Do you remember Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when the Reliant ambushes the Enterprise? There is a moment from that nail-biting sequence that seems rather befitting for this article. Just to take you back, the Reliant is slowly, silently, closing the distance between itself and the Enterprise. Lieutenant Saavik turns to Admiral Kirk and begins quoting Starfleet Regulations concerning communication protocol between starships, but she is reprimanded by Captain Spock with “The Admiral is well aware of the regulations.”
Moments later, the Enterprise gets pounded by the Reliant…which they discover has been hijacked by Khan. (Great scene!)
My point is that no matter how much you think you know a subject or topic of discussion, you’d better do your research. It was a hard lesson learned from my first novel. I knew that privateers sailed the world with Letters of Marque, sure; but in my haste to get published and in my haste to tell a swashbuckling epic, I called them “Letters of Mark” in the first printing, a first printing that had me catching a few broadsides from friends and strangers alike. The error was quickly corrected, and since then I have endeavored to get my facts straight.
When my article Myth Plausible: Could Adam Savage Have Avoid Getting Busted by AT&T? ran, I’m thinking I should have endeavored a little harder.
In that article, I asked hard questions about exactly what happened, trying to ascertain if Savage could have avoided the hoopla over his gargantuan bill. I received both praise and condemnation for the column, which I expect when writing them.
The comment that caught me off guard, though, came from Brian who said:
This assumes he was using an iPhone, which he wasn’t: http://twitter.com/donttrythis/status/2349337674 Great reporting.
When I saw this, Twitter was under the onslaught of a DoS Attack; so I was unable to reference the offered link. Instead, I starting surfing back through my resources: Savage’s original tweet (reported by Boing Boing) and a second blog that reported much the same. I was about to fire off a snarky retort when my post-article research returned to TechCrunch. In my skimming, I skimmed by this:
AT&T is apparently claiming that Savage managed to download 9 gigabytes in Canada using his USB data connection (which he calls “frakking impossible“)…
To really add insult to injury, I cited this article in my column. Tee Morris: BUSTED!
I still could take the defensive crouch popular with authors called to the mat, but I’d rather generously apply my head to my desk and say “Good catch, Brian, and I’m sorry.” I did some research, but the amount of time I invested after the article went live should have happened earlier. Do I have a reason or an excuse? My iPhone sure isn’t going to give me one. I could have enlisted the help of Read It Later Pro and set aside articles concerning this matter; and during a lunch break or train commute home, taken a bit more time to read resources other than ones I relied on. I could have also done this with Instapaper Pro, and create folders and subfolders that would organize these other news items and keep my thoughts straight. Either one would have been good choices as my preferred mobile Twitter app, Twittelator Pro, offers integration with them. (So does the new TwitterFon Pro, which I review this week.) Finally, there is Evernote, another research tool I should have implemented. After gaining security in what I knew about Savage and AT&T, I could have gathered up all these links from my pocket-sized Reference Library, organized them in Evernote, and started compiling thoughts and comments for the column. I know many writers that work with Evernote and swear by it.
There’s also Pirate Glossary, an app that would have served me well on that first novel had the iPhone been around then. When Apple makes the claim “There’s an app for that…” they really aren’t kidding.
Maybe there are a lot of “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’s” in this column, but I will step up and say I screwed the pooch on that last one, will work harder to not let that happen again, and take more advantage of what the iPhone has to offer in the way of reference tools. I love what I do as a columnist and critic; and with the various research tools that are out there, I have no reason to not double-check my facts and deliver commentary that you can rely (and reply) on.
Bringing it back to Star Trek II, I ponder on the moment after Kirk outwits Khan. Sulu whispers, “Sir, you did it.” Kirk spins around and snaps “I – did – nothing!” (Yes, it’s quality Shat.) He then mutters, “Simply got caught with my britches down. I must be getting senile.” Kirk then points to Saavik and says, “Mr. Saavik, you go right on quoting regulations.”
So Brian, congratulations — you’ve just received a field promotion in Starfleet to Lieutenant. It’s my responsibility to get the facts straight; but please, fellow iPhone users, keep on quoting regulations. It keeps me on my toes, and makes me a better writer.