Wednesday, June 30, 2010

peeve no. 260 is factional prejudice in IT

Faction: a group or clique within a larger group, party, government, organization, or the like
I don't know what it is about IT that results in professionals forming factions. Use text editor X! Align your punctuation thusly! Avoid all software from company Q! Programming language R is your cool friend that all the popular kids like! Every problem should be flattened via solution U! Your VCS is DOA!

I understand that people develop attachments to their favorite tools and passion for their work; that's fine. What drives me nuts is the all-too-common over-exaggeration of these feelings. Acting as a cheerleader for your chosen IT factions can be fun, but if you ground your personal identity in it then you've officially gone mental. An IT professional should make technological decisions based on actual requirements and well-understood trade-offs, not based on which option fits your personal "style". Of course, usability and even nebulous subjective appeal are nevertheless legitimate factors in the decision simply because a difficult and hated option is detrimental to productivity and morale. The difference is a decision-maker who critically weighs all applicable criteria instead of just always "voting with the faction". Emotional investment is present without overpowering every other fact. Someone doesn't say "I'm a BLUB programmer". Rather, "I know the most pertinent portions of the syntax and semantics of BLUB, and I like BLUB because of BLURB".(I've complained before about grouping programmers by language.) 

Although I'm ranting against factional prejudice, I caution readers to not interpret my opinion as a case of "binary" thinking (i.e. thinking characterized by a simplistic division into only two categories). Some factional prejudices are quite beneficial and practical, when kept within reasonable and specific bounds. For example, past behaviors of a company or open source project are good reasons to be wary of current behavior. A platform's reputation for lackluster efficiency is a worthwhile justification to avoid it unless the platform demonstrates improvement (or the efficiency is sufficient for the task). Evaluate factional prejudice according to its motivation and relevance and realism. 

For businesses at least, technology isn't an accessory or an avenue of personal expression. It serves a purpose beyond the satisfaction of one's ego. The One True Way might not be what's right for the situation and the client.

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