The Number of comments in any given post is inversely proportional to my desire to participate
The title takes a mostly true mental snapshot of what I feel when I see the little badge denoting the most current level of postings. With possibly very few exceptions to this rule, I take it to mean that the post is related to something people feel passionately about (obviously), which is good. It's the fire that burns at the heart of every community, and in every geek. What is unfortunate is that in recent times, that passion now no longer extends to abstract concepts or ideas of how technology affects us in the real world, and instead often devolves into the eternal "Fanboy Wars" (cue sci-fi theme, scrolling angular text, deep space background... something about rebels and the empire).
The fact that the objects of our passions are now companies, corporations, entities is troubling. It becomes difficult to decipher where our true approval, or dislike or fascination, truly lies in order to sift it from our conscious/sub-conscious cheerleading.
- Any post with about 50 comments or less means that I can contribute, I can be heard, and I can learn. Comments are a godsend.
- Any post with over a hundred comments is likely to mention 1 industry giant +/- a tangential reference to it's competitor. Any post with more than two hundred comments means at least 2 industry leaders are mentioned with a possibility of a head-to-head.
- Any post with over three hundred comments means, all hell has broken loose and somehow by some alignment of the stars and planets, by some random serendipitous event, 3 or more major players have been aggressively pitted against each other, and they have sounded the Horn of Joramun, the wall has come tumbling down and the hordes have swarmed to defend their honour.
As of this writing the "Steve Wozniak thinks Windows Phone 7 has softer, silkier hair than Android" post has attracted more than 700
flaming arrows comments. Seven. Hundred. Comments. Just think about that. In a practical sense the word count of the commentary has eclipsed the word count of the article, (which itself was based on about 30 seconds of spoken word), by a factor of a 100!(actually closer to 75... but 100 sounds cooler and makes the relevant emphasis).
I honestly believe fanboy-ism will not benefit technology culture in the long run, and will make it obnoxious and undesirable to follow. Opinions and views are meant to be the silicon gel by which we glue our conversations together, not the Battle axes that dismember them. And a closer look at the conflict reveals no obvious culprit to this state of mind. But there are some hints. Having been guilty myself of this, many times over, I can give an almost honest appraisal of how it worked within my mind, and how I believe what I learned applies to many other, if not most.
It's not as simple as being subjective or objective about something; Objective is too narrow, and subjective is too abstract. Taste, is in fact, not a universal truth. It is an opinion, therefore it varies so wildly that it is absolutely meaningless in a crowd. Yet, it exists in this conversation purely for the reason that it is a mind's reasoning of the choice it has made. Psychologically I have felt a closer connection to a cheaper, less premium product in the past, because I had purchased it. I. IT. I am a person. It is a product. I made a decision, based on my preference, my primal response to something, the end result of my logical and illogical thought processes, the decision is made. It is final. I have to live with it, and so I truly believe I have made the best decision based upon the realities of that exact moment. I guess ego is a major contributor in this, and the abject refusal to admit a mistake or at the very least admit a shaky premise.
A few months ago, in the middle of a heated argument with a friend, something he said startled me a little more than it should have, but it did. He said; "your precious Google". Later I thought to myself, was I being so much of a dick that I had begun to sound like I had some personal stake, or ownership of a company? I did not. Aside from an Android Smartphone, I did not own any stock in GOOG, MSFT or AAPL. Much to my dismay I realized that I also did not sit on any of their Boards, or participate in their Shareholders' meetings, the ups and downs of my life were not intimately connected in any way, shape or form with their stock tickers.
Disliking a product is not a good enough reason to hate it with a foul vengeance. Sorry, It just isn't. Unless you're being forced to use it upon threat of disembowelment. Anything short of that means that you can afford to be, at most, indifferent to it's ugly (in your opinion) existence. Do yourself this favour, and you might live longer and happier (also exercise). I'm not denying anyone their opinion, but i think that I am within my rights to ask that people tone down their opinions when I'm the one subject to them in their fiery glory. Similarly, it is not my divinely appointed job on this planet, to point out when someone is being a moron(in my opinion), no matter how hard it is for me to resist, I must. It's really not that hard to do, I have managed myself.
It is also not our place to be the moral guardians and (un)hired mercenaries of the tech industry. Loyalty to a company for no other reason, than to just be loyal...is ridiculous. Our loyalty should be to our bank accounts. We can instead express our opinions and judgments of the industry through cash. We are the consumers, we have the power of purchase, that power includes the ability to buy a competitors product without needing to give a succinct reason or justification for it. It also allows us the ability to see the beauty and grace in a product and still NOT want to buy it. The reason could be saving $5 or $500, or buying a similar product which is insanely expensive over it's cheaper albeit similar competitor, or a hundred other reasons that you DON'T owe anyone.
In this power structure, we still think like minions. The crux of the matter is that we are more important to them than they are to us. I frankly don't care who copied who's notification pane, or whoever's icon grid. It doesn't matter to me. In fact I want them to copy the crap out of each other. Innovation is only important to the end consumer in the form of the end product and their ability to purchase it. Not the process. The process is just history. Let the company's fight it over in lawsuits and patents and courtrooms. Moral high ground in technology is nothing to scoff at, but if we further the idea that everyone must be able to get from A --> B in their own unique way, then while everyone is scrambling to reinvent something they forget to go from B --> C. So stop arguing the moral merits of this perpetually hazy quagmire, leave Artax and get out while your shoes are the only things muddy.
Then there is also the blue blood appeal of products, I believe the sign of good technology is it's ability to be inclusive and not exclusive. It's not a frakkin' night club, and if we make it that way, we also make it sleazy. And talk of signal to noise ratio isn't helping. Classifying products as an analogy for elite and poor, BMWs and Hondas is as Josh Topolsky eloquently put it, Horseshit.
I very much enjoy my Galaxy S II, At the moment for me it is "perfect", but I will soon willingly "downgrade" to a Galaxy Nexus. My previously having owned and operated an iPhone (and a Nokia XpressMusic) means nothing, and is not a crutch for my criticism of Apple or their users because it somehow makes me more neutral (It doesn't). I know Android is flawed, I appreciate and contribute to it's criticism, because it's the ONLY way it can improve. Which means I will eventually get a better product. One only has to look at the metamorphosis of Android, from concept, and then Android 1.0 to Android 4.0, to appreciate the magnitude of change and improvement it has gone under. But I also know the high quality of iOS, it's beauty in simplicity, it's flawless architecture, but also that it makes me rage because it doesn't cater to the way I want to interface with my device, but I also humbly submit that mine is only one of many reasons for picking a direction, none lacking in validity. I recently gave WP7 a thorough look, and while it may not appeal to me currently, I can't guarantee that it wont a year or two from now. If my current choice is unable to fulfill my needs, I will exercise my power when the time comes.
In order to truly push innovation, we must be willing to support it no matter who is doing it, even if it is the company we despise in our heart of hearts, because in the end a basic economic principle dominates everything. Choice and a perfect competition. But that's another story...