So, my article a few days ago sparked quite a debate. Then, our own Agrippa responded in his own genius way, and even the mysterious Eric Ravenscraft weighed in just to remind us of, well, I’m not quite sure what he was doing, but it was funny. After reading the articles, and sifting through the feedback, I’ve had a change of heart.
So as I covered in the original article, the internet can be a dangerous place, go watch nearly any video on YouTube and just see some of the nasty things commenters will say to the video creators, other commenters, and really anyone who gets in their line of fire. It’s borderline despicable, but is that such a bad thing? Rude? Sure. Tasteless? Absolutely. But is it truly wrong? I don’t think so.
We’re all adults here, or at least most of us are. For the most part, true flame wars go on between people who are legally considered adults whether they act that way or not. Part of being an adult in almost any culture is having the ability to look out for yourself. This basically means that you can feed yourself, be responsible, make sure you get to work on time, and all that other lame stuff that comes from growing out of childhood. Most of the time, the earned qualities of adulthood are pretty mundane, but there are some perks. One of those perks, is the right and ability to stand on your own two feet and fight for your beliefs. This also means your opposition has the same rights. So what’s the big deal if two adults have a little argument? This is the kind of stuff that makes our country, and other countries, great. We have every right in the world to stand on our soapbox and spout our beliefs to whoever’s around. If they want to fight back, so be it! Be warned, you have to be prepared to face challengers though. So make sure you have a leg to stand on with your argument.
Let’s dissect a flame war here and see how it truly is beneficial to everyone. For the sake of continuity we’ll bring up the same iOS vs Android vs WP7 battle I mentioned in the original article.
So, Google holds a press conference. They announce a brand new feature that we’ll call Geomarking. So Geomarking is this remarkable idea that lets you open the maps application on your Android device and set all sorts of actions based on a given location. Say, for example, you want to activate certain applications in the background and a different email account when your phone recognizes that you’re at your office, Geomarking does that. It also does a slue of other things that I don’t feel like thinking about, suffice it to say it’s a relatively new and bold idea that hasn’t been implemented in this way ever before.
Phase 1: Android owners lose their minds.
As well they should. That’s a pretty cool feature, one that will definitely be useful to a lot of people. How can you not be excited about it? So the Android users of the world hit the net in praise of Google for bringing them such a fantastic new addition to their already wonderful Android platform. The users’ immediate reaction is not one of spite or gloating, but rather a reaction of joy and celebration. This is completely normal and honestly, totally acceptable, but it does hit a sore spot for others.
Phase 2: The “yeah but it doesn’t do [blank]” phase.
Jealousy. It’s a tricky thing. As humans we’re all vulnerable to occasionally “feeling” things and having what some experts refer to as emotions. These “emotions” can range in severity from the lighthearted bliss feeling, to the overzealous enraged feeling. Jealousy is perhaps one of the strongest emotions that humans deal with, so when Phase 1 occurs, and Android-boys are shouting from the internet rooftops, Phase 2 is quick to follow. Apple and Windows lovers are upset. Somewhere inside they like Geomarking, but they can’t admit that. They need to poke holes in it to prove that Android losers are just getting carried away with a feature that truly isn’t that great… and besides, some other company thought of that awhile ago. They’re absolutely right too! Geomarking does have a lot of issues that the Android users don’t seem to be addressing, and yeah, that other company did come up with it first way back in the day. These are all extremely valid points.
Phase 3: The Battle
This is perhaps the most important phase. Android users are now angry that the rest of the tech world doesn’t see the same genius that they see in Geomarking. They curse and moan to every outlet they can, filling comment sections with their cases as to why it’s the best thing ever. The rest of the tech world responds with their rebuttals and we all get really mad at each other, but something else happens too. Without knowing it, the two sides will have enough pros and cons thrown out there so that the passer-by can read it, and see basically what needs to be done to make this new Geomarking thing a true success. They can sift through the name calling and inane babble that constitutes most internet arguments and pull out the cold facts that both sides of the argument have laid out nicely for them. So who cares right? Why should we be concerned with some “passer-by” reading through comment sections of a tech blog? Well I’ll tell you.
The passer-by might not just be any old Joe sifting through articles. That passer-by might be Apple, or it could be Microsoft. Or maybe that passer-by is a very weak, insignificant, underdog of a company that is positioning itself to take on all three of the big phone giants of the moment, like, say RIM. Whoever it may be, they’re gaining valuable insight into not only what their customers want, but also what their competitions customers want, and what everybody doesn’t want. They can read through enough content to truly find the middle ground between both sides of the argument and open up shop right in that middle ground. Now this might not happen on a tech blog, it might not happen on the internet at all, but it does happen. It happens all the time. Voices in numbers are heard by the companies they support and the companies they do not support. This is how the industry moves forward.
The point of all this is, if we never made our voices heard, Apple could have just settled for the original iPhone design and been done with it. It was through paragraph after paragraph of flaming that Apple slowly realized, NO, a phone without picture messaging is not acceptable, and for gods sake be a little easier with the App Store restrictions. It was through those same paragraphs that led Android and WP7 to avoid making those mistakes in the first place. It’s through the bickering and name calling and constant back and forth of the internet that we all move forward as an industry. We are the consumers, we demand what we want from our tech companies and our money goes to the company that meets our needs. So flame on users, the tech industry needs you.