Imagine this. You and a good friend are buying some booze today (you can't buy it tomorrow, guys, stock up) and while you reach for the Scrumpy he reaches for the Old Mout. (These are both cheap ciders.) He gets mad all of a sudden. "You just want the Scrumpy because of the branding," he claims, or, "all the content on Scrumpy is just reposts from Old Mout." He then details how much "cleaner and simpler" the Old Mout experience is, telling you that it only costs more (I don't think it does - just let me use this stupid analogy, okay) because it uses superior parts, and that you would be a schmuck to buy Scrumpy. "Scrumpy is for casuals."
This sounds pretty ridiculous, right? But for some reason, when the bottles of cider become tech ecosystems, we turn into dickheads, fast.
By tech ecosystems I mean a whole host of things, Windows v OSX, Tumblr v Facebook, Xbox 360 v PS3, Nikon v Canon, Chrome v Firefox, Reddit v 4Chan, Android v iOS, there are many many ecosystems and many, many fans of each. Now obviously the cider analogy is rather simplistic - deciding what to drink on Good Friday is a trifling purchase, whereas deciding which ecosystem to spend either a substantial amount of money or a substantial amount of time in is a more complex decision. There are other factors too - we generally want more people to use our ecosystem because then more apps/devices/money will pour into it. Plus, if it's something like a camera purchase, you would love your friends to use the same ecosystem as you, then you can trade lenses and so on.
This whole tech partisanship thing reared its ugly head pretty badly with the long-awaited release of Instagram for Android this week. I'm happy more of my friends will get Instagram, and that Instragram finally worked out whatever was taking them 10 years, but not everyone is so pleased.
I realised after writing my Giving up on Android post the other day that I hadn't gone into enough detail about my use of other Android devices - I really wasn't just basing it on my IDEOS 8150 - and that the post came off as overly negative toward Android. I had fallen into this criticism without even really realising it, forgetting that I effing love Android, really. I seem to love iOS more right now, but that doesn't mean I don't think Android is awesome. Where the hell would have Apple got their notifications system from without Android?
Competition is both healthy and important - I hope that when it comes time for me to next buy a smartphone, someone else has completely leapfrogged Apple, whether it be Microsoft or Google (hey, maybe even RIM, who knows?). Shouldn't we all be able to just like what we like, without criticism for making the wrong decision?
This ecosystem partisanship has probably existed since the beginning of time. Humans love being on the winning team. When we spend a lot of money on something we want to think we invested wisely. Debates are pretty fun too. The jokes can be pretty funny. (Some losers broke into my house and stole my PS3 a while back, but left all the games scattered around it; two or three of my friends waited till I had finished telling the story, then with the obligatory shocked look asked me: "Wait a minute, the PS3 has games?")
Lots of the time, we think we are informing consumers so they can make better decisions - and that is a noble cause. Still, check out the comment section on any TechCrunch story tangibly related to Google or Apple. People get mad at each other. Can't we just assume that most people buy according to their means/needs/wants, and in this day and age are probably reasonably educated in who does what best?
Of course, the companies love this kind of division. They drive it too. Fanboys are a godsend: they are free walking advertisements who also slavishly buy anything you put out. Apple has its Mac v PC ads, its "If you don't have an iPhone" ads; Motorola (used to) have its "Droid Does" ads. The more they can divide us the better.
This has been kind of a ramble - but what I'm trying to say is that I'm going to start not being such a dick about ecosystems. Sure, I'll make jokes and stuff, but I will no longer mock Canon users about lens incompatibility or Reddit users for rehashing old 4chan copypasta, or OSX users where all the games are at. If everyone went on the same sites and used the same operating systems, life would be pretty boring.
* None of this applies if you still use IE6, IE7, or IE8. You are slowing down web development. Please, dear god, update.
** Another caveat: when one community blatantly steals from another without credit, that is lame and anger is justified. I'm looking at you, 9gag.
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