August 8, 2006

Memes that need to die.

Ok, so a few weeks ago we saw three or four bloggers very loudly announce that they're switching from Mac OS X to Linux, for a couple reasons. This became this meme, and I saw a bunch of articles on different sites with the question, "Is this Sudden Migration Something Apple should Worry About?"


I really, really hate this kind of sensationalism. First off, asking a question as your headline is the weaseliest trick in the book. The local news has perfected this technique: "IS THE PAINT ON YOUR WALLS KILLING YOU? Find out at 11!" Now, they didn't come out and say that paint is bad. They didn't even say they had any actual evidence that it might be. They just asked a question in such a way that you now have a little fear planted in your heart, and are compelled to find out more.

Causing an (incorrect) emotional reaction without outright lying is the favorite tool of our current administration, and I urge the blogosphere to avoid adopting these techiniques.


And anyway, it turns out, the answer to the question was "no." The people involved were basically not Apple customers. That's fine. I have no enmity towards them, and you won't see me insulting them. They can switch to a TI 99-4a if it makes them happy.

In this case, these are guys who were basically Linux users who accidentally bought an Apple. One listed the software he used on a daily basis before he'd switched to Ubuntu, and he pretty much replaced all Apple software with open-source equivalents. So, in effect, he's just changed which underlying version of Unix he's using. Pardon me while I yawn.

If you value things like "is this software open-source" and "is this software from a good-hearted company" over "is this software really elegant?" then you aren't Apple's target customer. That's fine. You don't have to be. But it's also not news.

It's like saying, "Should McDonald's worry because vegetarians are boycotting the restaurant?"


This week, I see a ton of articles saying WWDC 2006 is a disappointment, and even speculating that maybe Steve Jobs is sick.

I simply don't have words for this. Leopard is still three quarters away. There's a LOT of work to do, yet. At the keynote, everybody got a sneak-peak at some of the features Apple is working on. If they were finished, they would, you know, ship it.

WWDC is a developer conference. Aimed at developers. Who develop software. Those of us who are developers are freaking amazed at all the great stuff that's in Leopard. Guess what, we can't talk about it. So, you're going to see a lot of opinions from people who aren't here and have only an uninformed opinion.

On the other hand, if it was just the announced products that disappointed you, well, I'm not sure what you expected. Apple is a computer company, and they unveiled a machine that runs blazingly fast and is $1,000 less than a similarly equipped Dell. This doesn't make people happy? Seriously? What's it take? I mean, you can equip this baby with a quad-SLI video card, install Boot Camp, and play Doom at 80 billion fps for way cheaper than you could on Sunday. Doom! Doom!

Yes, Steve didn't announce any new consumer products. Here at the developer conference. Wow. What a shocker. I really expected Slash and/or Edge to come out and sing us a song and announce a new iPod bundle, or at least give me a close shave. (Seriously, "Edge?")


The advantages of the blogosphere, like the democratization of reporting, can easily be overwhelmed by the disadvantages, like the rapid reproduction of memes which are based on faulty original data. I don't know how to solve this, except to call it out when I see it.



Anonymous clee said...

Okay, Wil, but seriously - how awesome is it to have DTrace on OS X?

(I think we're allowed to talk about that, since it's mentioned on the web page about Xray on their site.)

August 09, 2006 12:09 PM

Anonymous Mark Stultz said...

The sticker price is very shocking. With the success of the MB/P in the laptop arena, I'd like to see what numbers churn out due to the Mac Pro.

August 09, 2006 12:34 PM

Anonymous AaronS said...

Wil, you didn't go on any about Steve "being sick" or the fact that he completely walked off stage every time someone else was presenting.

This was obviously the most important point of your entire post.

August 09, 2006 12:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am personnaly disappointed, being myself a developer that cannot go to WWDC. So, I am rather frustrated not to know anything about the future of that cool APIs or technologies that I like using !
For instance, Apple talks about Objective-C 2.0 : I would like to read at least a documentation...

As far as I am concerned, I think I will survive, but I like complaining you know. Hopefully Apple will put some documentation online after WWDC !



August 09, 2006 3:07 PM

Anonymous Aaron said...

n this case, these are guys who were basically Linux users who accidentally bought an Apple.

Um, I think Mark Pilgrim qualifies as a long-time mac user.

August 09, 2006 3:39 PM

Anonymous Sharon said...

It's almost like non-mac users can't stand for Apple to be successful. Why do they care? Maybe bashing the mac brings traffic and attention without much research or thought.

I watched the keynote stream and the developers sounded pretty happy. I did wonder though if Steve may be getting to retire and I didn't think he looked well.

August 09, 2006 4:45 PM

Blogger Andrew Garber said...

Wil, what's your take on the addition of garbage collection in Objective-C 2.0? I'm guessing it fits with your "less code is better" mantra.

August 09, 2006 4:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to reply to some of the posts:

1. All the speakers in all the sessions walk completely off stage when someone else is speaking.
I did wonder why so little of the Keynote was given by Steve, in particular some of the headline features that weren't past his technical acumen, e.g., Time Machine

2. Mark Pilgrim essentially quit Apple because of file format shut in.

3. I was a little disappointed by the keynote, but am happier since the NDA sessions.

August 09, 2006 10:05 PM

Anonymous Cacao said...

Yep, XCode 3. Objc 2. Garbage collection. Bubbles. Core Animation.

I wish I were on WWDC!

August 10, 2006 3:06 AM

Anonymous Chad said...

A guy at work pointed me to some of those pages of Mac users moving over to Linux. The funny thing is, my co-worker is very much in the same boat. He is fairly new to the Mac and owns a PowerBook, but he is continually complaining about things, and he is also in the process of switching out all of the Apple-branded apps on his Dock with other apps (PathFinder, Adium, Thunderbird, Firefox, SongBird, iTerm, etc.)

After reading Mark Pilgrim's comments, he looks like a prime candidate for an open source world. The things which are important to him now thrive in the OSS realm.

However, I can understand the irritation of 'closed' formats, such as with mailbox formats. I recently had to convert some Mail 2 messages over to the mbox format, and that is a bit of a pain. But trying to then convert over to Outlook pst/ost format looks even worse!

In regards to the WWDC keynote speech, the only thing that really caught me off guard was that it seemed a little shorter than some recent keynotes, but still, not bad. It seemed quite geared for the developers with Xserves and Mac Pros and Leopard. I'm very happy to see that virtual desktops have FINALLY been introduced into OS X. Time Machine looks pretty useful, too.

August 10, 2006 7:02 AM

Anonymous Wolfgang Ante said...

Not so fast! The TI 99/4A is an incredible machine. I could switch (it on) anytime.

August 10, 2006 9:48 AM

Anonymous Chris said...

Amen Wil.

August 10, 2006 10:58 AM

Blogger vortech said...

Are you sure the quad video cards are SLI?

August 10, 2006 8:47 PM

Blogger Abhi Beckert said...

Those of us who are developers are freaking amazed at all the great stuff that's in Leopard. Guess what, we can't talk about it. So, you're going to see a lot of opinions from people who aren't here and have only an uninformed opinion.

As a developer who's not at the conference, I'd like to say I'm also amazed at all the cool new stuff. It's not about being at the conference, it's about reading beyond "time machine does automated backups".

August 10, 2006 10:42 PM

Anonymous Mike K. said...

Thank you Wil...

You summed up exactly what I've been telling customer after customer at the Apple reseller store in which I work. Everyone seemed to be expected some new amazing Apple product, and was disappointed when I pointed out that the conference was for developers, not consumers.

August 10, 2006 10:43 PM

Blogger scatterlined said...

Hear, hear on WWDC!

They announced fast, affordable, developer-class machines that you can buy today at a developer's conference and people are disappointed? I hate when its my birthday and my wife gets me that cool thing I asked for.

Apple has (thankfully) learned not to over-hype something that you can't buy yet. The coolest thing for the average consumer was Time Machine; but even that was essentially a call to developers to make their apps support it by the time Leopard ships.

It only makes sense to save the stuff that delights consumers for the day Leopard goes on sale. "You can have these amazing new features for only $100 today; why wait for what Vista might have tomorrow?"

Finally, in regards to Steve: The guy has more money than he knows what to do with and he almost died a couple of years ago! He would be doing the company, investors, and users a disservice if he didn't try to deemphasize the company's dependence on him. (Plus, doesn't a song-and-dance show insult developers?) I thought the staging of tagging in and out between every point was awkward, but oh well.

August 10, 2006 11:43 PM

Blogger fonetik said...

Yay! Thanks for a logical response to it all...

August 11, 2006 12:35 AM

Blogger JulesLt said...

Cory Doctorow has an Apple tattoo, so I think he counts as a long-time Apple user, but he's also been an EFF representative for a long time too, which I think is kind of contradictory. Apple has never been an 'open' system.

I think what we're seeing is that the people who were into Apple because it was the 'alternative' are beginning to abandon the platform, for the new alternative. From looking at music magazines I can see the same.

And yes, I've noticed a few people who come from the Unix/Linux world try and use OS-X as much like a Unix box as possible. Why use a Cocoa app when you've got X-Windows!

August 11, 2006 12:59 AM

Blogger JulesLt said...

Oh yeah, should add, overall I agree - it's a bad meme.
There are still more people coming the other way.

And there is the dirty secret Linux people never mention - a programmer I know quietly switched back from Linux to Windows for the convenience (once he tried to use it as anything other than a development environment he hit problems).

He didn't make a big announcement about it, unlike his switch TO Linux.

August 11, 2006 1:24 AM

Anonymous Nutsmuggler said...

I quote JulesLT on the niche factor, who is determinant for some folks. In Apple forums there is an amazing amount of people complaining of Apple's success, for the sake of the argument "we're a niche, we want to stay this way".
Of course there is the geek factor, and the concern about open formats also, but the 'j'accuse' tone of Mark Pilgrim sounded VERY sensasionalist to me...
About the WWDC keynote, I totally agree. Things like core animation and the new features of XCode seems unbelievably cool and innovative to me, even if I just read some discalimers from the Apple website, but many bloggers and, alas, journalists, are unhappy unless you give them fireworks. In the next keynote Steve Jobs should walk on the stage dancing the funky chicken and announce all products in a song, like in a musical. Maybe that would be appreciated by the press.

August 11, 2006 1:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good writing! I could not agree more...

Laughed my ass off when I read the "Doom-thing"! :)

August 11, 2006 3:55 AM

Blogger John Siracusa said...

It's Mister The Edge to you, hippy!

August 11, 2006 5:02 AM

Anonymous Jason Young said...

My paint is killing me?

August 11, 2006 6:50 AM

Blogger vortechs said...

Sweet! I started programing on a TI 99-4A.

August 11, 2006 7:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cory might have an Apple tatoo, but that makes him no bit less annoying and anti-Apple. Just read his misinformed ramblings about the iTunes DRM.

And to the devs that whine about not knowing what's going on at WWDC: What did you expect? Those of us here had to paid truckloads of money to see the stuff first.

August 11, 2006 10:23 AM

Anonymous Occam said...


Oh... my... GOD.

I hadn't seen that mentioned before. That now takes the place of my favorite new Leopard feature.

Ah, the TI-99/4A... my first computer. I learned programming on that machine. Boy, those were the days: retyping BASIC programs from magazines, modifying and saving to cassette tape, using a tiny black-and-white TV as a computer screen... ;-)

August 11, 2006 11:15 AM

Blogger leeg said...

I was talking about the Linux switchers with an Apple Field Engineer yesterday (we noticed all the Ubuntu billboards on the way to Cupertino, and the, um, two iPod ones) and agreed on these conclusions: once you've bought a Mac you've given your money to Apple, they don't care what you're up to; and secondly switching to or using Linux, Solaris, *BSD or whatever is great, because you're still part of the non-Microsoft cartel. Whether you're using Firefox on Ubuntu or OmniWeb on Mac, that's one more user who prefers open standards to IE-specific b0rkware (with no offence to Mark Dalrymple intended), and the marketshare skew at the moment is such that Apple are still all about cracking into the Windows-or-nothing mentality, so Linux is for the moment still "on our side".  Remind me to use paragraph breaks next time I comment ;-)

August 11, 2006 11:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, John, for setting Wil straight: The The makes all the difference! I'll bet he also pronounces Bono like Cher's late ex-husband. (heh-heh)

Pierre, you want to get all the info you want on what's coming up in Leopard (XCode 3, ObjC2, etc.)? Select membership: $500. As for me, I'll save the half a grand and stay in the dark!

As far as Steve's appearance and energy is concerned, doesn't anybody realize that Apple is under investigation for financial irregularities? THAT an be stressful, just ask Ken Lay!

August 11, 2006 1:18 PM

Blogger JB said...

Wil, you're preaching to the choir, but nevertheless very well put!

August 11, 2006 6:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stuff they announced at the keynote are the same things they announced on their Web site, which is for everybody. So the fact that it was a developer conference is kind of beside the point.

August 11, 2006 8:10 PM

Anonymous Marc Driftmeyer said...

Regarding Time Machine and Steve not doing the demo, if you know or have worked with/around Scott Forstall you know he's more than capable of doing the demo and quite confident in his own "ego."

In short, Steve wasn't concerned that Scott would "blow it."

August 11, 2006 10:38 PM

Anonymous Vladimir Sedach said...

"The advantages of the blogosphere, like the democratization of reporting, can easily be overwhelmed by the disadvantages, like the rapid reproduction of memes which are based on faulty original data."

I find that the democratization of reporting quickly becomes overwhelmed by the fact that most people can't tell a story from, well, I'll let you use your imagination. The best way to deal with this also happens to be the easiest: ignore.

August 11, 2006 11:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The people involved were basically not Apple customers."

FUD. Mark Pilgrim had been Mac user (and developer) for over a decade. Cory Doctorow had been a Mac user since 1984 and has a Mac tattoo on his arm. These guys where die-hard, open, loud advocates of the Mac experience.

August 12, 2006 10:48 AM

Anonymous Alex said...

It's true that Doctorow was a die-hard Mac fan, but since his 'look at me switch! Apple are TEH EVILS!' post, BoingBoing has become really annoying. Nigh every post in which music is mentioned, the BoingBoing blogger will say something along these lines:

'Check out this Afro-Inuit band who create their songs using nothing but their own flatulence! Available on CD, MP3, and also on Apple's pure evil iTunes crippleware, which you'd be mad to use, seriously, anyone who spends 99¢ on a song they can't play on non-Apple players is deranged and should be locked up. Who'd ever want to fund the evil Apple-RIAA cartel in this crazy manner? I for one…'

Ahem. Just needed to vent, sorry. And no, I don't buy from the ITMS. It just annoys me that anyone needs to be so high-profile about which platform they use.

August 12, 2006 12:03 PM

Blogger Super Dave said...

I'm lazy with comments, but well written.


August 12, 2006 1:28 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Look, let me be really clear. I have nothing against any of these switchers, but it is irrelevant how long they identified themselves Mac guys.

My point is, they are not representative of Apple's intended market, today. Their use of Macs was great, but it's not surprising that they eventually got tired of them.

August 12, 2006 2:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If some idiot gets an Apple tatoo, that automatically places him in the category of "moron" in my book, so I could care less what computer he uses and how long he has been using it. If your way of making a statement to the world is by getting some crazy permanent ink drawing put on your body then you really don't have much to contribute to the world.

None of these "switchers" are really part of Apple's main target market. Who cares what they do?

The problem with the Internet and blogs is all the pissed off self-centered people who hate the world have a place they can bitch and rant, when before no one would listen to them, or punch them in the mouth if they heard their noise in person.

Go out and do something postive for the world and quit listening to whiners. That is what Apple has always been about = "what cool things you can do with the tool", not "my tool is better than your tool".

August 12, 2006 3:07 PM

Anonymous Jon H said...

Doctorow and Pilgrim may be long-time Mac users, but they're recent converts to open source religion, and no believer is as rabid, irrational, noisy, and insufferable as a recent convert.

The punchline in the "switching" story is that Tim Bray, Sun employee, is switching from the Mac but notably NOT switching to Solaris.

August 12, 2006 7:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this just about sums up Cory Doctorcow's switch to Ubuntu:

August 12, 2006 9:15 PM

Anonymous Andre said...

I agree with Wil in general. Steve looked fine, I don't know why people are reading into his performance that he looked "out of it." Just watch the keynote on video again, he seems pretty energetic.

I think its Phil Shiller looked a little tired to me. Hope he's OK. 

Anyways, maybe steve just changed a bunch of stuff at the last minute, or wanted to give his fellow execs some limelight.

Reading too much into things is also another meme that needs to die IMO.

August 13, 2006 11:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One listed the software he used on a daily basis before he'd switched to Ubuntu, and he pretty much replaced all Apple software with open-source equivalents.

Let me ponder this, I'm using Firefox and Thunderbird on a daily basis and I'm a happy eMusic customer. I suppose I'll switch to Ubuntu any day now. Gotta get me a blog to announce that fact to the world! :)

August 13, 2006 12:49 PM

Anonymous macewan said...

I thought my Lin*shield would protect me from the Apple assualt. Having watched everyone in our family switch to Apple from both Windows and Linux I been a bit nervous after purchasing an iBook to test Ubuntu.

After two'ish weeks I'm still using OSX on the iBook. I love this damn thing. Installed NeoOffice yesterday since all my files are from OpenOffice (use Neo if you don't want to f* with X on Mac).

More than likely I'll purchase a desktop system to do video edit work. Overall it feels comfortable, at least to this die hard Ubuntu user.

August 13, 2006 1:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


if this news were really boring for you, you would not spend time writing an article about it.
But admitting that certainly would not fit your carefully fostered image of being the undercooled developer.


August 15, 2006 7:49 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Benjamin: I'm missing your point. What news did I say was boring? I said Leopard was fantastic, and I said that I'm tired of reading articles about Linux guys switching to Linux -- because I admit that such memes are harmful even (especially) if they aren't true.

I never said, "Yawn, I don't care," I said, "Hey, I do care, this is inaccurate and needlessly sensational."

Possibly I didn't make this clear, but I don't think the ad hominem attack helps anything.

August 15, 2006 9:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

no believer is as rabid, irrational, noisy, and insufferable as a recent convert.

ITYM 'as an OS Warrior'. HTH. HAND.

August 23, 2006 2:18 AM

Blogger Peter Muys said...

If these people would switch to a Ti-99/4A, I still have a spare one.

It even has the memory expansion unit (32KBytes).

August 25, 2006 1:43 AM

Anonymous keke said...


December 25, 2006 11:55 PM


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