Throwing Stones and Lifting Swords.

Why are there so many holy wars on the Internet? It seems that whenever there is a choice to be made, people will defend their choice with more fervor than necessary. We’ve got Tabs Vs. Spaces, Vim vs. Emacs, Mac vs. PC (a classic)—the list seems endless.

Whenever I formulate this question, people respond by pointing out: “It’s the Internet,” as if it were some sort of tautology. Isn’t there a reason for this? Is the human race doomed to bicker over insignificant matters until they become zealous battles? In my city, people die because of a disagreement over the neighborhood they live in.

This not “just the internet,” and this is a serious matter.

That’s not to say that people are dying over web browsers and computer brands. I only mean to suggest that perhaps these disagreements are futile in most ways: there as so many problems in the world, and so many solutions. There are so many important things in the world, but we dedicate hours to laying out the comparative merits of tabs and spaces.

I feel foolish, dirty, and dissatisfied.

If a person is making art, then their art-making is important to them, right? If my art is making websites, why should my art hinge on whether or not I use Arial or Helvetica? Or—rather—why is the choice to use Arial treated like a crime? Would a community of painters oust a member for using house paint?

You might be saying to yourself right now, “But Key! Arial is just a knock-off of a better font—people only use it because it comes with Windows.” If you believe your stake in the politics of the past should be the sole dictator of every typographic (artistic) decision, then you’re part of the problem. It is as if you were to say: “You shouldn’t use burgundy because it is dark brown masquerading as red.” Is one color better than another?—what does this even mean?

(Besides, perhaps Arial would be the best choice for me because everyone can read it, and I want people to read my work without problems. Wouldn’t Arial be a reasonable choice for that purpose?)

Again, I feel ridiculous, filthy, and unfulfilled. It is as if I’m screaming from a mountain top at the top of my lungs, but—alas—the world is sleeping. Maybe I am sleeping?

A professor once told me it was important to test theories by applying them to the theory itself—doing so would show you how solid (or flimsy) the theory is. So today I’m setting up my own battle: the war against holy wars. See how ridiculous that sounds? It shows that the world is more complicated than picking a side and drawing a sword, and so I beg of you to lay your swords down.

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One response to “Throwing Stones and Lifting Swords.

  1. Bar Shirtcliff

    Key, maybe you shouldn’t think of them as holy wars, and give up on there being an idea of “right” and “wrong,” when it comes to tools. Sharp programmers love emacs, groping hackers love vi because they can’t grasp emacs, etc. I’m (half) joking, but, really, you shouldn’t take it personally. I know successful programmers who work exclusively in TextEdit. Programming is a craft. Different craftsmen prefer different tools.

    Just ignore the holy wars and figure out for yourself which tools work best for you. i.e. LaTeX takes too long to learn—save it until you’ve got a damned good reason to use it, and ignore the LaTeX prophets until then. Focus on learning the skills you think you’ll actually need.

    That’s my advice, anyway. Good luck.

    –Bar

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