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Presenting the Mac market’s very own Dvorak

Several months ago, everyone’s favourite pundit John C Dvorak admitted – as if anyone couldn’t guess – that every now and then he trolled Mac users, baiting them with outrageous and outlandish claims about their platform or the superiority of Windows. Better yet, John outlined his three-step method of Mac user-baiting:

Dvorak’s formula

• Find something critical to say about the Mac that may or may not be true.

• Personal attacks and hate mail then ensue. This gives me “free column number two.”

• Apologize for being wrong and then all the Mac crazies really go nuts since they all feel so vindicated.

The great thing about this forumula is that it’s applicable well beyond Mac fans: you can do this with any audience. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that one Mac “pundit”, Roughly Drafted’s owner/publisher/editor/tea maker Daniel Eran, has decided to apply it with a “pro-Mac” slant.

Yesterday, Eran produced what can only be described as a flame-baiting beauty of a column, claiming to “prove” that over a seven year period, Windows cost five times as much as a Mac. His method was to factor in the cost of OS upgrades, then add – for Windows only – a premium for anti-virus and spyware removal. So far, so good: there’s no doubt that you do indeed pay a tax on top of the cost of Windows for keeping yourself clean of malware, although you can – if you shop around – get both anti-spyware and AV software for nothing.

Where Daniel went off the rails, though, was in his costings. To determine the cost of spyware removal, he added in $200 per year for professional servicing. As a million people on Digg and in his comments pointed out, this was mad: it’s like claiming that every car driver must pay thousands per month for fuel just because some people have gas-guzzlers. Or, as I put it, it’s like saying every Mac users must have ProCare if they want their Macs kept up to date, as one of the benefits of ProCare is updating your Apple software.

That’s column number one. Today, Daniel has posted a second column, called “Bloggers in Blind Rage Over Digg”, which is basically one long “shock” piece at how he’s been criticised, while attacking those who criticised him – including me, of course. When I posted comments that were critical of his argument, Daniel threatened to ban me from his comments, and then trumped all my points with a one liner: “Haha Ian, you are such a tool”. Oh, to be wounded by such wit.

Does this method sound familiar to you? Yes, of course: It’s steps one and two direct from what should be called “The Dvorak School of Column Writing”. I’m expecting step three within a week, once Daniel’s trolling has stopped having the desired effect. It’ll probably take the classic “they all misread me, I don’t know what the problem was” form.

Daniel has been trying to stir up this kind of stuff for some time. His first effort that came to my attention was an attempt to show that, in fact, Apple’s market share was effectively double it’s usually-cited level – a figure he achieved by lumping together OS software and hardware, giving Microsoft a 48% share of the PC market. Why he didn’t add in printers, scanners, monitors, and everything else I don’t know. Thankfully, most people didn’t take the bait: perhaps because his argument was so jaw-droppingly specious that few could do anything but laugh at it.

There’s a second way in which Daniel reminds me of John: His gift for self-promotion. However, while for John self-promotion is mostly a face-to-face thing, Daniel’s chosen forum is Digg, and boy does he do it well. Being told off by some Digg users for the practice of submitting his own stories (referring to himself in the third person while doing so) hasn’t stemmed the tide of Roughly Drafted stories being submitted to Digg.

Instead, the baton has been picked up by an “Andrew Levi Black”, who since registering on June 21st, has submitted a grand total of 25 stories, all from Roughly Drafted. Oddly, many of the submissions follow the same style (“Daniel Eran of RoughlyDrafted Magazine has a phat list…”) as Daniel’s own submissions (“Daniel Eran of RoughlyDrafted Magazine Introduces the Apple XServe mini…”). Also oddly, doing a search for “Andrew Levi Black” on Google returns only his Digg profile: as far as the rest of the internet outside Digg is concerned, there is no Andrew Levi Black.

But whether “Andrew Levi Black ” is a real person who just happens to sound like Daniel, a helpful friend of Daniel’s or a good old-fashioned sock puppet, there’s no doubt that Daniel knows how to use Digg to maximise his traffic. And it all adds up to a pretty impressive package: Dvorak-style trolling, Dvorak-style writing, and Dvorak-style self-promotion. Fellow Mac users, we have our very own Dvorak.

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  • Cliff

    Ian,

    Eran corrected the mac market share piece at some point. He says mac share stayed the same (while apportioning the wintel share between MS and the wintel box makers). Go check the article. Also, I don’t think you’ve established Eran is crazy based on (1) Eran’s market share argument and (2) the antivirus/spyware removal cost argument. At best you’ve got a couple of debateable points people can disagree about. Frankly, I’m not so sure $200 is a ridiculous number to use for the spyware removal cost. Sure, not everyone incurs it. Some people handle these things themselves. But of course not everyone handles it themselves. Honestly, I’m sure there’s a lot more people who don’t handle it themselves, using free tools. Geek squad seems to be going gangbusters, advertising on TV and I see their cars running around town all the time. Obviously, there’s an industry there. Even if you handle spyware removal yourself, what’s your time worth? $200 a year probably works out to less than minimum wage times the number of hours spent attending to windows virus/spyware/adware issues, even if you use free tools. So is Eran’s point really so crazy. No way. At best it’s wrong. Not crazy.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Hi Cliff – yes, I saw that Daniel corrected the article. The fact remains that he’s basically rigged the figures by combining two markets in order to make Apple’s market share look more important relatively. Halving Dell’s market share makes Apple’s small percentage look rather better, which was Daniel’s intention all along.

    Like I said in my reply to your previous comment, what Daniel is very good at is stringing together plausible-sounding sound bites into an argument that makes no sense.

    Of course there’s an industry in fixing PCs (just as there’s one in fixing Macs – one of my friends makes a nice side income doing exactly that). But I’d be very surprised if Geek Squad are getting calls from every PC owner in their area for $200-worth of spyware removal per year. In fact, as evidenced by figures that Daniel posted, the market worldwide for PC repairs caused by spyware etc is $9 billion. That works out at $13 per PC per year. That’s a long way from the $200 per year that Daniel originally quoted.

  • http://216.69.156.244 Daniel Eran

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for the article. I’ll admit Dvorak is a bit of tool, but that’s his job. I recall reading his articles when I was a kid and finding them interesting, because he would predict things happening that other – more boring – tech writers didn’t have the vision to imagine.

    Dvorak actaully had some good insights about subjects, but seemed to eventually fall into the trap of just generating pointless controversies. I try not to do that, but it’s hard to predict how far out people will take rather mundane observations.

    Trying to call either of my recent articles “shock pieces” is a bit flamboyant, given that my “Windows 5x More Expensive than Mac OS X” was really a folksy read about my experiences as a user of both Mac OS X and Windows XP. The follow up, ‘Blogger Rage’ was an attempt to write a human interest story on the phenomon of Digg and the “Blog now, think later mentality” that sensationalizes the most pedestrian of topics in our brave new world.

    Since you’re so keen on facts, you might want to correct the “million people on Digg” who suposedly complained about my article. None of the angry rants were dugg by more than 50 of their friends, while the article itself has been positively dugg more than a 1000 times.

    I do try to promote my articles, and I submit them to sites like MacSurfer (as you did this one) and others. It’s also no secret that Andrew is in my Digg “friend list,” and has posted links to every recent story. The reason for this is that Digg requires stories to be submitted is a particular way in order to use their API to draw the Digg button on my site.

    That fact was presented in great detail right in the Digg comments; there is no cover up to expose. Digg is designed to locate and promote new and interesting content. If +1000 Diggers are approving my articles, it’s not because I’ve brainwashed the web, but rather because I’m researching and relating things that are useful or interesting to Digg’s readers.

    And thank you very much for calling me a Dvorak rather than a Thurrott.

    Peace – Dan of RoughlyDrafted Magazine

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Hi Dan,

    I’m actually quite glad you liked the Dvorak comparison. I enjoy reading Dvorak, even at his silliest – because what he does is entertainment as much as journalism. So in calling you “the Dvorak of the Mac world” it’s part compliment, part criticism.

  • James Bailey

    Ian,

    There are many times when I think you’ve posted something that wasn’t accurate or well researched. I’ve pointed them out in your comments area when I see them. You generally disagree with me. None of that makes you a bad person. It just means you and I disagree on interpretation of certain facts and ideas. I don’t understand why you can’t give Daniel the same benefit of the doubt.

    Disagree with his facts and interpretations of those facts but don’t do the ad hominem approach of pointing out one particular article and painting everything Daniel writes as flamebait. Disagree with the article in question and write about what you believe are the correct facts but please try to avoid the personal attacks or you will lose a lot of credibility.

    For the record, I read Roughly Drafted for the same reason I read Technovia. You both are excellent writers and have good insight into technology. I don’t have to agree with everything I read to find both of your perspectives useful.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    I don’t actually think Dan’s a bad person (despite him calling me “a tool”! :) ), and, as I say above, the “Dvorak of the Mac world” is both a compliment and a criticism. Viewed as entertainment, I have no problem with what he writes, no matter how (to put it kindly) “left field”.

    And James, much as I disagree with you, you know your comments are always appreciated.

    But that’s enough of the love-in: Can we have a little more flamebaiting? ;)

  • Cliff

    Ian,

    You still need to factor in the value of one’s time. Again, if you take $200 per year and divide by the minimum wage, you get about 38 hours a year. I bet most people spend at least that much time dealing with viruses, adware and spyware per year, if they handle it themselves. And of course most people would value their time at greater than 5.25 per hour. Clearly, Eran’s estimate is not unreasonable. I don’t think your $13 per PC works because it doesn’t take into account the value of people time (it’s just based on amounts paid to third parties).

  • Cliff

    Ian,

    Also, the 9 billion figure was for “at home” users. So you can’t divide by all PCs worldwide. Also, keep in mind that costs are much lower in many countries with very large populations, like China and India. Of course people’s incomes are lower too so $13 year might actually be a lot in India. You kinda need to keep it focused on developed countries, including worldwide data skews things unless you adjust for things like cost of living (for example, per capita GNP figures are often adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP).

  • Cliff

    Here’s the link saying the 9 billion figure is for at home users –

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2005/08/a_billiondollar_boondoggle.html

  • As usual you are way off the mark
  • Chris

    I agree with Cliff and James. Ian, you are making way too much out of Dan’s article. My thought is, why should users of a computer have to spend ANYTHING on virus protection, when Apple has proven that a well written OS does not have to be so vulnerable? I think of Dan’s piece as hyperbole. The actual numbers matter less than the overall point, that Windows is much costlier than most people imagine, due to lost productivity, security, and time. I have several personal stories of friends and family switching to the mac due to the overall cost of Windows. You want the stories?

    Maybe you think that Dan is 100% serious. Maybe you like being an “elitist” mac owner. Maybe you like site hits. Or maybe you are just a curmudgeon. But you certainly come off as a piss ant with your blasting of Dan. Seems a bit over the top.

    Chris

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Chris, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. As I’ve said before, there’s no doubt that the total TCO of Windows is higher than the Mac. In that “broad brush” sense, Dan is right. However, Dan put a very firm figure on his claims – 5x more for Windows than Mac – on the basis of figures that are a fantasy. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that when someone refers to themselves as an editor of magazine, they ought not just just pull numbers out of their behind that are simply unjustifiable.

    “As usual..” – I’m not surprised by that, and neither am I disputing it. I don’t think your point has any relevance to what I’m saying, which isn’t that spyware isn’t a problem (it is) or that people don’t get infected (they don’t) but that I’d be surprised to find a single user that’s paid $200 for seven years for spyware removal. The vast majority of users just use the free or cheap tools to do the job.

    Cliff, once you start to factor in the time that you have to spend on maintaining machines, you need to do the same for Macs. It’s simply not true that you spend no time at all maintaining Macs. Daniel made no effort to do any of this. As for the home/work split, iirc correctly roughly 2/3rds of machines are in use at work these days (including home offices, SMEs, and other “non-home” users). Even if you treble the figure I came up with, it’s still no where near Dan’s $200. Skewing it according to country is practically impossible, but it’s worth remembering that – even today – the majority of those PCs are in the developed world anyway (iirc, something like 200 million are in the US alone).

    What’s more, remember that virtually every new PC comes with at least a year’s virus protection – and with 150 million new PCs shipping a year, that’s an awful lot of users for whom AV and anti-spyware costs are effectively zero.

  • Jim

    I have noticed that although the PC vendors are installing the AV and anti-spyware, most uninformed non-technical users (most of the world?) are not automatically updating their virus and spyware signatures on a regular basis, thus they are leaving themselves open for a malware package. Thus all of the spambots that are sending out those “multipart/related” graphical viagra and stock trader spam messages thru their unprotected Outlook accounts.

    Windows has been nothing more than one BIG IT mistake, based upon the premise that PC were “cheaper”. Yeah, they are cheaper. Cheaper parts that break down, and a “cheaper” OS that has more holes than swiss cheese. Now, you are seeing the result of your “being cheaper”, and its malware. So rejoice now in your decisions, you GOT WHAT YOU PAID FOR! Its time that the world should move to a more secure UNIX based platform. In fact, if MS was smart, after Vista, they should start a new project for “Windows 2010″ and just port their Aero interface and other technologies to work on top of Linux.

  • Cliff

    Ian,

    You’re muddying the issue with your argument that Macs have maintenance costs too. Of course they do. But what we are talking about is maintenance costs related specifically to virus/spyware/adware removal. I spend ZERO time on these issue for my mac. Which I think is most people’s experience. Now count the time spent on this type of maintenance for windows, and you know it’s more than 38 hours per year. If your time is worth more than minimum wage, you don’t even need to spend that many hours to hit $200 per year. I think if we actually looked at other maintenance costs (mac versus windows), the mac would be lower there too. But we don’t need to go there because all we are talking about is costs related to viruses/spyware/adware.

    Basically, it’s pretty clear Ian that you just don’t want to accept reality here. Fact is, windows users spend time on viruses/spyware/adware. Mac users spend essentially zero. Time is money. Face the facts.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Cliff,

    I tinker around with machines a lot, but one thing that I don’t tinker about much with is AV or spyware. I install Kaspersky (£25) and Windows Defender (£0). I install Firefox too – but I do that on all my machines. I set everything to auto-update, auto-protect and run a once-weekly full scan. Total work: half an hour? After that, I pretty much do nothing connecting with either AV or spyware. Once every six months or so there will be a security update that requires me to download and install something (like the current alert on Centrino chipset drivers) that takes me an extra 10 minutes or so. And that’s it.

    To be totally honest, dealing with spam takes me far more time on Windows than dealing with any kind of malware – oh for a product for Windows as good as SpamSeive is for Mac.