Regular readers will recall that I have recently forked over a large amount of cash on a piece of A/V equipment. I gave up a small piece of my soul for a Sony television larger than my entire living room. Well, it’s really only as large as one wall of the living room, but you know what I mean. I believe that this was a good purchase, and DVDs have never looked so nice.
Of course, I made the mistake of reading the Internet forums about the TV.
There is a force in the universe that binds the dork hobbyists of the world together in a giant hive-mind. This force is more powerful than any human emotion. More powerful than any level of rationality. More powerful than the millions of years of evolution that have guided our speces to the point where we can create moving images from an assembly of millions of microscopic mirrors. This force is distributed dork hobbyist OCD.
Imagine if you will the common dork in his (it’s always a guy) natural habitat. He is sitting in his living room with his new toy. For the purposes of this article, we can assume that the new toy is a big screen television, but this detail is not important.
The toy has just been purchased and is being integrated into the web of toys that occupy the living room. What the dork most wants now is to sit down and enjoy the toy. Unfortunately, this enjoyment will never occur. Just as the device is hooked up and configured, the room will be filled by the call of all the other dorks in the universe pleading with our hero to provide an evaluation of the new toy so that all may bask in the glory of his new purchase. These messages will work at a subliminal level to make the dork critique the device, rather than enjoy it. He will feel the need to calibrate, test, and calibrate some more. Soon, the device will be used to do nothing but process the same “test” material over and over again, ad nasuem. In the end, even the smallest fault in the device under test will be amplified into a fatal flaw. Enjoyment of the device now impossible, the dork’s only recourse is to search the world for another latent object which will perform better than the one he bought.
And that was before we had the Internet.
The Internet has acted like a parabolic dish that has captured and focussed the force of dork OCD into a single point of overwhelming power. The week that I bought my TV, I found a single set of forum threads about it that contained about ten thousand messages. The evolution of the thread is fascinating. The first few hundred messages are about where one might obtain the TV. The next few dozen are overwhelmingly positive messages from ecstatic owners of new televisions. Then, a couple of small questions appear about this or that small problem. A color balance error in the shadows, a strange non-uniformity in the color while the TV warms up, strange compatibility issues with the HDMI ports. These pass by almost unnoticed, at first, but at this point the seeds of future discontent have been planted.
Soon, the floodgates open, and the thread is inundated with messages from people who swear up and down that the blacks are not uniformly black, and this is a fatal flaw, and why isn’t Sony doing anything about it and all you have to do to see this is watch the televsion in the dark while it is set to an input that has nothing hooked up. Some people see blue splotches. Some people see green. A few see other colors. People are soon taking pictures of their televisions set to an input with no active signal in a pitch dark room. The television is declared fatally broken because of a display artifact that appears when you are not watching TV.
This is the power of WWDDOCD. It can take grown men with advanced degrees and chew up their souls to such an extent that they are reduced to sitting alone in the dark watching a television that is hooked up to nothing but the power socket and the air around him. Truly the universe is a cruel place.