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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hater-Aid : Creators of anti iPod Web sites gather support from iHaters worldwide

By Dani Garcia
The Daily Northwestern

They sold it back to us and claimed no correlation. The iMac, iPod, iGeneration. 'Hey! You're part of it.' Talking about the iGeneration."

We have been summed up lyrically by Andrew Nielsen, better known as MC Lars, in his 2004 album "The Laptop." As explained on the comedic rapper's Web site, "iGeneration" describes the people born primarily in the late 1980s that "have grown up using the Internet as a part of their everyday life and can conveniently carry 5,000 songs in their pocket," not so subtly hinting at the popularity of Apple's iPod.

In 2004, the iPod became the must-have electronic device of the holiday season, resulting in the sale of more than 4.4 million that year alone. The shift in consumer behavior continued into 2005, and the iPod generation was born. This mp3 player is now seen in the hands of every tech-savvy college student, hip 20-something and trend-following high schooler in the nation - and their moms. As of early 2006, Apple CEO Steve Jobs reported sales of over 42 million iPods total, meaning that about 100 iPods are sold every minute. Yet despite all the iPod-lovers out there, a group of people has gathered together, scorning the day it was ever created.

The anti-iPod movement is slowly growing, almost becoming as well known as the mp3 player that it protests against. There are a dedicated few on the Internet who put time, energy and their own humor into creating interactive Web sites against Apple's most popular item.

Jack Curtis, creator of Anti-iPod.co.uk, tells his visitors to "rise against the cult." Visitors are greeted with the following opening message: "The tiny and insignificant box of memory chips known unto us as the iPod is warping the minds of it's users (otherwise known as iPeople), rendering them incapable of communication and destroying our culture - why talk when you can inject yourself with another dose of musical disharmony through the syringe of the iPod?"

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His motivation for starting his Web site came during his time in college, from what he and his friends labeled the 'iPod Crew.'

"They sat in the cafeteria and said nothing. They all sat there just listening to their iPods as if under some hypnotic trance," he says in an e-mail interview. "And when they did speak, they'd talk about their latest iPod accessory or songs they've downloaded."

A tongue-in-cheek project that is more for its creator's amusement above anything else, Curtis also encourages his visitors to buy anti-iPod merchandise, provides links to other iPod-hating web pages and writes his own scathing articles on iPod-related news and accessories.

But the Web site's main attraction would be Curtis' conspiracy theories. His subliminal message theory claims that when people use iPods, a series of programmed high-pitch frequencies, undetectable by the human ear, could be "washing" the listener's brain. Curtis has a personal experience as proof: Two years ago, he says that he attended a party where the DJ plugged his iPod into his speakers. Two months later, he says that at least 80 percent of all the people who attended had become owners of iPods, causing Curtis to contend that it could not be a coincidence. He goes on to say in his theory that "perhaps somebody is waiting until the majority of the world owns one. Then they can pull a switch and activate the one subliminal message secretly stored in every iPod in the world which will lead the world to destruction!"

Curtis' most amusing theory is of the extraterrestrial kind, in which he says that evidence has found that small aliens live inside iPods and he provides "photographic proof," thanks to the wonders of editing. He also claims that scientists at Oxford University have "obtained video evidence proving iPods come to life when no one is present" and provides a link to hilariously edited animation.

Not enough people seem to understand Curtis' humor. His guestbook and inbox are flooded with angry rebuttals to his site. "I get a huge variety of mail, but the negatives outweigh the positives by far," he says. "These iPeople won't have a word said against their precious treasures!"

Curtis now dedicates a page on his Web site to hate mail from one persistent user. One e-mail states: "I don't know why you hate iPods so much. Get a life, man. Can't you think of anything more interesting or important to do than fill your days hating a machine?" But Curtis finds the situation rather funny and went as far as to add a poll where visitors can vote as to who is more childish: the user or himself. The user is currently beating Curtis by 70 percent.

A different approach to the anti-iPod movement is Yegor Simpson's Web site, smashmyipod.com. The concept behind it is exactly what the titles suggests: in what Simpson calls a "social experiment," he collected $400 in donations, purchased an iPod at a local Apple store and destroyed it right on the spot in October 2005. He filmed the event and put it on his site. A forum is also available for people to discuss their "hatred of the iPod".

"I just thought this would be a great way to stir up emotion in people and see how they feel towards their beloved iPod," Simpson explains about why he created his Web site.

Simpson's grudge toward the iPod began a few years ago, when he too had been an iPod user. "A part of it is a personal vendetta," he says. "I was one of the many unlucky people who owned an iPod. Apple did give me a replacement, but it was two months later, which at that point I already had a different mp3 player."

The response to Simpson's project was even stronger than he had expected. He has two separate pages on his Web site, one devoted to fan mail and the other to hate mail. Those who donated, along with other supporters, leave messages such as: "I love the idea of buying one and breaking it in the store, the very nest of Apple fanaticism. As a social experiment, I believe this will yield fascinating results. Just...don't get knifed, okay?"

Yet the hate mail Simpson receives has reached a level he calls "pretty extreme." One of the more tame e-mails states: "I'm glad people are willing to spend their money on absolutely nothing. Doesn't this make you more foolish than people who spend their money on iPods? Smashing the iPod will serve nothing but your vanity. Congratulations."

Simpson says responses cut both ways.

"I got e-mails of total and unconditional support, as well as threats of being sodomized with various blunt objects and even death," he says. "It's amazing how much hate a little plastic box can generate."

Simpson's original Web site is still up for anyone to view, but the current version now carries reviews of the alternatives to iPods and parodies of well-known iPod commercials, as well as the Mac vs. PC commercials.

Finally, 20-year-old Tyler Deffenbaugh hosts the blog ihateyouripod.blogspot.com. His first entry gives a good idea of what the rest will sound like: "It seems that fashion has outweighed function, and the audio quality has taken a backseat to "looking cool." I'm sure if you just dropped three Bens on a music player you'd want to show it off, but please, find another pair of 'phones and be a little more discreet." The blog chronicles Deffenbaugh's anti-iPod rants from February 2005 to May 2006.

"I just thought I needed an easily accessible outlet for writing negative articles about something that almost everybody likes. I'd like to piss people off but also make them laugh," Deffenbaugh explains. "Plus, I thought it'd be cool to say I had a Web site."

While the blog has Deffenbaugh's well-thought and amusing opinions on the iPod and related items, it mainly explores and ridicules the mania that follows the iPod. One entry from March 2005 shows how iPod lovers "really like shoving things into the ears of a variety of small creatures, whether they be dogs, cats or children." Deffenbaugh provides pictures as proof from the iLounge web gallery and then jokingly provides a picture of his own dog barking menacingly, adding that, "The iPod critters' complacency could be attributed to their owners' own behavior, as they have no will of their own and just take the crap that's given to them. Not my Rufus, though. He's got moxie."

Another entry from November 2005 is devoted to Deffenbaugh mocking those who dressed up as iPods for Halloween, something that he describes as "downright asinine." One example is a young boy wearing a T-shirt that looked like the front of an iPod, followed by an amused quip: "Shortly after this picture was taken, an older child dressed as a Zen Micro punched this kid in the face and stole his lunch money."

"I know people say get a life for writing about hating an mp3 player," Deffenbaugh says. "I say, look at some of the people in my source material. They're far worse off than I am."

Deffenbaugh's dislike for it has "evolved over time," beginning with what he calls the irritating movement of people buying iPods because it was the "in" thing to do. "Now it seems like people only get them because they think that iPods are the only music players on the market, thanks to Apple's pricey and ubiquitous marketing and the competition's lack thereof," Deffenbaugh says.

Another reason why iPods still irk him is because of their portrayal in the media, such as being used as plot devices in movies and combined advertising that feature the iPod with other items, such as cars and clothing.

"It's really quite annoying," Deffenbaugh says. "I just want to tell these people 'Okay, we get it. You want to align yourself with the hip gadget because you think that it will make your own products seem hip in relation.'"

But Deffenbaugh says one of the main reasons for his hatred that has remained unchanged is how the iPod has begun to "develop and foster a culture of rudeness and isolation."

"I seriously won't talk to someone who won't take both ear buds out to listen to me," he says. "I know you don't necessarily have to have an iPod-branded player to do this, but I blame it for pretty much starting this 'constant-soundtrack' culture."

The backlash against the iPod is continuing to grow, but the proof of its reign over the world of online music can be found in the popularity of Web sites in support of the mp3 player. Profits are being made in the sales of accessories, from cases to batteries to adapters. The iLounge, a domain created only days after the announcement of the iPod in 2001, is considered to be the top site for iPod users and information. The Web site now names its number of visitors at approximately four million people per month.

Jeremy Horwitz, Editor-in-Chief of iLounge, says that he chose his job due to his love for the iPod and wanting to help others learn more about it.

"No one else has created competing software or hardware that's as easy as Apple's or as stylish," he says. "The iPod has unstoppable momentum. Few people are willing to risk buying alternatives that won't be around a year or two from now."

Although Horwitz says he's admittedly biased, he believes that the anti-iPod movement will never reach the levels of the devoted fans.

"The numbers speak for themselves," he says. "There are more iPods sold every day than all of its competitors put together."

The "leaders" of the anti-iPod movement agree that through a combination of unparalleled popularity and mass consumerism, the iPod is a strong, if not unstoppable force.

While most of Apple's competitors are struggling to create a product that can claim the mythical title of "iPod Killer," Simpson believes the iPod's demise is mostly likely far in the distant future.

"Unless another company builds a sleeker, meaner and more overpriced machine and has an ad budget equal to a GDP of a small nation, I don't see it happening anytime soon," Simpson says. "As long as there is consumerism, the iPod is here to stay."

Medill junior Dani Garcia is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at dani@northwestern.edu. © Copyright 2006 The Daily Northwestern
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SOURCE:
The Daily Northwestern - Hater-Aid

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