Frankly, since I started writing my weekly column for TechCrunch a few months back, I’ve been growing increasingly worried about the sanity of our readers. And not just for the reasons you might think.
Under a growing list of bylines, more than 200 posts are published on TechCrunch.com each week – with countless more on the various spin-off Crunch sites. Even allowing for MG Siegler’s eight personalities, and the fact he hasn’t slept since the day Twitter launched, that’s still an enormous amount of content for one blog to produce.
Consuming every single word that appears on TechCrunch is a fool’s errand, and yet we know some of you try to do exactly that. We know this because, even when you find a post that doesn’t interest you, you still take the time to let us know rather than simply moving on to something else. “Too long; didn’t read” you say, helpfully.
Knowing how keen you are not to miss anything good, but worried that our ever-increasing output is going to turn you crazy, I took Arrington aside after our weekly game of beer pong to suggest a solution. Why don’t I compile a weekly ‘Best Of TechCrunch’, rounding up the most important, informative and entertaining content from the preceding seven days?
“Ok,” said Mike, “let’s try it.” And so here we go – your handy guide to the best of the past seven days of TechCrunch, starting with our…
Fight of the week: Michael Arrington vs Social Gaming Scammers
The problem when Mike gets a bee in his bonnet about something is that – with the obvious exception of that handshaking nonsense – he’s usually right. And so it is with his current obsession: how social gaming companies are making millions of dollars in revenue through ethically-murky lead-generation offers. Or, as he put it..
“For any particular offer, ask yourself if anyone would buy the product or service if the terms were clearly spelled out for them, and they weren’t being bribed with in-game currency…. Most of these offers are bad for consumers because it confusingly gets them to pay far more for in-game currency than if they just paid cash.”
Eager to hear the industry’s response, Mike stopped by the Virtual Goods Summit in San Francisco and challenged Offerpal CEO Anu Shukla (whose company provides a platform for feeding these offers to game developers) to justify her business. He didn’t mince his words, calling Offerpal ‘the bad guys’. Shukla responded in kind, calling the allegations ‘shit, doubleshit and bullshit’. The crowd – mainly social game developers – applauded wildly in support of Shukla. That’ll teach Arrington to call people names! Except for one small detail: he’s right.
Responding to Arrinton’s post on the issue, Hot Or Not’s James Hong and Plenty Of Fish’s Markus Frind explained how they had both tried making money through lead-gen offers before realising that- in Hong’s words – “In a nutshell, the offers that monetize the best are the ones that scam/trick users.” Even ex-scammers have come out of the woodwork, with Dennis Yu from advertising agency Blitz Local admitting that he made a fortune from scamming Facebook users on behalf of social gaming clients. Of course, there’s something in Yu’s Damascene conversion that reminds me of the Onion’s ‘Ex-Pedophile Shares Tips On How To Make Your Kids Less Attractive‘, especially as his contrition doesn’t stretch to actually giving back any of the money he made from scams. But, between his testimony and last night’s admission by Zynga’s Andrew Trader that 1/3 of their revenue comes from lead-gen, Shukla’s sweary defence of Offerpal and their ilk is starting to sound a lot like.. well… whatever amount of shit comes after doubleshit and bullshit.
Pun-packed headline of the week: Tonight, You Too Can Watch U2 On YouTube
You can always rely on MG to bring the funny to TechCrunch headlines, but this week’s livestreamed U2 / Youtube concert gave him a special chance to shine. You Too, U2, YouTube? Brilliant! The actual story was interesting too: not only was the concert a huge success – with over 10 million streams served – but it also kicked off a week of fun for music lovers, including a Foo Fighters gig on Facebook and the launch of Google’s Music Onebox (the latter covered by Jason Kincaid). Onebox is an undisputed win for fans, as it allows fans to stream music live from Google search results, courtesy of LaLa and iLike/MySpace music. But as Arrington points out, it’s also a reminder to Ticketmaster of their epic fail in not acquiring iLike when they had the chance. Cue the violins.
Autoerotica of the week: Lacy’s Chinese takeaways
As part of the research for her forthcoming book, Editor at Large Sarah Lacy was in China, where she met two entrepreneurs with very different – but equally hands-on – approaches to the pursuit of happiness in the digital age. First came Song Li, the founder of Zhenai.com. It’s easy to dismiss Zhenai as a Chinese rip off of Match.com, but as Sarah explains, Li has actually taken the Western idea of an online dating service and completely retooled it for a Chinese audience. It’s a must-read post, if only for the oddly precise statistics about what each gender finds sexy, and how love-starved singles can improve their chances…. And speaking of taking intimate matters into one’s own hands: Sarah then met Brian Sloan, a Chicago native who moved to China after an unfortunate incident involving a pot of human skulls and a pupeteer called JoJo Baby. Once there, he earned the nickname ‘The Kinky King of Beijing’, partly thanks to his invention: The Auto Blow. Sarah was too coy to spell out what the device did, but let’s not beat about the bush here: it’s an automatic blow job machine. And if that’s not enough to make you read the post – which also, by the way, makes some really interesting points about the deconstructed supply chain – then frankly nothing will.
Lovely new phone of the week: The Droid you are looking for
Over on MobileCrunch, Greg Kumparak got excited about the arrival of Motorola’s Droid phone. After pitting the device against his iPhone 3GS in a series of tests, Greg concludes that – well, I won’t spoil it – but the Droid is certainly one hell of a phone. But what’s really interesting is that it’s also the first handset with Android 2.0, allowing it to run Google’s astonishing new GPS navigation app. Imagine taking the ease of use of Google Maps – plain English search, always-on connectivity, traffic view – and coupling it with the best in-car GPS tool you’ve ever seen, and then multiply that by 100. For free. That’s what Google Maps Navigation is. It’s no wonder that rivals TomTom and Garmin saw their shares take a plunge on launch day.
Comments of the week: Speak your brains, win some corporate crap
Much as zoos would be nothing without monkeys, TechCrunch would be nothing without commenters – and it’s about time you people were rewarded. This week, I’ve rummaged through Arrington’s desk and have a pack of MySpace branded playing cards and a limited edition TechCrunch tshirt to give away to my favourite comments. The playing cards go to John Green for being the first to make the week’s most obvious joke: describing the ‘Asian Boobs‘ controversy as ‘a storm in a C cup‘. Kudos, John. The tshirt, meanwhile, goes to the anonymous commenter calling him/herself ‘A Real Social Game Developer‘ for mounting such a dogged defense of Offerpal, despite overwhelming evidence of the company’s indefensibility. Doublekudos, ‘Social Game Developer’ – your prize is on its way, care of the Offerpal office.
Why is this news? of the week: Schwarzenegger Gives CA Legislature A Hidden Finger
Even Arrington admitted that this story had no place on TechCrunch, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful. It seems the Governor of California took time out of his day to hide a delightfully profane message in a letter to members of the California State Assembly. As Mike says: “I wish I had the time to do this kind of thing in my posts here on TechCrunch.”
As do I, Mike, as do I.