Nihilism, and why the tech press can't admit to having nice things...
After taking down a rather daft article about 2013 being a disappointing year for tech, John Gruber put to words something I've been wrestling with for the latter part of this year. From Daring Fireball:
That which escapes the grasp of Sturgeon’s Law and achieves genuine excellence deserves to be celebrated, not torn down through false equivalences and the sensational exaggeration of imperfections. Call the imperfections out, to be sure — the job of the press is not to whitewash or cheerlead, either — but keep them in perspective; write about them in proportion to their severity and actual prevalence and relevance. There is a profound difference between that which is crap and that which is merely flawed.
There’s a nihilistic streak in tech journalism that I just don’t see in other fields. Sports, movies, cars, wristwatches, cameras, food — writers who cover these fields tend to celebrate, to relish, the best their fields have to offer. Technology, on the other hand, seems to attract enthusiasts with no actual enthusiasm.
It's why tech rumor sites are slammed in one breath and their reports rattled off in the next. It's why new product categories are called unimaginative at launch and breakthrough software is castigated right out of the gate. It's the 10 word answer.
It could just be that computer technology is still relatively new and tech journalists - and tech readers, we feed each other - lack the maturity of older, more established industries and pursuits. It could be that tech writers sometimes seem to care more about being perceived as cool than in being good.
The advent of the internet redefined what it meant to cover an industry, including and especially the internet and the technology that enabled it. Instead of rising up, in many cases it brought everything down. Once great papers of record became, at times, more inaccurate, manipulative, and pandering as the blogs they denigrated. And it's easy to see why - a lot of stupid gets a lot of attention resulting in ever-more stupid. It's a vicious cycle, and thus far a successful one. We are all of us, every one of us, to blame. Yet at the same time that empowers all of us, every one of us, to change it.
Pessimism is easy. Hit pieces are easy. Abusing facts to fit a thesis is easy. Manipulation is easy. Looking at the last year and claiming disappointment is easy. Missing constant, relentless evolution if all you're looking for is occasional revolution is easy. Yet the former can be even more important than the latter. Many leaps end in crash landings. Many innovations fall apart on the launch pad. Good ideas take a lot of little fixes to become truly great. And a lot of little ideas, given enough time and talent, can coalesce into pure magic.
Not being satisfied is a good thing. Demanding more of the industry - and ourselves - is good thing. But making the effort to understand what we've already gotten, the nuance and the ramifications, is the key to what's next.
Let's shelve our collective tech inferiority complex and cyncism masks for a moment and really consider how far we've come in the last year. The power of an iPhone 5s, the lightness of an iPad Air, the promise of iBeacon, the helpfulness of a Moto X, the sensation of Google Glass, the optics of Lumia 1020, the brute force of a Mac Pro, the magic of SONOS surround sound, the brilliance of Hue lighting, the immediacy of the Pebble, and dozens of other amazing, life-enhancing developments just in the space I cover over the last twelve odd months leap immediately, optimistically, to mind.
Amazing stuff from 2013, made better by how much it sets up for 2014.
Source: Daring Fireball