Posts Tagged ‘writing’

They call it “ransackgate”

July 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The “Airbnb horror story” is now being identified by a new twitter tag: #ransackgate.

The “-gate” ending suggests that there’s some kind of scandal going on, something unethical, some kind of coverup. We don’t know yet who’s covering up what, but now that Airbnb investor and Y Combinator founder Paul Graham has weighed in, it’s clear there are some differences of opinion. In his statement on his Hacker News website, Graham essentially said that Aribnb has been offering to help “EJ” all along, as she initially stated on her blog:

I would be remiss if I didn’t pause here to emphasize that the customer service team at has been wonderful, giving this crime their full attention. They have called often, expressing empathy, support, and genuine concern for my welfare. They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD to track down these criminals. (source)

However, in her followup post (the only other comment she has made to date), “EJ” appeared to backpedal on this recognition of Airbnb’s support:

But the staff at Airbnb has not made a positive contribution to me personally or my situation in any way, particularly since June 30. (source)

For the record, I’m not taking any stand as to whether “EJ” is real, or whether anyone robbed her. My beef is with the way this story is being reported. For example, TechCrunch from the start seemed to accept “EJ’s” story at face value:

The facts: Last month “EJ” wrote a long blog post about how a renter spent an entire week carefully robbing and trashing her home. Walls were cut through to get to locked valuables, including her grandmother’s jewelry. (source)

Nowhere in the story is there any questioning of “EJ’s” facts. And followup reporting in TechCrunch does nothing to acknowledge the inconsistencies that Graham points out between “EJ’s” original and later post. Instead writer Michael Arrington chooses to get into a pissing match with Graham.

So far, some of the best reporting I’ve come across is still from the “traditional” media (as represented online). In their original story and latest followup, USA Today contacts primary sources (not just “EJ” and Airbnb, but also the SFPD) as well as other interested parties. They raise questions and attempt to corroborate statements and — most important — generally avoid the echo-chamber like environment of the blogs, which tend to quote (and misquote) each other as a substitute to providing either facts or analysis.

As it stands, in my opinion there are still more questions here than answers. For example, I assume from what I’ve seen that “EJ” is herself a renter. Where’s her landlord in all this? Who is 19 year old “Faith Clifton” who was supposedly in the SFPD’s custody in connection with the robbery? Does she have any connection to “EJ”? Have any of “EJ’s” neighbors (supposedly there were witnesses) come forward to talk about what they heard and witnessed? How did renter “Dj Pattrson” get the key, and did “EJ” ever get it back again? Where are the pictures of the robbery and cleanup? And finally, where’s the timeline of events: was there any gap in time between the dates “Dj” was supposed to be renting “EJ’s” loft and when “EJ” returned from her trip?

Because as any student of scandal knows, a good gap can make for a juicy -gate.

Categories: Essays Tags: , ,

Airbnb Horror Story: Scoop or Scam?

July 28, 2011 8 comments

picture of improperly secured door from The Big LebowskiTo quote Jeff Lebowski, “Look, we all know who is at fault here.”

Or do we?

A month-old story, about a woman named EJ whose apartment was allegedly trashed by an Airbnb user, just went viral, but I think most of the commentary is getting the story totally wrong. And it’s not just the citizen journalists; big-time names like WaPo, perhaps not wanting to be left behind or perhaps due to lax editorial oversight in their online offerings, are also being negligent in terms of some really basic reporting.

Read more…


October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

crossposted at Snarky’s Machine

For several years I’ve considered doing NaNoWriMo. This year I’m going to.

Talking about it with Snarky last night got my juices going. But she’s a writer, she writes all the time (as an aside, I just learned that Nabokov used to write his novels on index cards, I am so keeping the “choose your own ending” story on index cards she gave me earlier this month, for when she’s rich and famous). I tend to dither and edit, a lot of my writing is either computer code or poetry — which I think are pretty similar in a lot of respects, in that they tend to be rather precise and focused and impossible to make sense out of even when they work perfectly.

Anyway, I decided to conduct a test. I started a new Word document and scribbled three lines that had come to me lately. One while walking out the door a few days ago. One based on a comment I made to a friend’s Facecrack entry. And one that I thought of while getting my second cup of coffee. I didn’t give them much thought or editing (not nearly as much as I’ve given this entry, which isn’t saying a lot).

Then I did a word count (drumroll please)… 80 words.

I copied those words and pasted them 19 times to get 1600 words, a bit less than what I’d need to do every day to get to the target of 50,000 words in November. About 5 pages with the generous margins and font size that are my defaults.

Five pages a day. I can do this.

Categories: Essays Tags: ,