Enough of that tech partisanship

Last updated 09:32 05/04/2012

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.

Email Henry or follow him on Twitter.

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Scott   #1   10:38 am Apr 05 2012

Far too many people are seduced by advertising and pretty colours. And they don't necessarily know what they want or need though.

I'm involved with a group where every person involved with the finances has Macs. And they decided the group needed to move onto internet banking. Guess what..the appropriate internet banking systems don't work on Macs. This wouldn't have been a consideration in either the hardware purchase or the internet banking decisions.

Henry Cooke   #2   10:45 am Apr 05 2012

@1 Oh there is definitely stupid decisions. Especially when it comes to work systems, and when people who want OSX over everything else when it isn't compatible with much enterprise software.

AndiNZ   #3   11:21 am Apr 05 2012

I don't actually care what system I use, as long as it works, without too much hassle.

So far, it has been my experience that Windows-based systems are a pain in the butt, and my Apple devices (mostly, with some caveats) work as desired. They're not perfect, and I am not a slavish fan, but I definitely prefer stuff that just does what I ask with a minimum of fuss.

I haven't had much experience with Android, and don't care about social media, but anything that works the way it should is fine with me.

Dan   #4   11:38 am Apr 05 2012

The most criticism I have seen about Instagram has been from Android people saying that it's pointless on Android because you have most of it's functionality native.

Theo   #5   12:06 pm Apr 05 2012

I've always been an Android user, and I probably always will be. Contrary to what most people seem to spout, I actually find iOS less intuitive to use. Give me Android's Settings menu over whatever iOS has any day. I spent 10 minutes trying to set up a WiFi connection, then gave up due to my rising frustration.

Every time I consider buying an iPhone for all its extra apps, and smoother UI, I remind myself of that experience. Doesn't stop me from recognising that iOS has its advantages. However, for my purposes, Android is better.

I've learned to avoid BGR, Gizmodo and Engadget, simply because of the ridiculous partisanship in both the articles and the comments. You know you're reading something biased when the author of a blog post spouts Apple marketing catchphrases all through a post.

wow   #6   12:45 pm Apr 05 2012

Woah, the Iphone fans going nuts at Android folks getting instagram is just ridiculous. "Android owners are 3rd world, I don't want their cheap phones with old tech cameras infecting our club!"

B   #7   01:19 pm Apr 05 2012

From 37 years of using all manner of different technologies, including 10 different operating systems, 12 computer languages and innumerable software packages, I think that users are not nearly intolerant enough. They put up with years of DOS and crappy early versions of Windows, hopelessly outdated communications and hare-brained ideas, and truly awful screen resolution. Worst of all, we still aren't rid of qwerty keyboards and the now obsolete mouse. We keep hearing that this is a fast-changing industry, but the most brain dead ideas seem almost ineluctable, and genuine progress moves at the pace of continental drift. So I say criticise everything, all the time, except in one respect. It is not a valid argument to criticise others' enthusiasm just because they are enthusiastic; play the ball, not the (wo)man.

Rob   #8   02:22 pm Apr 05 2012

I have a smartphone that I really like using. I have used other smartphones that just didn't do it for me. There are others I'd like to try some day. I'm not going to say which is which because it doesn't matter to anyone else.

Likewise, if you have made a smartphone choice you are happy with then don't make others feel bad for making a different choice.

Cy   #9   03:31 pm Apr 05 2012

@#7 B: What would you replace the mouse with? Realistically. You have a screen facing you, it's not flat in front of you and you want to edit a word document (any program) would you prefer it was a touch screen and you had to wave your hands all over it? Would it be ANY different really if the mouse was in fact a touchpad? This would be worse tbh, you can't do any sort of really fine detail using touch, you'd have to have a stylus.

Keyboards we're getting other options that aren't too bad, the light keyboard is kinda a neat idea. I want wireless power more than change of peripherals THAT would be useful.

GPM   #10   06:55 pm Apr 05 2012

If you spend US$691,000,000 on advertising then some people are really going to like your product.

That's just a bit more than the GDP of Samoa, if you trust Wikipedia...



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