So Am I The Only One That Thinks Gawker's Article on Soylent Was Awful?


#1

Problems:

  1. They misspell Rob’s last name. It’s Rhinehart, not Rheinhart.
  2. The entire tone of the article is negative. “Rheinhart rattled off the benefits”; “that Rhinehart concocted in his kitchen”
  3. 4/5 of the ‘feedback’ points were negative, but the best was “My mouth tastes hot and like old cheese.” Tastes like hot? What?
  4. The author of the article compares it to semen in appearance, which is very unfair and damning.
  5. “But what makes Soylent unique, is that it is the first of these “functional beverage” developed for and by young, male tech geeks.” This is what makes Soylent unique? Are you kidding me?
  6. “A number of nutritionists have come out agains [sic] the idea that anyone can live on goop alone.” No link to any of these opinions.
  7. “It’s the same stuff being forced down the throats of the Guantanamo Bay hunger-strikers.” Oh, great. First semen, now guantanamo. So it’s semen that you give to war prisoners.
  8. “The tragic fate of someone with a rare chronic disease caused by radiation expsourein the post-apocalypse.” Sigh.
  9. “Then I took another big gulp of the stuff and my feeble, lasagna-fired mind faltered and I thought of bodily fluids and began to gag, so I dumped the whole thing in the sink.”

I have seen over the course of my time reading extensive amount of internet journalism, products either take off or die because of the early publications and early attention that they’re given. This article on the whole is ignorant, ‘reactionary’ to use Rob’s words, unfair, and gives the entire idea and vision of the product a passing glance, meant to put a bad taste in your mouth (which I think we all know in the literal sense of Soylent can be remedied however you want).

Now, don’t confuse my meaning - journalism in itself is not something one can easily complain about with the hopes of changing anything, the less so with internet journalism. I’m just rather frustrated with the fact that almost all of Rob’s misconceptions that he talks about are at play here.


#2

Yea, the article is pretty terrible, and is very much written with self-reinforced expectations, let alone all the points you’ve mentioned as well. I usually try to stay away from ad hominem arguments, but the writers name sounded familiar, and after a bit of googling it’s very obvious Adrian Chen himself is known for a lot of bashing and negativity. ‘The masses’ seem to give him a lot of flack for his articles, so I’m kind of surprised he’s still on the Gawker team.

If anything, this could be a lesson to Rob & team in dealing with PR; know who you’re dealing with. Don’t expect to talk logistics to somebody looking to tear into you, or even has a reputation for baring their teeth. Print interviews can almost entirely be done in email if they’re not looking to get video, which also gives the Soylent team records of how the interview played out. Then again, actually maintaining or requiring your own video of an interview can also be used for this purpose.


#3

My understanding is that wise public figures are very careful about what context they appear in. If you feel that appearing in a publication will do more harm than good for your message, you don’t grant them any direct access (interviews, tours, demonstrations, etc.). They may still bash or sensationalize you with an op-ed piece, but it doesn’t have as much impact when they’re not presenting you directly.

What makes it hard is that you want to get your message out to as many people as possible so you jump at any chance to speak to someone with a large audience.


#4

In Rob’s place, I’m sure he was probably very excited to talk to Gawker, and likely left them feeling very disheartened. Part of me says that he wasn’t as disheartened as most would have been as he already knows well enough about the common misconceptions surrounding a product as radical as Soylent.

For myself, most when asked about me would say that I never shut up about the newest super interesting thing that I’ve found. I will go around and talk to anyone and everyone about geology, astronomy, technology, automotive technology, biology advances, nanotech, chemistry, and more.

Soylent I’m telling no one about until I can show that I have been using it for a sustainable period of time and that it works. Works, meaning, I am effecting all of the benefits that I expect will happen - reduced weight, higher energy, more patience, and in general, that I am healthier because I am getting the full nutrition profile that I need every single day, which if I was on normal food, I almost never would - and that’s if I was conscious about what I was eating, which for 99% of my life I haven’t been.

I believe in Soylent. I’m dead excited to use it. I was boiling over with frustration - not even at the article - but at the attitudes that the article was spawning in the comments. I had to close the article, I couldn’t continue reading them.

While I know that Soylent works and while I know that it will be beneficial for multiple reasons, I feel that the best way to actually win someone to my way of thinking (to use Dale Carnegie’s terms) is to say “it works because I’m living proof”.


#5

This is such a great quote. :smile: Where do I sign up for this delicious nectar of the gods?


#6

As someone knowing almost nothing about Soylent beside some posts that appeared on Hacker News I didn’t find the Gawker article very aweful. Yes, it made fun of the creator and compared it to semen, but it’s Gawker. They always do stuff like that. On the other side they gave a lot of interesting information on what it is and how it works. Could be worse.

(Signed up here just to give you this outside view - and test Discourse :wink:


#7

Even if we have to accept that not all reviews will be positive, I found Gawker’s very unprofessional and agree with OP.

They focused too much on soylent’s flavor, which is subjective, a secondary concern and most soylenters will add their own choice of flavorant anyway. I wouldn’t mind that much the semen reference if he didn’t reiterated on that several times through the article. Saying the gagged because he found the flavor disgusting? Totally OK, taste is personal. Saying that he gagged because he couldn’t avoid thinking of Semen sounds like he needs constant reaffirmation if his masculinity.


#8

I ran across this after showing the article to a friend - and I think you’re overly worried about the potential marketing implications. AFTER reading the article I purchased a weeks worth, and the friend is planning to purchase as well. It isn’t an overly complicated product that needs proper explanation - and obviously it doesn’t really matter how it’s presented. I laughed at the ‘semen’ reference, yet still purchased because of NON-SUBJECTIVE aspects of the product. That’s what the purchasing decision was based on. I think most Gawker readers know what they get into in a Gawker article, they know they are out for some laughs, the know it’s highly opinionated (often negative or pessimistic), and at the end of the day know that if they want to know more they better look elsewhere for objective content. I wouldn’t have known about the product if it weren’t for the article, and the amusement of the article made it all the easier to share - so others can also make up their mind objectively, based on the product and not the article about it.

I think the fear in here is overblown - why don’t you put up some analytics of the site post article? How many hits did you get? How many more orders? For being concerned with objectivity this would be useful to see if it actually had a negative impact or not.

The bottom line in my opinion is the target audience - if you’d had Matt Lauer guzzling this stuff yesterday morning while talking it up, I wouldn’t have seen it, and wouldn’t have bought it. Yet I did from the Gawker article. I’m not say Matt Lauer guzzling something that looks like semen wouldn’t have been amusing and wouldn’t have resulted in more funding, I think it’s just a matter of getting ‘buzz’, and you got that with the Gawker article.


#10

Didn’t like the article at all, clearly biased although one expects this from gawker, I don’t it will affect the momentum at this point; I am trying to promote the idea in Malta but till now no success, this is a conservative country with a craze for unhealthy food! after the exams I’ll work on my own variant of soylent based on Rob’s but on ingredients found locally and see what I manage to do


#11

I myself am not all that familiar with Gawker and its journalistic integrities. I’m glad to see that because of its infamy, most who take an interest in the concept will not take the article very seriously.

I also understand the concept of ‘no press is bad press’, which, in your case, @shane_fenton, the Gawker article actually spurred you to become involved with the project because you had made up your own mind about it. Despite this, I have seen many instances in which a product that was perhaps ‘not ready for its time’ is killed due to bad press.

Either way, I’m glad to see that the responses here were so positive. :slight_smile:


#12

It’s Gawker, those folks write to the lowest common denominator. Clearly, he saw a hook with the semen line and tried to get it in there as much as possible. Gawker reminds me of the online Entertainment Tonight. Sure, there will be a bunch of idiots that are turned off to Soylent as a result of the article. Anyone remotely able to do basic critical thinking will ignore the adolescent remarks and start their own research and make up their own minds. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised “semen” wasn’t in the title to grab more clicks.


#13

By definition, a ‘Gawker’ is some dumb idiot who just stands there and stares (Gawking). SO that says a lot.
I guess it’s another one of those people who decide not to investigate the ideas and weigh it up, they just take an ‘anti’ stance right away. When I tell people I know about it, they scoff for a few minutes and quote the usual concerns, but after I explain it, they take more of an interest.


#14

Agreed - a definite negative slant. Not quite real journalism, which should be objective.


#15

So, you’ve just discovered Gawker, then, eh? It’s because of articles like that that I stopped visiting them willingly long ago.

To their credit, though, I would not have believed this Soylent project was even remotely real if it hadn’t been featured there. Seriously, calling it Soylent is the most brand-damaging thing they could have done, unless it’s actually all a big joke, in which case, keep it going, that’s awesome.


#16

I disagree. The ‘negative’ connotations of the word are only known to people who know of the film, which is 40yrs old. Even then it’s little more than a bit of a joke - I don’t think anyone is seriously going to think Soylent has been named thus because it actually contains people! - I’d go so far as to say that it’s actually helped raise a lot of interest more than if it had some generic name.


#17

In truth, while I knew of the idea of what the film “Soylent Green” was, I’ve never watched it and don’t care whether it’s called Soylent or not. The argument is simple:

Me: "This is called Soylent."
Them: "Doesn’t that have something to do with drinking people?"
Me: "No."
Them: “Oh, okay.”


#18

Thought it was spot on and brilliant. At least the Gawker folk are seeing thru the precious privileged specialness going on here. This whole thing sounds like a cult where no one is willing to say anything bad and everyone is enthusiastic to a creepy extreme.
It’s only taking off in the geek world because it appeals to geeks. This whole thing is absurd.
Signed,
Ms. Luddite


#19

I’d say for those over forty the whole thing is a joke. To those under forty (way under) it seems to be the coolest thing since American cheese.


#20

Thanks for making it out and providing no meaningful criticism. Calling everyone cultists and nerds is sure to persuade them to your way of thinking.


#21

… I’m not sure if you’re joking, or just Chen trying to defend his own article. But, I’ll go on a little tirade of my own, more or less because others might come across it and find it useful.

If you’ve spent some time on the forums, you’ll notice there’s already a lot of people of varying ages and disciplines interested in the idea. Are the majority of them the typical white, 20s, engineer, male? Probably. But those that fall outside of that range are by no means a small minority, and in fact, are some of the biggest contributors to the discussions.

I also haven’t seen any sort of ‘cult following’ behavior by any means (frankly something I was afraid would happen with the discussions myself, actually). The most active sub-community on the discourse board is DIY because so many are skeptical of the official formula, and would rather handle it themselves. Since the board was created, nearly every update to the ‘Official Formula’ has been scrutinized. As for the DIY side of things, many of these recipes include food analogues, which are almost completely divergent from the original idea of getting everything in raw form.

If you’re looking for people that are outright bashing the whole idea, I think it would be rather foolish to try and find it here. It’d be akin to complaining about how you hate sports in a soccer forum; there’s plenty of internet elsewhere to gripe about things that have no effect on your life, after all. The whole point of the discussion is to answer questions and concerns where they prop up, offer skepticisms and criticisms where valid (hopefully with sources), and, more abstractly, find answers and solutions to the problems inherent in the normal, typical way we eat as it is.