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But I Digress...
by Doc Hillman

Who Are These Mac Writers Anyway?
September 15th, 2000

Since you are reading this column, it kind of goes without saying that you are a Mac user. I'm certain that Wintel platform folk browse through from time to time, but the Mac user is the bread and butter of these sites. In recent months though, more than a few columnists around the so-called "Mac Web" have taken the time to deride the work of their colleagues, and in general, what passes as the Mac Web itself. The simple supposition is as follows: Mac writers are a dime a dozen, any body can start up a web site, and generally most of it is a load of junk..

I can't disagree with that statement on the surface, but down deep, these writers are completely missing the point of the Mac Web and what has led to the rapid growth of such sites. So Dr. Tim- what is the point? I'll have to drive into the realm of personal experience as always, and throw a little tidbit out to you. Don't tell my boss.

As I sat through opening faculty meetings this year- by the way, do any of you face a similar spectre each year? Educators get them- meetings in droves, all of which portend to deliver copious amounts of information, and then end up just draining you before the school year starts?

Sorry, digression.

As I sat through my meetings, we finally came to the computer meeting. Our juniors it seems, will all be issued laptops. Toshibas. Celerons. You know- kind of dogs, but with long battery life. One half as useful as the Energizer bunny and twice the weight. One faculty member asked the obvious question- "What should I tell parents who want to buy a printer for the laptop?" The answer was simple enough- you could buy any printer EXCEPT a Macintosh printer.

Sitting dutifully in my corner chair, I couldn't refrain from gnawing painfully on the inner parts of my cheeks. I didn't suddenly leap out of my seat for fear of looking foolish IF the Toshiba didn't have a USB port. I figured I would wait a couple of days and get a good look at the Toshibas first. Once I got to them, lo and behold, there was the single USB port, which means, as we all should know by now, that the odds of most printers working effectively with the Toshiba were about, well, you know...

In that moment, sitting and waiting to rinse the blood that I am sure had gathered in mouth by that point, I thought back to a columnist's recent condemnation of the Mac Web and simply thought- "My God what are you thinking?" Certainly, there are a fair number of columnists that work the freelance writing circuit for all it's worth, but the readers of the web sites actually have day jobs, and the Mac Web sites serve an incredibly valuable purpose for those so inclined, even if the sites themselves are a bit less than spectacular in their writing.

Far too often I fear, writers (myself included) can lose track of why we are doing this work in the first place. It's certainly not entirely for the money, for the pennies are spread around to the writers in a rather stingy manner. That's understandable too. Those who have taken the risk to run the web sites should also receive the lion's share of the profits. It would be nice to think that we could all make an honest buck out of the Mac Web, but it's not going to happen.

Therefore, for many of us, this becomes the task of amateurs. Unfortunately, the very invocation of that word tends to set people off. "Amateurs of course, are never as good as professionals. If they were, they would be professionals." Hogwash. Grab the dictionary, and take a good look at what a real amateur is. You'll find that an amateur is one who pursues a project for the love of it, rather than in hope of professional recompense. Accepting the premise that the Mac Web is filled with amateurs then, what have we got?

A group of sites that is there for a darn good reason. What's the reason? Simple. The Macintosh faithful of this world are a rather beleaguered bunch. When given the chance to choose, they choose Mac, but all too often, the Wintel platform is chosen for them by managers who simply don't see the Macintosh in the same way. That's a prescription for frustration. That's the frustration I felt when listening to another teacher tell us that you couldn't use anything Mac related with the Toshiba laptops. In this case, the ignorance of the teacher, pure and simple, was shining through. Yet, there were not more than one or two (and probably just one) who had any real idea that what was said was ludicrous. I imagine that sentiment has echoed more than once or twice in many, many workplaces.

The result of all of this? Mac Web sites that all worship the Mac, sometimes wonderfully, sometimes poorly. All in all though, the sites themselves don't deserve the derision of columnists who sit atop mountains (myself once again included) and observe the Macintosh world. For indeed, these sites, large and small, give comfort to the user who has to deal with using a computer platform that isn't the top. Yes, I did say "Has to deal" for being in love with a Mac is feeling more and more like this Boston Red Sox thing that I've got.

And of course, this Red Sox thing means that no matter how much I wish it, even if the Sox get to the play-offs this year, I will undoubtedly be left to ponder next year sometime in very early October. That's the way it goes for us Sox fans.

But I digress.

In our heart of hearts, I suspect that most Mac owners are fully aware that the juggernaut that the Wintel architecture represents isn't going to just run away when OS X comes flying out of the box. The Wintel lovers aren't going away either, and believe me when I tell you that they are enamored of even corrupt registry files. One of my students, a Windows tester, experienced DirectX 8 beta crashing on him this week, and he didn't bat an eye. I think he was challenged by it. Another student is sitting at a dual-processor workstation that is simply designed to make 3-D games work at incredible speed, and render incredible images. I'm supposed to fight this? Frankly, I am going for peaceful coexistence.

That's why I love the Mac Web, even if I hate more than a few of the sites, and hold more than one or two writers in complete disdain. That's natural. Hell, the entire Mac universe seems to hate Dvorak, so we can hate some of our own can't we? It's not too far a reach to find someone whose work just doesn't cut it for you. For every one that doesn't though, there is at least one whose work seems to echo your experience in working with Macs, and helps you through the busy day.

So, before we knock down the Mac Web as a bunch of useless dilettantes, let's first see who those people are actually helping. Just because I don't like something, it doesn't mean that it isn't good for somebody else. Far be it from me then to attack another site in the name of journalistic integrity or be so bold as to arbitrate what is or is not worthy. The hell with it. Make your sites, support the platform, and remember that a common good is the base for all that we do as writers, editors, and publishers of Macintosh sites on the internet. Mac users need the knowledge that they are not alone. If one poorly created site makes them feel good about the platform, wonderful. That's just one more user that's on the bus.

And, as you are either on the bus or of the bus, trust me, the bus is better...

Your comments are welcomed.

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Dr. Tim Hillmanis a long time contributor to the Mac community through his work with MacCentral, MacOPINION, and most recently MacOS Daily.

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