Apple is so big that the company provides endless opportunities for observation and discussion. The problem is, readers don't have endless time to read about it all. What can Apple customers do?
“I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us.” -- Bob Woodward
There is something to be said for being a pure Apple customer. That's someone who spends a lot of time using Apple products, in the pursuit of something worthwhile, but doesn't spend a lot of time reading Apple gossip. When there are problems, a solution is sought and feedback is sent to Apple. Then it's time to get back to work.
In my line of work, however, I have to be better read about what's going on, and so I read a lot in the Apple blogosphere. Far more than would be healthy for a typical Apple customer who just has a regular job to do.
So one question to ask yourself is, how much is too much? How many different opinions about an Apple event are needed to come to some conclusion, if one is even warranted, and who are the strongest, most authoritative voices?
Writing for Attention
There are Apple Websites whose job it is to provide news, and news with a professional approach. Without an overdose of pride, I like to think that the Mac Observer is one of those, implicit by the name. From time to time, however, it's important to put a good part of the news in perspective. That perspective is gained by years and years of hard work, and when we provide a TMO spin or an editorial, it's by people who've worked at a high level in this kind of journalism for decades. So far, so good. In theory.
However, there is, as we know, the technical capacity on the Internet to deliver a much broader range of commentary and opinion. The selection there is so broad and the competition for reader attention so great that the artform of drawing the reader's attention, just long enough to register a financially lucrative page view, is in the title. As a result, article titles must, by necessity, tap into the social currents related to Apple. Those currents are the flames fanned around the fires of Apple.
A good example of that is the fuss about Apple's new maps app in iOS 6. One could make the case that this is an example of the start of the decline of Apple by suggesting that such a stumble could not have occurred with Steve Jobs at the helm. So that naturally suggests a lurid title, and I'm making this up, "Apple's Maps Launch the Decline of Apple." It sure makes for a bold, challenging assertion, and the casual reader may actually think the article will provide proof of that claim. The problem, as we know, is that Steve Jobs presided over the Cube, Ping, MobileMe, and the iPhone 4 Antenna(gate).
Articles that make bold claims catch the eye, but they also require bold assumptions by the author, and that's when we find out what the author is made of.
Dr. Linus Pauling once said, the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. I love that aphorism, and I've found it to be true over and over. Unfortunately, the corresponding suggestion that the best way to engender a litte bit of knowledge is to read a lot of stuff is very, very inefficient.
For example, if there were a new crisis in western Asia, one could watch the coverage by, say, both Richard Engel and by Geraldo Rivera to obtain the broadest possible coverage. Some might suggest that the coverage by Richard Engel alone would be sufficient.
Unfortunately, in the fast-paced world of technology and Apple, the way we run across articles, in Facebook, Twitter, and aggregation sites seldom leads to anything but a quick surmise of the title, a title which by its construction, syntax, hubris, and allure is like a grand phishing expedition, enticing us to often think the worst of Apple precisely because we like to think the best of Apple.
I have read a lot about Apple's new map app, but only a few were really good and one notable article stood out as constructive and substantial. I've also been sizing up Apple's roll out of the iPhone 5, and, again, I found the analysis by Horace Dediu the most incisive. I had to read far too much dreck to finally find those articles because, in the world of sex-appeal titles, I had to read a lot of stuff to find the good stuff.
Writing for Passion
Apple customers don't have that luxury. There are important things to do in life. An excessive dependence on Apple gossip isn't good, and as I recall from my own experience, because of all that, Apple employees just don't pay any attention to any of it. There is much work to do and little time to dally in the fantasies and indulgences of so many writers who want to bask in the glow of Apple -- perhaps steer some attention their way.
Of course, there are a few tech writers who write with a passion. They have their own strong feelings about how to make the world a better place. They share knowledge, insights, and serious food for thought. Their goal is to get the reader thinking about the right things rather than bickering about the wrong things. I'd name a few, but then I'd probably leave some out by accident. You know who they are.
Another group of people worth listening to are developers. They're on the front lines with Apple, affected by Apple's developer policies, and closely connected to their customers. They almost always have something down home and insightful to say in their blogs. That’s why we interview them, especially at WWDC.
Apple is a big company, to be sure, but it's run by human beings who have the passion to change the world for the better. They work hard, pull off some brilliant things, and also make mistakes. Nothing is easy about what Apple or any other high tech company tries to achieve. But at least they're in there, pouring all they have into their work. That's something to keep in mind when we scan the daily litany of sensational article titles in the world of Apple.
In the meantime, back to work for all of us.
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