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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

A Tribute To Don Crabb
February 29th, 2000

When I learned that Don Crabb collapsed on December 3 because of septic shock (it means blood poisoning) and pancreatitis, I didn't laugh. He may be a competitor because he doesn't write for the same publication than I do and I don't always share his opinions, but I respect him a lot.

I had wondered where he was. For years he seemed to be all over the place with his millions of columns, then he disappeared from MacCentral. I saw his columns from time to time at ZDNet... and later, nothing. I thought he may have given up on a few things to focus on other interests, but I started to wonder what was going on after a while. Then I heard the news about him being ill.

MacWeek posted a message board for us to send him our wishes earlier this month. The number of people who posted "get well" messages are... countless. I am one of them. When I took a second look at the board I realized something. We're a bunch of stupid idiots.

Mankind has a bad habit: rewarding people with recognition only when they die or lie in a hospital bed because of serious illness. We know this isn't the right way to do things, but that's what we do. Our daily lives, short term thinking and sometimes harsh feelings combine together and make us forget that we appreciate people who have an impact on us.

That's why we're stupid. Why do we acknowledge the work of a great artist only when he's dead? Why do we pay tribute to a public figure only when he's dead? Why do we give recognition only when death succeeded (or almost) in taking those people away from us? Are we stupid or what?

I originally wrote this last week, before we found out that Don Crabb had died during the weekend. I had intended this as a piece to lighten my own stupidity, by paying tribute to Don Crabb for his work while he was still here to hear it. I wanted him to know what I and thousands of other Mac heads thought of him while he was still here. As it is, I get to join the posthumous parade in Don's honor.

Dear Don...

You have no idea as to how your contribution helped to make the Mac community a great community. Of course, your work didn't limit itself to Mac Web sites and publications, but I think that what you did had a great influence on all of us.

I saw this comment from another columnist on the message board, saying that when reading you at times, he thought he could have written that himself. I felt like that a few times too.

You didn't just influence your readers, Don. You inspired a lot of writers. Even though they don't always agree with you on everything, all these people felt the impact of your words and respected your credibility. That's why they sent you angry e-mails or positive feedback. Not everybody agrees with your opinion, but everybody respects the man behind it. You're an opinion maker who influences people.

I'll tell you a personal story. I've always been a person who wanted to be a leader and maybe become one of the big boys. It's in me, and I can't (nor do I want to) shake it. I discovered my writing skills in school and studied journalism. When becoming a Mac user, I didn't "get" the concept of Mac Web sites immediately.

One day, someone sent a message to a Mac mailing list about one of your columns at MacCentral. I went over and read it. I agreed with your words, and it was the same for several columns you authored later.

Then I realized that MacCentral was a Web site focused on the Macintosh and that other such sites made the Mac Web a little industry in itself. I was a little jealous that there were columnists who had the opportunity to voice their opinions out there and that I didn't share such a privilege. I was jealous.

Above all those columnists, you inspired me more than the others. Why? Because in your "Crabb's Apple" column, you kicked some ass. You straightened things out like no other Mac writer did. One example is when Apple introduced QuickTime 3 with a Pro version with all the features... for 30$ instead of giving it all away for free. People complained about this and you reminded them that Apple invests money to develop technologies such as QuickTime, and that it deserves some return on the investment. You were damn right.

I thought "Why don't I do this too? I have opinions and I can write about them." All I needed was to get a shot somewhere. It happened. I pounced on the offer, cofounded MacSoldiers and started to express myself in front of a Web audience. And here I am since May 1999, writing for The Mac Observer, a popular Mac site known for the top quality of its content. I'm sharing my opinions with its audience just like I wanted to do so. I consider this to be a privilege and I enjoy it big time.

In part, I owe this to Don Crabb. He was part of those who inspired me to go out there and write for a Mac Web site. I was one of those who said "Hey, I wanna do what he is doing!" and now I have the chance to do so. While you didn't do the work for me, Don, I can certainly thank you for the inspiration.

Everybody who works in an industry that requires creativity (music, writing, design...) had an inspiration somewhere. My favorite music artists were inspired by the bands they listened to. Every writer has sources of inspiration too. You were one of these sources for me, Don. Now you may say "Oh my, did I help Munger make his way? I created a monster!" :-)

The point? I bet you 10$ that I am not the only Mac writer who could say that, which brings me back to your impact. It didn't limit itself to your readers but it affected other columnists as well.

They can refuse to admit it, but it's true. They might say that they hate you, but they can't deny how you influenced them. Now isn't that satisfying? Knowing that your work had an impact beyond your readership must feel good.

Don, if you ever decide to write for the Mac community again, we'll be very happy. But if you decide that it is time to move on to other things, we'll miss you and remember what you did for us.

Now dear readers... I learned from this and you should too. What happened to Don Crabb didn't affect my personal existence, but it made me think. This lesson was very important because it was a lesson of life. It's more than what I saw on the Internet.

Around you, there are people that you appreciate, sometimes without knowing it. If life takes them away from you, you'll realize your respect or affection for them... but it will be too late. This weekend, a popular columnist died, but next time, it could be someone in your very own circle.

Tomorrow, kiss your partner tenderly instead of just saying a cold "see ya" because you had a fight over who would do the dishes. Really... the matters of the day should never become more important than the people around us. Remember that even though humanity is the most intelligent and powerful form of life on this planet, it just takes an accident or illness to put an end to an individual's existence.

Let's thank the people who found a way to affect our lives positively, even if remotely. Let's thank them while they're with us because it's useless if they're not there to hear it.

Thank you Don Crabb!

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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