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Embrace Your Inner Fanboy

I finally finished reading the Steve Jobs biography last night. While some have criticised the writing of Walter Isaacson, I have to say I enjoyed it. What’s more I come away from reading it with a new found respect for both Jobs and Apple. On the flip side of that though, I feel angry about the amount of rubbish and nonsense that is written every day about this greatly misunderstood company. I feel that this cacophony has robbed the technology industry, or at least the reporting on it, of much of the passion and enthusiasm that it once had.

For me personally, I used to love writing about technology. On my personal blog, I used to write with passion and intensity whenever I found a topic that interested me. I wrote a lot about Apple in particular, but I had begun to notice that over the last few years I have found it harder and harder to work up the enthusiasm to write like I used to. Recently I had started to give things another shot, but I am still finding it difficult. Something has been bugging me about my writing, and about the subjects I once loved, and having finished the book, I realise now what that is.

There is an awful lot of stupid nonsense being written in the technology web these days, about Apple in particular. It’s not just the company though. The diatribes have been increasingly targeted at Apple’s fans as well. Having failed to influence others about the company that they despise, those who are anti-Apple for whatever reason now seem intent on attacking Apple’s fan base as well. I don’t like my writing any more because it seems that I have made the mistake of responding to it. In fact responding to this constant stream of, what can only be described as bullshit, seems to be most of what I’ve been doing lately and I hate it. It’s negative and unpleasant and it sucks the joy out of the subjects I used to love. Unfortunately it also seems to be the dominating emotion running through much of the technology web and press these days.

I have long held a disdain for certain technology blogs. I’m not down on blogging in general, but those publications that hide behind the term “blog” to get away with shameful journalistic practices and fundamental lack of both ethics and responsibility. The wider blogosphere bears some responsibility too though, especially when it comes to Apple. It seems that these days facts and rationality get lost in a sea of re-commenting and re-blogging.

The pattern is probably all to familiar to you. Someone writes something stupid. This gets picked up by other blogs, and what started as an opinion or a suspicion gets quickly presented as fact. People who don’t know any better or are too lazy to find out, believe it, and get outraged over something that was just a suspicion or a theory. Suddenly this outrage is now the story. This spreads like a virus, because much of the tech news now is made up of blogs re-posting and commenting on other what other blogs have already re-blogged and commented on. It’s a wordpress fuelled circle of life kind of thing. And yes, I’m as guilty a the next person.

Somewhere along the way the original intention of what has now become the mythical original post (if you can find it) is lost in the faux outrage and wave of accusations and counter accusations. It’s like the evolution of folk tale played out in super speed and in record time by thousands of computers all across the web. Instead of stories handed down through generations, each one slightly more colourful than the previous, it’s blog posts re-posted, each one slightly less factual. The reality of subjects has become ever more distorted by the echo chamber of the internet, by the few who have an axe to grind and the masses who love to tear down the successful.

And that seems to be the driving force right now, especially when it comes to Apple. As the most successful company in the world, it generates the most resentment and desire to tear it down. More and more people are buying Apple products, and clearly a great swath of the world loves what Apple does, yet you wouldn’t know that when you read about it. Yet despite this, the most valuable company in the world is constantly perceived to be one step away from total failure, and one decision away from being satan’s first cousin. In my opinion, never has the reporting of a company been so at odds with the sentiment of real people on the street. If it was a scientific rule it would be that the amount of bullshit written about a company or person is inversely proportional to the amount of success he, she or it has.

Of course, someone will say one of two things about this argument. Either “why are you defending a big corporation” or “You’re just a crazy fanboy”. This line of reasoning has become the de-facto response for the purveyors of the negativity. It’s a get out of jail free card that allows you to write anything you want no matter how false or how nonsensical, and if anyone disagrees with you then they are just confirming the stereotype of the crazy fanboy. It’s ingenious in a way, but like much of tech blogging, its not original. It’s the same technique Fox news uses to demonise the “Mainstream Media” and get away with saying whatever they want. In fact if you look at the devolution of the tech news blogosphere over the last few years it directly mimics the kind of nonsense taking place in the regular media.

The most extreme example of this that I saw recently was when Josh Topolsky accused MG Seigler and John Gruber of engaging in “class warfare” because of a negative review of an Android product. It was an argument that was so completely and utterly ridiculous that no sane person would have ever believed it, yet on the technology web it spread like wildfire, and hoards of commenters on Topolskys “The Verge” applauded his gusto for standing up to the “crazy fanboys”.

The worst about this approach is it works. People temper their opinions and thought to give the appearance of balance. To appease those crying “fanboy” they will tone down reviews and ignore facts so as to appear unbiased. As John Gruber once put it: “Grading on a curve”. The problem is though, that for the people they are trying to appease, balance isn’t what they are looking for. They see the absence of bias as bias. In their minds unless you take their skewed view then you are biased. To be balanced to the far out views of one group, you have to sacrifice any reason or argument that puts you in the centre, because to them the centre is biased. Capitulating to this way of thinking just sucks you in and skews the perception of reality to those who no longer have a grounded reality to judge from. And this is true, not just of the technology media, but the wider world of reporting and news.

Of course, not every corner of the tech blogging is bad. Not everything is negative and demonising. I’m not trying to vilify all blogs. This isn’t an argument against bloggers per se. This is a blog right here. There is certainly great work being done by both big media organisations and tech bloggers, but it’s getting harder and harder to find the wheat from the chaff.

Responding to it just makes things worse. That’s the mistake I made. You end up sounding like a crazy old man standing on your porch shouting at “those damn kids” to get off the lawn. This just further proves the point of the hate pedlars. (And yes, I see the irony because that’s what I’m doing right now) Nope, instead it’s time to think differently. It’s time to stand up to the bullies of the technology world, not by trying to reason with them, or correct their nonsense, but by not giving up on the passions for which you stand and believe in.

It’s time to fight back by changing the game. If I want to write good things about Apple, its products or technology, then I’m not going to apologise for it. Not any more. If you want to call me an “Apple Fanboy”, then I embrace your insult as a badge of honour. I love Apple’s products so I’m not going to try and pretend that doing so is some great controversy.

I want to go back to a world where you could open your RSS reader first thing in the morning and there were more positive articles than negative… Where you could read about the latest Mac or Printer or Headphones without having to trawl through a sea of moaning and paranoia… I want to be enthusiastic about the technology world again. I’m not saying that people can’t criticise or speak the truth when companies do the wrong thing, or release bad products, but it’s time to stop putting a negative spin on absolutely everything. It’s time to stop reporting every success as a secret failure, every bug as a hidden conspiracy, and every development as really a setback. And for those that do, ignore them. Commenting on their nonsense is what they want. It just feeds the animal.

For me it starts right here. From now on, I’m not going to respond to the bullshit. Im not going to point out the stories that point out the comments that point out the stupid nonsense someone has somewhere re-blogged from someone else. It’s time to stop feeding the beast. I’ll be critical where it merits, but it’s time to bring the enthusiasm back.

This humble little blog might not have an influence in the rest of the world, but I don’t care. I do this for me and the few people who like reading my thoughts and opinions, because if I don’t like reading them, then how can I expect you to? Big things start small, and if I can do one small thing, then I will have achieved something, even if it’s just for me.

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