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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.

Comments 4
  1. There is a difference between fanaticism (being a fanboy) and loyalty. I think a fair amount of the cases for being a fanatic/fanboy could also be seen as being loyal. Loyalty is very rare in these times, and should be seen as a good thing, not bad. Loyalty is usually a reward for a job well done, and can lead to ignoring alternatives and being defiant regarding mistakes. But that’s a result of being loyal, not a fanatic in most cases. Either way there is a difference, that I am not sure is being taken into consideration.

  2. I’m sorry but I don’t find it positive to ignore problems just because they come from your favourite vendor, that’s not loyalty, it’s blindness…Really, loyalty should only go to ideas, not people or vendors… and even of ideas I have doubts.

  3. I agree its not wise to ignore problems regardless of fanaticism or loyalty. However if a vendor or person has done you well for any period of time. Its more tolerance for mistakes or problems, in an imperfect world. Everyone will make mistakes, its how they react to such that I tend to focus on rather than seeking perfection which does not exist in anything anywhere ever. No one can remain king of the hill or be perfect forever, most everything in life has highs and lows.I think its really best to have more tolerance, in the face of mistakes or problems. Though again that really depends on how they go about acknowledging such, correcting any problems, etc. Also if the other party cares about or rewards loyalty. Loyalty really is a good thing, and its really something the world is sadly missing and slowly losing.Loyalty towards ideas is rather interesting. Not sure I have ever been loyal to an idea. But I am definitely loyal to people, vendors, etc. I would hope any people, customers/clients, etc would be loyal just the same in return. Though that’s more an idealistic view, and the real world tends to be otherwise. Golden rule is also a thing of the past…

  4. In my experience, fanboys become annoying when you have a REAL technical problem with one of their favorite products. You’d better find the root cause yourself and eventually submit a bugfix patch, because if you describe your problem to a fanboy, you are going to be flamed. Indeed, in the mind of the fanboy the technical problem does not exist, and so you ARE the problem.Fortunately, programmers tend not to be fanboys, because, as they actually write code, they know that code always has bugs and there is no such thing as perfect software or hardware.@wltjr: Loyalty doesn’t mean denying problems, but rather admitting them and then, either fixing or accepting them.Linux kernel is one of the best pieces of code I’ve ever seen, but the version scheme change broke some of my automatic extract/patch/build scripts. Not a big deal. I fixed my scripts.

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