Project52 : Week 3
I hereby coin a new word, Snobmob, of which the definition is:
“Any person is the type of person who feels so superior about themselves and their knowledge and/or use of mobile technology that they call lesser mortals ‘Normobs’.”
I have previously written about my distaste for the word ‘Normob‘, and tonight I was set off by Ewan’s post, Nokia N900 is now a consumer phone, at the Mobile Industry Review who in his post claims that Nokia’s choice of advertising the Nokia N900 in the London Tube is a mistake as the device is for super geeks, not for normobs (aka the average 24 year old female).

“It’s always good to take a walk through the tube even if you can’t stand the delays, grime and the folks playing music. It’s good to get a view on what the mobile market is pitching to end consumers. The Nokia N900 Maemo device was arguably never intended for the average 24 year old female on a 35/month contract. Indeed when I originally talked to Nokia back at the start of Q4 2009, they were — broadly speaking — unsure if any operators would ‘range’ the device. And that issue didn’t really bother them either. The N900 is almost a reference device for Maemo, for the future of the company’s super-high-tech gadget series of devices.”

Now I know some kick ass 20-something women/girls/females/humanswithinnybitsmidbody and most all of them have branded smartphones from a carrier, my local area within a 25 meter radius has at least 7 of them, and they have not had troubles with learning how to use their phones. I have heard two of them explain to the their boyfriends how to use the boy’s phone. Maybe the females in California are made of sterner technological stuff than the ones that Ewan encounters.
When I get a new phone to trial from WOM World/Nokia, most of the local females see them, hold them and try them out. Of all the phones, that I have trialed in the two years I have lived here, it was the Google Ion/HTC Magic and the Nokia N900 that I had to do little to no explaining before the local female 20-something supposed ‘normobs’ were off and running and enjoying the devices. Most all of them have LG and Samsung phones that have been branded, nee raped, by the carrier and they are very used to a phone that one has to explore.
The only thing that stops them from getting any of the high-end phones that I have is price point, as they are unsubsidized by the carrier. It is not the intimidation of a technologically superior phone. One of them is currently waiting to see if T-Mobile, her carrier, is going to pick up the N900 before she upgrades to a new phone.
Culture is learned. Tech culture is learned. We should not be building biases into our blog posts/punditry and assuming that folks who aren’t like us won’t be able to use the device that we think is most high tech or most worthy of high techologica wizardery. That does a disservice to the potential user and to the folks who designed it.
The Nokia N900 is a beautifully designed device, both in hardware & software, if one has used an iPhone or Android or any of the Samsung touchscreen phones, then one can learn via exploration or via transmission through in person or online tutorials.
Thus, for as long as the derisory ‘normob’ is bandied about, I will use ‘snobmob’, and even possibly add it to the Urban Dictionary.
But I would rather that all of us mobile tech bloggers drop our assumptions about users that are based in bias and instead get excited about technology that could be revolutionary in the long run for the largest amount of people we would never expect to use it & love it.
Gentlemen, drop the snob, it is unbecoming of you, your intelligence, and humanity.
Update, Sat 01.23.10 :
I want to be clear that the above is a commentary on word usage by mobile bloggers, pundits, and others, not a serious attempt to coin a word so that people can further divide and belittle each other.
Please read Ben Smith’s comment below, as he is apart of the London mobile bloggers that came up with the original term, normob, of which he defines and defends its usage. Also, please read my response comment.
As for the 3rd comment, where the writer is asking if we can call a specific mobile designer a ‘snobmob’; no, let’s not.
Instead, I would like to reiterate that as a blogger or writer or online pundit, our word usage does matter, particularly as we have a potential worldwide audience who may not know our (sub-)cultural assumptions nor maybe be native speakers to the language we are writing in or the reader who drops into a page of our blogs from a search engine may not catch humor or earnest intentions on our parts unless we try to pay attention to word usage and clarity. I say this to myself as well.

4 thoughts on “Snobmob

  1. Hi Jen,
    Seems long time since you were in London – hope you and yours are doing well.
    I’ll let Ewan defend himself, but I’m wanted to respond on the two points you’ve raised because I agree with him.
    Normobs – This *isn’t* a derogatory term. It’s a reminder to geeks… we’re the ‘abnormal’ ones. Normobs are the market, the consensus and the majority. It was coined to remind those of us who hack about with beta apps and emerging technologies that – as awesome as they are – they’re not drives handset sales. Sometimes the term’s abused (and those people are snobmobs!) but in that case it’s the people who are wrong not the term…
    The N900 – I don’t believe Nokia should be ‘mass market’ advertising it at all… In fact I’ve half a mind to kick MacLeod because this was an opinion I raised at the Ovi Maps launch and he wrote it up 1st! It’s not because people aren’t smart or can’t use smart phones. It’s because – as a phone or tablet device – the N900 is rubbish. It’s a prototype, a market warmer, a geeks plaything (and it’s my regular handset at the moment). Even I am pissed off that a £500 handset can’t last a day on its battery and has one of the worst mail clients I’ve used for years. I put up with it because I want to learn about the new platform and run dev-builds of new apps… and other people like me should be advertised to via the websites and forums we frequent. But plastering a Tube station with ads claiming it’s a cutting edge smartphone and locking people into a 24month contract? That actually damages Nokia as people believe that must be the quality of all their products.
    What do you reckon?

  2. Hi Ben!
    Happy Friday to you.
    Let me start by saying that I am not mad at Ewan, my own comment response to his post was more of a playful poke at him & Steve. But the more I thought about it, the more the usage of ‘normob’ and ’24 year old female’ got my mental wheels spinning. I do think it is important for us to think about our word usage as our blogs are read by more than just the crowd of worldwide, young, male super geeks.
    When I asked James Whatley about Normob he basically said your defense for the word above, but when I have asked other members of the London mobile community they responded that it is meant to be derisory. Maybe what was thought up by Ewan or others to be a helpful designation between super geeks/ fanbois, and the average man/woman on the street, has shifted to be a term that is used on other blogs and in conversation to be slightly condescending and derisory.
    Add on to it, that many of the people reading Ewan and then disseminating the term are not native to the UK & its sense of culture/humor nor to English as a first language and then the term gets further mistaken and shifted. I now hear it spoken by people in person and they are meaning it by tone & context to be a slur. That is why I keep poking at why it is being used.
    If you think the N900 is rubbish, then I invite you to use any of the so called ‘smartphones’ that are being peddled by Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T to the non-iPhone, non-Blackberry consumer here in the States. In watching my neighbors use their LG & Samsung ‘smartphones’, it can be painful to see the interfaces they deal with. So to them the N900, when I had it for the 2 week trial, it seemed like the Prince or Princess of high end phones. Trust me when I tell you that Europe is quite spoiled for great mobiles at low prices.
    Maybe Nokia should not be marketing the N900 in its current software iteration to the mass market, but maybe we all discount the yearning that folks have to be different and to learn a new system. In the lifetime of even a 24 year old, there has been great changes in technology and folks have learned the new systems, sometime to great frustration but many times with play and joy.

  3. While I do like the idea of coining a word to describe a phenomenon, in this case, I am not interested in being the judge.
    I do think we can categorize Mr. Fling, along with many others, as belonging in the iPhone for All camp, which is a completely different category from the snobmob.
    The iPhone for All folks don’t have hierarchies of users as they firmly believe that the iPhone is for everyone. It is a pure passion that wants to share.

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