Software Theology

Scott StultsJuly 18, 2009

You might be aware of it’s existence, even if only on a subconscience level. It might even be a scary thought that Software Cults exist or worse that you could be a part of one. Whether it’s political, social, religious or even software related, people tend to cling to their opinions, beliefs no matter how illogical they are at times. Not only that, they sometimes fail to see how annoying or how dangerous being blindly overly passionate coercion of others can be. The point of this blog is to point out how people get religiously caught up in software and that can negatively impact a product, a person’s image, business value, and the bottom line.


Software Zealots

You have probably run into them or perhaps you are one. They are not technology evangelists or experts who know the ins or outs of a certain hardware/software and hired to sell the product, they are the nutcases, overly righteous zealots for their software cause. Beware of having your own original opinion or preference around these people, especially if it differs from their own opinion, it can be detrimental. They spout company rhetoric like it is sacred text and they will spend hours and loose days suffering in pain to fix their beloved software and not speak a word against it.

They either constantly build up the image of their beloved software or tear up anything that isn’t up to their understanding or standards. It comes in many forms, they detest pieces of software where its websites like myspace, facebook, linked-in,  or software like aim, twitter, wordpress, expression-engine, etc. Or they highly praise their software and then mock others in a mighty python like fashion.

One of the bigger groups that tend to stray into this area, especially in Charlottesville, are Mac Users. “You never have to reboot a mac”. “Macs are easier to use than windows/linux”. “Macs are more secure”. While I can tear 90% of a mac’s zealots comments to shreds, its not worth the waste of thought or life. However I would like to point out the negative affects. For me personally, I spent 4 years in a mac lab so I know how to use a mac (esp after living on photoshop, cool edit pro, Quark express, etc). However, I use a pc because I tend to develop using C#/Ruby/Javascript and I like to use visual studio when possible. It is a preference. But every time a zealot makes a serious snide remark against anything non-mac, my opinion and my trust in their judgement and ability to logically weigh things drops tremendously. Their value and ability to make the right decision for clients rather than themselves dramatically falls short after seeing something like this.

In light of the above I’ll probably never buy a mac for 2 key reasons at the moment. (but hey apple if you want to buy me one, i’ll use it to make screen casts).

  1. I can’t run OSX on virtual box while running windows/linux as the host, not only is it not currently possible, its also illegal.
  2. The remarks that typically come from overly zealous fans of mac have left a bitter taste and venomous vibe, that I do not want to ever really be associated with them. (which is the opposite of affect of what some zealots hope to accomplish).

But extreme occult like fandom isn’t the only place where strong belief systems and software intersect. Legality of software, source code, languages, tools, architechture, software theory and strong opinions often cause heated discussions, debate, even split in software teams or even cost tax payers huge sums of money because someone let personal preference or pride rein where it should have let logic prevail. It is actually interesting to see how much of human emotion and systems of beliefs still comes into play even among geeks and programmers. You would think people of this nature would have more detachment from these things that hold only so much meaning in life.


Prejudice against Software due to it’s Company

An example of recent biased behavior from a legality/source code sense, thats been making public waves is Richard Stallman’s stance against Mono. Microsoft is a corporation out to make money (obviously), they can no longer afford to battle opensource software, they have to embrace it. In fact, they’ve launched sites codeplex, port 25 and helped Mono development moonlight so that they could bring silverlight to the linux platform and released C# and CLI under the community promise. They would stand to lose and enrage their developer base at this point should Microsoft decided to ever go back to trying to destroy Open Sourced software. Also with such markets as Software as a Service, Operating in the Cloud, and Selling Advertising at stake, they don’t have the time or resources to waste on it. Granted this shift has probably cause heartache to hardcore proprietary ms fans of old. oh well. However Stallman still lives in a world where the evil empire patiently waits to spring its trap and forever dominate software so that it can never be free.

Software Language (This translation must be Gospel)

People get in a habit of saying this language beats all. But you know, I just don’t see ruby beating out Java in building a performance search tool like lucene. I don’t see .Net beating out Java in available open source projects (though .net has come along way). I don’t seeing Java beating out .Net or Mono for building user friend thick client desktop applications. Each tool or language has it’s uses, which should be considered depending on the business value and the goals of the company, not what the developer prefers. Like Twitter using Scala, its not entirely replacing the rails application, but it is using Scala to help scale twitter, cause its compiled into byte code and runs faster. It has business value and its using the tool for its particular strengths for certain part of the whole. Though you can’t beat using ruby and rails for prototyping a website quickly.


Free Software/Tools, (the best things in life are free)

If you believe that, you obviously skipped economics in college or missed out on the discussion of opportunity cost. Paying $200 for a piece of software that will save you hours of work during a project or daily will actually having a higher return on investment in opening up time which is a valuable commodity. So many people are stuck on the concept of free they don’t realize free is costing them precious time of their lives they could be doing something else more important. So weight the actual cost of time, efficiency, vs the importances of free software tools that don’t work as well or free open source solutions when you can buy source code that has a better performance. Also weigh the converse.


Software Commandments

Some software commandments to maul over in your moments of free thought (thats if you can think for yourself).

  1. thou shalt not slander thy neighbors preference in software/hardware.
  2. thou shalt not force a new language dependency on a project, if it does not provide business value. i.e. a ruby script in otherwise totally php project.
  3. thou shalt not cost tax payers or businesses extra money just because you like a certain os or language.
  4. thou shalt detach software predjuice for your clients well being.
  5. thou shalt weight opportunity cost and business value before ruling out open source or properitary software.
  6. thou shalt only use logic when comparing technology versus spouting marketing proproganda unless you just want to look stupid (cough ie cough)….
  7. thou shalt get a life.
  8. thou shalt take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceedest on to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it. Amen

Any disregards for these commands and thou shalt be forced to build a giant gundam without food or sleep within 30 days or sent to the rain forest without your iphone, mac, pc, palm pilot, black berry, etc for a year.

any commandments that should be added? thoughts?

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