No one likes a fanboy. How about more perspective about tech?

Can you love your tech products and companies to the point of being irrational? Meet the fanboys.

Danny Sullivan
Danny Sullivan is a journalist who has covered the search and internet marketing space for over 15 years. He's founding editor of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and writes a personal blog called Daggle (and maintains his disclosures page there).
Danny Sullivan
6 min read

Some people--often called "fanboys"--support their favorite tech companies and products in the way that rabid sports fans root for their favorite teams. This column is for the fanboys out there. It's time to realize that criticism can be helpful.

When non-fanboys criticize one of your favorites, it doesn't necessarily mean that we hate it. We might actually like it. We just might have more perspective that you could use. Understand that, and you might come across as less annoying. You might also help the products you love get better.

Fanboys. Click image for original. Tim Doyle, used with permission

Last week was my first week writing the new Common Sense Tech column here at CNET. "You seem to have exposed your anti-APPLE leanings," said one commenter, after my first column appeared. "Cnet is nothing but Apple click-bait whoring propaganda," said another, after my second column was published. Oh dear, I guess I'm schizophrenic.

Biased? Yes--toward tech that works
I'm not biased in favor of Apple or Google or Amazon or Facebook or any other company. I'm biased toward products that work. I'm biased toward wanting to see the products I already love work better. Writing about flaws doesn't mean that I or anyone completely hates a product entirely, nor is biased against the company that makes that product.

Let's take my last column, where I talked about problems I have doing e-mail on Android devices. For some, any suggestion that Android has flaws seems to be equal to loving Apple. Comment after comment reflected this, despite the fact I'd written about using Android as my main phone and have said that I like Android over the iPhone in several ways.

All I want is to be able to do e-mail more easily on Android. My sincere hope in writing that column was to help promote such improvements. But for the fanboys--and the extremely rare fangirl out there--any criticism of Android is part of some uber-agenda at CNET to favor Apple.

The laughable conspiracy theories
Newsflash. No one is dictating what I write about in this column. I have no secret "companies to favor" guide from CNET that I follow. I barely even know the style guide I'm supposed to follow. You know, that I'm supposed to write "Web" as uppercase in the way that CNET favors rather than the lowercase "web" as I firmly believe it should be written.

I'm sorry to spoil any fanboy conspiracies about all this, but that's how it is. Not that I think writing that will cause some to change their views, but I do like to try.

Of fanboys and baseball heckling
I could try harder by not writing this column that so harshly attacks fanboys, but honestly, you've got it coming. Let me tell you a baseball story to explain why.

Two years ago, I was at a Mariners-Angels baseball game with a friend. Her family supports the Mariners; mine, we're Angels fans. We all sat together somehow not fighting with each other despite this.

Near the end of the game, a Mariners fan a few rows ahead of us stood up and kept yelling at the Angels pitcher. "You suck," he screamed, over and over again. We called him "North Face Guy" among ourselves, since all we could see was a North Face logo on the back of his jacket.

The guy was a joke. Everyone, whether they supported the Mariners or the Angels, was sick of him. Finally my friend stood up and yelled out herself, "Hey North Face, you suck!"

Everyone around broke out in applause. The guy, sadly, was undeterred, at least until security finally came over and took him away.

Fanboys are often like North Face Guy, loud, annoying, and obnoxious. They take "Team Apple" or "Team Android" far more seriously than most of the real fans out there, I'd say.

We can play together nicely, and do
Real fans love the game itself. Sure, they like it when their team wins. But they appreciate a good play, even by the opposing team. They swap tips with each other. "Your phone does that? Cool. I wish mine did. But my phone does this, and it's pretty neat." They don't start screaming at each other, saying that someone is using the "wrong" phone or a "bad" application. At least, not in seriousness. Not with meanness.

I've got a friend who loves her BlackBerry (and runs a great site about BlackBerry, by the way). I give her heck about it, whenever I see her. You know, like is she accessing AOL through her BlackBerry? But it's good-natured. She'll respond by schooling me about why the BlackBerry rocks. That's fine, because I can't say what's best for her.

There is no wrong phone. There is no wrong app. Whatever works for you, works for you. If you're happy running Windows XP on a Netbook, don't worry if someone's showing you a shiny MacBook Air and saying to climb aboard the Apple train. Do what works for you. Though, I have to say, the MacBook Air is pretty sweet.

What I can do, and will do, is give my fair assessment about why I think something might work better for a variety of people. That's my opinion. People won't always agree with it. But what I can promise is that my opinions won't come without a great deal of thought and examination of any criticisms I offer.

As for the fanboys
After my last column, I spent a lot of time responding to various fanboy complaints. They were typical knee-jerk responses from people who, in my view, clearly hadn't bothered to fully read what I wrote. I'd get people saying there was nothing wrong with the Gmail app, when I didn't write about that. I had people complaining I didn't have my e-mail settings set correctly, even though I'd clearly explained that not all Android phones have the same settings.

I did so many responses because I had a little more time to spend that day, and because I often find it interesting to see just how far fanboys will go when you counter their often-irrational arguments by responding with facts.

Going forward, I probably won't waste much time responding to fanboy comments. I'd rather spend that time interacting with the broader base of "regulars" out there. Nothing is better than the rational person who responds factually, who counters something you've written not because of a "you suck" attitude but because they know another way or wonder if you've tried something different. I learn from those comments; they deserve attention.

Fanboys are welcome to keep reading this column, of course. I can assure you, I'll probably seem to be biased for or against everyone over time, if you approach things from the fanboy perspective. But I'm really writing to a different audience, those who are more level-headed about their tech choices, who appreciate that criticism doesn't equate with hatred, who understand nothing is perfect.

Next column, I promise, a return to practical tips. It won't be a "criticism" column about a particular product or feature, either. Those have their place, but Common Sense Tech is also about positive things. There are plenty of good things about tech products I hope to share with readers.

Now go enjoy a laugh. In looking for an image to go with this column, I stumbled upon a 2009 video of CNET executive editor Molly Wood taking on the fanboys. It's classic.

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