Viral Venom: What My Mac Post Can Teach You About the Negative Side of Passionate Customers


I know a lot of people that have Macs, so I finally decided to give it a try. After a few weeks, I decided it wasn't for me, and I wrote about some of the things I didn't like. I am keeping the Mac, and using it for video work, but I'm not going to make it my day-to-day computer. I thought I would do my readers a favor and share my experience so that anyone considering a Mac could take my story into consideration. The response was shocking.

The post received over 50 comments, and I received another 40+ emails from people who didn't want to leave a comment. A small percentage of them were people with a similar experience – unimpressed by Macs. A slightly larger percentage was helpful comments about how to improve my experience with the Mac. Several people offered to answer any questions I had, and several explained that it really isn't intuitive for long-time PC users, and that I should give it a few months before I make a decision. But by and large, the comments and emails spewed hatred and profanities about how "f!cking stupid" I am, how much my blog sucks, why readers are going to drop my RSS feed (subscribers actually increased last week) etc. etc. Now, does anyone think Apple would encourage this? Belittling people is rarely a way to change anyone's mind.

It raises a very interesting question for businesses. They all want word of mouth. Most companies would love to have the kind of dedicated customers that Apple has. But, what do you do when they love your product so much that they turn off other people. Seriously, I have very very negative feelings towards Macs right now. I went from thinking "I'll keep the Mac, and wait to give Vista a test drive before deciding what to buy down the road" to "I never want to give Apple another penny. I hope they go out of business so that these suckers can't get any more of their precious computers."

Several people commented on the rabid negativity in the comments. And it is likely some potential Mac purchasers were scared away by them. Regardless, it reflects very negatively on the Mac community. They come across like an unhelpful bunch that will mock you for not thinking like them. Which is odd, because the people I know personally that own Macs are always eager to give tips and help me navigate it.

As a business, you have to show how you are better than the competition. You want and appreciate when your customers are out there preaching for you, talking about the advantages of your product. But what do you do when an overzealous handful actually drive customers away? It's like sports – you want people to paint their faces and cheer for your team, but you don't want anyone fighting with the opponent's fans after the game because that reflects poorly on you.

Peter Drucker wrote that "rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility." When you create a product that stirs passion in people, they look up to you. Make sure your company sets the right values. I'm going to lobby Steve Jobs to add something about "helping others see the joy in Apple products" in the book that ships with every Mac.

  • I used to work for Apple and have experienced the same thing that you’re talking about.

    The problem is that, in the absence of a mass customer base, Apple has always opted for a “we’re above it all” kind of crowd as their customer base.

    Trendy, hip, knows better than the rest of the world. You know the type.

    It always reminds me of this SNL skit:

    In any case, for them to be better than everyone else, they have to belittle the rest of the world.

    And so, they do.


  • Todd

    I’ve been watching as this story unfolds and I have my own thoughts on the matter that I would like to share.

    I have been a long time Windows user, going all the way back to the days when Windows was nothing more than a graphical interface for DOS. I played around with some of the earlier Macs, was unimpressed, and went back to Windows. I have recently switched back to the Mac and am now very happy with my decision. I’ll skip the pros and cons of each operating system that led me to my choice.

    Here’s my point. I think the reason that your post raised the ire of so many Mac lovers really has nothing to do with Apple vs Microsoft, Mac user vs Windows user. The big red button that you pushed is the one where people never like to be told they are wrong or may have made a bad decision.

    Let’s take the iPhone for example. Thousands of people lined up to be the first to own the iPhone. Many were willing to stand in line overnight and in bad weather, with little concern for the price tag. But when Apple suddenly dropped the retail price, the early adopters were outraged. Why? Money can’t be the issue, because at the time they made their purchases, they must have felt they were getting something of equal value. They were outraged because it became apparent that they had made a poor choice by buying too soon.

    I suspect that if your blog had been written the same way, but with your choice being Mac over PC, you would have gotten a lot of negative feedback from devoted Windows users.

    Something similar occurred when some Windows based magazines ran positive stories on the new Intel based Macs. Many readers were infuriated. Not because “Mac” was mentioned in a “Windows” based magazine, but because they had put their faith in these magazines and now had reason to wonder if they should have looked at the new Macs after all.

  • EJ

    Not an original observation, but the vitriol you faced was intensified by the anonymity of the net. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your commenter critics would have helped you out in person.

  • Tycho

    Get Linux. Seriously, Ubuntu is as easy to use as Windows. It’s virus free and open source software has no malware; you get the security of a unix and it’s free.

  • I’ve watched Mac user zealot behavior for a couple of decades now. It’s qualitatively different from the behavior of other Apple enthusiasts. iPod users don’t belittle the users of other MP3 players. I’ve yet to see a post by an iPhone user calling a Motorola user an idiot for his or her cell phone choice.

    But among the Mac user community there is a small and virulent subset that not only feels they don’t have to justify their choice, but that belittling others who’ve made a different choice is evidence of their superiority. I suggest two reasons.

    The first is that, in commercial terms, the Mac is a loser. Worldwide market share hovers around 5 percent. That’s a very tough thing for some folks to swallow, especially when they’re smarter than the rest of us.

    One of your responders mentioned that Apple was not number 3 in laptop sales, or something like that. That’s true, but ALL the other manufacturers make PCs.

    It reminded me of a Cold War joke about a two-car race between an American car and a Russian car. The American car won handily, but the Russian headline read “Russian car second in international race. American car next to last.”

    The other thing is that Apple seems to encourage the behavior. Note the recent Mac ads where a hip and competent Mac shows smug superiority to poor, plodding PC.

  • Well some points in your post are valid, but I can tell you that starting a discussion with invoking Godwins Law is already destined to end up with a lot of comments that are talking less than favorable about you (see Google Cache of previous version of the referred to post)

  • Roberto

    When you talk about the Mac or make an opinion on it, understand that you are no longer standing in the realm of mere technology, business, products or other materialist artifact — you are in fact entering a religious realm. I am being serious.

    Hardcore Mac users hold on to the belief that theirs is the superior and only true choice, and any other choice is the false one. When you criticise that choice or even have the temerity to say it is not for you, these people for some reason feel it reflects on THEM personally. Like somehow you are saying THEY are not good enough for you.

    This is, of course, irrational behaviour that points towards a type of insecurity. I think if other businesses want to enjoy the kind of devotion that Apple does, you need to approach it like a religion, not commerce.