John Gruber jumps the shark

I have been using Macs since February 1984. From just about the day the Mac was announced I was writing software for it from my college dorm room using one of the school’s two $10,000 Apple Lisa computers. The Lisa was, at that time, the only tool you could use to write Mac software, and no one else at The University of Pennsylvania seemed to know what to do with it, or even care.

I say all that to say, from the beginning of the Mac’s life, I have been a fan. As an entrepreneur, I have built Mac hardware and software businesses and I think Apple, and Steve Jobs have indeed changed the planet. And as impressive as is Apple’s long past, its current and next generation products such as the iPhone and the iPad are no less revolutionary.

But all that said, I am also, at times, critical of Apple. Sometimes very critical. I try to be a totally dispassionate truth teller. Needless to say that is very hard to do, I obviously sometimes fail, but I do try to filter my biases. That said, in recent years, as Apple has gotten bigger, more successful, and more powerful, there have been some issues that cry out for criticism. But being highly critical of Apple is not a historically natural stance for me. In fact this blog’s name and first post were really an homage to Apple. But based on recent facts, I think criticizing Apple is the right thing to do.

I have been a fan of John Gruber, and his website, daringfireball for some time. For those of you that are not familiar with him, John writes, generally positively, about Apple. Gruber has always been far more pro Apple than me. And that has been ok for me. I have enjoyed reading him because his defenses have generally been pretty air tight, and he has seemed willing to criticize Apple when appropriate. He has not been, it seemed to me, a rabid illogical fanboi.

But recently, my sense has changed. I hadn’t been able crisply describe any single bit of writing that was obviously problematic, but as a whole, his defenses and promotion of Apple have seemed more zealous. I no longer feel like I am listening to someone who I can get the straight scoop from. I am starting to feel like he is devolving into a pure Apple partisan.

To put this in a political context, I am a Democrat. And while I definitely lean left, particularly on economic matters I have a great appreciation of well made, logical, conservative arguments. That does not mean I always agree, but it means I am open to seeing the other side’s point. In fact I always try hard to. And sometimes I do indeed agree. Of course in the current climate, conservatism seems to be becoming more “fact free” (think Obama birth certificate and death panels), so there are fewer reasonably argued ideas to embrace. But I digress.

The point is that many years ago I used to enjoy the David Brinkley version of the Sunday morning talk program This Week. And aside from enjoying Brinkley’s acerbic wit, I really used to enjoy conservative commentator George Will on the show. I liked him because I felt like he was a conservative who followed logic and reason and would tell the truth as he saw it, regardless of ideology. He was willing to criticize Republicans as well as Democrats, and that gave him extra credibility in my mind. And because his language was so crisp and powerful, it was fun to watch him do it.

But times have changed. And while I do not think George Will is some Rush Limbaugh scale wacko, I no longer feel the same way about him.

Unfortunately, such is becoming the case with John Gruber. It used to be that while I knew he came from a very specific computo-political perspective, Gruber was willing to speak what was obviously the truth, regardless of where the chips fell. But I just no longer feel like that is the case.

To be clear I am not suggesting Gruber is being in any way disingenuous in his arguments. I think he is a thoroughly decent fellow, and I believe he believes his writing is thoroughly logical and fact based. But I do believe he is *much* less likely to follow logic to its natural conclusion when that conclusion is not favorable to Apple. There just seems to be more cheering, and less dispassionate analysis. I think, like all politicians and opinion givers in the modern age, it is very difficult to remain a moderate. Wildly divergent opposing forces insist that you pick sides. It is much harder to have truly fact driven political debate than it used to be. And it seems that is the case with the politics of computing as well.

And while this sense of a shift with Gruber has been coming for at least several months, the thing that triggered me to write this piece was something that Gruber said yesterday in a blog post. It was probably an off-hand comment, but it speaks volumes about where John’s current psyche is. He said:

iPhone critics have seldom let facts get in their way.

Essentially, anyone who has criticized the iPhone, or presumably Apple is just someone not dealing with the facts. The only reasonable position one could have after looking at any iPhone related facts is, generally, acceptance and approval.


Yes, it is true that many iPhone critics are unmoved by facts. But so too are iPhone supporters, a.k.a. fanbois, who would more likely dine on Steve’s output rather than accept even the slightest criticism of Apple.

And so, for me, John Gruber has officially jumped the shark. And while his often insightful analysis will still be in my regular rotation, just as I still occasionally watch George Will on the latest incarnation of This Week, it will never be the same. I used to trust John Gruber. Now I will just read him.

Post Author: Ruby H. Rosenbaum

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