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Two Perspectives on Exiting a Community

October 17, 2010



Future Palm device mockups, from Virox

Palm device mockups by Virox from PreCentral


In another compartment of my internet life are all of my friends in the Palm webOS community. We are an enthusiastic bunch, I’d like to think, but I guess that’s from necessity. We must support Palm’s survival, because our alternatives are to grudgingly move to Apple iOS (much too constricting), Google Android (much too inelegant), BlackBerry OS (much too old), or maybe to the newest comers MeeGo or Windows Phone 7.

But those are alternatives, and undesired alternatives. Each is a downgrade in its own special way for those who have used and are accustomed to webOS.

And yet, we have to come to terms with the facts that we haven’t heard a great deal from HP and Palm on their plans for the future. We know about webOS 2.0, and we know there will be new hardware in  the future, but so far, the only thing concrete we’ve seen is the less than inspiring Pre 2.

And so…there is doubt. Disaffection. It’s interesting that on the webOS forums, there are always people who will announce that they are leaving Palm behind. What do they aim to do with their exit messages?

What’s more interesting though are two responses that I’ve seen to all of this.

stu5797 wrote at PreCentral:

Please stop saying you are going to leave your Pre/Pixi!!!
You won’t, You can’t.
No other phone has the ease of use as Webos. Webos2 is coming shortly. No other phone has a community like ours. No other phone is as open to homebrew.
How are you going to charge your device if you leave? By usb? We all have 2+ touchstones and I cant imagine charging any other way. RELAX, BE RATIONAL.
Good things come to those who wait!

Orion Antares quickly followed up with:

I was hoping to see the post read only the words, “And just do it already or shut up about it.”

I was disappointed.

These two perspectives interest me not just because they reflect two very different perspectives from the webOS community itself with respect to those who are becoming disgruntled but because these perspectives have parallels in other communities where exit is threatened. If you’ve been reading this blog enough, you should already guess that I couldn’t write this article without comparing it to the Mormon/Ex-Mormon perspective.

Being on the “outside” of one of the two perspectives (Mormon/Ex-Mormon) and being on the inside of the other (Palm supporter/defector) makes the comparison interesting. I can understand stu5797’s original sentiment: all those who threaten to leave should get real…because anywhere they go will be a compromise.

I can easily see certain Mormons saying similar things. The fruits of apostasy are bitter; the church is the best thing for your life and you won’t be able to find anything better. Your life can only worsen if you leave.

Of course, the counter is simple: many people find that the church wasn’t all that great or healthy for them, and that the outside is far better. Or that the church exaggerated its unique points. (In addressing stu specifically, it’s not true that other phones aren’t open to homebrew. Android is quite open. And it’s also not true that no other phones have such fanatic communities — xda-developers as a community could probably give the webOS community a run for its money.)

So we move on to the next point, from Orion. Orion’s point is different — instead of suggesting that one can’t leave…he just provokes: “If you’re going to leave, go and do it! Good riddance!”

His point, however, is that if someone is going to leave, they should just do it, be out of sight, out of mind.

From the perspective of a Palm fan, I understand this sentiment. Seeing a bunch of topics and posts from people who just want to bash Palm’s missteps, or who just want to gloat about how they are going to go to x, y, or z platform, is annoying at best and demoralizing at worst. I don’t have so much issue with someone who decides to leave, but why can’t they see that the rest of us are content or hopeful of a brighter future?

…But I can see a comparison with the church here too. I can see how church members would want ex-members to leave them alone — why can’t the ex-members see that members are happy in the church? Why can’t ex-mos move past the past and let members look forward to a better future?

Here’s where things get a bit different. Consumer electronics isn’t quite like religion. I can understand that people who leave Palm might want others to “wake up and smell the roses”. I can understand the claim that no one has any obligation to a corporation to wait for them to release good products. If such products are not forthcoming, one has every prerogative to vote with his feet or her money.

But in religion, the claim is a bit different. Each side is dealing (or claims to be dealing) with truth, not just wish satisfaction or emotional contentment. So, the member who says, “Leave me be; I’m happy where I am” has his message translated to the ex-member as, “I’m unconcerned with these aspects of historical or archeological truth. That’s not what my religion is about.”

Even when things turn emotional, the member who says, “I’m hopeful of a better future” risks raising the ire of those who suffer now.


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