Total and Utter Crap: Gizmodo’s Stupid CES Prank on Motorola and Us Bloggers

I first found out about Gizmodo’s stupidity on ValleyWag a little earlier today; the post read “What’s the difference between a blogger and a journalist? Nothing, says CNET’s Rafe Needleman. But he’s concerned that ValleyWag, using a TV remote control to turn off video screens at the CES 2008 gadgetfest, will get bloggers disinvited to the event next year. After all, CES only grudgingly started accrediting bloggers to the show.”

I had no idea what Owen Thomas, the post author, was talking about, so I went to Gizmodo and took a look…which turned into a moment of wide-eyed horror.

In a post titled “Confessions: The Meanest Thing Gizmodo Did at CES“, Brian Lam – Editor of Gizmodo – basically bragged about committing corporate sabotage. [The emphasis in the following quote was added by me]

CES has no shortage of displays. And when MAKE offered us some TV-B-Gone clickers to bring to the show, we pretty much couldn’t help ourselves. We shut off a TV. And then another. And then a wall of TVs. And we just couldn’t stop. (And Panasonic, you’re so lucky that 150-incher didn’t have an active IR port.)

Added later, evidently after the backlash began, was the statement that “It was too much fun, but watching this video, we realize it probably made some people’s jobs harder, and I don’t agree with that (Especially Motorola). We’re sorry.” [Once again, the emphasis was added by me]

Before you tell me that corporate sabotage is too strong of a condemnation, let me tell you something…

When Jerry and I met with Kensington, I asked a cheeky question that I only half expected to be answered. I wanted to know what it cost to rent a good-sized booth at CES. I was actually a bit surprised when I was given the answer that a company they knew of had been able to buy a last minute available space (due to cancellation) in the North Hall, for $500,000.

If you haven’t been to CES before, then you might not realize that the North Hall is where all the auto stuff is, and for a tech company like Motorola, Samsung, or Sony it would basically be considered Siberia. So in order to get into the Central Hall, which is where all the bad-ass players like those already named and others like Microsoft would be, the amount could theoretically be much higher, especially considering that these booths are usually huge and elaborate. So right there you have the booth investment.

Then you have all of the people who have been hired to come and work, the press coming to your booth to see your products and hopefully write favorable things about them, but then you also have the most important component present – your buyers. The buyers representing companies that might or might not purchase from you, and who must be wooed and basically impressed by how much better your products are than your competitor’s right across the row.

So let’s say that like many companies, you use video to convey your message and to make your booth more appealing. Or perhaps displays are your business, or perhaps you are the CEO of a company about to give an important demonstration to press and potential buyers about your latest product, and video is one of the means you will use in your presentation.

And in the crowd, there is an anonymous jackass who thinks it would be funny to make your company look ill-prepared, unprofessional, or even worse – to make your product look faulty and unreliable.

Granted, the guy from Motorola was a total pro when his equipment seemingly failed. But as a blogger friend who happened to be present on the front row at this exact Motorola speech where the sabotage occurred told me, when the screen went dark his first thoughts were not that someone must be using a TV-B-Gone clicker as a joke. His reaction was a harsh “How dare you Moto for this technicality — totally unprofessional!

That was his impression of Motorola at the time of the snafu and afterwards – until he found out that the presentation had been sabotaged.

This was not just a stupid high school prank that had been perpetrated on a faceless victim. This was sabotage that had been done to companies with massive financial investments in their CES appearances. The potential for lost sales, loss of good will, and loss of face was huge.

To find out that this was a deliberate stunt pulled by a group of delegates from the #2 tech blog in the world…I have nothing but a complete loss of respect. What Gizmodo did was simply wrong and quite frankly, in my opinion immoral.

58 Responses to “Total and Utter Crap: Gizmodo’s Stupid CES Prank on Motorola and Us Bloggers”

  1. Confessions: The Meanest Thing Gizmodo Did at CES 1 Jerry Raia Jan 11th, 2008 at 3:22 am

    I totally agree. What was done here was so very wrong. It was not funny. To cause that kind of disaster on purpose is a terrible thing to do. The only loser here hopefully is Gizmodo.

  2. Gravatar Icon 2 kevinnugent Jan 11th, 2008 at 3:33 am

    Well, if true, I’ll be voting with my feet. I read Gizmodo every day, but after this I will have to re-think my preferences for credible gadget news. It’s one thing to be done by a young staffer, but for the Editor?!?


  3. Gravatar Icon 3 Wayne Schulz Jan 11th, 2008 at 4:48 am

    I totally agree. I was reading about it last night. Worse, if what I read was accurate – the publisher appeared to be backing them up.

    I’m not an expert, but I think this behavior is really a symptom of Me-Too-Blog-Overload.

    During CES I couldn’t bring myself to read any of the blogs (except GearDiary of course :lol: ) that were largely regurgitating “me too” reports of CES.

    So many blogs – reporting on the same story — and more often reporting on each other reporting on the same story.

    This Gizmodo thing was just shameful. I have scorn for one or two other “top read” sites that seem to be trying to relive their glory days by creating thinly disguised (and disclosed) photo shops accompanied by guesses about upcoming Blackberry devices (which are then picked up by dozens of blogs that seem to serve no useful purpose other than to report on other blogs)…

    I am 100% in agreement – what Gizmodo did was wrong and I think they’ll have backlash from it unless they’re remaking themselves into a “college humor’ site..

  4. Gravatar Icon 4 Wayne Schulz Jan 11th, 2008 at 4:58 am

    PS – Another interesting tidbit that I’m scratching my head about is a report that I first saw on Macrumors about how Apple now has 7% of the computer market.

    How’d they measure it?

    Apparently some firm that provides web site analytics, took a list of all browser types accessing their customers sites and concluded that since 7% were Mac users that the market share for Apple was 7%.


    Not a single report that I read online pointed out that this was a measure of the online browser share — and not sales of the product.

    Unless I’m mistaken, the number of people using an Apple machine to browse the web is hardly a scientific indicator of the true market share.

    Even more interesting is Fortune’s estimate that 27% of tech reporters use Mac:


  5. Gravatar Icon 5 Civisi Jan 11th, 2008 at 6:27 am

    Senseless act. What if someone targeted Gizmodo’s website during a live-blogging session of the MacWorld keynote speech? Would that be as funny?

    Gizmodo has lost my support, and I’m unsubscribing from their feed in Google Reader. But hey! There’s always Engadget!

  6. Gravatar Icon 6 gasuz07 Jan 11th, 2008 at 6:44 am

    OMG!! and they thought THAT was funny? I linked your story over on Mobility Site http://mobilitysite.com/2008/0…..-thinking/

    I hope Gizmodo is held responsible…. and not ALL bloggers!
    Susan (aka gasusan2005 on Mobility Site)

  7. Gravatar Icon 7 am_pcguy Jan 11th, 2008 at 6:55 am

    That was funny. It hurt no one. The displays were just turned off. Push a button and they are back on. If nothing else this was a simple lesson in security.

  8. Gravatar Icon 8 Allen Hong Jan 11th, 2008 at 7:37 am

    I got the Ninja TV remote for free from ThinkGeek and the thought never crossed my mind to bring it to Digital Life to do anything like that. What was Gizmodo thinking? :shock:

  9. Gravatar Icon 9 psionandy Jan 11th, 2008 at 9:19 am

    I couldn’t believe it when i read the story… But it was officially sanctioned by Gizmodo. People have (rightly) been fired for less!

    Well that’s it. I officially resign as a Gizmodo reader, and am removing their rss feeds and bookmarks.

  10. Gravatar Icon 10 Doug Goldring Jan 11th, 2008 at 9:22 am

    I saw this post over on Gizmodo last night. Not only a stupid prank, but also stupid to be so excited and brag about it. Talk about one bad apple ruining it for the rest of us.

    I have been watching Gizmo’s downhill slide for a while, but this is a whole new low.


  11. Gravatar Icon 11 dave_p_1 Jan 11th, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more. One wonders what Gizmodo’s reaction would be if Motorola decided to hack Gizmodo’s website?

    This couldn’t happen at a worse time for the blogsphere. Bloggers were getting respect not just in the world of electronics but in other realms such as politics. Gizmodo’s actions just reinforce the old view of teenagers blogging in their parent’s basements.

  12. Gravatar Icon 12 Wayne Schulz Jan 11th, 2008 at 10:02 am

    What’s even more interesting is that Gizmodo and Engadget are owned by corporate parents. Doesn’t AOL own Engadget (and related) while Gizmodo is Gawker Media.

    In any event to pull this stunt and brag about it openly is BS and the greatest punishment Gizmodo could get it not a new staff but for the gadget companies to deny them access to early review units.

    Now wouldn’t that hit their business model right in the front page…

  13. Gravatar Icon 13 himself Jan 11th, 2008 at 10:09 am

    this is a great response to stupidity … i am glad i am your friend and on your side … no one has to say …i wonder what she meant by that … which is my definition of open and honest and not afraid to the consequences


  14. Gravatar Icon 14 tjchan Jan 11th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I saw this post just now from Doug’s email and I AM OUTRAGED.

    As silence means approval, I just felt that I had to state my EXTREME DISAPPROVAL and ABHORRANCE for what Gizmodo did.

  15. Gravatar Icon 15 doogald Jan 11th, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I stopped reading Gizmodo after Brian Lam’s sophomoric “iPhone” announcement in December 2006 (it was teasing the Cisco VOIP handset, but they had the article initially tagged as “Apple” and created a big stir). It had been a bit over a year; I was just about to start looking at them again.

    I guess I’ll keep “gizmodo.com” in my blocked sites list on my router . . .

  16. Gravatar Icon 16 ronaldscott Jan 11th, 2008 at 11:42 am

    I thought the prank was funny. It’s amusing to watch a bunch of self-important bloggers with inferiority complexes terrified that they might be uninvited from one of the biggest wastes of time in the electronics industry jump on the “condemn Gizmodo” bandwagon.

    How about a dose of perspective: Who was injured or killed here? Who lost their job? And at the end of the day, in this huge incestuous echo chamber called the blogosphere, who lost reputation? The average consumers (you know, the ones that Panasonic and Motorola actually care about) have never heard of any of you and make their purchasing decisions based on how many TV commercials they’ve seen. 9/10ths of Americans probably haven’t even heard of CES for God’s sake.


  17. Gravatar Icon 17 Christopher Spera Jan 11th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    here’s a word… FELLONY.

    If I were MOTO and CES, I would file formal charges against Gizmodo, the dorks who pulled the prank, and Gizmodo’s parent company and sue their butts off.

    @ronaldscott, you’ve COMPLETELY missed the point. The point is not what the end result was, the point is that the potential for damage was huge, and it was done intentionally, with mallice of forethought, and with complete disregard for the [potential] consequences to the victims.

    That’s why we have a crime called ATTEMPTED murder. Granted, its not as serious as 1st or 2nd Degree murder; but the scope is the same. The attempt to commit the crime is also a crime.

    Judie hit this dead on. Serious bloggers want to be treated as serious memebers of the press. Gizmodo is/was a huge player in the online press world. Playing a joke like this, doesn’t just damage the direct victim, but it makes victims of every serious blog in the Sphere, as I’m not certain how CES or Motorola will view bloggers now. We’re not all immature kids… Some of us are trying to make (some what) of a living at this…

  18. Gravatar Icon 18 Will Rodriguez Jan 11th, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I had a friend that pulled a prank like this in 8th grade. It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now. I mean I must admit, I do get a short laugh. A short laugh much like when you fall down and hurt yourself and laugh about it an hour later. However, I believe the Gizmodo guys were FAR out of line. I’m guessing they never thought of the fact that the same corporations they just pulled that prank on were their backers. I’m guessing they also never thought that said backers are now unlikely to ever talk to them again. I liked the humor that Gizmodo displayed and it is what drew me to them, but this is just crossing the line.

    Sure this looks bad on bloggers, but that is not why I’m mad. I’m mad because some idiots pulled an idiotic stunt. They lost my RSS feed, my respect, and my visits to their site. Whatever backlash they get, they deserve.

  19. Gravatar Icon 19 Augie Jan 11th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    The ONLY good thing about this is that Gizmodo won’t be at CES ever again. In my opinion, all bloggers won’t be affected by this prank, but who knows what the organizers will do next year. I’m sure this stunt will be bigger news once Gizmodo is taken to court over it.

  20. Gravatar Icon 20 Bjenk Ellefsen Jan 11th, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    These stupid pranks always have repercussions. I have seen good journalists being barred from parliament because of some idiots going to meet MPs with only mischief on their mind. To prevent these things, rules are enforced and everybody pays the price.

    I sincerely hope that next year, CES will remember and that Giz alone is barred from the event. Giz is turning into a personality cult festival for “jackasses”.

    I used to like Gizmodo. Not so sure now.

  21. Gravatar Icon 21 Doug Goldring Jan 11th, 2008 at 3:38 pm


    I have been thinking about your comment all day. At first I thought I would just let you have your say and move on, but the more I thought about that, the more upset it made me.

    First of all, you say that no consumers know who we are. Yet you appear to be a consumer yourself. You managed to not only find your way here, but also took the time to make a comment. Which means that yes, the average consumer obviously does know how to find this site (over 1 million served in just over a year).

    Second, the reason the Gizmodo prank upset me personally. You see (and here I won’t speak for anyone else). I went to school for journalism. I have a BA in English-Journalism from an accredited school. I have been writing on a semi-professional level for most of my life (though my actual profession is attorney). One of my overriding goals in this business is to be seen as a professional writer and member of the journalistic community whenever I interact with software developers, hardware manufacturers and other resellers. For the most part, we do a pretty good job of that. Stupid stunts like the one mentioned in this article do not make our job any easier.

    Third, I contribute as many or more reviews as any writer at Gear Diary, and double as many at Just Another Mobile Monday, where I am the News and Review Editor. I do not take time away from my family and friends, work late into the night, and spend countless hours on the computer just to amuse myself…or because I want to entertain my fellow writers. We are all busy, and yet I feel that what we do here is important. I receive comments and emails from the people behind the products we review every day. I receive comments and emails from consumers every day who tell me they purchased or did not purchase a product because of a review I wrote. And I am sure other writers here can relay similar experiences.

    If you thought Gizmodo’s joke was funny, then that is your prerogative. However, it does not give you the right to assume you know any of us or our motivation for being here and writing these reviews.


  22. Gravatar Icon 22 Bjenk Ellefsen Jan 11th, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Here’s what David Pogue of the New York Times and CNBC had to say about Gizmodo and their “prank”.


    I completely agree with David.

  23. Gravatar Icon 23 NzoMatrix Jan 11th, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Here’s a update with the response from the organizers.

  24. Gravatar Icon 24 runningman Jan 11th, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    My company is in this business, and we have MANY large customers who exhibit at CES whose toys these boys like to play with. They crossed the line. They’re toast in more ways than one; they just don’t know it yet.

  25. Gravatar Icon 25 Kerry Woo Jan 11th, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Let’s forget about the bloggers versus CES and take it down to a basic level.

    You’re invited as a guest in my house, and to pull a prank such as disabling my internet, or my DirecTV while I have guests during a Super Bowl is obnoxious, classless and with zero integrity. And yet, while my guests leave unhappy or disappointed after weeks of planning this party, you leave me hanging with embarrassment.

    And the kicker is, not only you eat my food and drink my beer, but you make a fake jackass apology about it the next day on a blog, versus apologizing to my face. Spineless.


  26. Gravatar Icon 26 Bjenk Ellefsen Jan 11th, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Yeah, looks like The CEA is not happy at all with this and with good reasons. They have barred Gizmodo from future CES events and they are discussing for more sanctions. The CEA is not blaming the bloggers community, only Gizmodo staffers.

  27. Gravatar Icon 27 Bjenk Ellefsen Jan 11th, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    John Biggs, former editor of Gizmodo, has written a post about it as well condemning the prank. http://www.crunchgear.com/2008…..-blogging/

    John has written a very good article.

  28. Gravatar Icon 28 Judie Lipsett Jan 11th, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    John Bigg’s article was very good. The only thing I questioned was when he was saying how hard it was to get a press pass in 2005; Julie and I attended from 2002 on as press (for Gadgeteer) with no problem.

  29. Gravatar Icon 29 Eques-Ardor Jan 12th, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Really nothing funny about it. Some people said the wall of TVs was pretty harmless, but even THAT was wrong, as it left the convention-goers wondering if their products were trustworthy. :

    NOT funny, Gizmodo… I’m really surprised anyone has to tell you not to do something so stupid.

  30. Gravatar Icon 30 Gizmodo Lover Jan 12th, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Want to own a piece of CES history? Richard Blakeley’s Gizmodo CES Badge – $100 http://lasvegas.craigslist.org/clt/536251079.html

    This would make a great edition to the Gear Diary site!!

    I am selling my press badge from CES. It’s a collectors item, there will never be another one like it again because I was banned from ever attending CES again for this prank:

    Confessions: The Meanest Thing Gizmodo Did at CES

    In the past 24 hours this incident has raked in many press mentions and scorn from CES officials who have banned me from ever attending the event again.

    I’m offering this piece of tech history for the bargain bin price of only $100. I lost some serious money on the penny slots and I’d like to go home with something.

    Here is a complete wrap up of the story behind my media press badge and the one I agree with most:

    Valleywag: Gawker staffer banned from CES, “additional sanctions … under discussion”

    Read more here:
    New York Times: Over the Line at C.E.S.
    BoingBoing: TV-Be-Gone mischief at CES
    CNet: Bloggers behaving badly: Gizmodo messes with CES flat screens
    CrunchGear: On Gizmodo’s douchery and blogging
    Beltwayblogroll: Grow Up, Gizmodo Goofballs
    Mobility Site: Gizmodo: What were they thinking?
    Gear Diary: Total and Utter Crap: Gizmodo’s Stupid CES Prank on Motorola and Us Bloggers
    ZDNet: How to temporarily “kill your television”-and everyone else’s, too
    ZDNet: Gizmodogate: Get a sense of humor folks
    Tech.co.uk: TechBloggers disrupt CES but prank backfires
    Austin 360: Gadget site rattles trade show with TV prank
    ZDNet: Gizmodo prank trashes CES presentations
    Fake Steve Jobs: Gizmodo admits blasting out TV screens at CES
    Scripting: The debate about the worth of podcasting
    MacDailyNews: Video: Gizmodo turning off TVs – lots of TVs – at CES
    CNet – CEA’s take on CES Gizmodo prank: Banned!

  31. Gravatar Icon 31 Will Rodriguez Jan 12th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    … You’re kidding right?

  32. Gravatar Icon 32 Judie Lipsett Jan 12th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Nope. As you can see there is no respect, there is no remorse, no sense of responsibility, and absolutely no character.

    The picture of Richard Blakely in his underwear just takes this all to a whole new level of exactly my point. :roll:

  33. Gravatar Icon 33 ronaldscott Jan 12th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    @Doug Goldring:

    Look, this is actually an important issue to me. It strikes right to the nature of what blogging actually is and why blogging has any right to exist.

    Why is “blogging” distinguished from “journalism?” Are they one and the same thing? The answer HAS to be no. If blogging = journalism, then we might as well just go with big media and let the whole grassroots phenomenon die.

    I submit that what blogging, especially industry blogging, has going for it is its independent status. Its personal nature. Being an outsider allows for an honest, opinionated perspective that readers can’t get anywhere else. The state of industry journalism really boils down to a neverending series of PR pieces written by industry employees and regurgitated by major publications. Blogging offers something separate from that: it’s like sitting down with your early-adopter co-worker at lunch and hearing about the latest unlock hack for the iPhone and what it lets you do. It’s something you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a fresh voice.

    Part of that personality and independence needs to be, HAS to be, a style of irreverence and first person narrative and humility that I see vanishing from these blogging congloms like Gawker a little big more each day. It broke my heart when all the Gawker blogs started to write in the third person. “We” sounds so dumb as a replacement for “I” in a blogging context–it is a transparent attempt at real “journalistic” standards that rings utterly false and isn’t what I, for one, look for when I turn on my RSS reader.

    The people who read blogs, maybe 2 or 5 percent of the general population, are the tastemakers. They are the very ones that industry PR people want to reach most. They’re those early adopters, those word-of-mouthers that drive what other people are talking about. They’re buzz funnels. They’re not Joe Consumer–Joe Consumer has vaguely heard of something called “blorgging” from his college-going cousin Jake, and doesn’t want any part of it. He gets his consumer electronics info from Fox News and the Sears salesman. And from Jake, of course, which is why blogging is important in the first place.

    My point is that blogging doesn’t exist because of, or get its street cred from, the consumer electronics industry. Its reason for existence, and its source of success, is its readership. Pandering to the readers is fine. Pandering to the industry is bad. The industry NEEDS bloggers and it’s not because they respect you (directly) that they are giving you access you didn’t once have. It’s because they want to reach your readership. And your readership is there precisely because you aren’t acting like the New York Times technology page. Of course you, and others, got where you are because of hard work. You are to be respected for your accomplishment. But your readers are your cred, not your industry relationships. Form too many of those and you risk being exactly what you were once a grassroots movement against.

    The self-righteous, industry-ass-kissing outcry from the blogging community about this incident is missing the point completely. You’re not going to lose access because of this, and it doesn’t reflect on blogging poorly. It doesn’t endanger anything. Remember, the industry doesn’t love you for your good looks or your well-muscled thighs. They love you for your readership, and they aren’t going anywhere because of a silly, sophomoric stunt. They’re here BECAUSE of that stuff.

    Come on, that moment when all the TVs on the entire Panasonic wall turn off? That is really, really damned funny. You’re telling me you didn’t even smile at that? That moment when the Motorola conference was disrupted? Not so funny, just because I personally feel bad for the presenter. Motorola can suck it though. They’re just another huge ruthless corporation, not a person.

  34. Gravatar Icon 34 Bjenk Ellefsen Jan 12th, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Gawker Media is turning this into a statement: The corporate world are a bunch of stiffs and boring people and CES is a boring event. The world need the wisdom of these “jackasses” to show them how to clown your way to the good life.

    However, why send anyone at all to CES if they think so little of it? I don’t think I need to get a cream pie in my face by some kid who thinks so highly of himself to enlighten me. On Valleywag, a post was even written on how they had a year to think up the next stunt. All for the higher mission of teaching this boring and serious world to pay attention to a few kids that have nothing to say but want into the media industry. Yeah, farts, boobs, babes, pranks and humiliating people in public will get you traffic and attention. However, don’t lecture everyone on how we don’t get it and how the corporate executives “need” your wisdom when they bite back.

  35. Gravatar Icon 35 Will Rodriguez Jan 13th, 2008 at 1:42 am

    @ Ron

    I actually agree with the first part of your response. However, I would not say that bloggers are reacting in defense of the corporations. You have to remember, were it not for those corporations bloggers wouldn’t have all the gadget reviews, insider information, and various other assets which makes our blogs worth reading. Logic dictates that if you want someone to give you something, you don’t make them mad. I never thought that this would discredit bloggers in general, however, it doesn’t make us look good either.

    Speaking of looking good. You mentioned how bloggers now try to act like journalists. The idea behind the journalistic style is to convey knowledge and look credible. Whether a writer writes for a blog or a newspaper, credibility is always a priority.

  36. Gravatar Icon 36 boingo Jan 13th, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Calling this a “prank” amazes me. It’s a “prank” when you turn off your dorm mates TV.

    Many of these vendors have more than a million dollars invested in doing these shows – and the fate of their company might be riding on one or two large investors watching these demos.

    Here’s the next “prank” you can try – during the next Superbowl how about if you cut the ABC transmitter cables during a multi-million dollar commercial break. Won’t THAT be a hilarious “prank?” (Until, of course, the FCC puts you in Federal slam for 20 years… but that’s just part of the fun – right guys!)

    This isn’t your dorms TV room – there are peoples’ JOBS on the line, peoples’ FUTURE on the line, entire companies on the line.

    One final point: If you were actual ‘journalists’ you could have just held up the device, explained what it did, and then joked about all the damage you ‘could’ have created if you were ‘actually’ irresponsible amateurs.


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