Apple iTunes

Apple iTunes

Apple iTunes
One of today's fastest growing web sites is not only making news and content easier to find, but also helping to demand more from companies, organizations, governments and analysts, in the form of better products and more accountability for promises and reporting.
It's, and it represents a significant potential alternative to corporate-filtered news sites and commercially syndicated programming.
Portrait of a Digg
I have observed before how the nonstop media coverage of Apple Computer can quickly swing from breathless accolades to embittered and even vitriolic attack. An investigation into the media's infatuation with Apple, as a follow up to my WWDC reports, resulted in the article Why Is Apple So Secretive?
The article contrasted Apple's splashy media events with Microsoft's early announcements of future products. Keeping tight secrets allows Apple to create anticipatory buzz and make dramatic unveilings that capture headlines.
Microsoft's 1990-era skills in forming vaporware illusions for the public are becoming outdated in the era of the nonstop web, where advance details and suggestions of features are often simply torn apart in blogs and other online commentary.
On the Web, Everyone Can Hear You Scream
The new age of instantaneous examination and disassembly makes it difficult to pass anything off without critical analysis. Nothing captures this phenomenon better than, a website that does nothing but point to articles submitted by users and rated by the public.
Digg allowed RoughlyDrafted Magazine the audience to seriously challenge a series of myth masters, FUD drummers, and PR flacks to present alternative viewpoints on a range of subjects, countering CNET's Charles Cooper to Greenpeace International, Salon's Seth Stevenson and of course Vista Adventist Paul Thurrott.
The Bigg Digg
Like the Boston construction project of the same name, Digg is an way to drive a lot of traffic in an esthetically pleasing and efficient way. Digg sends volleys of traffic through various underground sites, helping users discover places they might never have even known about before.
Digg can also occasionally crush the innocent under huge chunks of falling concrete. My webhost no longer has a problem keeping up with huge surges of traffic coming from Digg, but sometimes the crush comes for a small but embittered chunk of users.
Quickly Turning Tide.
Nearly a day after "Why is Apple So Secretive?" was posted, a friend send me an email alerting me that the Digg posting of my article had blossomed into a complete love-in. Aw shucks.
I turned a giddy and embarrassed shade of red while reading through the comments, and was floating on air for nearly an hour until a page refresh revealed a decided turn from ecstatic fandom into an angry rash of embittered outrage.
The turn revealed a Digg readership pattern I'd watched unfold many times before.
Anatomy of a Digg
  1. The first 50 diggs on a story rack up a positive swell of early readers, who often post thoughtful and interesting comments directly on my article.

  2. If a story fails to get more than 50 Diggs in a 24 hour period, it falls off into a Digg limbo and will never rise again.

  3. If the story does get a rapid digging, it quickly migrates to the front page.

  4. Once it hits the front page, the acceleration really takes off, quickly ramping up from low hundreds to past a thousand.

  5. After reaching its happy place, the story will level out, hang in its position for the remains of a day, and then retreat into the archives.

  6. At any point along the way, if enough readers mark the story negatively, it can be frozen: buried in an unsearchable exile.
Everyone uses Digg differently. Many people browse Digg for stories, but do not actually Digg many stories. I fall into this category myself. I scan through headlines and try to remember to Digg articles I like, but I often find myself distracted before that ever happens.
Proportionally, my weblogs reveal that about thirty people visit an article from Digg compared to the number of Diggs it actually gets. An article with 1000 Diggs means about 30,000 unique visitors saw it via Digg.
That's a lot of people to capture for an audience. My webstats reveal an average dwell time of around seven minutes for an article, and that a significant number of readers continue reading my site after finding it. So Digg is a useful way to find readers who have never seen my work before.
Digg users are also likely to blog my articles, and submit them to other networking sites, from, to Stumbled Upon, to Reddit.
Those links turn up even more readers, and also raise my profile on search engines. That means users searching for "iPod Game DRM" or "EFI BootCamp" are more likely to find content than just SEO ad pages.
The UnDugg
Other users do a lot of digging and commenting on Digg, but don't actually read the linked articles.  
As much as two thirds of the comments posted to a Digg article listing often reflect that the users didn't visit the site, but are simply commenting on the article's headline or blurb, or other people's comments.
The disconnect between people who comment on Digg and people who comment directly on articles is often striking. While a popular article will always accumulate a few odd comments ranging from bizarre to rabid, most people posting directly to a story are adding interesting, funny, or at least relevant comments.
Comments made on Digg often sound more like the unholy offspring of a marriage between MySpace and AOL; sixteen year old boys who have found testosterone in their blood but no useful outlet for all that pent up frustration. I remember being that age, but in my day we didn't have the commercial Internet as an outlet for teen angst, so we had to climb trees and mow lawns and wreck cars and interact with our elders. I barely survived.
Hot Buttons for PC Enthusiasts
My particular interest in analyzing tech markets, products, and strategies has drawn the wrath of these angry ruffians on more than one occasion.
In fact, I appear to be gathering a loyal anti-following of thug children with nothing to do but speed dial Digg stories posted under RoughlyDrafted and camp out for hours posting scathing comments.
Many read like Mike's, who writes under the elite codename zybch: might as well be on Apple's payroll. All they EVER write are Apple puff pieces and innaccurate crap with the intention of making Apple look good. Remember the 'stroy' they had a couple of weeks ago claiming apple had something like 30% market penetration of their OS or something??
Mike sometimes posts six or more comments on a single Digg posting over a period of hours, recounting his anger and frustration with my stories that counter the typical FUD and myths I enjoy taking apart in methodical detail.  
In this case, he was referring to Market Share Myth: Nailed! where I used Gartner's own numbers to explain how Apple makes waves and leads the industry in design and innovation, despite its relatively small share of the entire market for all electronic products.
"Being on Apple's payroll" is a common theme in angry postings. The fact is that I don't make any significant income from web traffic.
The majority of site support comes from direct PayPal donations from readers (I get a new subscriber about once a month), or affiliate purchases from my Amazon or iTunes links. As I've pointed out before, Amazon and iTunes each rank up around $5 a month, but I appreciate the support.
So no, I don't Digg for dollars, although at some point I would like to be able to cash in on my glamourous worldwide fame and celebrity and be able to find a publisher so I can write a book. I'm sure Mike wouldn't be happy to hear about that. Imagine the repercussions!
Blogger Rage
Sometimes angry readers aren't teens. Ian Betteridge, a grown adult in London, was so enraged about the article Windows 5x More Expensive than Mac OS X that he not only camped out in my comments section over a two week period writing a litany of counter arguments, but also decided to bust out his own blog to write an article calling me "the Mac market's very own [John] Dvorak."
Since he had worked so hard to fill up my comments, I left him one too:
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 actually 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 phenomenon of Digg and the "blog now, think later mentality" that sensationalizes the most pedestrian of topics in our brave new world. [...] And thank you very much for calling me a Dvorak rather than a Thurrott.
Peace - Dan of RoughlyDrafted Magazine
Why So Angry?
Anger is a reaction to threat. Ten years ago, Mac users were angry because their elegant desktop was being threatened by a bland replica of the Windows monoculture. When provoked by FUD mongers, enough Mac users would create an impromptu email campaign that journalists would have to spend days just recounting their floggings by the "Mac faithful."
These days, Mac users seem pretty chill. The threat of a 'beleaguered Apple' being bought out by Sony or Sun and then filed away into a forgotten tech portfolio has been decisively nullified by the return of Steve Jobs, who assembled a team of disciplined engineers and astute marketers to deliver an endless stream of innovative and slickly delicious fodder for consumers. Mac users are happy.
Today's threats provoke anger in a different demographic: Windows users.
Consider a parallel with White America: the imagined threat of immigration means the former majority in the US will soon need to compete in the economy for jobs based on merit, not merely drift through life as an advantaged class because they were born into privilege.
White America is freaking out. They are incensed that new generations of people want to live in the country, or that workers in other countries want to compete for their jobs. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to.... suffering. What White America doesn't know is that the rest of the world is already suffering more.
Fundamentalist religions are also angry, stemming from fears that their control over nationalist politics might be replaced by a more populist democracy. Whether in Iran, or Indonesia, or Kansas, the troops are getting ready for holy war and indoctrinating anyone who might want to die for their cause. The world has gone completely livid and hateful because of the fear that other people might have opinions too.
Where's The Threat?
In all these cases, anger is the result of threat. But how are PC enthusiasts threatened by Apple? If anything, Apple makes PCs better. Apple pushes new hardware innovations while PC makers like Dell and HP have historically dragged their feet to support even basic, useful new technologies such as USB.
Apple also pushed the adoption of wireless networking and Bluetooth, invented the wrist-rest keyboard design that was subsequently used by all PC laptops, and similarly drove the adoption of larger and wider laptop screens. In many cases, Apple isn't always the first to use a new technology, but helps to standardize and popularize devices that later make their way into the designs of other PC makers.
What innovations have Dell or HP introduced to the computing world? It's hard to even think of a single example. The PC industry isn't about innovation, but only low prices.
Fear and Loathing in Lost Legacy
If Apple was working to make PCs cost more, or do less, the anger of some PC users would be easier to fathom. In many cases, the curiously threatened and angry foes of Apple seek to back Microsoft, which ironically does work to make things more expensive and less functional.
While Microsoft has invented or popularized many technologies, whenever the company has gained a sufficient share of a market, it lets the technology stagnate. Internet Explorer quickly destroyed Netscape, then basically rolled over to play dead. Microsoft released several Mac applications, such as Windows Media Player, designed to advance the company's marketshare, then left them to rot.
Imagine a world where WMA hadn't been held in check by Apple's iPod: music prices would be set at the whim of greedy music executives like Edgar Bronfman Jr., and exploding media would be the only thing available.
Even today, there are no major rivals to WMA outside of Apple's Fairplay. Amazon's Unbox even adopted Microsoft's technology after a string of other Microsoft partners failed in their attempts to push WMA on the public. The entire tech world is conspiring to be boring!
While it's fine to recognize a diverse set of opinions, why are Microsoft's own victims so willing to defend the company as it pushes initiatives that limit choice, competition, innovation, and the progress of technology?
It’s like a combination of the Stockholm Syndrome and Scientology: they defend their own captors while giving away all their money in exchange for the promise of powerful features that don’t really work.
Why Apple Is a Reoccurring Topic
Apple isn't flawless, but the company does take positive steps to act as an environmentally responsible company interested in making great products. It hasn't morphed into a communist collective, but it has embraced open standards and open source ideals in ways that will benefit users and developers.
Apple is also no flash in the pan; they've been a successful company longer than Microsoft. Along the way, Apple has changed many times, falling into short term profiteering, product stagnation, and making many of the classic tech company blunders. I've recounted many of Apple's past and present flaws, and try to present ways Apple can improve their products and services.
Since Apple is doing some of the most interesting and successful things in the consumer tech industry, I will no doubt be writing a lot about the company in the future. And since organizations such as Greenpeace will continue to use the media to deceptively smear Apple to gain notoriety for themselves, I'll be critically covering their efforts too.
With Digg giving me 30,000 readers, Ian, Mike/zybch and the half dozen other anti-fans will take a deep breath and deal with it. A sense of humor helps. Lets all just try to get along.
I mean come on, I colorized the Hindenburg.
This Series
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Leave a comment or email me with your ideas.
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Apple iTunes

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