Dan Dilger and the Case of the Exploding Head

I know I often bag on people who write stupid anti-Apple things; in part that’s because Apple brings out a lot of stupid. But far be it from me to pretend that stupid only happens on the anti-Apple side.

Submitted for your consideration: Daniel Eran Dilger, proprietor of the aptly-named Roughly Drafted. (He uses all three names to distinguish himself from all those other Daniel Dilgers out there.) I passed through a few stages in my reading at RD after discovering it:

  • Long, well-written and well-researched articles! Cool!
  • Hmm. Maybe just long and well-researched.
  • Just down to “long,” aren’t we?
  • This diagram looks like an explosion at the flow chart factory.
  • Wait, what orifice did he pull that out of?
  • My brain is crawling out my ear to get away

For a typical RD piece, peruse his frenzied rhapsody “iPad, the Destroyer: 19 Things It Will Kill,” which include DVDs, Microsoft Office, DVRs, and “idle moments.” Anything Office does that iWork doesn’t is clearly unnecessary; we no longer have time to ourselves because our shiny glass overlords demand otherwise; we watch video exclusively on 9.7″ screens. (Dan’s next Superbowl party will be killer.) Oh, and netbooks, which he asserts “already killed off the desktop PC,” because… uh… you can replace… ∗headexplode∗

Dilger has now taken on Mac pundit John Gruber, host of Daring Fireball, because Gruber is a big meaniepants. To wit, on April 8th Gruber quoted an AppleInsider article by “Prince McLean,” a pseudonym Dilger writes under:

Those familiar with the design of iPhone 4.0 said that the user interface will resemble Apple’s desktop Exposé feature, in that a key combination…will trigger an Exposé-like interface that brings up a series of icons representing the currently running apps, allowing users to quickly select the one they want to switch to directly. When a selection is made, the iPhone OS zooms out of the Exposé task manager and transitions to that app.

As the iPhone OS 4.0 task switcher is not very much like Exposé, Gruber mocked them for that:

Where by “familiar with the design,” they meant “making shit up,” unless by “Exposé-like,” they meant “not at all like Exposé.”

This makes Dilger a sad and angry blogger. He’s upset that Gruber “purposefully omitted” the part that said, “the new mechanism currently presents just each app’s icon. This renders the feature more similar to the basic Command+Tab app switcher than Exposé itself as a desktop feature.” Dilger feels that explanation is correct “because the final implementation is indeed very much like the Mac OS X app switcher.”

Sorry, but phrases like “Exposé-like” set up an expectation that it will look like—I trust this is not too bold a claim—Exposé. A fair reading of what AppleInsider wrote is that double-clicking the iPhone home button would use the same visual effect with application icons that the desktop version uses with windows. It’s nothing like that at all. And it’s not very much like Command-Tab, either.

Yet Dilger not only denies this is a valid point, he claims Gruber’s deliberately lying:

Gruber knows that Apple’s original user interface design for iPhone 4.0 multitasking was originally more like Exposé than the task switcher design the company ultimately unveiled. So when we reported that sources had described the new system as similar to an element on Mac OS X, and specifically that it would resemble Apple’s Exposé feature, he knew that was accurate, if outdated, information from a source familiar with Apple’s plans.

Gruber was not only wrong in saying we made the information up ourselves, but he knew he was wrong and he knew he was not accurately nor honestly presenting what AI had actually reported.

But Gruber didn’t say that AI necessarily made the information up themselves; he snarked that “Those familiar with the design” should be read as “those making shit up”—i.e., the informant was full of shit. Dilger’s response is that the informant was describing an earlier state correctly, so it’s not fair to call it wrong. But for those of us who are not unstuck in the space-time continuum, it doesn’t work that way. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir was at one point Hetch Hetchy Valley, but you’re still giving out bullshit information if you tell someone about how lovely it is to hike these days.

You’d figure that Gruber would have had to do a serious hatchet job to get Dilger that frothed up, but in fact, the “Where by…” sentence is the entirety of what Gruber wrote. In Dilgerworld, that one snarky sentence is tantamount to “completely fraudulent journalism hypocritically masquerading as insightful critique.”

Gruber also wrote about Mobile Multitasking on April 14th and quoted Dilger again:

Other platforms have enabled multitasking by simply allowing any number of other apps to run. This results in a mess for users because it’s up to them to manage which apps are running out of control or needlessly chewing up resources in the background. Android and Windows Mobile are both notorious for needing TasKiller or some other sort of manual process manager to keep battery life and performance in check.

And Gruber went on to write, “Dilger is flat-out wrong about Android.” This also made Dilger sad and angry. First, because while Gruber wrote, “I believe [Dilger] is right about Windows Mobile,” he didn’t think it mattered going forward as Windows Mobile is, you know, kind of dead. But Gruber also wrote, “Dilger is flat-out wrong about Android,” and Dilger gets the vapors again:

Since all I said about Android in this context was that it was “notorious for needing TasKiller,” I can only assume that’s what he thought was in error.

Except that’s not all he said. Dilger described what “other platforms” did, explained why that was bad (“needlessly chewing up resources in the background”), and named two operating systems that needed a “manual process manager” to handle the problem he just described. The logical reading of the sentence is that Android does in fact allow any number of other apps to run. If that isn’t the conclusion Dilger meant for a reader to draw, then why did he write it that way?

And the really amazing thing here is that Gruber spent only three sentences referring to Dilger in the article. Dilger spends hundreds of words defending his original sentence about Android needing a task killer and lambasting Gruber for saying that it doesn’t. Never mind Gruber’s linking to an Android kernel engineer describing how it actually works. (Something one can’t help but notice about Dilger’s writing is that he tends to link almost exclusively to his own past articles, very rarely offering any reference backing up what he’s saying.)

So let’s review.

  • Writing articles for different sites under different names and linking them for mutual support, the very definition of sock-puppeting: assuredly the highest ground possible when judging the ethics of others.
  • Getting snarky about reports presented as news, containing falsifiable information, that indeed turn out to be false: completely fraudulent and hypocritical!
  • Accusing someone in public of dishonest reporting without offering a shred of evidence to back it up beyond your own long-winded pontification: good, honest and upstanding work.


  1. chipotle posted this