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February 18, 2006

Irony

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You may find this hard to believe, but I recommend that you read this post, “Spread Firefox but don't be a fanatic,” from the Firefox marketing community web site:

http://www.spreadfirefox.com/node/19663

It begins with this:

In my opinion it's ridiculous to have “loyalty” to a company. I base my evaluation of products only on their own self-worth and merit as a product, and not on any pre-conceived opinions about the company that develops it or distributes it. Generalizing about the software of one company as a whole is, frankly, narrow-minded and readily worthy of ridicule. A comment such as, “Note also that Firefox users are in denial about the greatness of Microsoft's products,” would display a bias for Microsoft products and discredit whoever said it. Both sides are doing this, and often our side is a bit ruder about it. Of course you can often expect that if one application from a company is good that they have applied the same level of standard to their other applications, but you still have to try them out to see what you think of them.

There are many valuable thoughts in this entry about fanaticism (vis-a-vis evangelism).

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Comments

One possible other view is to view evangelization like a political campaign.

In that light, we all know that both sides end up looking like idiots.

Guy's saying don't vote for Party X's candidate because his party is the party of Issue X. Find out about his record, and don't send him nickel or give him a vote if he can't pull his weight.

Yeah, brand loyalty is alive and well. But unless you have two superbrands battling it out and inviting you to take sides, forget it.

Without the element of archetypal supercompetition, without a corporate nemesis, brand loyalty is simply irrelevant.

Roger:

I think what Guy's saying is that you shouldn't blindly follow a company just because you think that the company is "ethical" and "good to work with" and "treats their employees with respect".

These are all secondary reasons to fanatically tout a product. If the product is great - tout it BECAUSE of that but not because you think the company is great.

Guy--

I enjoy your blog, but I have to disagree with the premise of this posting: "In my opinion it's ridiculous to have “loyalty” to a company." Not only is it not ridiculous, it is shortsighted not to evaluate the company that produces a product.
Most products have very little differentiation from their competitors; the image and reputation of the company becomes increasingly important. Is the company ethical?
Are they good to work with?
So they treat their employees with respect?

Do they support the community (both physical and industry)?
Do they foster innovation?
Have they burned me in the past?

The answers to these questions are often more important than trivial product differences. And a marketer forgets this at her peril.

Excellent post, Guy, and great comments, George. Your Canadian analogy is perfect. But I have to make a related point: I try both, but how many more disappointments can I take with Firefox?
¶ IE6 crashes. All the time. So the product’s supposed inferiority should have a lot of people switching. But, like Microsoft Word, there are people willing to put up with a crappy product. Installing is a hassle for the technophobe, and we have reason to think so, when a new version of a program becomes very bloated, or when the old version is not properly removed. No one software company is responsible, but I have to level some criticism at them all.
¶ I have followed every upgrade of Firefox, and of Netscape (since the pre-table days). However, after Netscape 4­·7, the Mozilla browsers can’t display quotation marks or ligatures on our office set-ups (see my post at http://www.jackyan.com/blog/2006/02/why-i-dont-use-firefox.html).
¶ If the community were this strong, I had hoped that my situation would be remedied after all this time, since IE5 and IE6 have no problems; and since all old Netscapes were fine. I have filed bug reports, to no avail.
¶ So, when the product is right, I will evangelize; till then, while I might not like IE6 and its frequent crashes, I prefer my quotation marks being displayed in the correct font. Maxthon might be my only solution for now.
¶ But this doesn’t answer some of the criticisms Guy brings up. I feel it’s important to not make Firefox an “alternative”, but a “normal” part of web browsing (a lot of people have iTunes, for instance; many moons ago, we all downloaded Netscape), and not mention IE at all. Talk about tabbed browsing, site compatibility and overall security. Take a page from WordPerfect’s post-version 5·1 marketing and don’t do what they have done.

Gk, about what you said in the interview, asking women for advices....After seeing this video, I don't know if I can trust a woman.

http://www.stupidvideos.com/video/sports/Karate_Woman/?c=&p=79

I think the main point of the Firefox article, which kind of got lost, was that Firefox users shouldn't bash IE without saying why they are bashing it. After all, it's not like there are no reasons.

Liking something because it's cool is definitely good for that brand. But excessive mudslinging at the competition, without factual backup, reflects poorly on the community.

Here's an example from Canadian politics (and where do you find more mudslinging than in politics?): In 1997, Jean Chretien was running for his second term as Prime Minister. The Conservative opposition launched a mudslinging campaign that consisted of showing Chretien's face in an unflattering picture, and saying "Do you want this man as Prime Minister?" Chretien's face is definitely not Hollywood material. He has partial facial paralysis which causes him to speak 'sideways'. The opposition's campaign backfired hugely as Chretien's campaign machine launched a "Take me as I am" campaign. In the end, Chretien gained votes from the opposition's misguided campaign.

I would like to offer an alternative definition to "product" that might shed some light.

In my humble opinion, a product should be broadly defined to encompass the brand, emotions, and sometimes "garbage" that transcend the source code.

For example, I don't "know" if Firefox is better or not, but the totality of Firefox for me includes:

- "Sticking it to The Man" if you know what I mean.

- Helping the underdog.

- Cool application icon.

- A diversion from my otherwise Microsoft Office dominated life.

- High cool factor. You don't impress people by saying you use the browser everyone else does. Firefox, Opera, Camino, whatever, is cooler.

Guy

There is value in having polarized opinions and fanaticism. What would be worse is to have no interest at all.

Just learned that from your book Guy.

I'm sort of an 'open-source' guy so I was prepared to like Firefox. But I was also prepared to like Netscape before it, but it wasn't good enough, so I stayed with IE for a bit longer. With the first Firefox betas, I continued to use IE because Fx was a bit flaky. IE stopped getting used at about Fx 0.8 (and got momentarily resurrected when Fx 1.5B1 didn't work too well with Citibank and Amex sites). Would I have persisted if I didn't have an emotional readiness to accept Fx? I suspect that a lot of others may have tried earlier Fx versions, and given it away.

Napfisk, (Diet) Pepsi did make ill. So did Diet Vanilla Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper. Since I cut out sodas in late December, my stomach has had much less trouble, I can sleep lying down again, and I get normal heartburn from great Mexican food. Before, my stomach was just in a Gourdian knot. On the downside, my monthly income is down $30 or so from not having cans to recycle.

BTW Guy, followup topic for you. What would you do if your public user mailing list devolved into a recurring thread from a loud faction about how incompetent your company is and how it really should be running its business? Curious.

There is this concept from 'blink', basically says that decisions taken in a blink are often better than what you would take after much thought, essentially because the human brain uses all info when taking decisions in a blink.

ppl like firefox for the same reason. they hate IE for the right reasons, but cannot explain it.

I'm with the majority on this one. To accept the statement: "I base my evaluation of products only on their own self-worth and merit as a product", requires that you simply ignore entire branches of cognitive science. There are lots of recent studies on human brain function that have shown that the human decision making process is dependant on the part of the brain responsible for regulating social behavior. In fact, for any decision that involves even a minor amount of risk people must first process the decision through the social behavior center of the brain before they can make a decision.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who, because of an accident, had damage to the part of the brain responsible for the expression of personality and the projection of appropriate social behavior. In all other ways the patients were normal -- they just lost all ability to feel social emotions. The result: their ability to make decisions was seriously impaired. They simply could not make decisions that most of us would consider routine. A simple thing like deciding which shoes to wear was impossible for these people because they could not evaluate social context.

So people who choose Firefox (or make any other decision to adopt a particular product or technology) must have first subconsciously evaluated the social consequences of their decision before they could rationally evaluate the merits of the product. The human brain simply can’t work the other way around.

That’s why brand matters.

"If Pepsi would make me ill, I wouldn't drink it, but if I enjoy their drink and prefer their laid-back style to the make-feel-happy fakeness of Coke, why shouldn't I?"

Napfisk, what are you basing the "laid-back style" of Pepsi on? How do you know how they operate?

Or are you buying into their marketing and how they want you to conceive them?

I'm with Napfisk on this one. Why does it always have to be about the mousetrap? People see value in lots of places. Napfisk sees it in Sweden and a Volvo's company culture. Some buy just OK products from people they golf with - because they like them.

I remember reading a chapter title in a book once that said "Don't Worry, Be Crappy". The author cited as an example, Macintosh, the crappy computer.

We get jazzed about the ideas in a product as much as its feature rich offerings.

So, I'd say "it is not about the mousetrap"...unless it is for you.

It was an interesting education for this Mac Evangelista to land a job at Microsoft working as a Software Test Engineer in the Windows NT Int'l Division. I learned quickly the difference between fanaticism and evangelism.

I think this article
(http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkantor/2004-10-15-kantor_x.htm)
further examplifies the issue.

aloha

Speaking of Firefox (and loving Macs) check out the Mozilla Camino project. They just released the new Camino browser designed for Macs and built on the Mozilla Gecko rendering engine.

It is definitely worth assessing this fast and friendly challenger to Safari.

www.caminobrowser.com

Mmm,I don't know about this. Why can't I prefer a certain product if I just feel better because of it?
If every consumer decision were made on purely logical reasoning, smaller companies with a strong style would never survive. If I drive a Volvo because I have a soft spot for Sweden and their company culture, do I have to know why exactly they may be safer than other cars? If I like the Bose design, do I nééd to know how their circuitry is better than another's?
The same goes for every similarly positioned product. If Pepsi would make me ill, I wouldn't drink it, but if I enjoy their drink and prefer their laid-back style to the make-feel-happy fakeness of Coke, why shouldn't I?
Of course one should't just blindly follow the flock, but a company that purports to be different in a certain aspect or approach, makes it its credo and uses this as its strength, probably is different and probably is better in that field as well. It would be commercial suicide to claim something and then not deliver at all.
I know I'm generalizing somewhat here, and I apologize, but I'm just writing a comment, not an elaborate article of course. But I sometimes get the impression that a lot of tech people are too caught up in rationalizing behaviour. And what is rational behaviour? If you have no money, that would mean buying the cheapest cola available or maybe even none. If you think protecting the environment is not a life-style but a necessity, you would probably not consume too much at all.
So while I actually can sum up a few Firefox advantages for me, not as a techie, but as a heavy user, please let me choose and spread it on my own terms. It's pretty, it's fun and I love it. And I don't know why exactly.

Firefox has a great brand and it's a great browser. Their marketing team does a good job, but some of the users get carried away.

As Rimantas said, you have a typo in your link to the article. :)

Firefox is one of the best examples of your recurring theme that it is easy to recruit evangelists for a great product.

It is also a good example of how rampant evangelism can have its negative side. The fact that Firefox users bash IE may not slow the adoption of Firefox, but it reflects poorly on the community. And the community is 99% of Firefox's marketing.

This kind of thing probably shows up to a lesser degree with Macintosh. While Mac users tend to bash Windows users to some extent, the Mac community is complementary to Apple's traditional marketing effort.

"Firebox"?

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