Getting to the core of what this column is all about - the users

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 4:21pm


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Occasionally, I am invited to speak at Mac user group meetings and other computer club and technology get-togethers. I am always amazed to find people attending who believe I have the greatest job in the world - writing about Apple Computer.

I do have the greatest job in the world, but it is not writing about Apple. I couldn't care less about the company. It is the Mac users who I advocate. It is helping those who aspire to improve their lot that is the greatest job in the world.

Each week, I spend more time answering e-mail from readers than I do writing the column. I research their problems (to the degree that time permits) and from this, a column generally emerges. I love getting e-mail because readers have been the catalyst that has kept me writing this column for nearly nine years.

My record was receiving 400 e-mails in one hour. From all over the world people wrote with comments and questions regarding a review I did of Via Voice, an IBM voice-recognition application. And in all those e-mails there was not one antagonistic message. For the first four years writing about Macs, I did not get an antagonistic letter.

That is not to say I did not make any mistakes. I made plenty and when they made it into print, readers would let me know, but always in the kindest, politest way possible. I think they thought I would be offended but I really want to know when I look like a fool or disseminate bad information.

In year five, I received a truly antagonistic e-mail. The emotion-filled rant was from a reader who completely misunderstood what I had written. I received another flame a year later. I thought the letter sounded familiar and, sure enough, it was from the same guy who sent the first flame. Once again, he had misread what I wrote. For the second time, I corrected him and I have not heard from him since.

This year, I received two e-mails that I found unsettling. One e-mail I was not supposed to read. A PC fan wrote to his reader friend and accused me of being an Apple shill. His friend forwarded the e-mail to me so I could respond to it. The second e-mail was from a regular reader who had the impression I was becoming a little overzealous in promoting Apple Computer. I was shocked.

I went over my last few columns to see if their accusations were true. The first guy was way off base, but the second guy had a valid point. Although I do not necessarily promote Apple, I do promote Mac. The difference is clear to me, but it is not always obvious to others. So it is time to clear the air and explain my relationship with Apple, Mac developers and Mac users.

First, Apple does not pay me, the South China Morning Post does. Apple is a company that builds computers, peripherals and software applications. Some I like, some I do not. Apple has no published commitment to the technological empowerment of humanity.

It does have a commitment to shareholders. Quality, design and price are business factors and not decisions made for our convenience. I would like them to stay in business but that is not my responsibility. I am, however, a great fan of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs. This is in spite of his reputation as a tyrant and ruthless mogul. He gets things done when others cannot and does a good job integrating art, philosophy and industry.

Apple does not give me free hardware but it does give me review copies of software. The review applications have no commercial value and are labelled NFR (not for resale). All developers provide NFR applications to reviewers. Apple is the slowest to provide applications.

The Mac is an operating system founded on the idea that if computers were usable they would become popular. This was 'technology for the rest of us' and after its inception, thousands of developers (and evangelists) picked up and carried the flag for personal empowerment. These are the guys who changed the world with desktop publishing and online shopping. It is also my 'thing'.

My audience is mostly Mac users

(85 per cent, based on e-mail responses). I have them defined as being made up of 'intelligent, non-expert computer users, who want to take advantage of the promise of computer empowerment to accomplish their dreams'.

This includes an impressive number of chief executives, professors, scientists, musicians, artists and students. But most of all it includes you. So if you feel that I am getting a little slanted in my opinions, please take the time to let me know. After all, thanks to my Mac, I can handle up to 400 e-mails an hour.