Tech religions are an illusion

Summary:The true technologist is a chivalrous knight. Not a crusader.

crusader-knight-techbroiler

A new year begins. And with it, a new tech industry content site filled with more venture capitalist and Wall Street navel gazing amplified by prognosticative technology opinion written by non-technologists. Yawn.

My new year's resolution was to be less snarky and arrogant. I broke it after six minutes.

I am actually looking forward to what Swisher, Mossberg and company intend to do with Re/code. Maybe it will be a little different than All Things Digital. Or maybe I am just expecting too much.

Walt Mossberg's first column for Re/code was a love letter to his fanboi base, entitled It's not a Church, It's Just an Apple Store.

Really? I was pretty sure it was a free psychiatric clinic, based on the disposition of some of the folks I've seen with appointments at the Genius Bar.

I kid. I kid.

The world of technology writing is a bizarre place. For the most part, it's full of people who have never worked in the technology industry, or haven't had real-world experience of supporting end users or actively engaging in keeping the lights on in enterprises and SMBs with their technology.

And oh, the personalities.

At best, some of them were once technologists, but have been long out of touch with the soldiers in the field. They may even hold views that might be outdated and no longer reflect reality. In some ways, that's actually worse than having no experience in the industry at all, because it can lead to doing their readerships a disservice and dispensing misinformation.

In the real world, where technologists and the technology industry is just plain "Gettin' it done", the fanbois and the crusaders are marginalized. And they always have been, from time immemorial.

At the top end of the spectrum, where a select few like Mossberg sit, lies a myopic world of privileged reviewers and the highly opinionated who get to hob nob with the elite of the technology world, simply because of their audience reach.

I won't disregard this perspective, because having that kind of access to C-seats and startups doing interesting things is great information, and if you work in technology, you should consume what these folks are willing to share with the hoi polloi with gusto.

Even so, it's only a narrow view into a very large world, and you have to take it at face value.

At the lower end of the spectrum are the mere technology bloggers. Again, many of us do not have a true technology background, but we get exposed to a lot of products.

Product exposure in and of itself can give you some insight into the workings of technology companies, but it can also give you tunnel vision, because you often don't get the big picture and you aren't watching what is actually going on in the trenches.

Don't get me wrong. I like to read Mossberg's stuff. He's a talented writer, and he gets to touch a lot more toys and talk to a lot more industry power brokers than I do. He also gets more than his share of crazies sending him nasty emails whenever he reviews something and under-praises it or pans it entirely.

It must be exhausting.

I know the feeling. Not a week goes by where I don't get the feedback emails about being biased, or saying that my employer or another vendor is paying me to slam the competition or extol a product.

Not a day goes by where the caustic stench of flame war doesn't emanate from the Talkback section. Always the same people. Over, and over. They're a vocal but small bunch, these crusaders.

Attacks on companies. Attacks on technologies. Attacks on users of said technologies and companies' products. Attacks on differences in development ideology. And so on, ad nauseum.

But you know what? This is not an accurate representation of the industry as a whole. There are no churches of tech.

Tech religions are an illusion. They exist only as the electronic equivalent to missives of the mentally ill putting up apocalyptic warning signs and screaming at passersby in the middle of town square.

In the real world, where technologists and the technology industry is just plain "Gettin' it done", the fanbois, zealots, and crusaders are marginalized. And they always have been, from time immemorial.

Like the people screaming in the middle of the street, we sometimes glance at them, and they get our momentary attention, but we regard them with pity. And we walk away, shaking our heads.

It's true that writers have bias. It's true that technologists have bias. I am biased. I will always have bias. But true technologists do not have religions. And we have no houses of worship.

We have tool sheds, and we have favorite tools. Sometimes, we have to re-evaluate those tools to determine whether they are still worth using and should be replaced. And a true technologist knows when his favorite tools or construction methods will not work for someone else.

That's what thinking outside of the box is.

Now, it's true that we have people called "evangelists" within the tech industry. I've never liked that word, and I think it's a horrible title for any technologist to hold. We should never tie religion to technology.

That being said, I do believe that if you don't have conviction in the quality and capability of your company's products, then you probably shouldn't be working there. That's not religion, though. That's called being committed to success and having a challenger's mindset.

Those of us who have the privilege of working for the companies that create the products and the platforms naturally are going to engage in competitive activities.

We aren't always kind to our competitors. Business is frequently war-like. But the best of us engage in this conflict on the premise that our products do something better, cheaper, or easier than what our competitors do.

And we do this by demonstrating to our customers and partners that what we have to offer is, in fact, the right tool for the right job.

If it isn't, then we require self-examination, and we need to make our products better.

Conviction for conviction's sake has no place in technology. And there's absolutely no room for attacking the user or our potential customers and partners.

The true technologist is a chivalrous knight. Not a crusader.

Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Tech Industry, Apple, Smartphones, Tablets

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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