything.

So how can you tell if an iPhone or iPod touch app is worth spending time with? Reading the reviews can help, but there is no substitute for hands-on use. Musicians are especially adept at getting their hands onto something and using it. One famous singer and songwriter, Gary Go, will forego musical instruments and perform his show using an iPhone at Wembley Stadium in support of Take That on July 1st, 4th, and 5th. It’s a gutsy move to show that the iPhone or iPod touch is a potent platform for producing music that is capable of entertaining a stadium full of fans.

Let’s start with the simplest tools any musician might need in search of the lost chord.

Cleartune (bitcount) bitcount


Cleartune by bitcount indicating the key (left) and playing a tone (right)

I sing and play harmonica, and never expected to find an app that would be useful for those purposes. But I’m an avid user of Cleartune (not free) — a chromatic instrument tuner and pitch pipe that uses the iPhone built-in mic (or an external mic for an iPod touch 2). I can quickly find the proper pitch for singing. On stage, I’ve used it to quickly show me the root key of a song so that I could grab the right harmonica (which are made in different keys). I also use it to show whether older harmonicas are out of tune and need to be cleaned or adjusted. Others use it to tune acoustic or electric guiltars, bass, bowed strings, woodwinds and brass of all sorts, and any other instrument that can sustain a tone.

Harmonica (Pocketglow/Benjamin McDowell) Harmonica


Harmonica by Pocketglow/Benjamin McDowell

Don’t laugh. I’ve actually used this harmless gimmick to teach the rudiments of playing harmonica. You can either touch the holes to play them, or use your mouth (actually your upper lip), but it’s still a touchy experience — you don’t have to blow or suck air.

Ocarina and Leaf Trombone (Smule) Smule

What can you say about an app that, within four days of its release, became the No. 1 best-selling app on the store? By far the most famous of strange new iPhone apps that defy characterization, Ocarina — the app that turns your iPhone into an ancient flute-like instrument and lets you share the music you make with others — now works with the iPod touch as well. Without any musical training you can touch the “holes” of the ocarina to make music, or blow into an external microphone. Ardent fans post sheet music showing how they play their songs.

Smule has recently released Leaf Trombone, which offers a similar experience with the sound of a trombone. Leaf Trombone takes it a step further with an American Idol-like competition — you can judge performances on the phone, or just watch others playing popular trombone songs. (Such as? You can start playing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” or dozens of other songs in its library.)

PocketGuitar (Shinya Kasatani) Shinya Kasatani

If you don’t like the music, go out and make some yourself. You can look for the chord the guitar player is playing in a song, and you can try to play it yourself with PocketGuitar, an app that turns your iPod touch into a virtual guitar. You can press and strum strings with your fingers on the iPod touch screen.

GuitarToolkit (Agile Partners) Agile Partners


GuitarToolkit by Agile Partners includes a chord chart

For anyone who plays guitar or wants to play one, you can’t beat the value of GuitarToolkit ($9.99 as of this writing), which provides a chromatic tuner, a chord finder, a metronome, and pitch reference tones. The chord finder lets you quickly cycle through chords and see the fingering for each chord. Slide your fingers across the screen to strum the chord. The scales feature offers a playable fretboard to hear what each note sounds like, and the metronome lets you dial in an exact count in beats per minute (BPM) or tap along to a song to get the tempo.

Chordmaster and Scale Wizard (D’Addario/Planet Waves) Planet Waves

D’Addario is the legendary string making family that began making instrument strings in Salle, Italy in 1680, and is now a large manufacturer that distributes to over 5,400 retail music stores worldwide. If anyone knows how to search for the lost chord… Chordmaster is a reference library of 7,800 guitar chords. You can hear the chords by strumming with your finger and see them on the fretboard. Scale Wizard, a companion app to Chordmaster, is a scale library that includes over 10,000 modes and arpeggios. You can hear the scales as well as change the playback speed for practicing.

iDrum (iZotope) iZotope, Inc.

iZotope built its reputation providing technology to top digital audio companies such as Digidesign, Sony, and Adobe. iDrum is a drum machine app that offers a ton of great beats and lets you edit and create your own. Versions of iDrum have been developed for rock, hip-hop, club music, and signature editions for bands such as Ministry of Sound and Depeche Mode (which features content from Sounds of the Universe).

MooCowMusic Band, Pianist, Guitarist, Drummer, Organist MooCowMusic




MooCowMusic Band (top), Organist (middle), and Drummer

Band is a collection of virtual instruments (drums, piano, bass guitar, blues guitar, and even crowd noise) that are good enough to produce music — for example, the iBand uses these tools in live and studio recording: Marina (on vocals, piano, and guitar) uses the MooCowMusic Pianist and Guitarist on an iPod touch, and Roger plays guitar, bass, and xylophone on MooCowMusic Drummer and Guitarist with custom interfaces and sounds on an iPhone. (Seb, on drums, plays on BeatMaker — see below.)

You can play complex chords in real time, not only hearing the sound but seeing a visual representation of the instrument (piano keys really depress and bass guitar strings really strum). All instruments can be recorded, overdubbed, and mixed together into a song, which can be stored for later playback. Instruments have individual volume and pan settings, and can be muted or soloed during playback. There’s a metronome for keeping time, and, if you make a mistake, you can erase the last few notes, overdub, or instrument, from the mix and record it again.

BeatMaker (Intua) Intua

Inspired by hardware beatboxes, loop samplers and software sequencers, BeatMaker offers 16 multi-touch pads that let you load, slice, tune, and trigger sounds from an extensive sample library. You can arrange song snippets to your liking, loop and improvise in real time with live pattern recording and fingertip sound control — record new sounds wherever you are, and use them instantly in your compositions. The step sequencer makes music composing easy while
keeping precise synchronization, and you can load and save your sound kits and projects. Seb, the drummer in the iBand, uses BeatMaker with a custom soundset on an iPhone.

FourTrack (Sonoma Wire Works) Sonoma Wire Works

Musicians often have songwriting ideas at times and places where they can’t write them down. Although it will never replace your main recording setup, FourTrack mixes and plays up to four tracks like a pocket-sized version of Pro Tools. Recording in true 16-bit, 44.1 kHz quality, FourTrack works with the iPhone headset mic, or an iPod touch with an external mic. You can record up to the capacity of your iPhone or iPod touch, and then use Wi-Fi Sync to transfer your recordings to nearly any desktop computer, where tracks can then be imported into whatever recording software you use.

FiRe (Audiofile Engineering) Audiofile Engineering

Audiofile Engineering has a good reputation built with AE make Wave Editor, which has rapidly become popular for Mac audio producers and sound designers. This app is a high-quality recorder likely to be useful for recording song ideas, rehearsals, and even concerts — you can use Blue Mikey, Alesis ProTrack or even the internal mic. It offers waveform display, overdub mode for sketching out song ideas, markers with location data, great VU meters for input and output, and support for uploading audio to the Internet using SoundCloud.

Professional musicians are getting in the act of discovering there’s an app for that. By the time you read this, there will be hundreds more.



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App Stores on the New Frontier

By now you probably have read about the issues with the Google Android-based mobile device platform (see “Android exploit so dangerous, users warned to avoid phone’s web browser” by Andrew Nusca at ZDnet).

You may have also read a whle back about Apple’s response to the U.S. Copyright Office that unauthorized alterations of the iPhone and iPod touch are violations (see “Apple: iPhone jailbreaking violates our copyright” by Tom Krazit at Cnet).

What’s missing is the link between these stories. On the one hand (Google Android), applications can appear on the platform overnight without any rigorous oversight, and some could introduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

On the other hand (Apple iPhone and iPod touch), the practice of rigorous oversight is exactly what Apple is trying to defend. Jailbreaking opens the Apple platform potentially to all kinds of lawless activity, and Apple doesn’t want that.

Who does?

Apple has been criticized for kicking apps out of the App Store, and then (tentatively) bringing some of them back in when it looked like they wouldn’t be dangerous. I think it’s a wise policy. Apple also has a business to run, and a partner (AT&T) to work with. And guess what? So do other companies. Critics had pointed to Android as a free system, something that Apple should embrace, but just recently, Google also kicked apps out of its store — see Android tethering apps pulled from Market (Android Community). Google cited their distribution agreements with carriers as the prompt for removal.

It’s the same problem. Expect the new Blackberry App World to be similarly policed. The price of “freedom” (in this case, the ability to download very low cost apps to your phone, and the ability for developers to create them quickly and inexpensively) is constant vigilance.

This week’s interesting blips include:

Pirates Board Apple’s iPhone App Store (Gadget Lab from Wired.com). I’m angered by this, even though highly profitable developers dismiss it as a minor nuisance. Why target under-$5 apps? Do they have no ethics? They are not hurting Apple, only small developers. Shareware used to require a $5 or more donation.

RIM’s BlackBerry App Store Opens for Business
(InternetNews.com). You use PayPal to make purchases. We’re going to
see a lot more of these online app stores for different platforms.

Skype for iPhone: It’s official (CTIA show — CNET Reviews). I’m not really a user because I don’t invest much time changing my phone calling habits (I make calls rarely, mostly receive them and send email back). Also, Skype’s iPhone limits irk some consumer advocates (USATODAY.com)
What did these people expect? As AT&T pointed out, Skype “has no obligation to market AT&T services. Why should the reverse be true?” Well, AT&T, good luck holding back the hordes.



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iPhone Tip: Re-sync with MobileMe

Find this tip and many more in Tony’s Tips for iPhone User’s Manual, a $2.99 application for your iPhone by Tony Bove.

One frequent problem I have is that the Calendars on my iPhone lag behind my computer’s calendars — sometimes seriously enough that I don’t have the appointment’s information in my iPhone as I dash off to the appointment.

Life passes swiftly by, and we must keep up. I sync regularly to the MobileMe “cloud” from my computer, and I generally use my computer to enter or change calendar entries. If something happens to corrupt my MobileMe cloud data, the odd occasions I entered through my iPhone are not worth troubling over. Better to simply overwrite the MobileMe data from my computer: replace the entire cloud with an accurate version of the cloud.

You know how to do that: open MobileMe (in System Preferences on a Mac, or Control Panel in Windows) and click the Sync tab, and then click the Advanced button. Select the computer you are syncing from in the list at the top, and click Reset Sync Data.

In the dialog that appears, choose an option from the Replace pop-up menu:

  • On a Mac your choices are All Sync Info; or Bookmarks; Calendars; Contacts; Key Chains; Mail Accounts; or Mail Rules, Signatures, and Smart Mailboxes.
  • In Windows, your choices are All Sync Info, or Bookmarks, Calendars, or Contacts.

Then click the arrow underneath the cloud icon to change the animation so that the data arrow points from the computer to the cloud. Finally, click Replace.

This replaces the data in the MobileMe cloud with the data on your computer. You can also use these steps to go in reverse — replace the data on your computer with the data in MobileMe. To do this, click the arrow so that the animation points the arrow from the cloud to the computer.

The next step is to re-sync your iPhone to the new MobileMe data. Choose Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars from the iPhone Home screen, and then touch the email account associated with MobileMe — the one that also has Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Bookmarks in the subtitle.

The MobileMe account is the one with Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Bookmarks in the subtitle.

In the settings screen that appears for your MobileMe mail account, touch On for any item (such as Calendars) to turn syncing Off:

The MobileMe account settings screen.

A warning appears telling you that the synced information will be removed from your iPhone, and you can touch the Stop Syncing or Cancel buttons:

Turn off sync, or touch Cancel.

Touch Stop Syncing to turn off synchronization. At this point, the items you chose (Mail, Contacts, Calendars, or Bookmarks) are deleted from your iPhone.

After returning to the settings screen for the MobileMe mail account, touch Off for the item (Mail, Contacts, Calendars, or Bookmarks) to turn it back On. The items you turn On will re-synchronize with data from the MobileMe cloud.

If you prefer, leave any item’s setting Off and re-sync that item using iTunes. For example, if you leave Calendars set to Off, you can then sync your calendars to your iPhone using iTunes — skipping MobileMe in the process. The choice is yours.



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Pocket Tips

I’ve been working steadily on an iPhone application called Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users Manual. It is available now, for $2.99, in the App Store (online or through iTunes).

Tony’s Tips provides helpful tips for using your iPhone with iTunes and MobileMe. I have tried to make something that is better than a manual in your iPhone — a reference that is always up-to-date, easy to search, and organized for quick reading. For a detailed critical overview, see “Does the iPhone Need Help?” by David Needle in InternetNews.

Robert Chin and I designed Tony’s Tips using wiki software on my server and the iPhone engine inside Wikipanion. It works essentially like a one-way wiki, presenting highly categorized content on the iPhone. The wiki content can be updated at any time without affecting the iPhone client. As a result, I can keep the content fresh and up-to-date without having to update the app itself.

Tony’s Tips is an important first step to establishing a new tips format for handheld devices. Authors can create and host the content, sell the clients directly to readers, establish direct feedback loops with their readers, and continually update the products easily so that the content is never out-of-date.

The price ($2.99) is also significant, less than a typical e-book. Author/publishers can charge a low price for the iPhone client and still make a decent profit — possibly more than royalties from a book. Author/publishers can invest in marketing and promotion rather than spending on paper publishing, distribution, and stocking, and having to re-spend again every time the book needs to be updated.

Developing an iPhone app is a painful process, but I applaud Apple’s strict adherence to guidelines to reinforce quality in the iPhone experience. Look what can happen without strict quality assurance!

Nevertheless, Apple must have different people reviewing the app every time we submit it or update it, as they find different things that do not strictly adhere to the guidelines. We cheerfully fix them, only to find something else. Two steps forward, one step back, but we have made significant progress. We expect this update to stick (version 1.1). If you have already purchased version 1.0 in the App Store, no worries; your free update will pop up automatically in the Updates section of the store.

The bugs we fixed to make version 1.1 are:

  • External links to Safari were not working, but are now fixed.
  • The Bookmark Section feature was not working, but is now fixed.
  • Apple wanted us to add a dialog warning you if you are not connected to the Internet. This applies only to certain functions that take you online — you can still read the pages you saved on your iPhone whether you are connected or not.

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Prediction Time is Here Again

Predictions dominate the blogs and columns this month. My own score for last year’s predictions is dismal. Macworld Expo didn’t change it’s name; it lost it’s star keynote (Steve Jobs). There was no Apple TV with an LCD display, nor any kind of Mac tablet or netbook (so far). Well, at least I was right about cool iPhone apps appearing in droves, and the iPhone with 3G was a no-brainer.

One of my favorites every year has been I, Cringely — The Pulpit/PBS by Robert X. Cringely (a pseudonym). His lastest entry “End Game: Cringely’s predictions for 2009 including the coming showdown between Apple and Microsoft” is worth reading (he is closing down this column and starting another on his own site).

I agree with his assessment that Microsoft has reached its peak of influence, that Google has reached its peak of technical excellence (with Android), and that neither company will be grow much larger than they already are (and Microsoft may in fact shrink). Microsoft will roll downhill for a number of years. Google will maintain its leadership position and will remain a good investment, but I don’t expect anything insanely great from the company until the financial crisis is more manageable and advertising revenues come back to normal.

I also agree that Apple is the big winner. It will continue to grow its Mac market share, and the iPhone will make up for a softening iPod market. Lots of pundits believe the company has a tablet/netbook in the wings, as well as a cheaper iPhone, and that we’ll see both before June. Apple also may go through with Cringely’s prediction of a head-to-head battle against Microsoft Office. And if you are looking for signs of true innovation, you will find it in the iPhone’s App Store. It is simply incredible how easy it is to get streaming radio, locate interesting restaurants, find out about events happening wherever you are, carry books and documents with you, and of course access Web sites and Web services. The iPhone app ecosystem is only six months old, and already Pandora has seen its free app downloaded by 2 million users.

One Netbook Per Old Laptop (ON-POL)

Ian Lamont of The Industry Standard offered a thoughtful analysis in “Netbooks: An opportunity for Windows, and a threat to Linux
as to why the nascent netbooks market give Microsoft the edge. Lamont
theorized that Microsoft learned a thing or two regarding the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, and that Microsoft tipped its hand with the new Windows 7 operating system by demonstrating it on a netbook. “The
attraction of converting an old laptop to Ubuntu or some other Linux
distro fades when the cost of getting a brand-new Windows netbook is so
cheap…. Considering it’s now possible to get a new, Internet-ready
netbook with Windows XP for just $350, it’s safe to say many people
will simply not bother with the hassles associated with putting Linux
on an old laptop.”

Fighting back against spammers

By hijacking a working spam network, researchers have uncovered
some of the economics of being a spammer. While the tiny response rate
(less than 0.00001 percent) still means that a big spam operation can turn
over a few millions in profit every year, it also suggests that
spammers may be susceptible to attacks that make it more costly to send
junk mail. According to the researchers, the profit margin for spam may
be meager enough that spammers must be sensitive to the details of how
their campaigns are run and are economically susceptible to new
defenses. See “Study shows how spammers cash in” for details.



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And Tonight, “Carnival of Light” is Topping the Bill!

The Beatles‘ mystery track “Carnival of Light” may finally see the light of distribution. The BBC reports that Sir Paul McCartney has confirmed that the 14-minute track exists and says he wants the public to hear it (audio interview here). Most likely the track will be made available as part of an online download, as the Beatles’ Apple Records has already announced intentions of putting the entire catalog online.

I have a pretty good collection of Beatles outtakes, though not extensive as those collected by music industry professionals and friends and associates of the Fab Four, and this track is not in the many hours of rare, unreleased gems. Apparently Sir Paul wanted to included it in the Anthology series but was vetoed (backing tracks of “Eleanor Rigby” and “Within You Without You” were used instead).

According to the report, the track was played just once, at an electronic music festival in 1967, and is said to include distorted guitar, organ sounds, gargling and band members shouting phrases such as “Barcelona!” and “Are you all right?” It may turn out to be not so interesting except as a piece of history — that is, if George Harrison’s widow doesn’t block it.

Sir Paul was under the influence of experimental composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen at that time, as was John Lennon (via Yoko Ono), and musical dada had begun to creep into other Beatle tracks, such as “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “A Day in the Life”, “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” and “I am the Walrus” (as well as lesser-known tracks like “Revolution 9” and the unreleased “What a Shame Mary Jane”). Lennon and Ono’s collaborations a bit later (The Wedding Album and Two Virgins) also fall into the category of what the people like to call avant-garde — or as George Harrison (who also produced an experimental album at that time, Electronic Sound) used to say, “Havant-garde a clue!”).

The discovery that this track exists leaves only one more mystery track that has appeared only on some bootlegs of outtakes, called “Peace of Mind (Candle Burns).” Ear Candy offers an in-depth analysis of this song that is worth reading. I have a copy of it, and I agree with the analysis that this is probably a Beatles song recorded in 1967 but abandoned (after one overdub session). The fact that Yoko Ono hasn’t claimed copyright over it is also a mystery.

Here are versions of “I am the Walrus” by other bands:

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All I Need is the Air that I Breathe

Just to search on my iPhone — all you’ll need to do is speak. Google has added sophisticated voice recognition technology to the company’s iPhone search software. You can speak into the iPhone rather than type with the iPhone’s keyboard, and Google will search for relevant info.

While much of the time it returns gibberish, researchers are working on making it better at recognizing terms. It works best for finding restaurants nearby (because it also makes use of the iPhone’s location information) and for getting driving directions. It’s also useful for looking up contacts in your address book for quick dialing.



Ironically, talking search on the iPhone would be a better experience than what is depicted in the T-Mobile G1 ad, which uses Google Android. The actors are musing about searching for exotic things, like whether sharks have eyelids, or whether twins have the same fingerprints, and the best thing about the device is its keyboard. Perhaps talking search will appear shortly for the G1 also. Yahoo, Microsoft and even Google — with its 1-800-GOOG411 — already offer voice recognition for mobile search queries, but the feature has not yet appeared for Android.

Innovation occurs on the iPhone first — not only because it occupies the leading innovator’s space in the smart phone market, but also because the entire package works like a platform for new ideas. Part of that package is the control Apple exerts over the ecosystem.

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iPhone Ad Apps — Shaken Not Stirred

Hollywood studios are using free apps on the iPhone to promote movies. One of the first is for the latest James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace. It lets you watch the movie trailers and offers links to the iTunes Store for purchasing theme songs and such. Some are slightly innovative, such as The Dark Knight, lets you add Joker-style graffiti to photos. Bolt, Disney’s forthcoming animated movie, has released a free game patterned after Super Monkey.




Bands are getting in the act, though not in an innovative way (yet). Pink’s app lets you see pictures, hear music, read a discography and bio, and so on. Snow Patrol has gone as far as to create an arty presentation of origami papers that unfold to reveal lyrics to songs on the album.

All this stuff proves that the iPhone has shaken up, not just stirred up, the content industry.

The movie and music apps remind me of the days, over a decade ago, when my colleagues helped Peter Gabriel and David Bowie create arty interactive CD-ROMs (I also did a documentary with music, called “Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties”). None of us knew, really, what we were doing. Shaken by the medium, we were not stirred into anything resembling a profitable business.

But then, we couldn’t afford to give the CD-ROMs away. Today’s free iPhone app is an entirely new medium for advertising. And while we may criticize these first attempts, expect an onslaught to appear in the next month or so.

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The Magical Mystery Chord

You all know it when you hear it: the most famous chord in rock that reverberates on George Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker: the opening of “A Hard Day’s Night”.

All this time, no one has known exactly what chord Harrison was playing. I can attest, as a musician in a band that tried to play the song, that the chord is elusive and not properly documented. And so it turns out that a Dalhousie mathematician has figured out the exact formula (see “Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord“). What accounts for the problematic frequencies that, when put together, equal a chord not possible on George’s 12-string, John’s 6-string, and Paul’s bass? There was a piano in the mix, played by George Martin. Genius that he is, Martin added a piano chord that included an F note impossible to play with the other notes on the guitar.





Is this cheating? No, this is innovation at its finest: the resulting chord was completely different than anything ever heard before. And it proves that the fifth Beatle — George Martin — was a genius.


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Steve Jobs Only Had a Hangover

Too much of a good thing: iPhone sales are approaching the 10 million mark. Or maybe he got sick trying to digest that $700 billion bailout, a.k.a. the Failure of Modern Capitalism (or How the Chickens have Come Home to Roost). I’m beginning to rethink the definition of “organized crime” as the American public is held hostage by wise guys who turned Wall Street into Heartattack and Vine.

Tom Waits: Tom Waits - Heartattack and Vine - Heartattack and Vine

John Hammond, Jr.: Wicked Grin

In the wake of all those “serious” reports about the health of Apple CEO Steve Jobs over the summer (such as Cramer’s stock manipulation game and Businessweek’s The Real Issue About Steve’s Health), and the mistakenly published pre-written obituary in August, it seemed obvious, not only to me but to everyone I talked to. We all agreed that some bogus report would surface to damage the stock value. It had already happened several times, ostensibly by mistake or simply sensationalist fever in the press. So we knew something like this would happen.

And what we have here is failure to anticipate.

When innovation disrupts something as important as journalism, many of us pay attention (whether we agree or not) with critics who point out the flaws of this innovation. We anticipate some of the dangers, and we act responsibly.

But many don’t. Last week’s stupidity by a professional blogger, as well as CNN, was matched only by the gullibility of traders who acted on the rumor. It’s a problem that many people confine themselves to organizations like Fox News and CNN, or even to mainstream bloggers, for accurate and true reporting. It’s related to the problem that hair-trigger, speculative factors can cause massive stock trades. People don’t anticipate dangers because the press and bloggers are too busy (chasing ambulances in this case) to write thoughtful pieces about the true value of Apple, with or without Steve Jobs.



And here’s my disclaimer: I not only own a pitiful amount of Apple stock, but my two sons are using the proceeds of Apple stock sales last year to go to college. (Way to go, Tony.) And I’m not selling, at least not yet.

I’m pissed at these irresponsible sensation-chasers, and in particular Silicon Alley Insider, a professional news blogger, for suggesting that CNN’s ownership of iReport gave credibility to the false story. Without doing a fact-check, this extremely popular blogger (with his own insider ties) fanned the flames of what is either a prank or worse, a crime. The SEC is investigating, because if the purpose of the person who started the rumor was to benefit financially from a fall in the stock price, then it is a criminal act. You think stock manipulation of this kind doesn’t happen often? Think again.

My problem with this mess is not just the blogger who fanned it, but CNN, the organization that nurtured the flame in the first place with its iReport site. In my mind there is nothing innovative about “citizen journalism” as practiced at iReport. One could argue that CNN has found a way to post breaking news without having to send out reporters and TV crews, saving money at the expense of professional journalists and reporters.

Worse, I think it’s a misuse of citizen feedback. What are posted as “news” items on this site should simply be unverified (or even unverifiable) comments to real news stories and articles. Editors should consider their readers capable of anything, and should insulate the rest of us from the maniacs by consolidating maniacal reports in the comments section. That way readers would not confuse this stuff with news. Readers are a lot less interested in getting the story first as they are in getting an accurate report.

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