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!


Go back even just to the turn of the century, the landscape of the industry worked was that you would have a few "ivory tower" type companies that would sit there and push dictats into the industry. Microsoft might push a five-year plan of how people are supposed to use Windows Server, SQL Server, IE, IIS, and ASP.NET to build applications for use in organisations. They could be clear when products were dropping, could define the tooling that was used, and seed the community with information that was needed to bring their objectives to pass.

Sun, Oracle, IBM, and a few others were also able to do this. Keep going back in time and you can roll in very old-school companies like DEC. The point here is that all of these are sales-led operations.

The problem with a sales-led approach is that it doesn't promote critical thinking. It is adversarial (I'll come onto that), but it's more about "tricking" the customer into building a mental picture where the good parts seem larger than reality and the bad parts seem smaller than reality. Thus as an industry we're immensely bad at being able to frame a constructive discussion as to -- again picking stuff at random -- why .NET is better than Java or vice-versa. In other industries with more rigour, that sort of comparison is easier because they are better at cultivating bodies of evidence that helps build a clear picture through disinterested analysis.

But, the good news is is that I believe the industry is moving to a next stage of maturity where we're starting to shed our "sales-led" approach and moving to one which is more like academia.

The purpose of the academic process is to take an idea and tear it to shreds in order to see if it works. Some of this is to do with safety -- you have to make sure a new drug is safe before it's generally available. However, most of the academic process is just to do with basic scientific rigour. There is no point in having everyone believe that the sun goes round the earth if that actually isn't a true fact. One example of this is that when CERN make a big announcement with regards to finding the Higgs boson, everyone grabs the data and starts validating it in a manner that's both adversarial and constructive, rather than just assuming the discoverers were correct and cracking out the champagne.

At this point, the only difference lies in how being an adversary works. In a sales-led approach, it's about trickery. In an academic approach, it's about taking an intentionally opposing view and looking to disprove a theory. Structurally, how I think this is happening in our industry -- and this part of the discussion is more biased towards software engineering -- is that we're creating analogues for mechanisms that exist in academia.

The ivory tower approach in software engineering no longer works. Most people aren't waiting for the next big thing from Microsoft on .NET or Oracle on Java. (And if you look at something like TypeScript, they're not even trying to use an ivory tower approach -- they're working in sympathy to the community.) What we have now is a large network of "cells" -- each of these cells being analogous to a research group. A couple of people might come up with an idea -- for example "jQuery" -- and put it out into the community. This is analogous to a "peer-reviewed paper", except for the review is not formalised, it's simply judged on whether the it gains momentum. (Perhaps this is like crowdsourcing the peer review?) Eventually the "paper" gets accepted into the body of understood facts within the community -- in this example we now know that jQuery has moved from the "theory" that it might be a good way to work with a DOM to the point that we now know for a "fact" that it is.

There's an angle here with regards to open source. People tend to think as open source as an "enabler" of this approach and that being open source provides an advantage. In this model, open source is not an enabler -- a lack of open source has a frictional effect. Imagine you work for a company and write a toolset. You go to your boss and ask to make it public. He/she turns round to you and says "no, it's part of our intellectual property". What's happening there is a commercial imperative is stopping the "publication of your peer-review" paper. Because open source doesn't have that frictional effect, it has an advantage. Note as well that an open source approach also has an analogue in application of scientific rigour. You can't validate an idea if it's a secret -- you have to have the paper/idea out there, being pulled apart and examined by as many people as possible in order to get validation.


The shift here is that the vendors are no longer in a position imposing "facts" on the industry. We are now much more empowered to create our own facts. But what goes along with this this is that if you're not applying a proper scientific rigour to our own personal analysis of technologies that we support, we're just being an unpaid salespeople.

Maturation of our the industry can only come from criticism and academic rigour. That's why I'm no longer an ally to any of the vendors, or a fanboi for any technology.

We need more evidence, and less salesmanship. 

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Image credit: Wikimedia

Topic: Software Development

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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
      • I too find a tread about a your posts in this forum.

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

          I dare you to find a post of mine criticising fanboys.
          Are you a fanboy?
          • 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.
          • 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.
    • 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!
      • 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, make it an issue. Windows 8 does not have an issue, but users might.
    • 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
      • 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.
        • Why do you believe this?

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