Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Did you know why you own an iPhone?

     Reality distortion field (RDF) is a term coined by Bud Tribble at Apple Inc. in 1981, to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs' charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Mac project. Later the term has also been used to refer to perceptions of his keynote (or Stevenote) by observers and devoted users of Apple computers and products.
     In essence, RDF is the idea that Steve Jobs is able to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bluster, exaggeration, marketing and persistence. RDF is said to distort an audience's sense of proportion or scale. Small advances are applauded as breakthroughs. Interesting developments become turning points, or huge leaps forward. Impossible-seeming schedules, requirements or specifications are acceded to. Snap judgments about technical merits of approaches are sometimes reversed without acknowledgment. Those who use the term RDF contend that it is not an example of outright deception but more a case of warping the powers of judgment. The term "audience" may refer to an individual whose attitudes Steve is intending to affect.
      Often the term is used as a derogatory remark to criticize Apple's products and its more enthusiastic fans.
The term has extended in industry to other managers and leaders, who try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects, sometimes without regard to the overall product or to competitive forces in the marketplace. It also has been used with regard to hype for products that are not necessarily connected with any one person.

There is no spoon
     Fake Steve Jobs on the iPhone 4 and reception: Probably the biggest thing I've taught the team at Apple is that people never know what they're supposed to think about anything. This is true in Hollywood, in the book business, in the art world, in politics. And especially in technology. So we put out a new phone and everyone is sitting there wondering what they should think about it. What I realized many years ago - and honestly, it still amazes me - is that most people are so unsure of themselves that they will think whatever we tell them to think. So we tell people that this new phone is not just an incremental upgrade, but rather is the biggest breakthrough since the original iPhone in 2007. We say it's incredible, amazing, awesome, mind-blowing, overwhelming, magical, revolutionary. We use these words over and over. It's all patently ridiculous, of course. But people believe it.
We demo FaceTime, and we say that nobody in the world has ever seen anything like this before. Jonny and I act stunned and gob-smacked, as if we ourselves still can't believe that we've just invented video chat.
Again, this is utterly untrue, a total and absolute lie. But people accept it. They hoot and cheer for us.
      The other strategy we use is "clouding". Right now, for example, we've sent out the following messages about iPhone 4 and the antenna issues:
1. All mobile phones have this problem.
2. Our mobile phone does not have this problem.
     You see how this works? These two statements cannot both be true. Yet we've said both of them. And now you don't know what to believe. Ask any psychologist what happens to people when they get confused. Their heart rate goes up. Their skin temperature rises. Adrenaline starts to flow.They feel desperate, and scared, as if they've fallen out of a boat and now they're getting tossed by waves and they're maybe going to drown. Now all you have to do is reach out with some kind of certainty, and no matter how obviously untrue it might be, people will latch onto it. Every religion in the world knows this, from the Catholics to the Scientologists. It's the oldest trick in the book. You create some uncertainty, you put people at risk - you tell them they're going to hell, or whatever - and then you hold out the answer.No matter how ridiculous your answer may be people will accept it. Not only that, they'll actually thank you for feeding them this horseshit. Because any certainty, no matter how crazy, is better than uncertainty.

      Ok, you don't even realize it, but you've been had. You just bought the most expensive consumer phone ion the market, what will you do next? Admit a mistake and question yourself for spending a fortune or simply do some mental gymnastics to believe it's "awesome, magical, incredible, revolutionary"? It is no secret that there has been a great deal of hype surrounding the iPhone and it is also no secret that Apple probably has the most loyal and fanatic customers in the world. The rawer and more uneducated the mind is, the bigger the impact of Steve's keynotes will be.
     One of the most fascinating areas, is the approach that Apple and the iPhone fans have had to the product, and the energy they have spent defending the product despite the shortcomings and limitations of both past and present versions of the iPhone. Simply put, Apple has launched a beautiful phone with a fantastic user interface that has had a number of technological shortcomings that many iPhone users have accepted and defended, despite those shortcomings resulting in limitations in iPhone users’ daily lives.
     When examining the iPhone users’ arguments defending the iPhone, it can remind you of the famous Stockholm Syndrome - a term that was invented by psychologists after a hostage drama in Stockholm. Here hostages reacted to the psychological pressure they were experiencing, by defending the people that had held them hostage for 6 days.

Below is a selection of some of the arguments that various hard-core iPhone fanatics have been using since the iPhone initially launched:
1. The first iPhone was not a 3G phone: What do you need 3G for? You can easily use the iPhone without using a 3G network and anyway, 3G is not particularly widespread, so this is not a problem.
2. The phone cannot send MMS: There is no need to send MMSs, hardly anybody sends MMSs.
3. You cannot forward a SMS: This is a function that hardly anybody uses and was therefore not included in the first iPhones.
4. The phone has a poor camera: The built-in camera is perfectly adequate and the iPhone takes fantastic photos with its camera.
5. It is not a real Smartphone, it cannot multitask: The phone has all the necessary functions and the OS is technically superior compared to other Smartphone OSs currently on the mobile market.
6. The iPhone cannot multitask, resulting in a great number of applications being unusable: The absence of multitasking is a deliberate design decision resulting in a faster UI.
7. You can not change battery on the iPhone: How many customers run around with spare batteries? None or very few.
8. Apple decides which applications you can install on the phone: This is good, because Apple thereby ensures that you do not get inferior programs on your phone.
9. The app store is a closed universe: Apple knows what is best for end users, which is good for the many iPhone users.
10. The phone does not support Flash: Flash is slow and not properly integrated with mobile phones, there are hardly any web pages that still use flash today.
11. The app store contains numerous small trivial commercial programs: The app store’s large selection gives users the freedom of choice and the many small programs help make the end users daily lives more fun.
12. It is difficult to use the touchscreen for fast SMS messaging: The touchscreen makes the phone easier to use and you quickly get used to it.
13. The iPhone is a low technology phone packaged in a sleek design: Apple has taken the combination of the design and UI to the next level, therefore the technological specifications don't really matter.
14. The quality of the phone is poor, calls are often interrupted and network coverage is poor: It is a good phone, these problems are due to the operators’ networks and not the phone.
15. You can only purchase the iPhone from operators chosen by Apple: Apple has spent a great deal of time and energy selecting the best operators for customers.
16. The iPhone is targeted at a niche segment and will not be able to develop further: Apple has succeeded in designing a phone for people that appreciate design and user friendliness.
17. The iPhone does not support memory cards: iPhones already offer the necessary memory people require and end users can choose between two models, one with a little memory and one with a great deal of memory.
18. You can not install your own browser: The browser Apple has designed is so superior that you do not need any other browser on your phone.
19. You cannot use the iPhone as a modem for your portable PC: People that have an iPhone do not need their portable when on the move.
20. There is no radio in the phone: You do not need a radio in your iPhone because the iPhone supports iTunes that offers almost unlimited music.

     The best example though is the "antennagate issue" which is nothing more then an attempt to avoid licensing patents from other companies (remember Nokia? well they didn't sue for iPhone 4 now did they?). Although the issue was more than obvious, all major publications acknowledged it and it's a known fact that skin contact with any kind of antenna will seriously damage signal, almost 50% of the questioned iPhone users in UK and US completely denied the design flaw.
    There are many arguments for and against the iPhone, on the other hand there is no doubt that Apple has some of the most loyal end users on the market and that iPhone users will go out of their way to defend the phone they love and worship.
     In reality the iPhone is surrounded by a multitude of people, media and companies that are happy to bend the truth to defend the product they have purchased from Apple. Some companies(read: sites) are simply paid in cash to do so, others are simply happy to be invaded by the flock of iSheep that will inevitably cause massive ad revenue.
    So how does this influence expand further? Why does Apple emphasize so much on popularity? The answer is simple, group behavior that translates in conformity and obedience.
    Social groups have specific characteristics: (a) they consist of two or more people who (b) interact in an ordered fashion, (c) share specific values and norms, and (d) have at least some sense of unity and common goals.
    One of the main influences that groups exercise over their members lies in their capacity to induce conformity – the process through which members modify their behavior to comply with the group’s norms or decisions. Research shows that group pressure does not have to be intense to produce conformity.

     One such experiment was conducted by Solomon Asch (1956) to show the power of groups to influence behavior. Asch assembled 6 to 8 students, all accomplices except one, the subject of the experiment. The students were shown a line on card 1 and asked to pick the corresponding line on card 2 (see diagram).
    It is obvious that the correct answer is A. At first, Asch’s accomplices answered correctly but in further rounds of the experiment they started answering incorrectly. Asch wanted to see what the subject would do: would he provide the correct answer despite the group’s incorrect consensus or would he go along with the group?
    One third of the subjects went along and provided the wrong answer and later admitted they knew it but did not want to be singled out. In other words, they were willing to compromise their judgment for the sake of going along with the group’s (wrong) answer.

Here is a video to illustrate this dynamic further:
     One way that groups contribute to shaping members’ identities is through the establishing and maintenance of boundaries. Group boundaries can be marked in different, and more or less formal, ways. Boundaries can be marked visibly by specific items (such as your iPhone). Such markers contribute to giving the individual a sense of belonging. Another way to accomplish this is to foster a strong sense

    Sociologist William Graham Sumner (1959) coined the concept of in-group to indicate a group to which one belongs and toward which one feels a sense of loyalty. An in-group always exists in relation to an out-group: a group to which one does not belong and toward which one feels hostility. An individual tends to have a positive view on members of his in-group whereas he will have a negative view of members of the out-group.
    The basic in-group versus out-group dynamic is “us” versus “them.” Targeting an enemy is a very powerful way to unify a group. By focusing members’ attention toward “them” (and “them” can be anyone), group leaders are able to minimize issues internal to the group, such as conflicts and tensions: “we” have to stick together because “they” are a threat. In-group versus out-group distinction also helps limit disagreement within the group as every member is expected to fall in line and display his loyalty to the group.
    Now, if you're an iPhone owner that has ever had an issue, you can now understand where the hatred, mistrust, banning and deleting help topics on Apple's forums comes from as in-group members see themselves  superior to members of the out-group.
In-group / out-group distinction is visible in our opening example. The phenomenon of hooliganism in European soccer is based on it. Hooligans are extremely rowdy and violent supporters who are so strongly loyal to their teams that they can engage in the most violent acts against supporters of other teams. Great Britain is usually considered the country where hooliganism is the most severe (more than one hundred dead in the 1980s); however, it is not a phenomenon unique to England. 
The Red Star of Belgrade(a team from Serbia, republic of the former Yugoslavia) is well-known for its brutal supporters. Red Star fans were known to dress in opposing team’s jerseys (a group boundary marker), befriends visiting fans, then lure them into cars, drive them to remote locations and beat them up [...].
Now if you've ever been part of a forum or have been engaged in a discussion on an open forum (about mobiles of course) for a longer while, you should start to see a pattern: Users that claim to own/have the device in question that start pointing out flaws in a more or less aggressive manner in an attempt do discourage users from buying that device; most of them give themselves away by eventually recomending an iPhone or not being able to answer simple questions about the device they strive so much to criticize.
The group behavior is most obvious, only difference being that internet hooligans are called trolls.

     Groupthink is a term coined by sociologist William Whyte (1952) that he defined as “rationalized conformity”, that is, when members go along with the group even if they privately disagree with the group’s consensus.
Symptoms of Groupthink:
1. Illusion of invulnerability
2. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group
3. Collective rationalization of group's decision
4. Shared stereotypes of out-group
5. Self-censorship
6. Illusion of unanimity
7. Pressure on dissenters to conform
8. Self-appointed "mindguards" protect the group and leader from negative information
(the main reason why proper feedback never makes it back to Apple, keeping development behind)

Effects of Groupthink:
1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
2. Incomplete survey of objectives
3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
4. Failure to re-evaluate rejected alternatives
5. Poor information search
6. Selectivity in reviewing information
7. Failure to work out contingency plans
     Many have chosen to rely on their trust in Apple despite the previous issues of their devices (cracking, melting or poor signal), despite the warnings on many web sites and Steve Jobs's failure to access the internet because "he wasn't holding it right" at WWDC 2010 - even worse, not even we questioned that as it was simply hard to believe Apple(or anyone else for that matter) was going to release such a faulty product. As a result, decisions based on groupthink or under the influence of Steve's keynotes tend not to yield the expected results - the invasion of YouTube with dissapointed users (I'm sure most of them have been removed as it is not exactly easy to find that particular WWDC keynote either).

    Reference Groups are groups we use as standard to evaluate ourselves, our behavior and attitudes. Reference groups can be primary groups, such as family or friends, but they can also be secondary groups to which we do not belong. These groups are constantly used in marketing and advertising. Ads appeal not to our objective needs for new products but rather to our aspirations to belong to certain categories of people (wealthy, successful and happy). Ads then tell us that if we do not actually belong to such reference groups, we can at least get enjoy the same lifestyle and project the image of being a part of the wealthy, successful and happy class.

    Here it is, it's all laid in front of you if you haven't fallen asleep yet. This is why you own an iPhone and this is what allows me to call you an iSheep, for you see, your decisions are not your own, your thoughts don't belong to you and you are nothing else but Steve Job's Muppet!
    So how can you fight your way through this highly organized yet hidden market tactics? Easy,  always follow these three  steps (1)when you purchase your next device, search for the reason that drives you to do so, then (2)decide what kind of a device you need:
  • basic, ranging from devices like Nokia 3310 to the iPhone
  • a heavy texting machine like a BlackBerry
  • an all-in-one internet solution like most Androids
  • or a high end camera phone that is usually a Nokia
    Every brand and every device has stronger points and weaknesses but the iPhone has no strong side whatsoever:
  • it's a mediocre phone
  • it's awful for texting
  • it still can't properly handle flash
  • it has the most limited camera software (*all other brands provide HDR too)
  • we could count the apps, but then again there's no widget support or real multitasking
     (3)Last but not least, don't be afraid to experiment, even if you've been an one brand chick or dude for a while now. It's a certainty that today's high end devices will not disappoint. Sure Apple will someday release a decent iPhone but what they've released so far is not something that a person with a mind of his or her own would choose.
Protest below ;)