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Can’t Mac and Windows fans just get along? How evangelical fanboys do more harm than good


I was on a podcast with fellow Digital Trends columnist Rob Enderle and editor Nick Mokey ages ago. I enjoyed it very much, and I like Rob Enderle. From what I could garner from my limited interactions with him, Rob’s days are full of wonderful, nerdy things. He gets paid to write about those nerdy things. It sounds like the kind of life I’d like to have!

Recently Rob wrote a pair of op eds — Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion — why Apple Suddenly Sucks and Did Apple overpromise on the new iPad? — expressing his bearish opinion on post-Steve-Jobs Apple. “Someone is wrong on the Internet!” I thought. “I must address this!”

Rob is a seasoned industry insider, though. I’m an Apple fanboy excited to have a small writing gig. He could probably wipe the floor with me on this stuff. Then I thought further: Is it really necessary that anyone wipe the floor with anyone else when it comes to these kinds of arguments?

Though arguments about Apple vs. Microsoft can be fun, they’re becoming less meaningful. They may also obscure the similarities of those arguing in a potentially harmful way.

Convergent experience

How much of your computing time is spent on the Web? Is your Facebook experience really going to be better or worse if you use a different Web browser? What about a different operating system? It’s likely not to be.

What about media? You’re a nerd, right? You’re probably using your computer to play your exclusively non-pirated audio and video files. Perhaps you use iTunes to manage your music library. Great! It’s available for both OS X and Windows (sorry Linux folks). Not using iTunes? Also great! It is kind of a bloated piece of crap, after all. There are tons of other music players available. Playing video files isn’t even a worry: You have the phenomenal, multi-platform, open-source VLC available, even for many flavors of Linux.

More likely, you’re streaming video. Maybe you’re watching Hulu or the latest After Hours. That experience will be the same no matter what platform or browser you use. Netflix is even better. By a quick count, no fewer than six different kinds of devices in my house can be used to stream Netflix. Regardless of the operating system powering that device, Netflix provides a very similar experience.

Most of us want to do the same kinds of things with our computers. We want to surf the Web, watch movies, listen to music, and chat with our friends. These are experiences that are available and similar on all platforms.

If we’re all doing the same things in much the same way, what is there really to argue about?

Fanboys unite

I hope you didn’t take offense to me calling you a nerd earlier. It would be unfortunate if you did. You clearly are one. Don’t worry! You’re in good company. I’m a nerd too. So are a lot of readers on this site.

Having a strong enough interest in technology to surf Digital Trends puts you in a pretty small slice of the population. If you are passionate enough to comment, that puts you in a smaller slice still. Think about how similar you are to the other readers of this site, and how similar you are to writers like Rob and me. You’re even similar to the users of that other operating system that you really dislike.

We’re all techies here. Columnists for Digital Trends post largely for the pleasure of it and for their love of tech. Sometimes we shoot from the hip, because, let’s face it, that’s pretty fun.

We’re similar in far more ways than we’re different. We nerds should stick together.

Small differences

Sticking together is harder than it sounds because of what Sigmund Freud termed “the narcissism of small differences” According to Wikipedia:

The term describes ‘the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other’ – ‘such sensitiveness…to just these details of differentiation’.

The more similar we are, the more we exaggerate minor differences. This preserves our sense of uniqueness and identity. Hence “the console wars.” Hence my extreme dislike of the New England Patriots. And, hence my ire for Rob’s recent columns, despite my general affection for Rob.

The narcissism of small differences pops up often in creative work. I’ve noticed it. Times of stress revealed the incredible kindness of others, though, and now I try to have a more open view. Inclusiveness has had real benefits. When you get to know people you can always find similar interests. Taking pleasure in those similarities can be more fun than dissecting our differences. It’s definitely more beneficial in the long term. Including makes friends. Excluding doesn’t.

Can’t we all just get along?

Though it might be difficult, I’m doing my best to fight the narcissism of small differences. I try to keep in mind: simply by being super-nerds and writers for this site, Rob and I are pretty similar. We may care about different things, but we care about them in the same way.

Maybe Rob and I can just agree to disagree on the Apple thing. I’ll still enjoy reading his weekly column just the same. I hope he enjoys reading mine as well.

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