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Journalistic Capture; staying on message about Windows 8

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Windows 8 isn’t liked by everyone.  Many of us wish that they would approach not just UI design, but community interaction differently.  I can’t change Microsoft’s mind. I can put my time and effort into helping people get what they want to out of computers. I don’t have the programming skills to write a Classic Shell. I do have the schmoozing skills to put those sorts of people in rooms with others, the research skills to hunt that stuff down, and a couple internet soapboxes to publish the info. I hope it helps a few folks; getting the odd attaboy makes up for the effort.

I’d like to say “if enough of us spoke up, it might make a difference.” The truth is: it won’t. Voting with our wallets won’t matter either. If every prole on Earth decided they were going to fight the power on this one, it wouldn’t even tickle Microsoft’s income. Microsoft gets where they get because they have the ability to take decision makers at large corporations and government institutions out for fancy meals, shower them with perks, discounts and whatever political or personal clout is required to shift SKUs.

They shift those SKUs in the billions. Because these SKUs are forced on the hoi polloi by the powers that be, we all need to be “compatible.” If you are a small business, you need to speak the lingua franca of business: Microsoft formats. Choose not to and you don’t get a chance to interact with or bid on contracts from the larger entities. If you are an individual, you need to do follow the pack because we have evolved our society into one that is “always on:” the work-life balance is disrupted and we require the ability to work from home.

Couple this with a tame press (tech and otherwise) that daren’t speak out for fear of losing ad revenue and anyone who expresses a dissenting opinion is a marked man. To dislike the digital food shovelled onto your plate is to bear the stigma of being “afraid of change.” You are a Luddite; someone unwilling to “give X a chance” and unable to comprehend the obvious majesty and importance of the vision which created the product you malign.

For a press that exists only because of sensationalism and the magnanimity of vendors, the best way achieve these is to publicly evangelise The New whilst heaping scorn and derision upon the heathens clinging to The Old. Throw in some fanboys and most people who would even have thought to speak up are sick and tired of the bullshit before the product even hits shelves.

Consider a comment from the illustrious Ed Bott on Twitter: “if you write about Windows, and you take a screenshot using Windows XP, you’re doing it wrong.”

Really? How interesting. Just who is he to tell me – or anyone else – what they should or shouldn’t be running on their systems? I am “doing it wrong” because I use XP on my personal VM? Really? Why? Detail this explicitly. Where is the incentive to use anything else? Describe the ROI in moving away from something that has worked Just Fine for over a decade? Understand that I’m not asking about enterprise security or an operatins system for people who can’t use a proper browser: I’m talking about my personal VM here.

I’m not afraid of the new, but statements like Ed Bott’s above both upset me and make me realise how futile resistance truly is. Here we have one of the most respected voices in Microsoft punditry telling everyone that if you write about Microsoft it is your job to evangelise Microsoft’s latest. In this case the advocacy is subtle; you are to demonstrate that having the latest is “proper” by only showing the latest greatest as the operating system of choice in your screenshots. It is evangelising nonetheless.

It should come as no shock to my readers that I will take a screenshot off any operating system I damned well please. Maybe it’ll even be an XP VM remoted into from a Windows XP VM which I am in turn remoting into from a Linux box. It has been known to happen.

If I am discussing something specifically blowing up on Windows 8, maybe I should demonstrate that on Windows 8. If it affects multiple versions of Windows, what does it matter which version has the screenshot?

But…aha! There’s the subtle slant of it all. In the same vein as judicial capture (or regulatory capture,) I posit the concept of “press capture.” If a pundit covers a topic or vendor for too long, they begin to sympathise, even empathise with them.

Considering the complexity of the topics at hand, how can any journalist rise to the top if they haven’t been covering that vendor for ages? There is so much to know, it takes years to absorb it. So you, me…all of us…

…we’d best get used to Windows 8. Our voices are easily shouted down as heretical by the closed-minded echo chamber that has become the only thing vendors choose to listen to.

Use your “non-new” or “non-Microsoft” operating systems if you must. Just don’t talk about it unless you are prepared for scorn, marginalisation and other potentially serious repercussions. Be careful to whom you admit not keeping the faith. It could more than your internet reputation on the line. It could be your job.

Freedom of choice my hex-encoded ASCII.

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