friday-rant
Mobile Device Management

Rant: The weirdness of fanboy extremists

It has become well established that if a journalist/blogger is seeking to draw the attention and engagement of a readership, s/he turns to one of a few hot-button topics, usually employing a negative slant. Anything anti-Apple, anti-Linux/FLOSS will do it: light touch paper, stand back, see that traffic roll in. Alternatively, praise Bill Gates and Microsoft to the skies, hymn the legal pursuits of a SCO and thank the gods for venture capitalists – all grist to the mill.

This is barrel scraping on behalf of the media, of course, but it’s also pretty odd behaviour on behalf of certain readers who associate themselves with tribes. I mean, a Mac fanboy – why? And indeed ‘what?’, ‘eh?’ ‘but..’ and so on. Why would a person feel so strongly about a technology brand? We know that brands are strong attributes but Apple is a computer company, one of many. It has been extraordinarily innovative, granted, but then so have many others without the quasi-religious affiliation. And you can’t really argue that Apple has saved lives, changed the world significantly or developed a whole new way of thinking about the world – not unless you believe ‘think different’ is a call to arms or profound trope rather than marketing slogan…

The free software/Linux/open-source movement is a bit easier to understand. It has a political tinge, even if only the most one-eyed partisan could think that many of the companies that build on open source software have any issues with capitalism or becoming mind-numbingly rich. To their eternal credit, the likes of Red Hat and even Linus Torvalds himself don’t pretend that they dislike the rustle of wads of dollars. And yet still the internet resounds with the voices of anger, separatism and images of those silly penguins.

So what’s with the fanaticism, the adoration of idols, the angry responses on forums, the trolling, the threats even, bulletin boards and so on? Partly, perhaps, it’s a reaction to the way the biggest companies in the mainstream got fat and sought to capitalise on their dominance in certain sectors, although even here the fanboys’ idols don’t have uniformly wonderful records.

Partly, the anger of technology brand fundamentalists is perhaps related to just that human desire to join in with those of a similar mind, in the same way that art movements such as Dadaism, Surrealism and Vorticism or political movements such as socialism, communism and fascism attracted many adherents and fellow travellers. (Some people like to be part of an agenda with an –ism suffix or have an –ist against their names.)

That’s OK up to a point, even if the icon worship and repeating of certain mantras can be Orwellian and the insistence on iconography can be reminiscent of ugly political movements. All very odd though.

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Torquemada

Torquemada, not his real name, has been casting a jaundiced eye on the technology world since the Sinclair C5 was causing as much excitement as the driverless car today, a 64K RAM pack could turbocharge performance, and Alan Sugar was the equivalent of Elon Musk.

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