Should The Mac Zealots Just Shut Up?

by Chris Seibold Aug 03, 2005

It is unlikely that there is any city in the US with a population over hundred thousand folks where you can’t go to central spot on a Friday evening and not receive the dreaded “attempted conversion.” The procedure is both tiresome and familiar and runs something as follows:

“You, in the black shirt, are you prepared for the end of the LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT!!!!!!?”
You: “I’m comfortable with my…”
Nut case: “Have you heard the WORD, the WORD will save you and this great country!!!!!?”
You (trying to be polite): “Uh, like I said, I’m fairly comfortable with my current choice in the…”
Nut Job: “Friend, allow me to give you this pamphlet. The PAMPHLET will open your eyes to the EVIL around US. SON, read the PAMPHLET and spread the WORD!!”
You: “I’m open minded, but I find your tactics not only annoying but a bit disingenuous so…”
Total freakin Nut Case: “Behold one of the EVIL ones, one the scorned few who drive four bangers. One who openly rejects the liberating advantages of a FULLY HEMI POWERED ENGINE. Scorn him children. Scorn the fool!”
You: ” Please tell me you won’t be here when I come out the bar.”
Person teetering betwixt institutionalization and self-care: “Will you please donate a few dollars so I can continue to spread the good WORD about the awesomely powered HEMI ENGINES!!!!?”
You: “Here’s two bucks”

Feel free to change “hemi powered engines” to any topic that fosters passion. It might be religion, politics, environmentalism etc., the choice of topic is less important than the delivery. Just how many people does the street corner screamer convince? A few addle brained fools will certainly buy into the hemi powered argument but a great many more will simply tune the self proclaimed crier of “the truth” out and, likely, avoid the followers admonitions with increasing zeal. At some point zealotry starts hurting more than it helps and the question the Mac community needs to ask itself is: Is zealotry pushing away more users than it is bringing in?

First A bit Of History

Mac Evangelism likely originates with Guy Kawasaki. By most accounts Guy coined the term “Mac Evangelist” and spent a considerable amount of time after the Mac was introduced try to stave off domination of the computing world by IBM. It seemed to work well enough that Guy left Apple (1987) to pursue other ventures (which probably means look for a way to get obscenely rich). 1995 rolled around and Guy was brought back into the fold to work his magic a second time. This probably marks the true birth of Mac Evangelism as it is commonly regarded. In any event 1995 was the year the Mac began to seriously slip in market share. The counter to this precipitous decline was to motivate Mac aficionados to get the word out using, among other things, the nascent ‘net.  The efficacy of the approach is questionable. Obviously the campaign did inspire many Mac users to extol the virtues of the Mac but the sales kept slipping. One suspects that the evangelism, in this case, helped keep the Mac (somewhat) viable and that the dwindling sales can be better attributed to any of a number of other factors.

Many people probably don’t remember the lengths Mac evangelists used to go to spread the word. I, to use an overly personal example, once spent most of a weekend hanging around a CompUSA basically selling Macs for no other compensation than the warm vibrations of helping my fellow man. Other folks made it their business to go into Sears and Best Buy and reset the Performas and iMacs so they would at least appear to work for a few hours. The evangelism also extended to countless message board posts, screeds on the web (before blogging became the default name for such activities), requests for Macs at countless corporations, etc. In short a great deal of effort was put forth by the Mac faithful to keep Macs afloat.

So What’s Changed?

When the Evangelism movement was at its peak Apple was experiencing their darkest days. Other than a few incremental advances here and there Apple just wasn’t very exciting so it made perfect sense to cater to the technophobes, the terminally different and Microsoft grudge bearers. With the advent of OS X all that has changed. Macs, as their recent sales indicate, are becoming more and more accepted. The media coverage has been nothing sort of universally praise filled and Macs are once again accepted as the platform of choice by a large number of computer geeks.

So now the Mac community is faced with a completely new environment. A changing environment necessitates changing strategies. To understand just how much damage a stagnant unchanging mindset can be consider the Norse Greenland Colony. Surrounded by fish and seals the Norse eschewed these food sources and relied on untenable stocks of sheep and swine. Presumably the Inuit laughed at the stubbornness of the flaxen haired interlopers and, when the colony failed three hundred years after it had been established, probably weren’t sorry to see them go. To apply this lesson to Macs let us consider a person jumping off the Windows ship into the warm embrace of the Mac community. These potential switchers don’t want to hear how stupid their past choices were, they don’t want to be told time and time again that they are mindless Windows zombies and they don’t want to join a “cult” just by buying a computer. What they do want to hear is how great the Mac is. They want to hear about what the Mac will do for them, they want to hear about why Mac is growing in popularity. In short, like just about everyone else when it comes to purchasing something, they want to hear how smart they are for considering a Mac.

None of this is to say that Mac users should simply ignore the deficiencies of competing platforms. Linux is too difficult for the average Joe, it is ridiculous that Windows users have to run two or three programs in an effort to stem the tide of malware and spyware. Still there is a huge difference between saying: “Linux? You paste eating goob! The Mac is much more user friendly!” or “How do like that worm Windows swilling Lemmings?” and saying “Macs are pretty sweet, no security worries and they are still easy to use.” To phrase it differently: People aren’t buying a philosophy any more, so the Mac community shouldn’t try to sell them one. For most folks, a computer is just a tool, the Mac world needs to tell them why it pounds nails better.


  • I dunno about WMP player being decent. I haven’t used it often on the PC but on my computers it blows. For audio it is fine (though scrubbing is an issue) but it seems as though I can never watch a complete clip unless it under a minute or so.
    Of course I won’t assume my experience is typical, but from where I sit WMP isn’t even in the parking lot surrouding the stadium that Quicktime is in. Why (more on this later) I would dare say that from my experience WMP is the Mighty Mouse of Microsoft.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 06, 2005 Posts: 354
  • . For audio it is fine (though scrubbing is an issue) but it seems as though I can never watch a complete clip unless it under a minute or so.

    Generally, I’d guess that your experience is atypical.  Obviously most people can watch clips longer than one minute without any problems.

    I dunno about the Mac, since I never use WMP on it, but on the PC it works just fine.  I suppose it could be a platform issue.  QT on the PC doesn’t work nearly as well as it does on the Mac.  The same might be true of WMP on XP vs OS X.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 06, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • I suspect you are right, most people don’t seem to have much of a problem with WMP and most people use a PC.
    I find it a bit disheartening that one format would work so well on one platform and so poorly on another.
    Why not give WMP a shot your Mini and see what you think?

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 06, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Just gave it a try and it plays wmv files fine but it won’t even open an avi file, which is strange.  It’s associating the avi file format with QT but QT won’t play it either.  It will in VLC, however.  Strange.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 06, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • I should clarify, I meant WMP on the PC - not on the Mac.  WMP on the PC is quite capable and very easy to adapt to different uses, or at least I’ve never had much in the way of trouble using it.  QT doesn’t seem to be particularly friendly to anything that isn’t native to it - and to be fair it probably wasn’t designed to be.  I just wish there were a more complete video playback solution for the Mac, I’m having nothing but trouble lately.  I see Divx has a new version of their Mac codec available though still in beta.  I have yet to try it but I’m hoping that eventually I can have the same “across the board” playback experience on the Mac that I’ve had on the PC/

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Aug 07, 2005 Posts: 112
  • I’m still trying to figure out why I can only play AVI files with VLC.  Neither QT or WMP works.  Anyone got any ideas?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 07, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • QT needs a codec (3ivx or DivX are popular).  WMP hasn’t been updated in a while (and it was behind the Windows version anyway).  I’m not sure you can update it with a plugin.

    BTW, some AVI files use AC3 audio, so you’d need that codec as well.  FWIW, you can also play AVI files with MPlayer.

    lavar78 had this to say on Aug 08, 2005 Posts: 38
  • The new DivX codec for Quicktime is much better than earlier versions.

    It is a little annoying that you have to self-install some extra codecs for Quicktime but I’m pretty certain that’s due to licensing.  Apple would likely have to pay Microsoft in order to support the various MS-based codecs out of the box.

    I can’t believe how unbelieveably crappy WMP on the Mac is. It doesn’t even update the image when you drag the scroll thumb to a different part of the video clip. It seems the Mac Business Unit is still the bastard red-head step child at Microsoft.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 11, 2005 Posts: 243
  • WMP 10 is nice, ok showing its age now but its a pretty slick app. The MP3 download stuff with direct linking into Virgin, Napster, and a dozen other companies is a very open system to get MP3s…and yes, no iTunes support raspberry

    As for DivX though it is a 3rd party company…nice compression technology though, and a popular one. Complaining about how you need to download the codec to get it to run on Quicktimes no different to WMP out of the box, it doesnt support DivX either.

    Evengelist group, ekk am trying to remember when Apple actually killed off the support for it, 96/97 ish i beleive when I was a member. We used to actually get emailed lists of people who wrote anti Mac reviews. Damn I was so naive back then and actually took part in that insanity. Sheesh its so embarressing thinking back.

    Nyadach had this to say on Sep 12, 2005 Posts: 29
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