Watching the Apple/PC/Apple desktop computer consumer shift in the 90s and 00s and now the Symbian/Apple/Android mobile device consumer shift has been a fascinating opportunity to observe geek and mainstream consumer behaviour.
Different sides of each argument about which platform is better and why, is fought fiercely by both sides with claims that opponents are fanboys and there’s what appears to be a clear “winner” and degrading of the “loser”. Previously such discussions were the realm of technology enthusiasts sometimes with reference to “geeks” in closed rooms or halls and perhaps on bulletin boards or newsgroups where only a handful of like-minded people interacted. Newspapers would report on technology and with journalistic education backing them would try to present both sides of the discussion as rationally as possible. At that time few geeks responded to technology articles in the mainstream press (few that there were anyway). This was partly because responding was difficult but also because they preferred a heated argument with like-minded friends and colleagues.
Fast-forward to today. Social media is in the hands of millions (perhaps a billion) worldwide. Newspapers are fading fast and downsizing whilst blogs and internet news sites are fast becoming the place people turn to for news and information - especially opinion. Responding to articles written by anybody is very easy and gone are the days where such debate was had in halls and behind closed doors amongst a small minority. The internet is listening and it takes precious little to spark furious debate. Let us suppose that there is no such intent. No page views or circulation to consider. The writers of todays tech “news” websites seldom have journalism qualifications, training or experience in the traditional sense. The editorial of their work may or may not be very thorough. What remains then are less than balanced pieces of news for the reader to make up their own mind but rather the opinion of that writer, that geek. Therein lies the problem. To a geek, a new device is an opportunity to play with new features, functionality and gimmicks that they may use in their day to day lives. Sometimes being able to set the wallpaper to a moving image of a fish means so much to a geek that they’re happy to open task managers to close applications that have stopped responding, put up with bad battery life and so on, just to have that one killer feature. Mainstream consumers would never care.
Geeks are fickle and will change allegiances when enough “cool features” are present in the next big product. They will jump the fence to the other side and begin to argue against the system they used to use. Mainstream consumers usually go with what works and is cheap.
Those reasons alone make geeks the least ideal to report on technology. Their bias changes with time based on what’s “cool” at the time and they change sides based on their own needs. They are in essence the opposite of the “mainstream” consumer.
Mainstream consumers don’t read Tech Crunch, The Verge, Mashable, Engadget, BGR or anything like it. They read newspapers, magazines and talk to friends. The choices of the mainstream consumer drive companies like Apple. Not geeks. If you are reading this, it is highly likely you are one yourself. So the next time your fingers are itching to type out a flaming response to a tech blogger about their opinion about which new smartphone is the best, just remember that your opinions don’t matter. You are the worst qualified to have an opinion, which reminds me, I need to stop this post before the irony sets in.