Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Sony forums get a little tense

The internet is a place for conflict, we are mostly hidden away in our bedrooms or studies tapping away safe in the knowledge that no matter how horrible we are, our 'real' selves are immune to any pay back or opprobrium for what we say on the net. Photography forums are generally pretty civil, but there is an undercurrent of tension that runs through many that occasionally bubbles to the surface.

Recently I've noticed that the Sony forums (which are my main haunts) are probably the some of the 'worst' of the photography based fora. To the extent that on DPReview recently one poster felt the need to wonder if Sony users should actively work to calm it down a notch. That's probably not a bad idea but it made me wonder what is it with Sony that seems to be making this happen. My theory is that there are 3 factors.

1. Since taking over Minolta, Sony now has trolls actually in its ranks. Usually trolls are people from outside a brand who pop in to cause a bit of trouble for the thrill of it. In Sony's case there people are from another brand - Minolta (notice how the Konica always gets dropped off) - but they don't pop in, they live on the Sony fora. The resent Sony for swallowing up the company they loved, they feel Sony is treating the Minolta heritage with disrespect and they constantly cry that every problem with every camera Sony has produced is solely a result of Sony changing something Minolta had. These people bring an overwhelming and incessant negativity to any and all Sony photography fora.

2. Sony is a hated brand at the best of times. Apple and Pentax etc are brands that everyone loves. Even people that don't use their products always have a soft spot for them and hope they do well. Microsoft, Sony, IBM etc are hated brands - even people that have never used their products just seem to hate them on principle. Sometimes its their business practices, their history, their success, god knows. But the harsh fact of life is Sony just isn't a huggable brand.

3. The underdogs fans are always hypercritical. The fans of the underdog, whether its a camera company, sports team or political party know that to win their guy has to be better than the opposition and when their guy fails, even just a little, they fear the backsliding will begin and the race lost forever. Therefore, the fans of the underdog become super sensitive, concerned over every little slip-up, careful not to let a single discretion go on by. Compounding this sensitivity is two 'sub factors':

a) Not wanting to be wrong. Like tipping against your football team, slagging off at your own brand protects you a little if they do actually fail. Yes your company has gone and your camera is no longer supported but at least you weren't fooled - you always knew there were problems. Moreover, you knew the answers and they just should have listened to you.

b) Justifying shifting. Being part of the minority is tough. Not only that, sometimes no matter how good the things your brand are offering might be, sometimes your brand just doesn't offer what you need. But shifting brand is also tough, there's a lot of inertia to overcome and sometimes a lot of money to find. So trashing your brand is part of the process for leaving. Leaving because one lens isn't quite cheap enough is a tough sell, even to yourself, but leaving because Sony sucks and everything they touch is crap is easy.

None of this should be taken to imply that Sony and its products are perfect and beyond criticism. In fact there are many, many things I'd like to see Sony changes and I've never hidden that fact. All I'm seeking to investigate in this post is the venom you see sometimes in Sony fora.

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