Well, ever since Steve Jobs went skinny (again, that is), the global Apple community and both new and old media have been nuts about speculations around his health.
During the holidays it was quite funny to see a classic butterfly effect in action when Ross and Robert Scoble were… buying yogurt in Palo Alto. “Confirmed: Steve is healthy!” went from a casual comment of the yogurt counter employee to Chinese tech news in just a matter of hours.
Yesterday I was occasionally peeking on a real-time feed by macrumorslive.com covering the MacWorld ’09 Keynote (which was not delivered by Steve any more, as you know). Less than 30 minutes into the session a screaming “STEVE JOBS JUST DIED” note was inserted into the feed – here’s a screenshot:
It took the editors 3 minutes to figure out their system had been penetrated and retract the “news” (but they could not delete it). Then the hackers went over the top spamming with new messages and eventually the whole site was taken down.
As MacRumors is probably one of the most heavily used outlets for non-official Apple coverage, I can only imagine the tweets and posts on the friendfeeds and facebooks of this world that could have been triggered by the naive among readers in those brief minutes. No, I’m not even going to research for this.
I think it would have been wise for Steve had broken his typical radio silence before he finally did to avoid or just to respond early to speculations. Even though no person is really obliged to comment on the matters as private as their health, this rumor mill has become much more unhealthy than it’s subject. Just a few words at the right time direct from the source could have stopped the madness before it begun. A great PR case study in the age of unstoppable instant social media.
I hope Steve has many long and fruitful years ahead of him. And so does Apple, and all the other talented people working there. And the “fanboys” let them to enjoy their ride.