Knives Out! The Best Knives In America

By Matthew Rudofker

At the end of the day, the things that make cooking meaningful to me are taking the time to understand my craft and taking pride in what I do. When I was seventeen and working at Striped Bass in Philadelphia, for instance, I told the chef I wanted to learn how to butcher fish; he spent five hours talking fish with me. It’s something I’ll never forget. I wanted to learn everything I could about what I worked with back then, and I turned my attention to the most basic and essential of kitchen tools: the knife.

Knife-sharpening is not just rubbing your knife against a steel or a stone. Most cooks really have only the barest comprehension of how to maintain a blade. It isn’t magic, but it’s only achievable once you understand what a blade is, what the stone is, and what’s happening when the two come together.

My quest to learn more has turned into an obsession — learning about knives led to wanting to learn even more about knives — but it’s an obsession that’s opened doors to new relationships and enriched my life. Many cooks have a blind loyalty to Japanese or German knife manufacturers, while right here in this country there are knifemakers who are doing exciting, significant things. They spend years learning how to master different steel alloys (like 52100, an American mix that makes a strong, resilient knife; or Hitachi white, a Japanese blend that can be sharpened to atom-splitting fineness). They understand that millimeters mean a lot when it comes to how a knife performs and fits in the hand, and they make knives that are the embodi- ment of that knowledge. They forge, heat-treat, and sharpen with the best of the rest of the world, preserving and pushing forward an almost forgotten craft in the era of the machine-made knife.

Their knives start at around $500 and take off from there. But nobody’s getting rich off them: most of these makers are just getting by. A lot of them have secondary jobs to support their love of metalworking. It’s truly a labor of love, a lost and misunderstood craft — one that I feel is worth supporting.

For my last vacation, I went out to the West Coast and spent two days in Olympia, Washington, with Bob Kramer. We hung out, talked metal, talked knives, and I got some hands-on experience forge-welding a knife while he watched and helped.

You can’t talk about American knifemakers without mentioning Bob Kramer. Bob was a chef before he started sharpening and maintaining other people’s knives. He was the first person who started making high-performance cutlery in America, and his handmade knives are the hardest to get and by far the most expensive per inch. He just recently made it through his wait list, which was more than three years long.

There are only a few ways to buy his knives now: from someone who already owns one; via charity auctions through his website; or via a lottery in which Bob draws random e-mail addresses from a pool. You get to order one knife from him. Ever. That’s it.

Henckels is doing a line of Bob’s knives now. The knives are a factory-produced version of his straight-carbon steel. They’re great-performing knives. It’s a way to get a Kramer without paying the high end prices. But he’s not making a killing on them. This really is a job you do as a passion, not because you make good money.

Devin Thomas is in Panaca, Nevada, and best known for his Damascus steel. He makes knives from his own Damascus, and also sells billets that other knifemakers use. Making Damascus takes a very deep understanding of how layers of different metals come together. While much of the draw of Devin’s Damascus comes from the visual attractiveness — think lots of intricately patterned steel — it also performs. Devin’s mono-steel knives are some of the best-performing knives on the market today. He’s continually searching for more complex steels, optimal heat treatment, grinds, geometry, and profile to gain the highest level of performance.

Bill Burke from Idaho is another top-end guy. Before he got into full-time knifemaking, he was a butcher. He was making hunting knives until 2002, when he made a set of kitchen knives for a knife show in California. They were very well received, and from that point on, he was hooked and wanted to dive deep into the construction of san mai blades for kitchen knives. Now Bill’s well-known for his work with san mai, which is a soft layer of steel welded outside a harder steel core. 52100steel is his bread and butter, and he’s spent a lot of time perfecting his heat treatment to get the best results. He also does some work with Damascus.

Bill probably does fifty to a hundred knives a year, at most. Guys like Bill will make multiple versions of the same knife before they’re ready to put their names on a product and send it out.

Michael Rader, who’s based in Bothell, Washington, started out as a swordmaker and began crafting kitchen knives in 2006. (He studies a variety of martial arts, which makes sense for a swordmaker.) Michael uses a lot of high-carbon steels like 52100 and 1086, but he also does work with Damascus.

Michael has been able to take his knives to another level by working with knife users to improve his blade geometry and profile. There are a handful of professionals and home cooks who use a lot of knives and understand them in great detail. They can really help a maker improve. To get a better understanding of knives in action, he sent his knives out to a bunch of those people and asked them for feedback. He opened himself up to criticism, but it was a risk that’s paid off.

Another thing about Michael is that he’s one of the best woodworkers I’ve seen. His handles, presentation boxes, and attention to detail are in another league.

Murray Carter is a newly naturalized U.S. citizen (formerly a Canadian) who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon, outside Portland. He spent eighteen years in Japan training to be a bladesmith. Unlike the other knifemakers, Murray only uses Hitachi steels from Japan. Recently, he’s decided to use only shirogami (white steel), and he’s focusing on perfecting his heat treatment of it. Murray makes several different lines of knives; at the highest level are the Pro Series knives, which are very well finished, with every detail taken into account. He also makes knives that are of a lower fit and finish level (they’re less expensive, but they’re by no means worse knives). If I were to buy another knife from Murray, it would be from his High Grade or SFGZ lines. When I think of a Murray Carter knife, I know it’s going to be a great, pure cutter. His knives can just flat-out cut better than almost anyone else’s. Murray also produces more knives than the other guy — he can crank them out — and you can actually get them just by going to his website.

Art by Joshua Burwell

“Knives Out!” by Matthew Rudofker, the chef de cuisine at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, has been reprinted with permission from the Summer 2012 issue of Lucky Peach, published by McSweeney’s. It’s available for purchase here. Subscriptions are available here. You can also follow Lucky Peach on Twitter.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/luckypeach/knives-out-the-best-knives-in-america

Everything You Need To Know About iOS 6

1. iOS 6 will make your phone and iPad do a lot of cool new little things.

2. Siri does more stuff now.

– Siri can answer questions about major league sports scores and player stats. How tall is Lebron James? I don’t know or care, but I could ask Siri if I wanted to.

– Siri’s integrated with Yelp and OpenTable. So using it to find a restaurant isn’t completely pointless anymore. And she knows what movies are playing at theaters, with built-in trailers.

– Siri can launch apps. And Tweet. Here come the driving-while-your-tweeting tweets.

– Annnd automakers are going to build a Siri feature, Eyes Free, into their cars over the next 12 months. Siri is the new iPod connector.

4. There’s a new mail app

Mostly you’ll just notice pull-to-refresh

6. Facebook everywhere

– Facebook’s built into all of the main apps, like Safari, Photos and Maps. Posting webpages and photos is just like tweeting them out with Twitter in iOS 5.

– It’s integrated with Contacts and Calendars. So Facebook birthdays show up in your calendar and it adds data to your address book.

– It’s even built into the App Store and Notifications Center. So when you pull down notifications, you can tweet or post to Facebook from there — in other words, there is no escape. And you can Like apps in the App Store.

– You can reply to phone calls with canned text messages. Or with custom ones. “STOP CALLING ME JERK.”

– Do Not Disturb is the best thing to happen to smartphones ever. Basically, your phone doesn’t bother you with calls or messages or notifications for set periods of time. But the controls are incredibly fine-grained, so certain people can get through, or if somebody calls you multiple times quickly — indicating it’s an emergency — you can allow them to get through as well.

FaceTime calls over cell networks. No more being shackled to Wi-Fi. Plus! Apple’s finally connected Apple IDs to phone numbers, so you can answer calls to your phone number on your Mac or iPad. Which I’m hoping fixes iMessages too.

10. It’s much easier to share photos now

– You can upload photos to websites from Safari now. It’s wonderful when something from computing circa forever ago is a new feature in 2012.

– Shared Photostreams is a bigger deal than it sounds like. Apple’s effectively letting you create ad hoc social networks: You pick some people, you pick some photos, and the photos show up in their Photo Stream automatically, or they can look them on the web. This might be the one Apple social network that isn’t a tragicomedy.

12. Oh, and panorama shooting is built right in. It’s pretty solid!

13. Your phone will work like a wallet, sort of

– A new app, Passbook, holds passes and tickets for all kinds of things. Boarding passes, movie tickets, loyalty cards. Um, how long before you can throw in your credit card??

– It supports QR codes. Ew.

15. The new maps are… well, they’re new

– The old Google-powered Maps is dead. Apple built this new app from the ground up.

– Local search is built into Maps. Powered by Yelp, you can pull up info on over 100 million locations, like reviews and hours.

– There’s a new Traffic service with live data. It shows traffic slowdowns, accidents and construction along your route and automatically re-routes you to save time.

– It’s got turn-by-turn navigation with quick routes. That whistling sound you here is the stock price of navigation companies, dropping.

– Whizbang 3D maps with full three-dimensional models of cities all around the world. It’s called Flyover, and it looks real neat.

– Siri is built-in. So you can do a lot of stuff from the lock screen, and ask things like where to get gas.

But, well, it’s no Google Maps. It’s prettier, and the 3D stuff is nice. The turn-by-turn navigation was very, very rough in early betas, but now it’s pretty trustworthy — about as good as most dedicated apps. For people in cities, though, the lack of transit directions is a big problem. There’s really nothing: In New York, for example, you can’t even tell which trains run at each station, even though the stations are on the map.

Maps is the biggest new features here, and it’s mixed bag. I’ve been using it for a couple months now and I miss Google Maps.

17. Oh, wait, I almost forgot the most important one: new Emoji

Adapted from this post

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/everything-you-need-to-know-about-ios-6

The Man Behind The World’s Largest Light Sculpture

Leo Villareal is sitting outside in the dark, hunched over his laptop. He’ll be sitting this way every night for the next three weeks. But he’s not terribly focused on the glow in front of him. He’s concentrating on the 25,000 individually programmed LED lights across the water, which make up the largest light sculpture in the world.

The LED artist and his team finished installing lights along the suspension cables spanning a 1.8-mile section of the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco and the East Bay, almost a month ago. (The lights are only on the west-facing side and won’t distract drivers.) Right now, he’s tweaking the software algorithms that dictate the movement patterns of the lights, which will be on display for the next two years. He has until March 5, when the installation, The Bay Lights, officially opens.

Villareal’s algorithms are inspired by the environment around the bridge — the currents, weather, wildlife, and traffic from cars and boats. “I have been up on cable walks, but it is very much of a loose artist interpretation,” says Villareal. “I’m not literally using any sensors or making scientific visualizations. If you want to think of it from a technology perspective, as the artist, I am the sensor.”

One of the biggest challenges is making sure the Bay Lights work from every perspective — from the vantage point at the foot of the bridge or across the Bay in Sausalito. The final product will feature simultaneous layers of various sequences played in random order for a random amount of time. “You will never see the exact same progression twice,” explains Villareal. “You might recognize certain sets of patterns, but there is no beginning, middle, or end.”

“People ask me, why can’t I just use a webcam? But a camera sensor can’t document the subtleties you see with your eyes,” explains Villareal. “It’s not about document of light but the impact of the light itself.”

The $8 million dollar project is privately funded, mainly by the tech community, with whom Villareal has close ties. To Villareal, it’s the epitome of what the tech world is doing right now in the Bay Area: “It’s a time when seemingly impossible things happen on daily basis.” He adds, “It’s a new kind of thinking, that ‘we are doing it and making it happen, and why not?’ There is something bigger happening that is aligned with this.”

Villareal lives in New York, but his “formative moments” were in the Bay Area. In 1994, fresh out of graduate school at NYU, Villareal came out to Palo Alto, for a summer internship at Interval Research, a think tank funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. “The web was brand-new and getting fully immersed in a lab like Interval was kind of like a fantasy for someone interested in technology,” says Villareal. “It was a unique place that combined programmers, engineers with designers, artists, musicians. It was very ahead of its time and a wonderful education for me just to just be absorbing all the energy and innovative thinking.”

But as you might expect from with a massive light installation in the Bay Area, it also started with Burning Man.

Video available at: http://vimeo.com/25870560.

The same year Villareal came out to Palo Alto, he found his way to the weeklong drug-fueled celebration where tech geeks and counterculture artists build massive art installations, towering sculptures, and themed camps in the Black Rock Desert, aka La Playa. It was still a relatively small affair back then, and in its subcultural heyday. It’s a place of experimentation, inspiration, and epiphanies, “Burners” explain. For Villareal, that moment was when he put 16 LED pixels above his camping site to help guide him back after a night of partying in the desert. It was a literal beacon, but it led him to a career building light structures.

“It is about a communal experience, making something people can share, that activates space,” says Villareal, “and those are all things that I was exposed to out on the Playa. It is hard to separate out. It is very ingrained in my work.”

Now a board member of the Burning Man Project, a nonprofit, he explains its mission is to “take what happens on the Playa, distill it, and bring it out into the world the larger set of values.” So instead of creating light sculptures once a year at Burning Man, he’s built them around the world, from the Buckyball in New York’s Madison Square Park, to the Multiverse at Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, to the Hive in New York’s Bleecker Street subway station.

The Bay Lights becomes almost a digital campfire that people can gather around,” he explains. “Suddenly you are talking to people you wouldn’t have before. It is building community.”

He is already seeing “little glimmers of it” in San Francisco. When he is out at night with his laptop, people will realize that he is controlling the lights, and a crowd will gather around him. “It’s amazing to me how people are responding to the piece,” he says. “It has a presences and a personality. Some people have even told me that they get anxious when it turns off.”

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock/the-man-behind-the-worlds-largest-light-sculpture

How Much Are Your Broken Electronics Worth?

A flight of stairs. The cement of the sidewalk. A toddler. The toilet. A bottle of diet Pepsi not capped tightly enough in your purse. What do these have in common? They’re silent gadget-killers, lurking in wait for the right moment to fry your phone, camera, or other electronics. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”.

And when your gadgets break – and oh yes, they shall – do you bother trying to resell it or say your goodbyes and give it its proper Viking funeral in the East River (not recommended by FDNY)? Is it actually worth the hassle of listing it on eBay, waiting for a buyer, waiting for them to PayPal, and shipping it off?

Apparently, it actually might be worth the hassle.

eBay allows you to list electronics in the condition “For parts or not working”. I searched for completed listings that were specifically listed this way, and the prices were fairly surprising for items with sometimes very serious defects.

The prices on these pieces of junk might make you consider putting up with waiting in line at the post office.

2. $1,065.00 – MacBook Pro 17” (missing 3 keys and doesn’t turn on)

Original price: about $2,799.99

3. $416.11 – Nikon D90 SLR Digital Camera (cracked screen after dropping)

Original price: $1,299.99

4. $199.99 – Lot of 6 Canon PC1472 POWERSHOT cameras

Original price: $250.00 each

5. $525 – iPhone 4S 64GB (cracked screen)

iPhone 4S 64GB not on a plan: $849

6. $750.00 ($250/each) – Lot of 3 iPhone 4S (water damage)

7. $24.00 – Palm Pre 2 (broken microphone)*

Original price: $409.99

*dog not included

8. $133.61 – Panasonic DMR-EH50 DVD Recorder (no longer records)

Original price: $449.00

9. $610.00 – Sony Bravia EX72 60” TV (no image, remote missing)

Original price: $3,229

10. $500.00 – LG Infinia 65” LED TV (distortion on the right side of the screen)

Original price: $4,499.99

11. $232.49 ($23.25/each) – Lot of 10 Nintendo NES consoles (various states of non-working)

12. $214.99 – Sony PlayStation 3 120GB (only HDMI output works, controllers not included)

Original price: $464.00

13. $110.00 – Sony PlayStation 3 Slim 120GB (accepts discs but won’t play picture or sound)

14. $172.50 – Sony Playstation Vita (screen is completely broken)

Original price: $249

15. $59.99 – Nintendo Wii Console plus 3 games (disc drive cannot play discs)

Original price: $199.99 for console, games additional

16. $401.11 – iPad 2 64GB WiFi/Verizon (Cracked Screen)

Original price:

17. $112.50 – Kindle Fire (stuck on “load screen”)

Original Price: $199.99

18. $60.00 – Kindle DX 4GB (screen broken)

Original price: $189

19. $185.00 – Samsung Galaxy Tab 16GB (cracked screen)

Original price: $399.99

20. $89.01 – TomTom Go 2535TM GPS (won’t boot up)

Original price: $319.95

21. $50.00: Sony Discman D25(spins disc but can’t read it) circa 1989

Original price is unclear, although working ones go for $100-$225 today

22. $60.00 – Lot of 6 non-working TI-83 graphic calculators

Originial price: $137.99. Looks like we’ll never figure out why these are so expensive, even when they’re broken.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/you-wont-believe-how-much-these-broken-electronic

The One Thing You Should Never Text Anyone Ever

1. There are A LOT of ways to be annoying in a text message.

2. Like writing “lol” a lot, or at all.

You can’t possibly be laughing even half as much as you say you’re laughing.

3. Or using this emoticon.

Have you ever looked at yourself making this face at the end of a sentence in real life, before? I think you maybe ought to try.

4. Or forming a fictional, underground, omniscient criminal coalition united under the label “A,” and harassing and bullying a group of four high school girls and their loved ones.

Get a job, A!

5. But the WORST of the worst texting offenses, by far, is the single letter text “K.”

6. Receiving a “K” text makes everyone instantly furious, NO MATTER WHAT. This is a guarantee.

7. “K” stands for “Killer” … of conversations. (Haha.)

8. Texting “K” means you’re too lazy to type out just one extra letter.

(Although to be honest if you only text “ok” that’s pretty annoying too.)

9. “K” makes you seem mad. Are you mad at me??

10. HOW DOES ONE LETTER SAY SO MUCH AND SO LITTLE AT THE SAME TIME?!

11. There is only one thing worse than one “k,” and that is TWO.

Say THIS out loud. You sound like a grown, dumb baby.

12. What does “kk” even mean? No seriously, what does it mean?

13. People who text “k” are just acting like they’re soooo busy and inundated with texts that they can only dash off one flippant letter.

14. It’s a total power trip.

15. So the next time you’re texting or IMing…

16. Say anything BUT “k.” (Even “k!” or “ok :)”

17. And if someone sends you the dreaded “k,” feel free to reply like this.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/katieheaney/the-one-thing-you-should-never-text-anyone-ever

Fiat Photobombed Volkswagon On Google Maps

1. This Volkswagon office in Sweden was photobombed by a Fiat 500 on Google Maps street view.

2. A Fiat employee saw the street view car driving past their offices and followed it for 45 minutes to the Volkswagon office, according to the Daily Mail.

3. And then it just drove up the driveway and waited.

4. And boom. Photobombed.

You can see it for yourself by searching “Volkswagen Group Sverige AB, Sodertalje, Sweden” on Google maps.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/hunterschwarz/fiat-photobombed-volkswagon-on-google-maps

Who Will Own The Next Great Instant Messaging Service?

Instant messaging is the center of the internet. Everything else is a temporary distraction.

The case for this is strong: Every company that has ruled the internet in the last 20 years — even for a short period — has had a dominant instant messaging service. Aol Instant Messenger kept people’s attention focused on the company that provided their internet. People came to Yahoo as a portal to the web; they stuck around for Messenger. Windows, at its peak, supported the largest messaging service in the world. Google’s search dominance begat Gmail, which claimed a large swath of the messaging public with Google Talk. Facebook promised updates and pictures from our friends; eventually, our friends were there all the time, chatting, and we couldn’t leave.

Great instant messaging services die slowly — all of the ones I mentioned above still exist in some form. But they rise quickly, and with great effect. And entering 2014, we’re long overdue for the next one.

Which might explain why now, in a rare alignment, nearly every dominant internet service is either planning to create a new instant messaging service or significantly revamping what they already have. Facebook and Google are incumbents scrambling to hold on. Instagram is rumored to be working on an instant messaging service (rumors that I hear are true). There are also credible whispers that Twitter, which in a recent redesign experiment resurfaced its long-hidden Direct Message feature, is working on an enhanced private messaging service. A large-scale battle to own the best and biggest back channel — the likes of which we haven’t seen since Yahoo, Aol, and Microsoft squared off — is under way. This time, it’s happening on our phones.

Facebook and Google are in positions of power here, and they’re doing everything they can to preserve that. Google recently unified its instant messaging system under the “Hangouts” moniker, creating a single channel for instant messages, texting, voice, and video chat. Facebook has gradually undertaken to do the same thing, placing private messages, online chats and mobile messaging in one stream. Both products, which started a subordinate features — Google Talk to Gmail, Facebook chat to the News Feed — can now function as independent services, and have standalone apps. Both companies have also made multi-billion dollar runs at Snapchat.

We’re not sure what Twitter and Instagram’s instant messaging services will look like, but we can guess. Both will arrive in a world where a majority of users are mobile; a world in which instant messaging and texting are in more or less the same activity (from a technological standpoint, for example, Apple’s iMessage has about as much in common with the ancient AIM as it does with SMS). And they will exist, probably, within the confines of the apps and services they’re a part of.

Twitter’s current back channel, the Direct Message function, is useful but has been sidelined for years, hidden deeper and deeper within Twitter’s interfaces to the point that using it feels almost furtive. DMing is a little clumsy — messages are received like kicks passed under a noisy dinner table. The exact implementation of a Twitter instant messaging service is somewhat difficult to visualize, but spiritually, it’s an undeniably interesting fit. The site’s influential base of power users are logged into the site all day already, talking to one another, so there may as well be an open back channel; another one of the site’s most common use cases, the “I mostly follow my friends and family” type of user, already treats the site like an IM service. Widening the spectrum of privacy settings on these conversation feels like a natural move.

Instagram, on the other hand, currently has no back channel, but plays host to a crude, improvised version of one in its chaotic, overflowing comment sections. There is certainly some sort of energy to be harnessed there; whether instant messaging is the best way to harness it is unclear. It would be hard not to read a little bit of Mark Zuckerberg’s yearning for Snapchat, a pure back channel service if there ever was one, into an Instagram instant message feature, especially given the timing of the rumors, which surfaced just a few days after news of Facebook’s failed bid for the company. (It is worth pointing out here that there are third-party messaging apps that are based on Instagram, and that they are very popular.)

All of these bids for instant messaging attention are clearly competitive with one another. But for Google, Facebook, and Twitter, as large, public companies, they’re also a way to gird against the stunning and underreported rise of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik, Viber, and Line, which together have attracted hundreds of millions of users, and some of which, on their own, are larger than Instagram or Twitter. “I’ve seen data from companies that do device and behavioral analysis, and the figures are jaw-dropping,” Forrester research analyst Charles Golvin told BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel earlier this year. “In places like Brazil, Mexico, Spain… 25% of the time people spend on smartphones, they’re spending in WhatsApp. The number is variable for each of those countries, but it is of that magnitude.”

These services, like Snapchat, are stunningly effective at commanding attention: They are pure, app-to-app channels that have become popular alternatives to texting and old-school instant messaging on their own merits, not as the result of popular parent platforms. They attract a crucial audience of the young and super engaged. There is a small but reasonable fear that these apps could be to social networks what Craigslist was to newspapers — brutally efficient, virtually revenue-free destroyers of value.

If that is the case, then the current crop of social networks are doomed. But for now, they still have a chance. They already have your list of friends, and you already have their apps. Which you choose to adopt as your next back channel will depend on both of those things: which list of friends and peers is the best, or freshest, and which app knows how to get out of the way.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/who-will-own-the-next-great-instant-messaging-service

The Curious Case Of Yahoo’s App Reviews

Yesterday, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Yahoo announced two new products: Yahoo News Digest and Yahoo.com/tech. The former is the result of last year’s acquisition of Summly, a news summarization startup founded by a teenager, Nick D’Aloisio; the latter is a new tech site headed up by David Pogue, formerly of the New York Times.

The two men met on stage today, ostensibly to talk about D’Aloisio and his new app. The optics were admittedly strange — a Yahoo employee interviewing a Yahoo employee — and Pogue joked about them throughout. (Pogue was scheduled to interview Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who had to drop out for emergency reasons.)

Regardless, this exchange, which occurs at the 19-minute mark, stood out.

Pogue: [News Digest] came out yesterday, and, how’s it doing?

D’Aloisio: It’s doing great. It’s actually now the number-one app on the News category in the U.S. store, which is awesome, and it’s four and a half out of five stars at the moment, so —

Pogue: Really!

D’Aloisio: Yeah, it’s early days because we’ve only been on the store for about 12 hours or so, but it’s good to see that the initial feedback has been strong.

Pogue: Four and a half stars…

D’Aloisio: It’s a good start.

Pogue: I mean, that’s hard to get.

D’Aloisio: Yeah.

Pogue: People are snarky out there.

The app, as of writing, is No. 1 in the News category — a rating decided not just by raw volume of downloads, but by changes in popularity (among other things). And D’Aloisio’s claim that the app is rated at 4.5 stars is also true. But the substance of the reviews seems, even at first glance, to be questionable.

The app, it’s worth stating up front, is competently designed. The interface is novel and interesting, and it doesn’t crash or stutter. The summaries are serviceable, if dry and sometimes repetitive. They are sometimes awkward, but never nonsensical. It is not inconceivable that a normal person could like this app. But it seems unlikely that this theoretical person would come up with a line like this:

Glancing at the associated user profile, a pattern emerges:

And going through the profiles of other effusive reviewers, we see the same thing. A large share of this app’s positive reviews are written by people who almost exclusively write reviews of Yahoo products, or people who have never written another review. At least one appears to be listed publicly as a Yahoo employee.

This doesn’t appear to be a case of Yahoo buying fake reviews. While fake reviews are rampant in the App Store, they’re also fairly easy to spot. What this looks like is Yahoo employees and/or D’Aloisio associates earnestly trying to give a new app a boost. Yahoo has about 12,300 employees; this new app has been reviewed about 250 times. Even without explicit guidance, a 12,000-strong army of enthusiastic downloaders could overwhelm an App Store category rankings for a few days, and boost an app’s review score by a few stars. The reviews that appear to be organic are, in aggregate, mixed but skew somewhat positive. A Yahoo representative tells BuzzFeed, “Employees were not instructed to write reviews.”

The fact that Yahoo employees might be reviewing their company’s own app, in itself, isn’t a scandal. But it’s notable that both D’Aloisio, who knows how the App Store works and clearly looked at his reviews, and Pogue, a veteran journalist, decided to ignore it.

Update: One five-star iTunes reviewer, ultramookie, appears to be Steve Kong, a recent member of Yahoo’s Mobile and Emerging Products team. He recently wrote a Tumblr post praising the new Digest app. His Twitter handle matches the first review listed for Yahoo News Digest when you filter by “most favorable.” Over at TechCrunch, Matthew Panzarino also pegged reviews to Yahoo employees Jonathan Raspaud and Rahul Aneja.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/the-curious-case-of-yahoos-app-reviews