Define yourself or be defined?

Angelo had recently posted about fear of failure as limiting personal factor. I commented under that post that in many ways we can limit ourselves by letting external factors define us.

Over next few days that stirred few more thoughts in my head. Basically isn’t there also a choice to define what software (or hardware or tech in general) you use or let it define you?

Seems very much so to me.

Tech as tool

I am personally pragmatic (ok, cynical) about my tech.

Obviously I like to tinker with software. But truthfully I don’t actually like software. I like what software does. It’s not awesome on its own, it is awesome when it makes my hobbies, work and computing overall better, easier and more pleasant experience.

What I use are tools. If one fails me there is always another.

Tech as philosophy

The other way is to treat your tech as part of your personality. You are not simply using tech, you are using it because it is awesome and is on the mission to make world a better place.

By upholding greater external purpose people form their own self esteem. When taking to extreme this becomes fuel that power cult brands.

Tech is not a tool. It is statement of who you are.

Viewpoints clash

Problem is these two positions don’t mix well at all.

Purpose-driven computing doesn’t take vague statements well. It isn’t shy to call bullshit. It isn’t shy to ask (demand) explanation.

– I colored my Twitter avatar green to help people in Iran!
– (oh dear, another dumb loony)

Ideals-driven computing doesn’t take egocentric approach well. It isn’t right to put your own interest first. It isn’t right to bend rules so that fit your gain (on other hand it is perfectly right to bend rules for higher purpose).

– I don’t really understand what “spirit of open source” has to do with this.
– (oh dear, another evil selfish bastard)

Kind of case study

Beating WordPress horses again as example… but applying these metaphors cleared up a lot for me.

Latest blowup is about “WordPress” spelling. Yes, seriously.

Latest WordPress version automatically corrects “WordPress” in posts to “WordPress”. I had to add code to my theme that overrides this function just so I could write WordPress in this post.

Innocent enough? Yet:

  • change was made bypassing usual discussions, only run by few developers and bam – it is in core;
  • change introduced bug, because messing with case-sensitive URLs (and they mostly are on Linux hosting) breaks things.

And we have two factions in all their concentrated glory.

  • those pro – consider it right thing to do, favor to community and natural;
  • those con – consider it poorly developed, malicious in technical and/or editorial contexts.

It was one of many WTF WordPress moments for me. Why is it so hard to make sense or at least rollback such minor and questionable change?

However it makes sense when put in purpose/ideals system.

  • People who are into WordPress philosophy and screaming freedom deem this welcome change and justify any inconveniences it brings. Rolling back is admitting it wasn’t right thing to do.
  • People who are into WordPress as a tool deem this unwanted technically and harmful to their editorial integrity, which for them comes before goals of WordPress as a project. Getting used to the change means putting specific own interests behind vague project interests.

There is no solution to this because you can’t put forward project ideals and personal interests at the same time and not on expense of either.

It is win-lose without effort to make it into win-win.

Communication recipes

Don’t ever try to just-because pragmatic person. Yes, he may seem evil selfish bastard to you. But try to take high and mighty “I am awesome here, you shut up” stance and by the end of that phrase you had lost any existing or possible respect that person had towards you.

Don’t ever try to educate idealistic person. Yes, he may seem dumb loony to you. But try to “I will fix your broken brain and insult your beliefs while at it” and by the end of phrase you are known registered blasphemer.

Overall

We don’t mix well. Should we make an effort to? Or should we just learn to recognize this and take different ways early?

I am honestly not sure.

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6 Comments

  • “Latest WordPress version automatically corrects “WordPress” in posts to “WordPress”. I had to add code to my theme that overrides this function just so I could write WordPress in this post.”
    LOL, wow. Priorities…

    Always enjoy reading your perspectives like this.

  • @Jason

    It is with great irony I must note that in two days it took this post from draft to publish “capital P” is no longer latest WordPress issue. It has been completely overshadowed by new round of GPL holy war.

    Anyway WP here is merely illustration, I think paradigm applies to many.

  • I think that any idea will have a few “fanboys”. These are the people that treat it as a philosophy. The greater number of people, however, will always see it as just another tool. But they tend to have their own products that they are fans of, which other people may not feel similarily about.

    It’s a strange situation where everyone (or almost) has experienced the other side, but we always feel that we’re right.

    That being said, to address the wordpress issue, it should have been easy enough to provide an update that simply mapped url’s to other url’s. Ideally, anything mentioning “WordPress” in the url would be automapped to WordPress.

    But I guess my answer shows that my stance on it is that it remains a tool and nothing more.

  • @Angelo

    I think that any idea will have a few “fanboys”
    Only that for some ideas it is natural… For some it is cold-blooded engineered to profit off it.

    It’s a strange situation where everyone (or almost) has experienced the other side, but we always feel that we’re right.
    Not strange at all. Humans are biologically wired to feel that they are right.

    it should have been easy enough

    Would be even better to make this opt-in feature, as it should be. But that is tool perspective, philosophy perspective would look for how to correct even more w0rdPRESS (as some now type it) misspellings.

  • Tobey

    Very captivating elaboration on this topic. I am honestly not sure whether it was more an internal reflection on the values of life or really just a plain attempt to understand the two different mind sets through the example of WP… Interesting, nevertheless :-)

  • @Tobey

    internal reflection on the values of life or really just a plain attempt to understand the two different mind sets

    A little of both. :)

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