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2011: Time for tech enthusiasts to act more charitably

By Dave Nickason

I wish technology enthusiasts could focus more on the good that can be done for people and communities and less on whether their phone matches their shoes or who uses what product. Fanboyism is out of control and detracts from things that are more important.

Microsoft doesn’t suck, and neither does Apple, Google or any other company with high revenue and long-term success. If someone writes an even slightly pro-Apple article, the Microsoft fanboys go crazy, and vice versa. These companies are all successful, and their products sell well. Shouldn’t we all focus on something else?

Somehow in technology, we’ve reached the point of religious war, where the fans of Company A not only buy their products with enthusiasm, but put hours into finding ways to disparage the products of Company B, and reviling anyone who would even consider buying one. If you love Toyota but your neighbor buys a Honda, you don’t set their house on fire or move away. So why is there so much anger vented toward someone who likes an iPod, while you prefer Zune?

It seems that authors avoid these wars better than the commenters, but when someone writes an article praising a product, it’s boring and pointless to read a dozen comments calling the author a fanboy or worse.

Tech bloggers and reviewers are a separate problem. When seeking information about a product, I want to read primarily about that product and less about the competition. Some authors can only write about one product by comparing it to another. Someone will write an article about an Android phone that reads like it was written by Apple CEO Steve Jobs — Android sucks because iPhone does this, this and that.

When I read about a product from a major manufacturer, I assume people will buy that product, and I’m not interested in an article that’s nothing more than unflattering comparisons to other products. I want to read about the product being written about, not every competing product with the implication that something else is better. It’s not a zero-sum game where in order for one thing to be good, something else has to be bad.

There’s a real lack of charity expressed by commenters or writers, either toward one another or to other products. Likewise, why must everyone obsess about the tiniest product details and chase every rumor. Tech publications, blogs and their readers focus too much on the latest and greatest — hardware, features, convenience, etc. — but with little mention of how technology can actually make the world a better place for humanity.

Another kind of charity is missing, of using all this great technology enthusiasts rave about to help others. It’s something to think about as the new year approaches and people make resolutions for 2011.

Of all the tech happenings in 2010, the one I remember most is not whose phone OS does copy and paste and whose does not. It’s that as of last month, World Community Grid volunteers have donated over 400,000 years of computing time to research on problems like childhood cancer and AIDS — and that’s not a typo. It’s a bunch of geeks donating some spare computing resources to doing good work for the benefit of others.

Charity should be everyone’s resolution for 2011 — how we treat each other as tech enthusiasts and how we use technology to make the lives of every one of the world’s 7 billion people a little better.

Dave Nickason is responsible for IT — among other functions — for a 22-employee law firm in New York State. He has been a Microsoft MVP for Small Business Server since 2004 and enjoys exploring how technology can level the playing field between small business and enterprises. Nickason also is a Betanews reader.

Copyright Betanews, Inc. 2010

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