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Who are the Zealots?
Reflections on our respective goals

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

I've been doing Demo Days for Apple (at Fry's) and have been talking to lots of people about their computing experiences. If you are personable you can talk to PC people as well as just Mac people and get some interesting stories.

Small Story

One story that hit home recently was with another guy who was an Australian Programmer who was doing Transaction Processing (Database stuff) with a Fortune 500 company. His company had made the mandate (years ago) that they would go NT (to save money supposedly). They were trying to do high end Database serving and having nothing but problems with NT. It was down all the time, customers were complaining, they were losing money, and so on. He negotiated with management to give him 30 days to set up a duplicate system in his department. The group that was in control said that there was no way he could possible get things working in 30 days, and that he was a loon -- but he had enough of a reputation that Management gave him the 30 days of funding he would need. Well before the end of the month they had things working, and even added some features in the transition. The other dept. was perplexed as to how he pulled it off and management was tickled.

He then went to management and bet them that he could keep his version of the system up for 30 days without a crash. The other dept. had been crashing every few days, they felt there was no way he would pull that off, so they agreed to let him manage the project and be completely autonomous from the other group (for good) if he and his guys (who were not set up for 24/7) could keep the system up the entire month.

Once again, they succeeded. Management was flabbergasted -- the original department was too stunned to be furious -- but that didn't last for long. He had defending himself (and his dept.) against inquiries as long as was possible -- finally in high level corporate debate they all wanted to know how he had done it. He had dropped in a IBM AS/400 and switched everything over without anyone being the wiser. This was of course against corporate mandates (NT only) -- but at that point they couldn't argue with the results. He won the war, barely, and they would allow IBM and the (PowerPC based) AS/400's in, and would leave his department alone. Yet if they had known how he was solving the problem, he would have been blocked from ever trying. Which is not atypical. I've heard the story of being blocked by management or IS way, way too many times, and with way too many variations.

Who are the zealots?

Of course this was only one story among hundreds that I have heard (or seen personally) over the years -- and it got me to thinking. For the past 10 or 15 years I've been hearing about how Mac Users are such zealots. But why? Why are Mac Users considered the Zealots? They are just trying to keep the superior solution for their tasks. It is the PC-apologists and MS-Moonies that are running around making mandates and trying to force Macs, Unix, and all other solutions out of companies. Their argument is that having to support PC's only will save money -- despite all the studies and facts to the contrary. They have never proven that, in fact in most cases there is proof to the contrary, and they spit at that proof and just call you more names. The users don't know their jobs and how to do things -- only IS should be free to decide that. Yet most of IS's alleged cost saving transitions have been failures (that cost a fortune and didn't work as promised), while the solutions they replaced were often working fine and cost less. The PC groupies are the ones that are saying that you can have any flavor machine you want, as long as it is the one MS gives you. Reason doesn't matter, proof doesn't matter -- faith is what matters to them, and they have complete blind faith in Microsoft, and attack you violently if you contradict them with annoying facts or have the gall to think you know your job (and tools) better than they do.

I've been at dozens of companies and seen the many horror stories first hand. I've seen IS first stupidly choose PC-Only software when there are good cross platform solutions available (to try to force others out). Then when the Mac users figure ways around the problems and get working anyway, some departments are forced to make mandates against buying Macs (or against using them on the networks and so on). Again as a way to force them out. To them there is only one true religion -- Microsoft and NT. They've been drinking the poison punch -- which is their problem. But then they hypocritically run around and call everyone else zealots.

Zealot: A fanatically committed person. A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm for a cause. Blind faith in a point of view, and an unwillingness to consider or concede to alternatives.

So who is more the zealot? The person that is fighting for more choice, or the person who is fighting to eliminate it?


So my question is, why are Mac users called zealots? Most Mac users wouldn't force companies to be Mac only (like most IS and PC Zealots do)? I use Macs, and advocate them, but I am defending the right for there to be lots of choices (including Unix, PC's, and many other solutions). I know that IBM can do a good job with their Servers and should be considered. Unix has many fine solutions. Sun has done a good job as well. Macs make excellent clients, and save a ton of time and money over PC's for some things. I'm not saying there should be only one platform -- that is the PC guys that are saying that -- I'm saying we need to avoid these stupid one-size-fits-all solutions that PC worshipers keep trying to cram down our throats.

The PC-crusaders are the ones that are on a crusade to eradicate all choice. The PC-police are the ones on an inquisition to single out Mac users and make them convert or be eliminated (from the company). Comply or die (or at least force them to quit) that seems to be the IS/PC or MS motto. The Microsoft-Ghestappo in many IS departments are often the ones trying to create the final solution for platform choice -- then they run around calling all the Mac users (and OS/2, Amiga, Unix, IBM, Sun, SGI and other users) Zealots for not politely converting (naively) to the platform that is worse for their solution. For having the knowledge to know which platform is better for our tasks, and not blindly converting to their religion, we are hate labeled as the zealots.

A poet once versed;

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

      - Dylan Thomas

I don't think of death as the dying of the light (death to me is the peaceful end of our existence, the long earned respite from fighting against the intolerable). To me the light is standing up for what is right and making a difference , not giving up our souls for the sake of convenience -- and the darkness is the elimination of choice, of freedom, and of reason. The light will begin to die when you accept the easier path (while knowing it is wrong) and letting our souls darken a little in the process (out of laziness or personal gain).

Now obviously, I'm a computer geek -- and choose the path of enlightenment and righteousness through computer knowledge. Everyone else should choose their own paths.

One of the great spirits of the 20th Century said;

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
      - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Well removing my choice matters. Making me less productive matters. I suppose it would be easier for all if we just shut up and stopped fighting the zealots -- but would it be right, would our lives begin to end or at least stop mattering? What good would the annihilation of platform choice (proposed by the true zealots) do for the industry? I like PC's for a few things (despite poor design), Unix makes a good server and programmers OS (even if I think it is too complex for most users), there should be more variety -- not less. I am not trying to eradicate others choice for the sake of conformity, blind following, for control or for self gain. I am just trying to defend against the collapse of reason, and the blind claims that we should "standardize" for the sake of good.

I am not a zealot for standing up for what matters -- but they may be for trying to eliminate that which is reasonable. I understand who the real zealots are -- and it is time to remind everyone of who is who.

Created: 01/01/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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