Jim Cloudman

Snobbery

May 16, 2016 Permalink

I'm not a fan of snobbery.

People will swear that something is "the best" of a category - like pizza, or TV shows, or programming languages. For you personally, that's great, but once you insist that your choice should be everybody's choice, you ignore two fundamental truths: that people have different value systems than you do, and the things that make up those values - taste, disposable income, spare time, nostalgia, etc. - do not stay the same over time. This is what snobbery looks like.1

The most recent Accidental Tech Podcast episode is a spectacular case in point; their arguments about fast food and pizza were an excellent showcase of rejecting other people's tastes and values. Casey seemed to have the right idea, but the overall message from the other two was "Stop eating this garbage you lunatic." I'm sure they said that more for laughs than to try and make Casey confess to crimes against cuisine, but I don't like the implication that ridiculing someone's choices is totally OK.

As with ATP, let's take pizza as an example. The best pizzas I can have right now are my homemade pan pizzas, or pizza from a New York style place nearby - but those are time consuming and/or expensive. However, if I'm short on time or cash, I will often get Little Caesar's hot-and-ready, or a frozen Jack's pizza if I have it in the freezer. When I'm craving pizza, and I don't have time on my hands, those are the best choices possible - and if you want to mock me because they don't have award-winning flavor, then you can bite me, because they are the best decisions I could have made; I damn well know it, and you should too.

Like I said, I'm sure Marco and John were having those arguments all in good fun, but I don't accept that it's OK that someone's choice is wrong because you wouldn't make it yourself. You're basically telling someone that they screwed up, which is bad enough. On top of that, you're probably not even correct, because their situation is not your situation.

Did you hear that PHP is a terrible language? Marco writes most of his stuff in PHP, so he must be totally, totally wrong, and he should never write another line of PHP ever again, right? Yeah, no. It turns out that Marco has solid reasons to stick with it, and in his world it makes a lot of sense to use it for many things. All you would accomplish by saying this is being a jerk.

The best response is to investigate and inform - ask them why they made that ridiculous choice, and offer alternatives. Explain why you wouldn't make that choice, but in a way that doesn't reject their beliefs. Nobody's insulted, and maybe one of you will learn something new about your choices. That is, unless you're debating politics - in which case, you're screwed.