In his widely circulated “Fear of Apple” post, Eli Schiff accuses iOS developers of withholding criticism of Apple or censoring themselves to stay on Apple’s good side, prominently including and citing me.
I’ve heard from quite a few people who think my Functional High Ground article and my regretful follow-up indicate that I’m censoring myself for Apple’s benefit, afraid of getting on their bad side. This is a profound misinterpretation and misrepresentation of what I actually wrote and feel.
As anyone who’s read my site and listened to our podcast for a while would know, I criticize Apple all the time. A developer’s view of their computing platform and software distribution partner is like any developer’s view of their programming language of choice: if you don’t think there are any major shortcomings, you just don’t know it well enough yet.
No sensible developer should be worried about angering “Apple” by fairly expressing legitimate criticism.
There is no single “Apple” to anger, as the company comprises thousands of people across many different departments, all of whom can think for themselves. I’m sure some of them can’t take criticism well and may be vindictive — any large group of people will contain almost every personality type — but that’s not the attitude of any of the Apple people I’ve interacted with.
Quite the contrary, actually: every Apple employee I’ve spoken with has not only been receptive of criticism, but has practically begged for honest feedback from developers. The idea that you’d be penalized in the App Store for being critical of Apple on your blog is ridiculous and untrue.
Apple employees are also humans, Apple users, and often former or future independent app developers. Chances are very good that any criticism we have is also being criticized and debated inside Apple. Employees can only exert so much influence inside the company, and they need people like us to blog publicly about important issues to help convince the higher-ups to change policies or reallocate resources. One of the reasons I don’t expect to ever take a job at Apple is that I believe I can be more effective from the outside.
The reason I regretted publishing the Higher Ground post isn’t that I criticized Apple — it’s that I wrote it poorly by my standards, then my sloppy work spread like wildfire far beyond anything I’d ever written, with my name used to fuel a hamfisted and misleading narrative about Apple that I don’t really believe. I thought I’d made that clear, but apparently not.
My words on this site sometimes, and unpredictably, have a sizable influence, which is both flattering and terrifying. If I write something critical, there’s a decent chance that the people whose work I’m criticizing will see what I wrote and be hurt or offended by it. That doesn’t make me afraid to criticize anyone, but it demands that I choose my words very carefully to ensure that I’m making a solid, fair argument.