Bias, Fanboyism And What I'm Really A Fan Of

It never fails. Post an article on Giz about an operating system -- any operating system, anywhere -- and I'll get showered in accusations of bias and fanboyism. So I figure it's time to clear the air and state exactly what it is that I'm a fan of.

Warning: I'm wearing the extra ranty trousers this morning; the kind with the sandpaper on the inside. Just so you know.

Accusations of bias are something that every journalist has to face every day, and in one sense, that's an incredibly good thing. Being aware of the particular biases that a writer may or may not hold gives you a handle on how they're likely to assess and spin a given issue, whether or not it accords with your view of the situation. You can then form your own world view based on the information presented and what you figure the spin of an article to be, and then move on from there.

The Guardian's advert for its "open journalism" (a rather fuzzy term, but I don't want to digress) shows beautifully how spin can work to change a story.

So, anyway, why am I ranting about bias? Because no matter what the subject at hand for a Gizmodo story might happen to be, the accusations of bias will fly. Write about Nokia? Better not enrage the Nokia fans. Write something positive about Apple? It's too much for some folks, who complain that I must be on the Apple payroll. Write about a problem affecting Android? Well, now, that's proof I'm on the Apple payroll, isn't it? Except when I write something critical about Apple, at which point I'm clearly not digging the knife in deep enough.

ENOUGH.

I'm not on Apple's, Google's, Nokia's, Microsoft's or any other technology company's payroll. If I was getting even five cents from every firm I'm accused of taking payola from, I wouldn't be typing this; I'd be sipping a cocktail on the deck of my personal yacht. I don't own a yacht -- heck, I don't even own a car made this century.

Yes, I do know that a certain amount of the "bias" comments that crop up are just trolling for trolling's sake, because some folks find that kind of thing funny.

If it was the case that this was a minor thing that only happened once in a while it'd be easy to ignore, but the real problem is that the trolls -- and those who can't be bothered to actually read articles and instead decide that if company-name-that-they-hate is in the headline or company-name-they-love is not presented in a flattering light it must be a rubbish story -- have been dominating commentary lately.

You may have noticed that there's been more and more comments being deleted for being inappropriate -- that's not by accident. I'm all for discussion of issues, especially if you've got something intelligent to say. You may have also noticed that I'm popping up within commentary and within Whitenoise a whole lot more; again that's no accident.

That doesn't mean that I think I should be immune from criticism; if you've got a genuine problem with something that's running on Gizmodo Australia, then by all means let rip with both barrels. But back it up with a little more than another tedious entry along the lines of "Yet another low BS biased article, Gizmodo. You are teh fail." Because that's a final statement, not a point of discussion. Speaking personally, if I'm wrong -- and I'm certainly not infallible, what with not being Pope, and all -- then I'll own up to it. If you're going to sling mud, make sure there's something beyond just filth in it; if there's a brick of truth underneath the mud, then make sure you include it.

Although, it should be pointed out, on no account do I want you to throw bricks at me. That can't end well.

Also, for the record, I guess I should talk about what I'm actually a fan of. Well, apart from the by-now-hopefully-obvious one, that is.

I've already detailed my working IT arrangements as they are right now, but what am I a fan of? The answer to that is surprisingly simple. I'm a fan of technology. Gadgets that work, gadgets that innovate, gadgets that do what they say on the tin.

I've shifted my allegiances and buying habits a number of times over my life; from using Apple IIs and Amstrad CPCs through my youth to Amiga 500s through my tertiary education, any number of Windows and Linux-based PCs through most of my professional life, and currently, a mostly-Apple arrangement. No, that doesn't make me an Apple fanboy. I like stuff that works, plain and simple, and when it doesn't, I'll go elsewhere. Case in point: I shifted over to Mac OS X from Windows Vista, because one was (at launch) incredibly annoying to use, and the other wasn't. It's looking likely I may jump back the other way once the dust settles on Mountain Lion and Windows 8 -- but anything's possible.

Equally, part of the reason why I'm wearing the ranty trousers this morning is because I'm looking over the week's schedule, and Apple's got some kind of announcement coming up on March 7th -- or March 8th on this side of the planet. I know, deep down, that there's interest in the topic, so I'll definitely be writing about it. Equally, I know, deep down, that every single story we run on it will have complaints about the coverage with accusations of bias, even though it's just another technology story in which the Gizmodo audience has shown it has interest. I'm ready for the storm of complaints -- but I'd love for there to be actual discussion rather than just pointless whining. Do you think we can all manage that?

Image: dennis

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