Death of a fanboi salesman

Death of a fanboi salesman

Summary: Our industry is changing to one that behaves more like the academic world. There's no place for allies and fanbois any more. Finally!

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As we move on, we as an industry need to behave more like academia. Mutual respect and understanding looking to discover the truth.

Over the past 18 months, I've written two pieces about Windows Phone. In November 2011, I did a piece about the Lumia 800. Last month, I did a piece about the Lumia 620. Cut a long story short, I'm not a massive fan of Windows Phone.

That aside, typically when you write pieces that criticise technology you can attract the ire of fanbois. The really odd thing about criticizing Windows Phone is that you emerge from the process feeling like you're covered with a sticky goo. There is a strangely icky energy that Windows Phone fanbois come at you at with. It's quite off-putting.

But with a baseline level of bile, you always get useful feedback. In particular in that piece, a lot of people said they wanted more detail in that last piece as to why I felt iOS did a better job than Windows Phone. That's fair criticism, and if I return to talking about Windows Phone, I'll try and do a better job of that side of the coverage.

As well as feedback from strangers, you'll also get some feedback from people you know and work with. One piece of feedback I got from a colleague described the piece as "harsh," saying that I "was an ally of Microsoft's who's written their eulogy."

My reply to this was that "today in our industry, there is no place for allies." Anyone who hitches their career to any one vendor with anything more than guarded distrust is doing it wrong. This wasn't always the case — I did pretty well for almost 15 years doing nothing but being entirely "on message" from Microsoft, but certainly now it'd be mad to hope for another 15 years.

However, I don't think that this shift is a result of things changing at Microsoft or any of its peers within the industry. Nor do I think it's because currently everything is consolidating and changing very quickly. I think the idea of "allying oneself" to a vendor is going out of fashion because the computing industry is finally beginning to mature.

Evangelism

Personally, I have no problem with bias. Bias is part of basic human psychology, and we all do it. You'll be biased about some things, I'll be biased about others. Where we struggle as an industry is managing to remain in control of our emotional responses with regards to bias.

Say someone reads an article that proclaims that the "iPhone is rubbish." Assume the reader has a bias towards thinking the iPhone is good. There are two ways they can go — they can respond emotionally, or they can react emotionally. An emotional response is one where the individual understands their own psychic landscape and has an understanding of how their own biases affect their own thoughts. The outcome of this is a measured, sensible reaction allowing the writer and reader to reach a joint understanding through constructive exploration of ideas. An emotional reaction is one where the individual is not aware of their own psychic landscape and just reacts — typically with vitriol, and often with ad hominem attacks. This is where appreciation of a technology ends and "fanboiism" starts. The danger of fanboiism is that it's unconstructive — it's not about building a collaborative understanding. It's only about "lashing out."

Tech companies typically employ a special class of salesperson called an "evangelist." Their job is to seed customers with a special combination of love and technical information designed to de-risk a customer's adoption of a technology. These evangelists often work directly with companies on what is essentially a consultancy engagement, but they also often work in a loose way with the community. The purpose of working directly with the community is to both gather leads and to "spread the word." Importantly, the cost codes for this sort of evangelism sits within sales and marketing budgets.

Proper, paid evangelists rarely exhibit fanboiism — part of this is due to the fact that they are salespeople at heart, and salespeople typically have good emotional awareness because of the nature of the process of selling. They are also public representatives of their employers, which demands a certain deportment. Finally, paid evangelists have access to better information that provides a more complete understanding. But their job is to get you to drink whatever Kool-Aid their employer would like you to drink.

Go outside of paid evangelism and things are a good deal less controlled and it's much easier to find fanboiism. Oftentimes, particularly in this industry, baseline emotional awareness is pretty low. Information is often starved, leading to a lack of a complete picture. There's also no embarrassment that flows from a lack of professional deportment — fanbois often operate anonymously.

A realization that I've come to recently is that in our industry, vendors have worked out how to cultivate allies out there in the community, but those allies are simply unpaid extensions of the sales and marketing teams. Say you set up a hackathon using your own time and money to show people how to make — picking stuff at random — Android apps using Xamarin MonoDroid, who are you doing that for? You might get some advantage in terms of networking and creating sales leads, but the most obvious entity in that scenario that benefits is Xamarin.

(And I might be being biased here myself. Xamarin makes great products and I believe in what they're doing. Am I actually acting as an extension of their sales team by mentioning their product here? There's a strong argument that I am, but my desire is to use a real company to make it easier to follow my point. As a reader, you need to judge my bias, and my motives.)

Anyway, if you think about it, that whole arrangement is downright weird. As professionals we're being asked to choose the best solutions for our customers, but everything we do and everything we hear is being influenced by a chain of people from paid evangelists down to unpaid allies all (hopefully) pushing the "correct" positive message.

Academia

A question I've been asking myself for a while is "why are there so many open source frameworks now?" The answer, I think, is because as an industry we're moving towards structures found in academia, rather than the sales-led approach of the technology industry dinosaurs of yesteryear.

Topic: Software Development

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62 comments
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  • Epic fail

    Baxter-Reynolds has succeeded in writing an article about fanboys and flack targeted at critics of tech brands -- without mentioning Apple even once!


    This is the most blinkered and one-sided piece of tech journalism I've read in a very long time. It's a classic anti-Microsoft propaganda piece from an infamous anti-MS fanboy.

    How entertainingly ridiculous of Baxter, himself an archetypal Apple/Google fanboy, to write a rant against fanboy rants.

    Recent headlines by this commentator include:

    "If Apple made an iWatch, I'd buy one, you'd buy one... We'd all buy one..."

    "In defense of the Chromebook Pixel"

    And of course: "Surface Pro and Surface RT should have been different colors"
    Tim Acheson
    • So do you agree or not with the article?!

      Or you just don't like the messenger?!

      If I search this forum for your posts, do you believe I'll find a trend? :-P
      AleMartin
      • I too find a tread about a your posts in this forum.

        Don't throw stones sitting in a glass house.
        Owlll1net
        • But I'm a fanboy

          I dare you to find a post of mine criticising fanboys.
          :-)
          Are you a fanboy?
          AleMartin
          • No

            He's a member of the 50c party.
            Alan Smithie
      • It comes down to why did he write the article? Is Matt the ultimate Phoney?

        He's quick to criticize the pro-MS users by stating "There is a strangely icky energy that Windows Phone fanbois come at you at with. It's quite off-putting." Yet would he side with, or against the ABMer’s that routinely post here “you’re an idiot”, “you’re a shill”, or “you’re an all around Fuckstick”?

        Yet his writing style is purposely structured and written to get that effect, and he has yet to write a similar piece in reference to Apple or Google products to find out how their "fanbois" would react? Is he afraid they may leave him with an even worse feeling? Or that he won’t get the page hits he needs to keep him paid, and employed here. Should the replies drop to 10, he’ll be asked to leave after a few months. Look to a few recently dismissed bloggers for that little truth.

        He claims he’s biased, and that its good. Would he be so forgiving if the BBC biased a story that mislead him to do something he later regretted? No way he would, He'd be writing for someone's resignation, and that's a fact. He props up a company by mentioning them positively in this article.His Apple love? For all we know he bought 100 shares of Apple at 700? Would his positive bias be perfectly acceptable then?

        So I’m asking what the whole point of the article is, is he trying to justify his biased writing, by insulting those that disagree, that that’s acceptable in some way? That IS what his first paragraph was all about – the dismissing of any argument counter to his bias, and the labeling of anyone not standing beside him as a “fanboi” that leave him wanting to take a bath. He’s NOT writing in spite of the “fanbois”, he writing BECAUSE of the fanbois, It’s a set up plain and simple. It gets him the page hits.

        What seems to be Matt’s problem that he inadvertently revealed, is that many have judged his bias, as he asks, and have pointed out how unconstructively persuasive it is in regards to the disservice it does to what he writes, and how he writes. Today’s blog is the result of him not liking the answer he received, and he has to try and spin it like the problem lies with everyone else, and not him. I don’t think he meant to do that, but he has.

        Or it could be as simple as the rents due, so it’s another BS article about crappy old MS product and the dirty old fanbois who use them.
        William Farrel
        • to many words..

          for nothing.

          Apparently, you can't understand what the article is about. It is not about Microsoft. It is neither pro-Microsoft nor anti-Microsoft.

          The article is not about fanboys either.

          Oh, and by the way, it is neither about Apple, nor Google.

          But let's hope, some day you could finally comprehend, so that we can have some more civilised discussion.
          danbi
          • Always quick to judge

            Am I the sharper of us two, since I neither said that it was about MS, Apple, or Google, as I comprehend exactly what he’s trying to do?

            They were reference points since he wrote about those three companies. The article is about fanboism, and my "too many words" (the correct spelling is “too”, not “to”. You left off an “o”, but I’ll attribute that to not having an edit button) was to point out that why fanboism doesn’t work in the software industry, and whatnot , but that he’s happy to attribute the negative feedback he gets on his articles to “the icky, slimy, fanbois.”

            The same “icky slimy fanbois that used to sell software”. Not the evangelistic people championing open source software, or the visionaries creating shiny white products.

            Read his previous articles, then read this one again, and his conclusion – did he really shed his veil of “fanboism”, or is he just masking it from sight?

            Seems he’s not afraid to take it out every time he needs a bunch of page hits, and from the opening paragraph, upset when he is reminded about his own.
            William Farrel
    • I Agree!

      This space could have been used to explain some of those issues he would do in a future writing.
      eargasm
    • Sorry to say this

      Win 8 and Win 8 RT aren't that great. I find no compelling reason to purchase something with one of the OS's.

      And for my biases - I am not an Apple Fanboi - . I am not a Google fanboi - I am not a MS fanboi - I am motivated by value. And typically Apple prices me out of their market, I can usually afford MS based computers and laptops (at least that used to be the case ) and I purchased my first smart phone based on how cheap I can get the package (Nexus 4 is 350 bucks vs 650 for iPhone 5 and Samsung SIII) - non contract plan 30 bucks a month.

      But seriously I think MS has to still prove Win 8 is something I want. I find no use for it on a desktop, little on a laptop (it increases the price with a pointless touch screen), and for the smaller devices, there are already two very good systems out there. It is incumbent on MS to prove that somehow RT is better than the others, and at this point, all I see are overpriced tablets, and phones that work no better and have fewer apps. But I can put office on my RT smartphone - nice, I think (hmm I use openoffice [switching to libreoffice soon] - but I can not recall the last time I had to use it at home - I could get by using Wordpad for my once a year "professional" letter writing.)

      Oh yeah, and because they were all discounted due to Win 8's arrival, I purchased a Win 7 laptop about 4 months ago, 350 bucks, now that was a good value!
      wiseoldbird
      • Agreed...

        ...and I like Windows 8, but when the previews ran out, I went back to Windows 7. I find little value in upgrading my old laptop to Windows 8, and I cannot afford to upgrade the laptop right now.

        My overall thought on Windows 8 is...

        Don't be afraid of it.

        You buy a new PC, it comes with Windows 8, don't be afraid. It's not terrible, you will be just fine. Buy the new PC, and enjoy it. Windows 8 won't get in the way of that enjoyment, unless....you make it an issue. Windows 8 does not have an issue, but users might.
        AudeKhatru
    • if he feels icky

      Imagine how people who actually have read the manual on how to use a WP feel when the biggest gripes about WP are not product issues but from the user being clueless.

      No retraction and admission of oversight either.

      That's icky journalism
      hubivedder
      • you promise?

        You promise, that if I read the WP manual it will say outright there that it's Mail client does not work with SSL IMAP servers?

        Or is it just a bug or lack of quality control? I bet on the later.
        danbi
        • Why do you believe this?

          What makes you believe that WP8 doesn't work with IMAP over SSL?
          toddbottom3
    • Cry more

      Boo-hoo-hoo, someone doesn't properly genuflect before Microsoft! Grow a thicker skin or get off this site; Microsoft earned every bit of bad press they get and then some (google karma if you like).
      Third of Five
  • Wrong

    The way to pick what you do is to believe in it. The alternative is to be non-committal and lack-luster. There is nothing wrong with change and when better technologies come along, I would hope the sense to change is there. Working with one foot out the door is not good for anyone.
    happyharry_z
    • Definitely

      You also have to believe in the products you use. I embrace change when it is an obvious improvement. I switch brands when it helps me get my tasks done quicker with the least amount of effort. I have no allegiance to any particular brand or OS. I form my opinions based on whether the product helps me increase my productivity.

      For example, I have used Microsoft Windows since version 1.0, because I saw early on that using a mouse and keyboard was faster and easier than using a keyboard alone. Back then, I chose Windows over Mac because I preferred choosing my own larger monitor and didn't care for the Mac interface. For my own tasks, each new version of Windows was an improvement until Windows 8. That version took several steps backward in functionality and would definitely make my work take longer with more effort. I also own and use a Mac (for music), but have never liked the user interface as much as I like Windows 7. I do think the Mac interface is better than Metro, though.

      As another example, I have historically preferred using Windows, and it theoretically would have made sense to use Windows Phone. Also, I had used a Palm Pilot for years, so a Treo would have also made sense. I looked at both when I was considering my first smartphone and found the brand new iPhone to be a superior experience. So, I didn't choose Microsoft. I didn't choose Palm. I chose Apple. We now own 6 different iOS devices, all of which we use with Windows, despite the fact that I also own a Mac.

      I don't consider myself a fanboi of any one specific company. I use whatever works best for me, regardless of the company making it. My future plans no longer include Microsoft because they're heading in a direction which will make it harder to get my work done in the same amount of time. I no longer believe in Microsoft's products, so I won't be using them when Windows 7 finally fades into oblivion.

      You have to believe in the products you use, but not to the point of abandoning logic.
      BillDem
      • You could install Start8 and use Windows 8

        just like it is Windows 7, only you get the improved performance, file explorer, task manager, etc. Of course for myself, I prefer Windows 8 as it is.
        grayknight
  • What is the point in the article, are claiming that you are not a fanboi?

    I went thru your entire article ( 2 long pages) trying to understand what is the point and I couldn't find anything that makes sense. Try writing shorter articles.

    Everybody considers you as a total and utter moron because of your silly fanboi posts. If You are trying to justify bias, sorry Sir, I don't respect bloggers who writes biased articles and I and most readers don't consider them as professionals. Biased bloggers are hypocrites and they shouldn’t be reviewing the product in question because they are going to lie about the product and throw mud at it.

    I would be really happy If your quit your blogging role in Zdnet.
    Owlll1net
    • I think this reply marks you as a "fanboi".

      "The danger of fanboiism is that it's unconstructive — it's not about building a collaborative understanding. It's only about "lashing out.""

      "There's also no embarrassment that flows from a lack of professional deportment — fanbois often operate anonymously."

      Sounds like you, Owl :-). Did you appreciate the irony of what you wrote?
      Zogg