June 25, 2010

The Art of Being Pragmatic In a World of Fanboys


For just about any topic or choice, there comes pressure to take a side, to align yourself with a group who can reinforce that your choice was the right one, and any alternative choice is somehow wrong or inferior. Even when choices, be they politics, sports or technology, are very similar, the differences are magnified, and camps are erected to defend one's position. It plays out every day in my RSS feeds and social streams, as you see a battle between Mac and PC, Facebook and Twitter or Buzz, Android versus iPhone. One's preferences even go so far as to define who you are, and who chooses to follow you, as most people would rather see their own viewpoints reinforced than gain insight into a differentiated position.

As technology improves, I've found the need to become entrenched and ready for Holy War, setting out to convert the unbelievers, is decreasing. For the most part, the leaders in any market are "good enough" for most needs, or the #1 property is clearly the best, and most all people are there. So I have been working to make my choices based on my own experiences, not rhetoric, data over emotion, and have increasingly made it easier to migrate data and profiles should the time come that I needed to switch.

It's enough to make my former would-be tattooed with the Apple logo soul turn over in its grave. Where I once gave Tips on Being an Apple Fanboy, I later spun up Windows 7 and found it to be pretty good, and I even turned my back on iPhone after finding the Android platform was a better fit for me. Just yesterday I sold back my iPhone 3G to Sprint and got a new HTC Hero for my wife so she too can be off the platform, and off AT&T.

I truly believe we are past the time where there must be opposition in all things. It can make for good headlines to pit one side over another, but if you think about it, we have more access to more things than ever before, and competition is making access to these products easier and better from more places. (Louis CK agrees)

I do not care what Web browser you use. I still harbor some disbelief that anybody uses IE, of course, but Firefox, Chrome and Safari are all good options. If you run Mac OS X or Linux or Windows 7, you are making an effort to be cutting edge. If you are rocking a BlackBerry or an Android or the newest model iPhones, you are probably on the right path. So good for you! I may have my personal preferences for "right now", based on my own insight, but the way I use technology is not the same way you do. The fact that I can tease out 10 to 20+ hours of battery life on my HTC EVO, but many notable bloggers can't doesn't make them wrong or mean I am lying. It's just a difference of use, and good tweaking on my part.

I do not care if you prefer Twitter to Facebook or LinkedIn, so long as you are getting what you want out of each service, and that it is serving you well. I may use them less than I use Google Buzz or FriendFeed today, but that doesn't mean I need to constantly play the role of evangelist to push you into agreeing with me. And I really don't care if you like WordPress or Posterous or Tumblr to my Blogger. That's your choice. Good for you.

So yesterday, when I did announce my finally moving off iPhone to Android, I got some response from around the Web saying I made the wrong choice, that I didn't understand how amazingly awesome the iPhone 4 was. Maybe, in a previous year, I would have been among the others saying the same. But now, I've decided I'll try new things and make a decision based on my experience, rather than going ahead in one way just because I always have. When I first tried the demo EVO from Google I/O, I was nervous with it, the same way I was the first time I sat in front of a Windows NT machine, expected to go to work. I didn't know if my experience would suffer, or I would be missing something. But, as you know, I found it to be quite good, and in the Bay Area, the quality of Sprint over AT&T was a major push for us to consider an alternative, after our family has spent hundreds of dollars each month to get less than acceptable service.

You know what my biases and preferences are. I'll talk about them here, and you can see me vote with my own activity. Maybe I'll convince you to like the same things I do. But I am working to shed any drooling fanboy label, and demonstrate an open mind. So do show me what you know that I don't. Introduce me to services and platforms I've never seen. It's a great time to be a tech consumer.