David Pogue has an interesting piece in The New York Times about readers’ reactions to his negative review of RIM’s BlackBerry Storm. Pogue gave the smartphone a drubbing and copped the righteous flak of CrackBerry addicts everywhere as a result.
One wrote, with characteristic mixture of creepy altruism and bizarre, quasi-religious over-reaction:
“In an economy like this, the world can do without ignorantly people more concerned with their own egos ripping apart an innovative and well conceived product. May the Devil find out you're dead immediately after you're gone."
This will clang a bell with anybody has had the temerity to write critically of sacrosanct companies. What is interesting is why readers get so very aerated about certain brands.
Take Apple, the great sacred cow of Silicon Valley. Write a piece suggesting there may be issues with some of the companies’ products, whether it be to suggest that the prices could use being a little, you know, lower, or that product finish isn’t always a strong suit, and wait for the bomb to explode. Vulgar language usually WRITTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS, comments doubting the paternity status of your correspondent, even threats of violence… all are quite common.
It was ever thus, or at least it has been thus for the last 20 years I have been writing about technology matters. But the internet has had the effect of broadening and deepening this anger. But today many other companies also have their fanboys (a neologism, incidentally, created for just this community), from AMD to Palm -- and don’t even think about questioning the status of Linux. On the other hand, praise one of these and you will get a smaller virtual mailbag accusing you of being a Microsoft-hater, anti-Intel or similar.
I suppose the internet has made it far easier for readers to make direct contact with writers although, oddly, enough, many of their missives come from mailboxes that do not accept replies. The writers seem happy to pursue a one-way correspondence. But why do technology brands produce such emotion? Is this just a modern equivalent of road rage, evidence of the power of modern brand building or a welcome demonstration of the power of democratic debate? I’m really not at all sure.