Saturday, April 26, 2008

Are Technology Journalists (in general) Really Experts, or are They Closed-Minded, Elitist Parrots?

I've been following technology (specifically personal computers, but also consumer electronics) for more than a decade. I've used every version of Windows since 3.11, I've used 3 versions of Mac OS X plus Mac OS 8 and 9, and several versions of Linux. I've also worked with HP Unix, Sun Solaris, and Open VMS. Every desktop computer I've ever had I built myself. I've cracked open laptops (including an Apple iBook) to upgrade RAM and repair broken components and replace hard drives. I also recently completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology. I'd like to think I can speak with some authority on this topic.

I listen to several technology podcasts, and read several technology blogs. I also read magazines like ComputerWorld. Some of my favorite podcasts are from the TWIT network by Leo LaPorte and his friends. I also really enjoy John C. Dvorak's Cranky Geeks video podcast. Many of these tech journalists seem to be part of some kind of inside circle. Many are friends. Many of them use Macintosh computers and completely shun those of us who use PCs with Windows.

I see a very common theme in tech journalism that is very much against anything Microsoft does. Many tech journalists, like Scott Foley and Leo LaPorte, will publicly declare "I still don't recommend Windows Vista", despite the fact that it's been in circulation for over a year, has had a service pack released, and is stable and capable. Articles and blog entries routinely emanate from these technology luminaries about the demise of Microsoft and the rise of Apple and/or Linux.

Let me say one thing: if you thought political journalists were completely biased and lived in elitist circles totally removed from reality, you know nothing about tech journalism. A recent slew of articles about the impending demise of Microsoft makes me want to get up in the morning and watch the regular news (which I avoid like the plague in election years.)

First, let me say one thing: it is perfectly acceptable to like Windows. It is perfectly acceptable to use Windows. If you follow tech journalism, remember, just because these people get paid to be mouthpieces does not mean that their opinions should overshadow yours. You have the right and responsibility to do your own homework and research.

People in technology hold to silly positions. Here is an editor of a major PC Magazine (appropriately titled PC Magazine) who still carts an old PC to work. It has Windows 3.11. He likes it. He writes his articles in an old word processing, and somebody else have to manually transcribe his writing back into Microsoft Word for publication. Good for him. I'll tell you one thing though: I got into technology because I like shiny new things. I don't want to stick with "the way things were". I like to see changes and improvements and enhancements. That's what drives my participation in this field.

Take everything you read in tech journalism worth a grain of salt, just as you should in political journalism. Seriously, the people who rise to these positions, (and there are not a lot of paying jobs in tech journalism, so there are very few people who make it) may know a lot of general information, but they have their own opinions. They live in very small circles, full of people who see the world almost exactly as they do. Remember that. They don't live in your world. They don't work in your job, or maintain computers for your family, or make purchasing decisions for your company. They have huge budgets or get review units. I'm not likely to get a review unit MacBook Air, nor is my wife likely to let me buy one. I don't have $30,000 a year to set aside for computers and iPhones like Leo Laporte does. Neither do you. I can't afford to have one HP laptop, three Dell laptops, one legit iPhone on AT&T, one unlocked iPhone on T-mobile, three Blackberries, a Nokia N95, two MacBooks, a Mac Pro, and all of the other stuff most of these people, like Leo Laporte and Robert Scoble cart around. Of course, you might make fun of me for going through airport security with a Pocket PC Phone, an iPod Touch, and a laptop.

I also notice that most of the criticism leveled against Microsoft from tech journalists tends to come from people who have no idea how to build and support a world class, run on everything under the sun operating system. It's one thing to say "Windows should do this", but it's entirely another thing to actually make it happen. Just like in political journalism, the mouths running the loudest are the farthest removed from actually making anything happen in real life.

Just remember to make your own decisions. Remember that some tech journalists have their own viewpoints and/or agendas, and they may not live in reality like you have to.

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