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Why Is Our Passion for Mobile Gadgets Turning Us All Into Dung Beetles?



Passion about any subject is a good thing. Stating a passionate opinion is a good thing. Stating a strong passionate opinion is a good and often a bold thing. You are your opinions. If you write those opinions down on the Internet, in a publication, or for a stage people judge you based on those opinions. If you don’t believe that or know that you have no business sharing your opinions publicly.

The what seemed like age old passionate battle between Windows and Apple fans has found new fertile soil in a rapidly increasingly man the barricades struggle to end all struggles between Apple and Google’s Android fans. Those that engage the most are both accurately and derisively referred to as fan boys/girls. Too often the passion devolves from passionate fanaticism to a childish condemnation of the opposing view.

For the most part, as entertaining a commentary as this may be on the human condition, its generally harmless.  On other levels though it has become sadly vicious and at times painfully pathetic. I often wonder how some one new to these debates feels while attempting to sort through the detritus left dangling in comment threads on blog posts these days.

In the last several days two of tech writers I admire have been engaging in a public spat over the iOS and Android thing. The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky kicked this off with a forum post calling out MG Siegler on his review of the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0. The title of the post references the leavings that equine animals visit on any surface that happens to be around when it is time for the digestive system to make its purge. Topolsky is extremely passionate in his points and whether intentionally or not, sort of hangs the Android/iOS fan boy canvas into a class warfare frame.

Of course, this being the Internet, Siegler fires back in a post similarly full of passion and similarly titled. He tries to move the argument onto a plane about tech and gadget writing in general. I imagine this will go on a bit longer, but then again, the burning passion behind both of the posts might have already cast enough heat to consume the argument.

I won’t bother to defend or rebut either of these two bloggers. They both make good points. Some I agree with. Some I disagree with. But then, that’s the point. Far too often I believe the reactions that we have to strong opinions in reviews have an incorrect starting point. Simply put, in my view, far too often some assume that reviewers or critics are trying to tell them what to think, instead of just simply using the opinions as a springboard to simply thinking.  If reviews or critiques are read within that simple context then the discourse surrounding the opinions becomes, well, more grown up.

The two posts are also quite entertaining and there is certainly value in that from both a reader’s point of view and a business point of view. Reviewers, op-ed writers, critics, don’t develop a following if they aren’t capable of being at least somewhat entertaining when stating their opinions. Readers return to read opinions they enjoy and trust. Note that I don’t intend trust to mean agree with.

I would venture that if we only read writers that give us opinions we agree with than we are only looking for confirmation of something we hope is right as opposed to something we know is right. It’s like burying your head in the sand hoping you won’t see a different outcome that may challenge your thinking. Or perhaps it’s like a dung beetle rolling up a ball of manure. You can admire the single minded attention to the task, but unless you have the perspective of the dung beetle, you’re still in the shit.

To put it another way: these are just phones and opinions about phones, people.




  1. mike

    12/16/2011 at 9:00 am

    that’s a little harsh.  this is the internet and that dung isn’t going to roll itself across the proverbial desert floor by itself.   apple fanboys should be thankful for those who care enough to help them understand the error of their ways and save them from existential implications of such choices.  and if you disagree with me you’re worse than hitler.

  2. Anonymous

    12/16/2011 at 9:39 am

    The problem with fans on both sides is that they all too often don’t realize they are talking about different products designed for different users. Think of it as coffee makers. You can buy a cheap Mister Coffee just as you can buy a cheap phone. Neither does much and neither will do it particularly well but they do accomplish what they are meant to. On the other hand, you can drop a bundle on a high end Android phone or a Saeco Espresso Machine. Both can do fantastic things and they can be customized to your heart’s content. Apple offers something different. The iPhone, like a Keurig K-cup Brewer, works well because both are integrated ecosystems. You get convenience by giving up a degree of choice and customization and running on tested and integrated but older and not as powerful hardware.To each his own (although I have to admit I fall into the espresso camp and question some of the ovine nature of iBuyers).

  3. Gib Wallis

    12/16/2011 at 9:59 am

    Joshua Topolsky totally got side tracked with the class thing. And let’s face it, compared to many other nations, people buying high end gadgetry like a Galaxy Nexus or iPhone in the USA are all upper class.

    I notice Mr. Crocker continues with the poopery metaphors.

  4. John in Norway

    12/16/2011 at 11:46 am

    Hey! Enough with the derogatory terms. I have a family of dung beetles in my bathroom and they do a damn good job. Saves a fortune on toilet paper.

    (From a dung beetle fanboy)

  5. Roberto

    12/16/2011 at 2:11 pm

    I guess Topolsky never drove an NSX. It blows away anything Mercedes ever made.

  6. Guthrie

    12/16/2011 at 10:06 pm

    Good article. As someone who has followed tech writing for a number of years now, I’ve always felt you had a more nuanced, ie. sane viewpoint on the ultimate ends of technology despite the fact we all love it. Maybe it’s your other life in the humanities.

  7. GTaylor

    12/19/2011 at 8:36 am

    Guthrie speaks truth; having “other life” broadens one’s view point beyond one strong opinion! Years ago my father told me that the more strongly someone holds an opinion, the less substantial the foundation. After all should an opinion have lack a foundation then it cannot be an opinion, but an impulse or a bias.

  8. dstrauss

    12/19/2011 at 9:21 am

    I’m sad to say I agree with Topolsky. As a confirmed iPhone fan (every model from 2g to 4), I love the phones. However, Siegler and Gruber’s writing does impress me as exceedlingly condescending, as epitomized in one sentence: “You either see it or you don’t.” This is only one step removed from the “gushing” threesome of Rose, Mossberg, and Carr discussing the latest/greatest iterration of the iPad. If you can’t viscerally understand the superiority of the Apple brand, you just don’t get it.

    I’m sure I’ll fall for the siren call of the iPhone 5 (pinching pennies and ignoring the iPhone 4s for the first generation I have not owned), but I sure don’t feel like this should be an argument between Rolex and Seiko…

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