Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985) was an American science fiction writer who, amongst his many achievements, also noted that "ninety percent of everything is crap." Coined as "Sturgeon's Law", it applies to fiction, but has come to be applied to most anything else. From what I've been reading, it also applies to current day writing about Apple.
I suppose some writers feel that by writing about Apple, some of Apple's success rubs off on them. More often, however, we see that other forces are at work. For example, the author, sometimes an outsider to the world of Apple, has been manipulated by a more senior editor to go with a particular slant. Or perhaps they don't have enough time to do research, they don't have enough experience with Apple, or they're just looking for some shock value and cash hits.
Many of these authors suggest that Apple should race to the bottom in order to appeal to the widest possible audience, just as they are doing with their writing. But when Apple stubbornly ignores their advice, it seems to bring out the worst in technical writing about Apple. See, for example, "Why Is So Much Stupid Being Written About Apple?"
Certainly there are terrific authors who write about Apple, but it seems lately that their voices are being drowned out by an increasing number of writers who are writing crap. And even there, a few writers can take the credit for the Lyons share of stupidity.
I prefer to focus on the good stuff, and I have my own list of authors whom I respect. They get Apple when they write about Apple. Their writing is authoritative, reasoned and intelligent.
Several of us at The Mac Observer made a list this morning of those authors who should be added to my own list, the A-list. These are Apple observers, in our opinion, with a track record of excellence. I've tried to keep the list fairly short, and if any are missing here, I take responsibility. But if you read something from people on this A-list (below), you know it'll be good.
Also, there is a vastly larger number of technical writers who really, really know Apple technologies. But that's too large a list to get into. (You could look at who I follow on Twitter.) Instead, I'm thinking about superb writers who analyze Apple and editorialize about the company and its products. So here it is:
The A-list (version 1.0): Ben Bajarin, Bryan Chaffin, Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Daniel Eran Dilger, Jonny Evans, Jeff Gamet, John Gruber, Mark Gurman, Arik Hesseldahl, John Kirk, Ted Landau, Harry McCracken, David Pogue, Rene Ritchie, M.G. Siegler and Federico Viticci.
Unfortunately, as I noted above, there is a vastly larger number (Sturgeon's Law again) who are writing nonsense about Apple. I've noticed certain trends in their writing, and one is to ignore facts about Apple for the sake of making an outrageous statement that will grab attention. But, hey, money, flash and trash is always more important than respectability these days.
Here are some examples of the distorted logic I see in many articles by writers on the, if you will, D-list. The first two items are frequently seen, often conflicting themes. Analysis follows in item #3.
- Apple's legal campaign to protect its inventions and IP is a failure and should be abandoned.
- All tablets seem to look alike, so Apple should compete on price.
- Analysis: The writer complains that tablets generally look alike, then complains when Apple seeks to preserve its hard work and differentiation.
- Apple builds premium products designed for people who want to own and use the very best.
- Apple needs to appeal to the widest possible audience or it can't compete and maintain market share.
- Analysis: Apple, the writer claims, should drive to the bottom to become more popular and make more money. But Apple is already wildly popular and raking in the bucks. The argument is silly.
- After selling Macs for 26 years, Apple launched the Post-PC era with the iPad in 2010.
- Apple needs to launch a new era every few years now to keep us entertained and help it stay ahead of the competition.
- Analysis: The pace of technology development, available in two year intervals, is conveniently overlooked. Still, Apple is told to jump to the writer's own technical schedule.
- Apple continues to generate record revenues and cannot keep up with demand for its products.
- Steve Jobs was a singular visionary and Apple can no longer succeed without him.
- Analysis: Apple customers are basing their decisions on the quality of the products, not on a writer's fixation with Apple's cofounder.
- Apple continus to sell a record number of iOS devices.
- Apple maps and Siri are a failure.
- Analysis: The writer is suggesting that a simple condemnation contains within it a deep understanding of the product and the marketplace. But that is never demonstrated. However, we're supposed to take his word for it.
- Apple makes more money than any other competitor.
- Apple should do what the other companies are doing.
- Analysis: The writer is disconnected from reality. A winner never copies the losers.
- Apple should do X and perhaps Y.
- Apple has done Z.
- Analysis: Apple is declared to be doomed because, of course, the writer knows more about Apple than Apple's seasoned leadership.
Theodore Sturgeon was right. In every endeavor, there's the very best and then there's all the rest of the crap, driving to the bottom. What gives me no cheer is that all these writers, racing to the bottom, want to take Apple with them.