Things Macintosh

Mac Web Assimilation?

If power corrupts, what does Mac Web consolidation do?

Rodney O. Lain - 2000.06.12

Magneto stumbled over to a place in front of [Senator] Kelly [after having turned him into a mutant like himself] and weakly smiled. "Welcome to the future, brother."
  - X-Men: The Movie, a novelization by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith

During ancient Roman times, criticism was considered a respectable form of inquiry.

A critic wasn't seen as a hateful, negativity-prone rabble-rouser, but rather, he was seen as the ultimate patriot. A lover, not a fighter. Not a demagogue, but a cheerleader: "Two, four, six, eight! Who do we excoriate? Society! Culture! Establishment! Yaaaay!"

Several of us Mac writers view ourselves as this kind of critic vis-à-vis the Macintosh platform. I think I can speak for all of us "negative" types when I say that whenever we said anything "bad" about the Macintosh, about Apple, about the Mac community, it was in a spirit of concern, out of a desire to see and to spur improvement.

In this spirit, I want to address an aspect of the cyber-conglomeration we call the "Mac Web," that loose association of websites created and maintained by individuals and groups of individuals bound by their love of the Macintosh computing platform and all things related to it.

God knows how many websites are out there dedicated to things Macintosh. There are many, and that is good, methinks. What I have mixed feelings about, however, is sporadic merging and gobbling up of smaller Mac websites.

I have been witness to the personalities behind such merger-mania and have pondered the good that it does.

This may not mean much to the average Mac user out there, since this delves into what John H. Farr calls "navel gazing."

But, navel gaze, I must.

One of my favorite people is Canadian John Byrne, novelist, comic book artist/writer. One of his claims to fame, besides being a legend in the comics industry, is his direct involvement in creating the popular culture icon call the X-Men. The reason he's one of my favorite people is his one-man crusade to save the comics industry from itself.

In the spirit of the ancient Roman critic, he often editorializes in his books and in trade publications about the lack of originality in and the "sell out" mentality of his contemporaries. He reserves his most heated ire for the upstart kids who have taken over the industry with a USA Today approach.

I'm not saying this happens in the Mac Web community, but I am saying that combining websites sometimes dilutes the effect that some sites had in promoting the Cause.

The three stages of a Macintosh website

1 >Stage One: Many of us have done it: we loved the Mac, so much so that we posted a response or two to a forum in defense or support of the Mac. Some of us created Mac sites that were well received. Some of us went on to write for such burgeoning Mac websites - often gratis. Money was never our intention.

2 Stage Two: Some of us realized, "Hey, I can make a buck at this." We asked for money in exchange for our written musings (or if we were webmasters, we asked for advertising), and we got it. Some of us were more managerial than literati, so we grouped together a few writers and a couple of editors, and then made a name for ourselves and our websites. Fame followed - within the Mac Web community, anyway.

3 Stage Three: The ultimate goal of the average business is to make more money this year than it did last year. This I know. For Mac websites, that involves increasing scope and influence. Some believe that involves the big fish swallowing up the little fish. I've seen it attempted. It creates arrogance, attitudes of superiority....

I tested this a while back. I wrote an editor at one particular site, offering a submission. The response I received was, "I loathe you. You disgust me." Well, maybe I asked for that, looking back over my past writings, but I had to wonder if that particular editor would have said such things if their little site wasn't part of one of those cliques of Mac snobs - you know who you are.

I began to wonder if this consolidation of power and resources created any good in ways other than those Machiavellian.

After all, wasn't all of this stuff started out as for-fun - not for-profit - and out of a desire to spread the word?

Affiliation or Assimilation?

Now, there is nothing wrong with making a buck off this Mac Web thing (after all, I don't work for free - I don't get rich, but I don't write in indentured servitude, either). But it pains me to wonder if we are becoming some of the things that we loathe.

For me, the Macintosh Way - to borrow Guy Kawasaki's term - represents a break with the run of the mill. The PC press, to me, consists of sterile writing that covers a sterile computing platform.

Run of the mill.

Are we fated to be no different? Look around us. Most of the websites that used to be "fun" (I'm overusing the word, I know) are becoming bland. Yes, I know that the Mac community is "growing up," but must we?

I often hear of people trying to (re)discover their "inner child." For me, the Macintosh was a catalyst in that discovery process.

This is a minor digression from the things I usually write about, but I felt it needs to be said. Heck, it may even be stepping on the toes of sites that I write for. But I think they will respect this opinion.

Sure, make money, guys. In the words of Austin Powers: "Yay, capitalism!" But we shouldn't forget why we are doing this. Once we become focused on the money, it stops being fun. (Once more, I am never against making money.) When it stops being fun, the writing gets dull, listless, uninspiring.

Then where are the readers? Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't they one of our reasons for being?

It's just a thought for us when we find ourselves patting ourselves on the back on the number of hits that we are getting, how much ad revenue we're getting, and how our "competitor" just bought another great little website. LEM

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was iBrotha.com, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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