How We Can Get Along, Even Though You’re Wrong

Nov 2, 2011
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It's hard to imagine how we can all get along. Whether in the tech world, in the political arena, in love, and in the clash of different cultures. It's hard, because you are so wrong. You are so very wrong. I know what I'm talking about. I used your device for years, and now I switched, because I'm smarter than you are. I was one of the first to use it. I told everyone. I've been telling people all along. I told you. I told my mother. She didn't listen, and now look what she's stuck with. You didn't listen, because you just don't get it.

Without getting into the details, a major company recently announced a major product and it didn't live up to the hype. That's not a knock on anyone, because no product can live up to the wild pre-launch hype. Which product is not important for this column (though now is the time where I disclose my day job is working for Samsung Mobile). Let's call it a Thneed. What's important is how we all get along, even though we're on completely opposite sides of the fence.

For some products, this doesn't matter. I think the silliest arguments are between Xbox fanboys and PlayStation fanboys. That's like arguing over peanut and plain M&Ms. Why would you spend even a minute of your time arguing that the Xbox is better than the PlayStation, when you could be spending that time playing Halo (the greatest gaming series of all time). You could be spending time on your PlayStation, playing, um, I don't know, that game with the little sack puppets that jump around a lot.

[aquote]It's an argument that cannot be won, because there is no winning[/aquote]

Actually, I'm just kidding. I own both. I love both. I use both regularly. There are benefits to each. There are exclusives on each. It's an argument that cannot be won, because there is no winning. There is only gaming. I'm happy playing my games, you're happy playing yours. So let's just agree that both consoles make us happy, and go back to making fun of Nintendo.

But, I digress. Ina Fried, at All Things Digital, reported on the launch of the big new product from that big company. She noted that initial presale estimates were very high. She also notes that "Initial reaction to the was somewhat muted."

This is true, to a point. Reaction from the tech press registered disappointment after inflated expectations. Some of that disappointment was also the deflating of a balloon filled with the hot air of lusting for something -- anything -- new. Of course, if the Thneed were so disappointing, then presale estimates wouldn't be so high, right?

That's exactly the point John Gruber makes on his site, Daring Fireball.To quote:

"Initial reaction by whom? What could be more initial than record-breaking preorders . . . ? What she really means is that a bunch of self-proclaimed technology experts and analysts had a muted reaction . . . , and that . . . they just don’t get it."

See what I was saying? According to Gruber, Fried just doesn't get it.

This got me thinking about the Transformers movies, and how terrible they were. Not the third one. I can't bash that one now since I showered it with faint praise here on SlashGear. I'm thinking of the second movie. Transformers 2 was, quite possibly, one of the worst movies ever made. It wasn't just poorly written, or poorly directed. It was actually offensive to thinking people. I did not read one good review of that movie. It earned a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Know what else it earned? $400 Million dollars. Domestic. Internationally, the movie brought in well over $800 Million dollars. If Transformers 2 were a country, it would be wealthier than Grenada.

So, the audience voted with their dollars. Who was wrong? Could the people filling the seats possibly be wrong? I was one of those people, with much regret. To earn those numbers, there must have been plenty of repeat viewings. It was a very popular film, #28 on the all-time top grossing movies list. Could Michael Bay have been wrong? He earned enough money to buy a small country.

[aquote]So how can the two sides coexist?[/aquote]

But the critics weren't wrong, either. It was an awful movie. That's an opinion, not a demonstrable fact. Still, every movie critic I respect and agree with panned that movie. So how can the two sides coexist?

They each place different values on success. The critics are looking for artistic success. I'm not going to define that here, that's a thesis-worthy topic. But clearly the critics didn't find success in Transformers 2. On the other hand, pundits and investors are looking for financial success. Who cares if the movie is good or bad, as long as it made a lot of money. Look at the list of top grossing films. It's littered with movies that I wouldn't see again if you paid me (though you're welcome to try).

Saying that one side or the other is wrong is a stupid argument. It's meaningless. It is, itself, wrong. There is no right or wrong when there are variegated measures of success. It's like saying that I'm richer than you because I have a million dollars, while you only have 747,000 Euros. Sure, in the U.S., where we value the dollar, that's true. In Europe, you're the rich one. Geography aside, it would be ridiculous to say that I'm right for having dollars instead of Euros. It's a meaningless argument. We can both be right.

Gruber and Fried are both right. Fried is correct that there were pundits waiting for the launch of the Thneed who were eventually disappointed by what they saw. Gruber is right that record-breaking presales are impressive. But to say that Fried 'doesn't get it' is disingenuous, and I suspect Gruber knows this. He can rail against "self-proclaimed technology experts" all he wants, but in redefining Fried's terms to match his own criticism, he's fabricating his own reality as much as the experts he criticizes.

This is how we get along. We realize that we each value different measures of success. Those measures may be completely incompatible, but that doesn't mean they aren't relevant. When we dismiss someone else's accurate measure of success and say that they 'don't get it,' we're part of the problem. Instead, talk about what you value, what's important to you, and go from there.

Also, go see "The Dark Knight" a hundred more times, because that movie deserves to be much higher on the list.


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