Snowballing into Twits

Are you into news and blogs about gadgets? Lord knows I am. My wife often wonders at why this is so. I mean, there’s not really much real-world relevance to my day to day life in understanding what the latest gripes about Android are, or what Apple might be rumored to be working on for release in 2016.
I mean, I love my gadgets. I love, love, love my gadgets like they were my children. And I have two children, so I know of what I speak. And sure, it makes sense to know a lot about the objects in which one invests a lot of money, and with which one spends a lot of time.

But that can be done before a purchase is made, it doesn’t need to be a daily, consistent stream of news and opinion dominating one’s RSS reader, nor the sole topic of my heavy podcast diet. So why do I give such a damn?

I’m thinking back. I was always one to waste a great deal of time on the computer, as, let’s admit it, it’s way better than interacting with humans, but it’s not because I could program or code or develop or hack or whatever it is the kids are doing these days. Hardly. I played with what I could, customized and tinkered just a touch beyond the dumb-ass consumer level, and that was great. Did it all the time. And here, we’re talking mid-90s, Windows stuff on big, beige Dells.

Here’s where I think it happened. In 2004, I was going to by a laptop. Lots of fun right there. I very much enjoyed the shopping high, the dopamine squirt of exhaustively researching my Big Purchase, which of course was going to be a Windows machine. What else was there?

Well, a fellow actor friend of mine (this is when I was prancing about doing Shakespeare for a living) was big into Macs. My best friend, a graphic designer (see that banner? that’s him) also used Macs, though not out of any lust for the product. So to prolong my already absurdly-detailed search, I threw Macs into the equation. Okay, let’s entertain this crazy idea. I had just gotten an iPod (third generation, with the four buttons over the wheel), which worked abysmally with my Windows machine, so what the hell.

To the point: Entering into a whole new universe of computing, with its own culture and aesthetics, meant even more researching, which meant more reading online reviews, which lead to blogs, which lead to rumor sites, etc.

As you can imagine, I did of course switch to being a Mac guy (12″ Powerbook G4, if you must know). But I’d also been bitten by a different bug, one other than the aloof hipster bug that accompanies all first Mac purchases. This bug was that of the Apple rumor. What are they working on? What might they release next? Am I buying too soon? Too late?

And it went beyond what one might buy. It also led to news and opinion about Apple’s competitors. Its products’ accessories. The parts manufacturers. And then you get into things on the web, services, apps, etcetera, etcetera.

It’s a snowball. It’s probably the same with anything one finds oneself “geeking out” over. You start by being introduced to a subject, say, oh gosh, I dunno, atheism, and something about it makes you want to go a little deeper than mere cursory understanding, and before you know it, you’re memorizing passages from Robert Ingersoll speeches and making daily memes out of Dave Silverman’s facial expressions. Not me, but, like, friends of mine.

So here, I snowballed into giving way too much of a shit about tech news. Now I care way too much about what John Gruber, Merlin Mann, and M.G. Siegler think about things (which is usually pretty much identical – oh snap!). Rather than join my wife in watching sitcoms on Netflix, I’m watching video podcasts from Leo Laporte and the TWiT network (come on, Andy Ihnatko is so charming!). I mean, come on, I don’t need 1001 takes on how the Nexus 7 compares to the Kindle Fire, compared to the iPad mini and the Nook HD. And yet, I seek them out. I seek them out!!!

I suppose, though, if it weren’t this, it’d be something else. It’s certainly no worse than, say, caring far too much about sportsball or reality TV. But I suppose it’s also not as good as, say, becoming a connoisseur of classical music or impressionist art.

But I just turned 35. I’m not going to get much more well-rounded than I already am. (I mean intellectually. Physically I’m rounding out quite nicely.) And though it perplexes my darling, beautiful wife, I will likely keep listening to 5by5 podcasts, watching MacBreak Weekly, and scanning the front pages of The Verge and TechHive.

My wife, meanwhile, can just watch her Hoarders, Intervention, and Biggest Loser episodes. Ha! You see, honey?!? We all have our vices!

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9 thoughts on “Snowballing into Twits

  1. Same here + the podcasts. I think you hit the nail in the head with the sportsball comparison. There are people that crave new information and in the tech world information flows incessantly. I often wonder what would happen if a group of intelligent people like the Verge guys were allowed to do “real” news.
    Professionally tech knowledge has frequently given me a slight edge in comparison to my peers. For this reason although it may feel like a waste of time I don’t feel so guilty about it.

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    • Yeah that’s true. I’m playing it for light humor, but there is some utility to it.
      And you’re also right about The Verge — there is indeed some serious journalism going on there. And they have their own opinions regarding Apple!

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  2. Paul:What an engaging post. I think following you will be a treat.
    If I may though—> nested comments are difficult to follow.

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  3. That’s not true about not getting any more well-rounded than you already are. It’s not. It’s possible to continue finding new things to geek out about.
    Unless of course by “well-rounded” you mean “not prone to geeking out at all” – but who the fuck would want that?

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  4. I’ve been using macs nearly universally since 10.2.
    What got me? The command line. A computer that basically runs like a unix box. Made me think back to running my DOS box my way, or hacking the DLLs of Windows 3.x and getting my own environment.
    I feel insulted whenever someone tells me I can’t customize or control my Mac as well as a PC, because I know it’s not true – I have more control, more options, more tools at my disposal.
    I worry that iOS is too limited, but if computing is to reach ever more people it needs to be simple enough they can use it as they do a refrigerator or stove – something with lots of options but is ultimately simple and needs no special skills to get its operation.

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  5. I also got in to Apple back then – bought a 15″ PowerBook in 2003.I loved OS X and Apple was a plucky underdog company making great products.
    I now tell people they are evil and won’t touch theire products.
    Why?
    But at the core of there success since then is lock-in, reduced functionality and abusing their customers.
    (Examples are legion but (a) need to use iTunes to move files to iDevices (2) No SD card slots (3) replacing screws on units returned for repair for a new patented type that 3rd parties don’t have kit for)
    Paul, based on your recent blogs posts you are still a true believer. What do you think?

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