The Common Scold

The Common Scold is named after a cause of action that originated in Pilgrim days, when meddlesome, argumentative, opinionated women who displeased the Puritan elders were punished by a brisk dunk in the local pond. Believe it or not, the tort lasted until 1972, when State v. Palendrano, 120 N.J. Super. 336, 293 A.2d 747 (N.J.Super.L., Jul 13, 1972) pretty much put it to rest. But the thought of those feisty women, not afraid of a little cold water, has always cheered me up and inspired me. I first used the moniker as the name of my humor column at the University of San Francisco School of Law many moons ago, and revive it now for this blawg!



FlameNever underestimate the fury of Mac fans.

In the September issue of LTN, in our new "Tech Counsel" column, Ed Siebel wrote about how he uses Mac in his solo practice.

In the October issue, marketing consultant Larry Bodine wrote about why his Mac didn't work for him.

This did not please Mac fans. The letters have been pouring into LTN, and here's Carolyn Elephant's comments from Inside Opinions on Law.com about the feedback sent to Larry's blog here, and here. And here.

Controversy and healthy discussion are both great -- but what is not great is when the dialogue becomes ugly and hateful. Bodine didn't just receive the expected thoughtful responses, he got calls in the middle of the night, and anonymous, obscenity-laced messages that unquestionably qualify as hate mail. We're not talking movie-language here, we're talking raw rage -- flat out scary hate. (I saw some of them.) 

Everybody: Get a grip. Bodine is not Bin Laden's lieutenant, he doesn't have sex with Bill (Gates or Clinton), he doesn't poison puppies, he's not personally plotting to destroy modern democracy and he doesn't torch Antartica's glaciers to increase global warming.

He bought a Mac, and he had a bad experience with it. He's a legitimate member of our legal community (saying he doesn't practice law so he shouldn't have a voice is just plain silly). He wrote about his bad experience. That doesn't make him Oliver (Stone or North) or even Benedict Arnold. Nor am I irresponsible for publishing the article. The whole PURPOSE of Tech Counsel is one person's experience with tech.

Ed Siebel did a beautiful job explaining to our audience why Mac works in his law office. Bodine wrote about why Mac didn't work for him. Both are legitimate articles.

Did Bodine make errors in his article? Yes -- He put the wrong purchase date (the correct date was July, 2005, not May, 2006) and he used the incorrect name for Entourage. As a Mac user, perhaps I should have caught the Entourage mistake. (But I actually use Outlook on my Mac.) Honest mistakes are inevitable in journalism under deadline. For example, I had to run several corrections for errors I made in my "Long Tail" cover story in Sept.

Was he a first-time Mac user, unfamiliar with Apple protocols, and weaned on all-things-Redmond? Absolutely. Was he impatient? No doubt.

Guess what -- there are a lot of Larry Bodines in the world, trying out a new product for the first time. And getting frustrated. Just take a look at the latest ABA Tech Survey, AmLaw Tech Survey, or ILTA Tech Survey. It's breathtaking that only about 14% of ABA respondents say they use ANY type of litigation support. Consider the context, gang.

Was Bodine's article valuable? Yes. Without question. Not everybody has success with a new technology. Not everybody is "under-the-hood." It's OK to show someone who is unhappy as well as all the success stories. Not everybody who buys a Mac or a PC is going to memorize the manual and/or intuitively know how to use absolutely every feature. Bodine's pain is shared by any of us who try to fire up any technology we are dealing with for the first time.

There's no grand plot to discredit Apple. The reason I don't allow the word "solution" in LTN is because there is NO silver bullet, NO single technology that meets everybody's needs or preferences.

And let me make one thing crystal clear: I am never, ever, influenced by whether or not a vendor advertises in LTN. I do not "punish" nor "reward" any vendor -- any decision about articles is based solely and completely on whether or not it is, in my opinion, newsworthy. 

I'm still reading the incoming letters, and considering how to best address, in the December issue, the issues raised. I value and respect everyone's opinion. And I will review them carefully.

But Mac zealots: You do your cause a lot of good if you turn down the flames, and keep the discussion honorable and cool. Hate isn't welcome in Law Technology News.

October 17, 2006 in Technology | Permalink


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Monica, well said. There is a word, and a behavior, that has fallen into disuse: comity. I'd like to see it in modern American politics, I'd like to see it in modern American life in general, and I'd like to see it in the behavior of Mac fans, of whom I am one.

(Posted by Monica at request of Mark).

Posted by: Mark Merenda | Oct 22, 2006 10:40:16 AM

Thanks for the update [although there were more significant factual errors in Mr. Bodine's article which were not mentioned by you]. I'm sorry that some people went beyond civil discourse, but that character failure is not Apple's fault or related to using a Mac. It's a character flaw of the person. Not to justify the lack of civility, but if a person makes a clearly false statement, that will push some buttons somewhere, particularly when the entire world on the Internet can watch the display. That was probably what happened, as Mr. Bodine's errors of fact triggered the response. He certainly has a right to his opinion, but not to imply he is a knowledgeable lawyer and technology user while demonstrating just the opposite to be true.

Monica responds: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. FYI: We will address the issues raised by readers in our December issue of LTN.

Posted by: Victoria Herring | Oct 23, 2006 4:55:38 AM

It certainly is not appropriate to use vulgarity in response to something of this nature. That being said, Mr. Bodine's article tapped into a very large chip on the shoulder of many many mac users. Over and over again Mac users have to endure criticism from writers who clearly know very little about tech in general and Macs in particular while at the same time reading articles that gush over upcoming features in Windows that have been present on Macintosh systems for years.

I use both Mac and Windows in my practice and have done so for years. I am not a particular zealot for one or the other although I will admit that, from a usability and security standpoint, I believe Macs are clearly superior to Windows.

Mr. Bodine's article was not legitimate because it was wildly innacurate throughout and, frankly, smacked of someone that was out to do a smear job rather than a thoughtful article. He obviously did not take the time to learn much about the system he was supposed to be reviewing and he appeared not to understand much about html, css and a myriad of other topics about which he attempted to address with some authority.

Publishing the article without performing even a basic level of fact checking was, in my opinion, irresponsible because, well, that's what editors are supposed to do. And it would not have been terribly difficult to do. Most anyone with even rudimentary knowledge about Macs could have spotted most of the articles flagrant errors.

So while I do hope that readers will comport themselves in an appropriate manner, I also would expect that writers and editors take their roles a bit more seriously and take the time to understand what they are talking about before they publish.

Posted by: Bill Simms | Oct 23, 2006 9:56:27 PM

There is no "MAC ATTACK". The behavior of a very small minority of Mac users in no way represents the behavior of the majority of Mac users. That you insinuate the opposite is true with your title and opening sentence, "MAC ATTACK Never underestimate the fury of Mac fans." is a disservice to your credibility.

Your third and fourth paragraph state:

"In the October issue, marketing consultant Larry Bodine wrote about why his Mac didn't work for him.

This did not please Mac fans."

This is not quite true. Though some Mac fans undoubtedly were unpleased by this article simply because it was anti-Mac, if you took the time to read the vast majority of comments on Larry's blog you would see that it is not that Larry Bodine wrote about "why his Mac didn't work for him" that "did not please Mac fans", but that Larry Bodine wrote an article full of factual errors about the Mac that "did not please Mac fans".

In your sixth paragraph you wrote:

"Everybody: Get a grip. Bodine is not Bin Laden's lieutenant."

I personally am exempt from your call to "Everybody" to "get a grip". I did not attack Larry as if he were "Bin Laden's lieutenant" or anything else you listed that a horrid subset of Mac users may have called him. You may search for my comments, "Kevin S.", on his blog as evidence of this fact.

In your seventh paragraph you state:

"[I am not] irresponsible for publishing the article."

There were many factual errors in the article, far more than the two relatively benign name and date errors Larry Bodine and you yourself mention (see here for reference: http://wilshipley.com/blog/2006/10/flame-my-birthday-present-to-me.html). If nothing else you will be irresponsible if you only admit to those two errors in your December issue when most of the other factual errors severely weaken, indeed destroy, Larry Bodine's argument.

Your conclusion states:

"But Mac zealots: You do your cause a lot of good if you turn down the flames, and keep the discussion honorable and cool."

You would do your reputation a lot of good if you stop stereotyping Mac zealots as hot-headed and dishonorable.

Posted by: Kevin S. | Oct 25, 2006 4:09:47 AM

"Controversy and healthy discussion are both great"

Larry's article and blog posts can't generate an healthy discussion, provocative statements such as "I was suckered in by the hype", "I bought a boat anchor", "Macs are the Betamax of the 21st Century" etc. will just inflame the debate, especially when the article is ridden with glaring factual errors and illustrated with a picture of Larry trashing his computer. People will wonder if he's just plain trolling. Inescapably, some will cross the line and call him names.

Posted by: hi | Oct 25, 2006 8:20:28 PM

A better comparison of BOdine is to someone like Bill O'Reilly - he didn't bother to check facts for his aerticle (you should have), and he stated things that were blatantly false and provocative.

I really, really doubt that he got any hate mail. Presumably, he did see a decline in his buiness.

Here's just one factcheck that you chould have done.

Mr Bodine claims that the Mac is less friednly to use for screen captures. To wit:

cmd+shift+3 for screen capture
cmd+shift+4 to select an area for capture
(or use the built-in grab.app to include the mouse pointer in a timed shot)

Bodine's article simply indicates that he is lazzy, and using your columnspace to promote himself. His comments border on libel.

As editor, you are responsible for that.

Posted by: erichd | Oct 26, 2006 8:12:59 PM

Are you going to continue defending Larry Bodine? Have you checked out his blog lately? It is obvious that his pride has been hurt. He keeps writing about the Apple issue, but now won't allow comments on the relevant posts. He has even deleted some comments from his posts, including all the comments on his "Help me Sell my Apple Computer" post and closed it from commenting. What kind of healthy discussion is he encouraging by doing this? His continual reaction is very immature.

Posted by: Kevin S. | Oct 26, 2006 8:19:25 PM

Larry Bodine has linked to an article:


negative about Apple and the new Intel Macs. You may notice that although the article is already ten days old, it only has a total of two comments, neither of which accuses the writer of sodomy. How could this be? Where are those hateful Mac fanatics (or even the ordinary Mac fanboys) out to destroy anyone and everything that besmirches the name of Apple?

The truth is, while the article Larry Bodine quoted is negative towards Apple, it does not contain blatant factual errors. Rather, it contains genuine complaints about Apple and the Mac. Had Larry Bodine written a similar article in LegalTechnology he would have had a similar response. Namely, a few comments, most likely from other disappointed Apple users, and that would have been the end of it.

Instead, he published many easily provable factual errors and until now refuses to admit (with two insignificant exceptions) that he was basically completely wrong about a lot of what he wrote in his article. His ego is hurt and he is now nursing it by trying to belittle Apple and Mac users.

Posted by: Kevin S. | Oct 27, 2006 1:36:48 AM

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