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.


  • Well put, for the Mac platform to advance further we have to expect change. Some of these changes we’re not going to like in the beginning. Trust that Steve has our best interest at heart.

    Shaun Thompson had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Finally this has been said in a commentary article!  The Mac *IS* after all just a tool, like any other PC.  We embrace this tool and spread the word about it hopefully only because it has helped us to create and work like no other tool can.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 112
  • I disagree.  There are too many stupid people that just don’t know they have options!  We can’t just sit back and shut up.  Now more than ever we need to be the vocal minority of computer users.  There is a better way.  If we’re so sure of it, we must share with those around us the possibility of a better computing experience.

    Yes, it’s just a computer.  But I certainly have pity for those who fight with their Windows machines every day.  They don’t have to.  There is a better way.

    stealthboy had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 4
  • I agree, and as a recent Switcher I can attest that it took a lot of guts.  Still does, as there are a decided lack of real-life people I can go to and ask questions. 

    For example, about 4 days into Mac-life, I was shutting down for the night and the FileVault cleanup started going on.  Fine.  After 3 hours it was still going on.  There was no way to stop it, and eventually I just forced the shutdown of the computer.  Next day, all of my settings (bookmarks, Dock apps, Keychain) were reset and seemingly unrecoverable.  Cry.  Not the end of the world, sure, but annoying, and I had no idea how to stop this from happening again.

    I am a programmer, and am surrounded by Linux and Windows people.  I know a lot about computers, but still use the people around me as resources.  With Mac I have to randomly find websites and ask questions.

    Now, people have been very helpful and friendly so far, I must admit.  That’s the best thing you can do.  But there also should be more of an appropriate place to go.  A Switcher’s resource site.  Hmm… That’s a good idea Sean, you should start that. 

    Would anyone be willing to help contribute things to a site like that?  I’d pay for the site and administer it, but would need experts to contribute tips and advice.

    Email me if you’re interested….


    BergenDog had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 18
  • Part of the “Mac cult” situation is evolving. It started out as creative versus corporate or it became computer entrepenuer versus corporate behemoths (the 1980’s), then merely us versus them (the 1990’s) ... then of course, it became the era of mass mis-information from the general press (Apple dying, Mac dead, etc ...) or the Bill Gates messiah complex heaped upon us by the press (he’s the world’s richest man, praise him and record every cough as a divinity message to be decoded).

    So, you have different people arguing the mac-way depending on where they joined in or believe so while it seems to be mac versus PC, it’s that plus more.

    But I also think the Linux versus Mac is generally more level-headed. There are merits and points against each platform and it’s all simply opinion or the user’s needs and wants but the Mac versus Pc debate is/will always be colored ...

    And 70% of it is based on the history of the matters outside of the computer itself - some of it fair and of it unfair but the corner is turning.

    The internet has leveled the playing field and when the chip change takes place - things will be even more level. Just like older generations would be a Ford or Caddy guy or never buy foreign - that’s all changing now and we’ll probably look back wistfully at a time when people would argue about who made a better mouse grin

    jbelkin had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 41
  • There are many Mac-centric Forums for helping users.  Here’s a few:




    Ars Technica:


    Mac Owners Support Group:

    Plus, every major community probably already has a Macintosh User Group with an online forum to help users, not just members of the group.  I’d search the web for these listings.  In addition to the above sample, I have over a dozen I regularly visit just to keep up on issues.

    Dave Marsh had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 44
  • Thanks Dave,

    I visit a lot of the sites you mentioned as well.  What I was thinking of would be very targetted, however, to people who have already switched or are thinking about switching from Windows to Mac.  There are lots of little things that one has to get used to, terminology and symbols ( the apple key is also called the command key, the UP arrow symbol is actually the shift button, etc…) that people who are very used to Mac’s may not even be aware of. 

    Plus, answering in a very straight-foward way things like
    “Can I move all my Outlook info to Mac?”

    “Can I Remote Connect to my Windows machine at Work?” 

    “What is a .sit file?  What is a .dmg file?”

    And the like…  The best I’ve found so far is, which is great, but again I think a site that specifically addresses the hurdles a Windows user has to overcome during the Switch would be valuable.


    BergenDog had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 18
  • I don’t think it’s a matter of shutting up so much as it is not being zealots anymore.  If Macs ever do replace Windows as the dominant OS, the biggest advantage IMO would be the eradication of the cult.  While no doubt there would still be a fringe group of fanatics, just as there are for Windows, they would be few and far between and they would be perceived as the crazies they are.

    For the rest of us, the Mac would be perceived simply as a tool to get things done instead of a way of life in which the followers consider themselves smarter and better than everyone else.  All of the stuff that the fanatics tell us would be revealed as the bunk that it is (Macs never crash, you won’t need an IT dept, the tech support is the best in the world, you’ll save money in the long run).  And of course, people will start complaining about the Apple monopoly instead of the MS one, and Jobs will become the most villified man in tech (imagine if MS owned the software AND the hardware).

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Listen, bottom line, the zealots are annoying. Even to Mac users. I could only imagine how non-Mac users view them. Actually come to think of it I know exactly how non-Mac users view them, as I was one for quite some time, unbearable. They do more to hurt than to harm the effort to convert people to the Mac platform. No one wants to be berated for their choice in computing, but most people would love to get some advice on how to make better choices. The average user hates the fact that once their Windows box is stricken with some unspeakable horrors they have few knowledgeable people to turn to who will calmly and rationally walk them through fixing their problems. That same person doesn’t want to be moved to a new platform by someone who has the smug attitude of a know-it-all who is never wrong and above the computing problems of the common man. Even if you believe yourself to be a member of this mythic community.

    The average user would love to not have viruses, adware, spyware, trojans, etc… They would also love to hear, calmly and rationally, that all their documents, email, pictures, peripherals, videos, etc, etc.. can be ported over rather seamlessly to a shiny white Mac. They would love to be reassured that they won’t starve for software, as plenty of titles do exist despite some of the ignorant statements they may have heard in the past. That there actually is a large enough user base out there who are supportive of news users and willing to help recent switchers work through the inevitable learning curve. They rather not hear from an ignorant rambling zealot “there is no learning curve, only idiots from the unwashed masses can’t see how intuitive and elegant OSX it, what is wrong with you, why don’t you just KNOW how to do that, see what happens when you use a Windows box for too long - you become retarded, go back to your “Dull” you heathen”.

    Seriously, who needs idiots like that? Yet this brand of Zealot is all over the place, particularly on the internet. These are the people who are so entrenched in being the underdog OS that they can’ even deal like a normal human being with praise or acceptance. A prime example of this is They run one of the best laid out Mac news sites on the web yet reading the MDN “take” is more often infuriating than not. They act as if tech pundits like Enderle or Dorvak killed their puppy, even when those two write the occasional pro-Mac article. They delight in pointing inaccuracies in any Mac article, even written by mainstream journalists (see: non-techies). Instead of being happy with the recent tide of mostly pro-Apple/Mac sentiment they can’t wait to bash the writer, or his viewpoints or even his prior viewpoints. And heaven help you if they detect even a tiny slight or dig at the Mac platform even in a overtly pro-Mac article. They will hammer you for that one slip up. They act as if only the Mac OS is the only persecuted computing platform, like pro-Windows articles never take shots at Microsoft right? Today you can swing by their site and check out them hammering probably their biggest supporter in the mainstream media, Walt Mossberg, all because he isn’t necessarily in love with the “Mighty Mouse”. You see they only like Walt’s viewpoint when it jives with their own. If it goes against the grain well then you might as well call him Dorvak because that’s how they are going to treat him

    Again, it is why there needs to be more pro Apple sites like this one whose writers are able to look at both sides of the coin, not just the coins stamped at the Steve Jobs mint. And they need to do it intelligently and with regard to the fact that not everyone needs to be evangical about their choice of computer. It’s why AppleMatters is one of my favorite daily reads for all things Apple, even if the subject matter isn’t always latest “press release” based. There are many computer users out there who do see it as a tool, and naturally anyone who relies on a tool to work really does want the best one. Informed Mac users and enthusiasts should be there to walk them through the decision process to show them that yes, Mac is THE best tool for the average user. It is not difficult and it will benefit all of us in the Mac community in the long term. The Zealots, well they should just stick to yelling and taunting each other. It seems to be all they are happy doing anyway.

    AngryHamster had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 19
  • I am now an AngryHamster zealot.  smile

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • This only tells half of the story.  For every true Mac zealot, there is another type of zealot—one who labels others as such when they dare agree with something Apple does while disagreeing with him.  They’re just as annoying, because they ask people to be open-minded while hypocritically keeping their minds closed to other opinions.

    lavar78 had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 38
  • “I am now an AngryHamster zealot.”

    Perfect! My cult is coming along nicely. Before today there was only one member, me, now I have two. Exponential growth! Soon…world domination

    Hey Apple, my cult is better than your cult na na na wink

    I don’t know Beeble, it seems you are the one in frequent clashes with Mac Zealots here. It may have to be the other way around, I may have to be a Beeblebrox zealot to stand a chance.

    AngryHamster had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 19
  • AngryHamster, I could not agree more.  It seems to me that the people who put up the MacDailyNews “takes,” along with 99% of the people who comment on the site cannot be older than, perhaps, 14 years old.  I cannot imagine an adult calling upon all the readers of the site to bombard the Wall Street Journal for an article that it published which bemoaned the fact that Apple has a “lock-in” system with iTMS and the iPod.  MDN actually posted the email address of the writer and the editor and told its readers to demand that the WSJ “correct” the mistake about only AAC being supported on the iPod.  I’ve seen this come up dozens of times on as many sites: yes, the iPod supports MP3, etc. but the point is that Apple really does lock you in to their system if you have any intentions of buying music online.  And for a person without much computer savvy, ripping to AAC does in fact make it difficult to play music in other applications on other computers.  It’s a serious annoyance that the Mac Zealots rose to defend.

    I can’t myself imagine what these people are going to do if their gallant dreams come true and the Mac OS becomes the majority operating system.  Do they imagine that the Mac will still be cool, interesting, and innovative?  Do they imagine they’ll still have things to write about and complain about?  Because they won’t. Because Microsoft isn’t “evil” because it’s got some kind of vile culture, but because when you’ve won a monopoly you stop pushing forwards with all your creativity and simply take advantage of your position to lock others out of a chance at dethroning you.  What do you think Apple is doing right now with the iPod?  The last actual innovation was the click wheel, invented with the Mini years ago.  Instead they’re focusing on keeping their monopoly for as long as possible, locking people in with the iTMS and putting out craptastic “innovations” like the iPod Photo.

    I myself never want to see Apple rise above 10% marketshare in anything.  Because then they stop trying hard to be creative and interesting.  The Mac Zealots should stop complaining about “ignorance” and simply enjoy what the Mac is now: proof that marketshare is a defeating goal.

    greatm31 had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I cannot imagine an adult calling upon all the readers of the site to bombard the Wall Street Journal for an article that it published which bemoaned the fact that Apple has a “lock-in” system with iTMS and the iPod.

    Sadly, I can.

    The thing that MDN and other zealotry mosts resemble is partisan politics.  “Principle” turns on a dime and switches on and off like a lightbulb, hypocrisy and outrage abound.

    A paper might print an article about Politician A that has two or three errors.  The voter who believes in A will become outraged, accuse the media of bias, and write letters demanding a retraction.  That same voter, if the story were written about Politican B instead, would either not care or nod in agreement without questioning it at all.

    For all their talk about FUD, MDN contributors and readers alike wallow in it constantly, spreading FUD about Microsoft, Creative, Sony et al like butter on bread.  But print or mention the slightest criticism of Apple, even if it’s TRUE, and the knives come out; you’re a Microsoft shill, an idiot, a drone, a moron, a fear-monger etc.  I’m reminded of Bill O’Reilly who said of Al Franken, “that’s exactly what these idiots do, they engage in name-calling!”

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • I found this too funny and couldn’t resist posting. Sorry to anyone who might be offended.

    Q: How many Mac zealots does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: None… “The bulb does not need changing.”

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 04, 2005 Posts: 1209
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