Tech religions are an illusion

Tech religions are an illusion

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


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 They may even hold views that might be outdated and no longer reflect reality.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


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience 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.

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  • Not a bad analogy

    Technology is interesting for its own sake, but the decision to purchase is usually more pragmatic than most people realize. People don't buy the latest gear from the hated competitor because they are misguided - they do so because it suits their needs and wishes. And no company is so good that it can be all things to everyone.

    The technology vendor has to decide what they are good at, and then be damn good at it. Easier said than done, but it is a simple concept.
  • In Summary

    I don't like Mossberg. I'm better than he is because I'm humble. I work for Microsoft, now, and it's only right and proper I tell you how awesome their stuff is this coming year.
    • Humble indeed.

      More like humbug. If you think you're better, then you aren't humble, are you?
      • I think you missed baggins_z title

        He was trying to summarize the article, though he did so very poorly as he missed the point of the article.
    • He didn't say he didn't like Mossberg

      and really, having read Mossberg's post and now this one, I don't get the connection, because it was nearly the content. Jason Perlow just wants the religious connotation thrown out entirely. Mossberg states that the religious connotation does not apply to tech. So, they wrote the same article, from slightly different perspectives.

      Either way, I run more people who don't care, but just want working devices. Then a few people who pretend to be pro-Apple or Google just to try pushing my buttons. I like Microsoft products as they provide what I need and then some.
    • Well, that didn't take long

      Amazing how quickly you validated all of the article's points.
  • unfortunately IT is loaded with crusaders or "Duped Crusaders"

    Stay tuned to this same channel ... will the Duped Crusader be thwarted or will he backstab the chivalrous knight through devious plots and manipulation. :-)
    • I have very strong vision about Jesus thinking about...

      ... choice between Linux, Mac and Windows. He surely would have prefered Linux/FLOSS. And so would Martin Luther King have done. Both of these men didn't worship corporate dictatorship. Instead they have very ethic message. Just like Linux and open source software.

      Sad that majority of mob is always wanting Barabbas.
      • Really, that is just weird.

        The ideology of FLOSS/Open source is not an equivalent to Jesus' message.
      • MLK would have gone with Linux to avoid the FBI et al.

        Of course he'd have had to find someone who was Linux literate since his skill set didn't go in that direction. I suspect Jesus would have gone with Linux for similar reasons, and because anyone could get it, major wealth not a requirement.
  • the Holy Grail

    Is an OS that does everything well, and safe.
    Until then, I'm an OS agnostic. Each is a tool that does certain things better than others.
    Maybe it's the black ops Mary Jo Foley wrote about Microsoft is working on, and maybe not.
    Linux (Ubuntu) is close, but I like my tablets. Maybe soon?
  • Tech religions are an illusion

    No one should have a religion in tech. I surely don't. I have some software I favor over others because I know what its capable of and used them. That's just making a rational decision based on experience. Its these people who disagree with what I use who are the ones screaming in the streets and get upset and treating technology like a religion.
    • I thought your religion was "Linux's telnet port"?

      You should probably read this paragraph again:

      "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."
      • OK I read it

        and I don't see how that applies to me.
        • The First Step

          The first step in your recovery is acknowledging you have a problem. Clearly you haven't done that yet.

          The rest of us here in the talkback section are waiting...

          BTW, thanks for the great laugh for your original post! I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. :)
    • What utter rubbish!

      You come to these fora and act as little more than an MS shill day after day. Anyone who has read these fora for any length of time knows that you worship MS and that you are quite happy to lie about other products and to create dissension with your flame-bait. You are everything that most others on these fora despise.
      • Despise? Not really...

        ..Loverock, as others have said, is more of a class clown. I personally always find him a good source of comic relief (especially since he plays the straight man to all the flag-waving techno-weenies he seems to be able to hook every time he uses that "Telnet Port" line).

        He also has a tendency to sound smarter when he's purposely being a dolt than many who reply to his comments with a serious bug up their crotch.

        You want a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff in these forums - look for a Loverock post, then make a mental note of those who reply to him. Those are the commenters too stupid to merit any of your time.
        • Bagdad Bob

          Actually, he reminds me of the Minister in Iraq:

          "There are NO tanks in Bagdad!"

          Keeps his head buried in the sand as the world passes him by.
      • I don't lie

        and I clearly stated in my post above that I favor some software over others but I never lied about it. I base my posts on my experience.
  • Hmmm,

    Not a day goes by where the caustic stench of flame war emanates from the Talkbacks section. Always the same people. Over, and over. They're a vocal but small bunch, these Crusaders.

    And without being cruel (ok, maybe a little) ZDNet does all they can to promote and attract these "crusaders". It would be child's play to put an end to it and promote real interaction and discussion but like most drug addicts, ZDNet is addicted to clicks and they can count on the "crusaders" to come back hour after hour and day after day to rant endlessly.