Being Pedantic About Pedanticism

12 January, 2012 09:51PM · 4 minute read

There are many ways in which bloggers, tech writers, journalists and so on, attract attention. I see the following as four sub-types of Journalistic content. The most common is sensationalism, and I think that’s relatively self-explanatory; examples are: 9to5Mac and BGR that publish a significant number of wild, attention-grabbing rumours regularly. Another is aggregatism (news “aggregators” and yes I know that aggregatism isn’t a word yet: I’m making it mine…) extolled by sites like The Verge and Engadget that try to bring all the tech news you may ever want to read into a single web site based on multiple sources including their own internal sources (in some cases). Factism is pure analysis, devoid of opinion and seeks to analyse the facts and only the facts and draw a purely logical conclusion from those facts without bias; a good example of this is Asymco. Then there’s the art of pedanticism and in the context of technology opinions, I would like to explore further. Keep in mind that most news sources produce articles of every different type, however the sites I’ve mentioned I feel as though they tend to produce more of that type of content.

Firstly, let’s be clear about exactly what I mean when I say Pendanticism, that comes from Pedant, “(one) who unduly emphasises minutiae in the presentation or use of knowledge” and minutiae, a “…minor detail” (plural). In this context, someone that points out the most minor aspects of technology products that are both good and bad and talks about them usually at great length. I don’t see this as Factism as it’s not an in-depth analysis but rather picking at minor points of the overall product and focussing solely on them at the expense of other facts that are usually ignored or downplayed.

So what I hear you say? I suppose it’s fine really until one day I was asked on Twitter by a friend what I thought about a particular tech related podcast. My initial response was I thought they were too pedantic and didn’t want to listen beyond the two episodes I had sampled. This generated comments back and forth between the podcaster and even garnered a mention on their next podcast - the year in review. I was challenged to listen to more episodes and give it another chance. When I did, my opinion was unchanged: they were “a bunch of pedants” as they mentioned I had accused them of being.

In line with myself being my own harshest critic, I began re-examining my own choices in PodCasts that I listen to and sites that I frequent. The truth was I listened to plenty of podcasts where the majority of what was discussed was nothing but pedanticism. Some of the best rating podcasts available on the internet contained little but pedanticism. These podcasts attract so much attention because they incited such strong agreement or disagreement with the minutiae they discuss. Some people are passionate about technology (I am, so I understand that) so the pedanticism has had a really positive effect on their popularity.

Think about the other extreme: Imagine a podcast where two people discuss a new smartphone. The dialog might sound like this: “Sony Ericsson released a new phone.” “What’s it called?” “The ‘Sony Ericsson Mesmerize Incredible Pro Prime G2’…” “What’s it like?” “Good” “Just good?” “Yeah, good.” Call the closing credits. Guaranteed it would be less popular than one that enters into a pedantic discussion regarding the ‘clicky-ness’ of the ‘Back’ button on the phone instead.

In the final analysis the issue I had with the podcast in question was that I didn’t like it when the topics under discussion were regarding things I really enjoyed and they were being so ruthlessly, pedantically pulled apart by the co-hosts. Then that podcast is not for me - moving on to the next one. There’s only a limited amount of time in the day to listen to such things anyway.

What I’ve learned is that pedanticism is just a method of attracting a specific audiences' attention. Whether it is intentional or not by the writers/podcasters it has proven to be very effective and made many sites/podcasts very popular. Being called pedantic shouldn’t carry a negative connotation in the sphere of writing and journalism, as it is preferable to most over the alternatives.

All of that said, it should be added that being pedantic in the content isn’t the only ingredient to a good podcast or website but it is an interesting element. I should stop: Now I’m just being pedantic about pedanticism I suppose.

Word counts:

- Pedantic: 5 occurrences

- Pedanticism: 6 occurrences