How you can tell you’re dealing with a bunch of fanboys

In my previous post where I criticised Linus’s choice of bumping the kernel’s version to 3 without thinking through the kind of problems we, as distributors, would have faced with broken build systems that rely on the output of uname command, I expected mixed reactions, but mostly I thought it would have brought in technical arguments.

Turns out that the first comment was actually in support of the breakage for the sake of finding bugs, while another (the last at the time of writing), shows the presence of what, undeniably, is a fanboy. A Linux (or Linus) one at it, but still a fanboy. And yes, there are other kinds of fanboys, beside Apple’s. And of the two comments, the former is the one I actually respect.

So how do you spot fanboy’s of all trades? Well, first look for people who stick with one product, or one manufacturer. Be it Apple, Lenovo, Dell, or in the case of software, Canonical, Free Software Foundation, KDE or Linus himself, sticking with a single supplier without even opening to the idea that others have done something good is an obvious sign of being a fanboy.

Now, it is true that I don’t like having things of many different vendors as they tend to work better together when they are from the same, but that’s not to say I can’t tell what else is good from another vendor. For instance, after two Apple laptops and an iMac, I didn’t have to stay with Apple… I decided to get a Dell, and that’s what I’m using right now. Similarly, even though I liked Nokia’s phone, my last two phones were a Motorola and, nowadays, an HTC.

Then make sure to notice whether they can’t accept flaws in the product or decisions. Indeed one of the most obnoxious behaviours in Apple’s fanboys, who tend to justify all the choices of the company as something done right. Well, here is the catch: not all of them are! Now, part of this is underscored in the next tract, but it is important to understand that for a fanboy even what would be a commercial failure, able to bring a company near bankruptcy, is a perfect move, and was just misunderstood by the market.

Again, this is not limited to Apple fanboys; it shouldn’t be so difficult to identify a long list of Nokia fanboys who keep supporting their multi-headed workforce investment strategy of maintaining a number of parallel operating systems and classes of devices, in spite of a negative market response… and I’m talking about those who are not to gain directly from said strategy — I’m not expecting the people being laid off, or those whose tasks are to be reassigned from their favourite job, to be unsupportive of said strategy of course.

But while they are so defensive of their love affair, fanboys also can’t see anything good in what their competitors do. And this is unfortunately way too common in the land of Free Software supporters: for them Sony is always evil, Microsoft never does anything good, Apple is only out to make crappy designs, and so on.

This is probably the most problematic situation: since you can’t accept that the other manufacturers (or the other products) have some good sides to them, you will not consider improvements in the same way. This is why just saying that anybody claiming Apple did something good is a fanboy is counterproductive: let’s look at what they do right, even if it’s not what we want (they are after all making decisions based on their general strategy, that is certainly different from the Free Software general strategy).

And finally, you’re either with them or against them. Which is what the comment that sprouted the discussion shows. You’re either accepting their exact philosophy or you’re an enemy, just an enemy. In this case, I just had to suggest that Linus’s decision was made without thinking of our (distributors) side, and I became an enemy who should use some other projects.

With all this on the table, can you avoid becoming a fanboy yourself? I’m always striving to make sure I avoid that, I’m afraid many people don’t seem to accept that.