Home >  Archive >  2011 >  November >  21

Previous / Next

Why Jobs chose Isaacson
By Dave Winer on Monday, November 21, 2011 at 8:51 PM.

I've now listened to 3/4 of John Siracusa's podcast review of the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs.  #

The first half of the second installment focuses on fanboi theories of why Steve made the perfect decision in choosing Isaacson, but I agree with Siracusa, it was a terrible decision. My guess is that he didn't put a lot of thought into the choice. Isaacson is exactly the kind of reporter he worked with for his whole career. People who don't have any idea of what he does, or how tech products are developed. Who tell the same wrong heroic story over and over, one that sells magazines, but does not capture the process of developing tech products. This is who tech journalists are.  #

A picture named jobs.jpgEven the smartest tech reporters have no idea how technology development works. And while Jobs did, obviously, understand how it works, intimately -- he deliberately drew a false picture for the reporters. So almost all the stories you read are fiction, made-up, folklore and myth. And the real story remains mostly untold.  #

So Jobs had no incentive to choose tech reporters to work who could think for themselves. Usually those people, when they showed up, were the ones Jobs actively shut out. Jobs was no friend to journalism, or blogging. He had no respect for other people's speech, he was a massive control freak. In other words he got the biography he deserves. One that's perfect for Steven Spielberg movie about his life. It will be shallow and wrong in huge numbers of ways, and it will be very popular. And people who go to see it will think this is how products are developed.  #

And kind of ignorant in some amazing ways. #

There was a video of Jobs ranting about a developer who learned about an Apple product in development by looking at their server logs and seeing odd User-Agent strings. Jobs thought that they had been spying on Apple, when in fact they had just been reporting information that Apple had been, presumably unintentionally, been leaking.  #

The interesting part shows up at about 1 hour and 13 minutes into the video. #

Jobs didn't have to control every word Isaacson wrote, and Siracusa is right that Isaacson would have written about any attempt to control, because it's something he understands really well, where technology is something he understands not at all. But Jobs didn't need control, he determined what the story was going to be by picking the biographer. And got the mediocre result that was certain to come. #

I wish Jobs had had the guts to go with someone who had a deep intellect, and curiosity about who his subject was, and was tireless at getting the information from the sources who were open, for that brief period, after having been closed for so long. There was a story here, and a willing subject, and the story is probably lost. #

But don't blame Isaacson for that, blame Jobs. He wasn't as excellent a person as he could have been. If he wanted his children to really know him, he would have done well to tell the story himself, or find someone who had depth and real historic perspective and ambition. #

PS: In my previous piece about this book I volunteered eight authors who could have done an interesting bio of Jobs.  #

Christmas Tree
This site contributes to the scripting.com community river.

© Copyright 1997-2011 Dave Winer. Last update: Monday, November 21, 2011 at 10:40 PM Eastern. Last build: 12/12/2011; 1:22:09 PM. "It's even worse than it appears."

RSS feed for Scripting News

Previous / Next