Gizmodo isn’t going anywhere. But as you know by now, a bunch of stuff happened involving an angry billionaire and a wrestler, and now our parent company, Gawker Media, is being acquired.
Gizmodo will remain the best publication in the world, or at least top three. But it’s fair to say that next week marks the start of a new period here at Gizmodo, and at Gawker Media. In honor of new beginnings, we decided to look back at the best from our past—by assembling Gizmodo’s greatest work, as so deemed by its former writers and editors, from the pre-acquisition era.
Anyway, that was the plan. But given that Gizmodo tends to hire stubborn, poorly behaved, insurgent little twit bloggers, I ended up getting a big pile of random shit from them. Some of it is eloquent and succinct. Some of it desperately needs an edit. Some of it clearly did not follow the orders laid out in my email. In fact, some of the submissions weren’t even about blog posts or Gizmodo (???) and were therefore omitted, sorry!
Here is what I was able to salvage, in no particular order, from nearly 30 former Gizmodo staffers. And truly: it’s all wonderful. RIP Indie Gizmodo 2002-2016 // Gizmodo 4Ever.
My favorite post was deleted from the main site for obvious reasons, but it lives on on Gizmodo Australia.
This video is overwhelming: the inflatable palm tree, that Simpsons font, the music, the obvious impossibility of making some no-name bluetooth headset “sexy.” The whole thing feels like a mix between a local commercial and a snuff film. The midwest’s own gadget-blogging Larry Flynt, Charlie White, made this, which somehow didn’t make it past the pilot episode. Charlie, where’s episode two??
I submit the day we wrote the entire blog as if it were taken over by the spam worm Conficker.
There’s no real tag but this link should give you a homepage view where these posts start (“DAY OF YOUR DEATH”). They go on for...several pages.
It really reeks of 2009: spam worms (lol), horrible April 1 internet jokes (conficker was supposed to check in and do something unknown and scary on April 1 so there was an EXCELLENT news peg). We also posited that conficker’s origin was an STD carried by Adam Frucci.
The comments were split about 50/50 on those who thought it was funny and those who just wanted it to end. One of the ongoing gags was that we were asking in this weird computer spam voice that people submit their social security numbers in the comments, and Mark Wilson wrote what was maybe the funniest post of the day to me, when he wrote to all the angry commenters as himself, promising to end it all if they all just...commented with their social security numbers. I laughed really hard at that one, but by this point at the end of the day I’d been drinking for some time.
But yes this was truly ART if you ask me. One of my biggest regrets was losing the exceedingly detailed style guide I wrote to all staff the night before. It had tons of spam email text we could pepper in (Gmail spam folders were really incredible around this time, just thousands and thousands of these insane stream-of-robot-consciousness messages which I also wish I would have saved more of). It also had image guidelines and templates (save all JPEGs at 10% quality level, overlay fluorescent green or magenta text if possible). The whole thing would really be a Document with a capital D of mid-2009 spam aesthetic had I not forgotten to save it out of my Gawker email.
It took me a week to pick a favorite post (sorry, Katie) because THERE ARE SO MANY. Giz gave a smart and hilarious group of writers a platform to blog about almost anything through the lens of technology, including cults, bad science, the politician-robot cabal, hating CES, liking CES, drought, smells, underpants, the future(s), and oh—oh, yeah, phones and VR and headphones and gadgets. But I picked this post [Antiques Roadshow Appraised My 2008 Toshiba TV] because it reflects the soul of the blog during a certain era, and also because it’s really funny. And a little bit poetic. /play clowntown.
To me, a good Gizmodo post should have some material effect on the world around us. That effect could be anything from tech support/light detective work provided to a man who made his fortune reblogging instruction manuals to the professional reputation afforded a blogger who fucked a FleshLight strapped to an ottoman. The best, like this post, alloy that real-world-technology with the DNA of the staff. Ostensibly, this is a product test for a G-Form iPhone case which had been marketed as “rugged.” Practically, it’s just a video of Sam Biddle throwing his iPhone off of a roof to obvious, predictable effect. “Your iPhone Will Still Shatter If You Drop It From a Roof with This Super-Case,” the headline offers. True. The case’s makers never made any claim that it wouldn’t (that was the iPad version). Sam, who is an idiot, had not read the box. Sam’s phone, which belonged to an idiot, paid the price for Sam’s incompetence. Sam was not due for an upgrade with his carrier. The blog did just-OK traffic.
There are too many. But one first floated to the surface: Biddle’s 2012 piece about going Wisconsin to take a “tech” bath with Kohler. It’s not the best writing that’s ever been on the site, nor the most ridiculous or insightful or useful, but it was the first piece that felt like young Sam was taking the best things about Gizmodo—freedom to experiment with the form, an open-hearted interest in whatever new technology was sludging through the pipes each day—and exploiting the agency to put himself in the center of a story. It was one of the first times his writing coalesced into the sincere, uncomfortable, and empathetic style that he has continued to develop (primarily via text message). The best thing about Gizmodo has been that it has served as the sophomoric swamp from which a thousand wonderful dumb idiot bloggers have bloomed, and their influence has leached far outside of tech writing.
If you haven’t seen though, it’s worth watching the time brian threw a halo 3 swag bag off his balcony and spoiled the game a day before it was released. (A few weeks later, over a halo 3 competition, we tubgirled the front page of kotaku. It turns out the glory days of gadget blogging was in no small part a bunch of people acting like teenage buttholes!!!! Possibly because we were working 80 hours a week to do things like be the first to post a grainy picture of a new playstation taken from inside someone’s intestinal tract, idk man.)
My favorite post I ever wrote for Giz was about Heaven’s Gate’s still-active website. When I found the site, I wasn’t even thinking about writing something; I just really wanted to buy the book they’re hocking on it. But then when I realized the people selling it were actually true-believers and willing to answer questions, I found my new best friends and am now just waiting ‘til the day I can reach the evolutionary level above human.
Just kidding. The Heaven’s Gate people hate me now, but it was super fun to report and uniquely qualified to live on Gizmodo. Giz is at its best when it takes a broader topic and exposes the weird things that make it tick. Like this post by Kelsey about NiceBooby.Net. (Giz is also at its best when its pissing off commenters, like in this post by Matt Novak that is probably my favorite Gizmodo post of all time, if not simply because Facebook had an aneurysm over the photo caption.)
Iphone 4 prototype scoop: Arguably the biggest gadget scoop of all time. And on the arguable most beautiful iPhone design yet.
CES TV-B-Gone prank: We had too much fun protesting the madness and pointlessness of CES’s parade.
We knew there was no way Apple was going to send us The Watch. Not a chance. Though I’d explained, repeatedly, that every single person who worked at Gizmodo during the “iPhone in a bar” incident didn’t work for us any more, Apple PR wasn’t going to risk Gizmodo’s brand of tell-it-like-it-is.
So after I wrote this post, I followed my own instructions. I stayed up damn late to buy The Watch with my very own money.
The result: at publish, I had the only Apple Watch review that pulled no punches. The only one that wasn’t, in the immortal words of ex-Gizmodo EIC Brian Barrett: “Apple Watch Review: Gonna Be Juuuuuuust Nice Enough To Get Embargoed on Apple Watch 2 Next Year.”
My pick has to be Leslie Horn’s beautiful piece, “You’re Wrong About Voicemail.” It’s a “tech” blog, in that it delves into a piece of modern technology and examines how we use it. But it’s so much more than that. A moving personal story. A humorous, yet poignant insight. A post that, when you’re through reading it, makes you want to pick up your phone and call someone, goddammit, instead of wallowing through four scrolls’ worth of Kinja to find a commenter to peevishly disagree with. When I first read it in 2015, it made me weepier than I aim to be while sitting at my desk; today, re-reading it a year and a half later, it did the same.
It’s too hard to pick an absolute best or favorite, mostly because my memory is shot from years of writing online. But I’ll take this chance to highlight BREAKING: David Pogue Has Lost His iPhone and its 18 updates. There’s a little bit of everything that makes Gizmodo great in there. It started as a dumb joke, just a little one-paragraph Pogue dig with some ironic all-caps urgency. It quickly evolved into serious (and not quite serious) reporting. And a little over five hours later, we actually got Pogue’s phone back for him. As a post, it’s equal parts funny and tenacious. It mocks internet news tropes while excelling at them. And it may be the only time Wagner worked a full day.
Gizmodo is the home of some of the weirdest investigative reporting and essays on the internet, and I want to talk about the week I realized that, because it was the moment I fell in love with my job. In September 2014, I read two meticulously reported, muscular features on the legacies of cults, published within ten days of each other. They were thoughtful, sad, beautiful pieces of writing that told stories I’d never heard before, and I couldn’t believe my luck, because they were published at the place I had just started working. Ashley Feinberg’s “The Online Legacy of a Suicide Cult and the Webmasters Who Stayed Behind” and Matt Novak’s “The Man Who Fought the Synanon Cult and Won” made me understand how special Gizmodo is, and how much support and freedom it will give writers who have a story they want to tell.
It’s so hard to pick a favorite Gizmodo post. I wrote You’re Wrong About Voicemail, my favorite thing I’ve ever published, when I was working at Gizmodo, although (like most of what I wrote while I was at Giz), it wouldn’t have been half as good without the editing skills of the one and only Brian Barrett. After my dad died unexpectedly in 2014, writing was one of the things that really helped me process. I also think that this genre of post, which covers how technology affects our lives in a real, human way, and not in the Silicon Valley ‘we can change the world’ tech jargon way, is one of the types of writing Gizmodo does best.
But Gizmodo’s talents are vast and varied. We used to do something called Battlemodo which was essentially head-to-head testing of the same types of products. Mario Aguilar did these best. Two come to mind in particular. First was the bike lock Battlemodo where he tried to figure out what lock was hardest to crack. I can still see Mario and Joe Brown on the roof of the old Gawker offices with a hand saw trying to cut through a Kryptonite lock. The second Battlemodo I’m thinking of almost killed Mario. It was the best e-cig battlemodo, done back when e-cigs were a new and novel thing, of course since they were technically a gadget, Mario tested them. And testing them requires smoking them. Smoking a whole freaking lot of them. I believe this allowed Mario to quit smoking, but he did pick up an e-cig habit along the way.
By the way, have you, like me, been wondering what’s going on with the girlfriend body pillow? Barrett gives periodic updates, andcontinues to do so on Kinja even though he’s moved on from Gizmodo. That’s commitment right there.
Before I came to work at Gizmodo, the post that I always loved the most was the one where Kyle Wagner helped David Pogue find his iPhone.
I remember watching this unfold live as the updates got appended to the headline. Forget the fact that it might possibly have been a bad idea to mount an international crowdsourced search for the lost iPhone of the country’s most famous technology critic. Here was a tiny green dot on a map and a determined community of commenters—including Pogue, who eventually gets into the comments himself. But the is-this-really-happening commentary also marks an important turning point in our relationship with our gadgets. Yeah, Gizmodo helped find a phone (I mean Gizmodo is just generally good at finding lost iPhones, right?), but this idea that a bunch of people on the internet could organize to do that—for better or worse—is part of the conversation we’re still having today about privacy that’s gone way beyond phone-tracking features. This Gizmodo story became an early and important part of that conversation. Also important: Repeatedly making fun of David Pogue for using Lockerz.com.
When I worked at Gizmodo I got to write a lot of important stories, mostly about the wonderfulness of cars. But none of it was as good as this single headline:
Finally, I have to give a shout out to this post from last week:
This is Gizmodo at its best—and that includes the exquisitely reported Facebook exposé that motivated Facebook to throw this kind of laughably obvious shade. Within a few hours of Facebook posting anti-clickbait changes to its algorithm that were illustrated by a fictional post on “GizmoTecho,” Gizmodo had purchased the gizmotecho.com URL, set it to redirect to its skewering Facebook story, AND created a Twitter account for the post’s author, Larry Brittain (which is, interestingly, an anagram of “arbitrarily”). What’s even more hilarious than Gizmodo’s commitment to the gag, however, is the fact that one of the largest tech companies on the planet is blatantly suggesting that it’s going to bury the content of the blog that wrote negative stories about it! Pretty hilarious, right?
Joel Johnson’s defense of Gizmodo writers from accusations of bias rung really true to me in a way that I think anyone who has faced ire in the comments can relate to. But it was also so Giz: full of voice and passion, fuck-you-opinionated, and consequences be damned.
Here’s a very old one! My pal from Wired, Brian Lam, had departed to go take over Gizmodo. And frankly there was a big part of me that wondered why. Why would he leave a prestigious, established publication where he was well-respected and on a solid career track for a start-up tech blog? This answered my question. It was utterly delightful and devil-may-care in a way that, if you know Brian, is pure Blam. And the last line in the video is *DELICIOUS*
The iPhone 4 story, for all its fallout and the hand-wringing it inspired, remains the tech scoop of the century. Nothing else comes close. Jason Chen completely undid Apple’s veil of secrecy around its upcoming iPhone launch at a time when the company was at its most leak-proof.
I truly loved this Ashley Feinberg catchup on Heavens Gate and the webmasters that were left behind. It was a “hiding in plain sight” kind of story (who still pays those bills?) but Ashley did an amazing job reporting it out, and telling the story of a once notorious, now all-but-forgotten, suicide cult whose history was deeply embedded in the internet itself.
I wrote this! It good! Have insight!
Finally, I remember filing this story to Joe Brown and walking away because I was so nervous about it. I think I said something like “hey, I wrote this thing and it’s really weird, and, uh.... bye.” I came back like an hour later, still deeply hungover, and half expecting Joe to be pissed I’d wasted my time on this. Instead he was smiling and asked me to go back in the bathroom and take the photo that appears at the top. I still get the occasional comment about this one.
Every gadget blog in the world gets a daily wave of dull PR pitches and pathetic junket invites, but only Gizmodo gave me the opportunity to say yes to one and turn it into something worthwhile. I don’t think there’s any other publication that would’ve let me write an article about flying to Wisconsin to take a bath, and that’s why I will always love Gizmodo.
Update 08/09/2016 10:27 AM: My favorite Gizmodo moment of all time is Brian Lam throwing a promotional bag of Halo 3 bullshit off a balcony and then immediately spoiling the end of the game, which I don’t even think was out yet. There was a halcyon period when writing on the internet didn’t require being beholden to a bunch of extremely loud whiners on Twitter and Reddit. The video was literally named “Halo 3 Fanboys Eat Shit”! It was a lovely gesture to both PR dumbness and tech/gamer diaper babies.
Update 08/09/2016 10:29 AM: Oh also please add that the iPhone 4 scoop was the greatest tech reporting coup of all time and I literally don’t think it will ever be topped, anywhere, by anyone.
God I fucking love this review of Will.i.am’s Puls smartwatch that Ashley wrote. Ashley had been on the very real and important “God damn it Will.i.am is a real moron” beat for a while, and the wonderful culmination of it all was this deservedly vicious of immolation of a device that was practically a parody of itself from the start.
This gadget (and Will.i.am, really) is such giant target to punch upwards at that it’s almost impossible to miss, and what I love about Gizmodo at its best isn’t just that it hits, but that it hits hard and directly to the kidney. Look behind the terrific insults and you’ll find a detailed, point-by-point evisceration of the gadget’s design and features, a level deeper than just hammering on its self-evident dumbness. It’s a kind of critique you can only get when a team is devoted to learning its tech fundamentals and also allowed—and encouraged—to practice its technique with the flamethrowers in public and on the regular.
You can think of this post as plain, simple, dumb fun. But it’s also a great idea, wonderfully written, and still makes me laugh a couple of years on.
I grew up reading the words of Gizmodo; its humour and writing style influenced me more than anything else, and I’m still so proud I was able to work with people such as Jason Chen, Mark Wilson, Biddlesworth (sozzlepops), and Waggles. My favourite Giz stories were the unique takes we took on the churnalism every other tech site ran (see: Chen’s Palm Pre review, which featured a video of him cutting a block of cheese with it), stories from the edge of what could possibly be deemed a tech story (see: my favourite-ever protégé, who I will no doubt work for one day, Chris Mills’s review of electricity-flavoured vodka), and the stories that were nixed, but had more words written about in our group IM than the blog post would’ve contained, such as the algae lamp).
jeezus. h. christ. i can barely remember what i did this morning. how am i supposed to remember anything from 2012, katie!?
Look, I wrote a ton of stuff during my time at Gizmodo that either bombed or met whatever arbitrary traffic goal we were supposed to hit at the time in order to keep our jobs. Like the time I wrote about the demise of The Daily or the time I just felt like pissing off PlayStation fanboys. But I also broke the news of Under Armour’s bra for your feet. And let’s not forget the woman who had an epic meltdown at an Apple Store in LA that we all couldn’t stop watching.
But the most Gizmodo story was definitely our expose on what YouTube considered art versus porn. We unpacked the topic and found some interesting things about YouTube’s process of determining what is and what isn’t art when it comes to nudity. But really, it was fun to see all the music videos we’d flagged with nudity be taken down within minutes of being included in any one of the stories about the subject. In particular was Sigur Rós’ Fjögur píanó that starred Shia LaBeouf that the entire music industry apparently used as a benchmark for what was porn versus art. Sorry Shia. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Nothing says Gizmodo to me than a funny-as-fuck irreverent gadget review. I don’t give a shit about the Sony Smart Watch. But it’s hilarious and honest and to the point. You don’t see that much in tech reporting. It’s why I loved Gizmodo as a reader back in 2004, and it’s what made me love working there years later.
Working for Gizmodo literally changed my life and made two of my greatest dreams come true. I’m not exaggerating. If I had to pick one of the stories I wrote I’d probably go with the time we reverse-engineered Four Loko. I had started our Happy Hour column a few months before and one day a giant box of Berocca tablets arrived at Giz HQ for some reason. We were looking at all the insane ingredients in it and Sam Biddle, who sat across from me, said, “I wonder if you could make Four Loko with this.” Bingo! Four Loko had just been pulled from the shelves because it was the scourge of the nation. But lo and behold, add a little malt liquor, vodka, Kool-Aid, and sugar and we had Faux Loko, which tasted just like the real thing and caused people to make all the same bad choices. We served it at an official party and everybody got blackout drunk. One alum was lying on the floor of the bar while another nearly got into a fist-fight at a pizza place on the way home. That epitomized Gizmodo in those days. Even though it was well-established by that point it still felt like the Wild West.
If I had to pick my favorite Giz story that anybody ever wrote, though, that would be Mat Honan’s fever dream while taking a dump at CES. It was the best piece of writing to come out of CES that year, or any year, and it looked into the dark heart of the shiny-on-the-surface consumer electronics world. It was so honest, so brutal, and so completely crazy. And that’s the thing, I honestly don’t think that any major outlet but Gizmodo would have published a story like that back then. That kind of thing was a testament to the type of freedom afforded its writers and to the site’s mission as a whole. It was a thing of beauty.
I’m a little emo that two other people chose the Kohler junket story. That piece really encapsulated what we were trying to do: pull back the curtain of bullshit. Technology is the native language of the Internet, so the “Tech Blog” is a commodity at this point. Even just saying the phrase gives you such a clear mental picture: a reverse-chron river of pithy headlines about shiny objects that you brainlessly peruse while cramming a sandwich in your mouth. There is nothing wrong with this—I do it every day, and sometimes it’s a highlight. But Gizmodo became Skynet-self-aware before anyone else—probably when Blam threw that Halo swag off his balcony—and our mandate changed. We were so fiercely devoted to not pandering to our readers, and, whenever possible, illuminating the machine behind shiny objects.
Another great example of this was our iPhone 5 review... written nearly a year before the phone even came out. We had an intern make up a shitty cardboard mock, shot arty video, and wrote up a pretty thorough review. And you know what, it was pretty close! Again, curtain of bullshit. Instead of worrying about pissing off Apple (they were so pissed!), we put our readers first and did something no one else had the balls to try. There was a spirit of pure journalistic intent at Gawker at that time; and even though our no-fear story selection cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in pulled advertising, Nick and Andrew knew that this same fearlessness was what made us so valuable. I hope that whoever buys Gawker/Gizmodo has the courage to stay true to that core principle. Otherwise, we’re just another gadget blog river feeding an ocean of the same words.
I liked this.
I feel like the best Gizmodo posts I wrote were for my Ashley Madison series last year. As I read about the data dumps from Ashley Madison, I kept finding obscure references to how most of the women in the company’s social network were actually bots. At that time, most of the stories about the dumps were about people were tormenting each other by “outing” would-be cheaters whose names appeared in the company’s credit card records. I had no interest in those stories. All I could think about were those poor bots, and the women they replaced. I vowed to find them, and expose the hidden bot labor that made Ashley Madison’s con game work. With the help of several analysts, I downloaded the dumps and pored over the leaked membership database (or at least the small piece of it that was dumped), the software code, and internal emails. And I found the bots. That’s when the story got really weird.
Brian Lam hired me as Features Editor, but mainly to babysit the eager young bloggers based in New York. I came from old-school journalism, so there was bi-directional culture shock, but we (mostly) got over it. My first success, and still a favorite achievement, was proving that Monster HDMI cables did no better than cheapo Monoprice ones—and doing this with Monster’s own gear...inside Monster’s own HQ.
My greatest accomplishment was launching Taste Test, a celebration of the tech, science and art of what we eat, which in its inaugural week included contributions from and interviews of such notables as Alton Brown, Grant Achatz, Michael Ruhlman, Wylie Dufresne—done with a budget close to $0.00.
My wife’s favorite Gizmodo post is not one that I wrote, but one by Adam Frucci, revealing to dear readers the instructions for a pan flute made from tampons. (Talk about peaking early, Frooch.)
I loved John Mahoney explaining the value of audiophiles (and, by extension, other fanatics), Matt Buchanan explaining why coffee makers represent the best and worst of human engineering, and John Herrman explaining basically everything.
I miss the commenters, whose intelligence outweighed their trolliness. I miss the locker-room chatter in Campfire (pre-Slack, for you youngins). I miss Addy’s early-AM dispatches. I miss Jesus’s blood red Simpsons font photoshopped over anything we damn well pleased. And I miss Brian Lam’s impossible ideas, which would always somehow become possible, then probable, then inevitable.
The entire Symbian tag. Works if you read it chronologically or in reverse.
WebOS tag is also good. Zune tag: obviously good.
Also this still cracks me up
1) It was a clear traffic-grab. It didn’t matter if Adam meant any of this stuff! (Mr. Frucci, reached for comment, said “it took me about 20-30 minutes if i recall correctly.”) And it worked! I don’t know if we still got traffic bonuses then but I hope so. Adam knew how the internet worked then and how it would work in the future.
2) Also it was......................................... mostly right? People got so mad, and then the iPad was a huge hit, and people stayed mad but also became smug. They pointed and said, “wow, that was dumb, as you can see from the sales figures, and Steven P. Jobs.” Anyway look at the list: most of these things are now standard to the iPad, or have been addressed/superseded by equivalent or better features. (Less prescient: the Flash complaint and the “closed App Store”)
The opportunistic complainer was not wrong, maybe by accident. I remember thinking, as an excited new gadget blogger, that we shouldn’t have published this on iPad launch day. In retrospect, it was probably the only one we should have posted.
The Low End Theory was a weekly column by Brendan I. Koerner about the cheap electronics that still filled most of the big box stores in the mid-aughts. He found the best old school beatbox, went to a truck stop to test CB radios, and did a head-to-head comparison of knockoff products from Coby and jWIN. It was a much-needed dose of consumer reality during a time when gadget bloggers were gushing about overpriced phones and MP3 players.