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Doing your homework

As you no doubt know, iOS 6 came out last night. This has lead to reviews, opinions and tutorials aimed towards Apple’s latest iOS release. A lot of readers rely on these types of reviews and opinions to discover more about the software, what works well – and what doesn’t. It’s through these reviews that a lot of users may base their deciison on upgrading or purchasing the next big thing™. As such, anyone writing about a topic such as iOS or Apple in general will be expected to have a good degree of knowledge on the matter.

However, I’ve been pretty surprised by the seemingly lack of research when writing about iOS 6 and iOS / Apple in general. I’ll give you a couple of examples:

Ars Technica reviews iOS 6:

This review originally said autofocus and autoexposure lock was new in iOS 6. It’s not; it was introduced in iOS 5, so that part has been removed

Whoops. Granted, it’s a rarely used feature that I bet most people didn’t know about. But still, if you’re living is made writing about Apple products, you’re kind of expected to know. This wasn’t a hidden feature but it got announced along with the volume shutter control which is what most of the focus was on.

Dr. Richard Gaywood of TUAW blogs his pretty poor experience about turn-by-turn in iOS 6:

Brian Klug nudged me to point out that this is on an iPhone 4. The iPhone 4S and 5 get a different interface, Flyover, with more features. I believe this addresses some of my complaints (the redirection, the countdowns), though not the data quality ones (the closed road, the misunderstood roundabouts).

Yeah, it’s safe to say that Apple’s new Maps app isn’t well received. But more importantly, Dr. Gaywood originally wrote this piece to complain that turn-by-turn was woeful. Except, the iPhone 4 doesn’t get turn-by-turn. Driving directions in Maps and turn-by-turn are completely different things, hence the demand for turn-by-turn and apps like Waze or TomTom.

Not quite on the subject of iOS 6 specifically but more of a general Apple post, Myles Tanzer at Betabeat wrote an article about an update to Instapaper that introduced a dyslexia-friendly font face.

But other similar apps, like the Android version of Pocket, have taken a bigger leap forward and given their products text-to-speech capabilities. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t have a text-to-speech API in their operating system, so it’s going to be a long time coming until Instapaper can really be as friendly for the nearly blind and dyslexics as it says it is.

Again, wrong. iOS has had text-to-speech available for as long as I can remember. Now, the writer may be an Android or Blackberry phone user. Fair enough, he may not know about iOS’ text-to-speech functionality. I didn’t know Android had it to be honest… which is why I won’t ever write about it.

Everyone makes mistakes and anyone who says otherwise is making a mistake. The problem isn’t that they didn’t know – it’s that if you don’t have a deep understanding about what you’re writing about, don’t write about it. You will only end up providing the wrong information to readers who expect you to know what you’re talking about. Worse, if you have to retract something you’ve written or add a block of text that writes “Actually, most of this article is incorrect” then you risk losing your reputation as an informed writer.

I’d rather be known for writing about a small number of areas really well than be someone who is regarded as a jack of all trades.