Picking Sides

This isn’t a hardware piece; this is a people piece.

Over the years I’ve been strolling around the Web, I’ve found that folks are a bit . . . argumentative.

There’s been and are plenty of areas of contention: Intel vs. AMD, PCs vs. Macs, 3dfx vs. NVidia, now RDRAM versus DDR, to name but a few.

Each dispute is loaded with plethoras of passion. Zillions of electrons die in wars every day.

I’d like to ask two simple questions:

  1. Why?
  2. Why do you have to pick one side or the other?

Why?

That seems to boil down to two answers:

  1. “My side is better.”
  2. “The other side lies.”

“My side is better”

Different people have different values. They value certain features more than others, some less.

Very often, competing products have tradeoffs. Each is better at some things, but because of that, it ends up being worse than the other for other things.

You then have to ask yourself, “Which is more important to me?” and you decide based on how much value you place on these features.

However, many people seem to think that they’ve determined what is best for them, it must be best for everyone else. Anyone who says otherwise is attacking you, your side, and probably Truth, Justice and the American Way, too.:)

Look at the PC/Mac wars. A prime argument of PCers is “they cost less and you get more choice.” The Mac response is “you get more problems.”

Look at the values of each side. The PCer thinks lower cost is pretty important, as is more choice. Both are more important than the hardware/software problems he runs into.

The Mac person generally puts a big value on convenience, and he’s willing to pay the price of extra outlay and less choice for that convenience.

Neither position is crazy. Neither position is evil. Neither position belongs in the “I love children, they taste great” category

Try telling the arguers that, though. :)

Why Do You Care?

If I buy an iMac, what is it to you if you are a PCer? What harm does it do you?

If I’m the iMac user, why do I have to insist that it’s a better choice than a PC?

In both cases, there’s seems to be some insecurity. Maybe I’m not completely sure I made the right choice, that other choices somehow threaten mine?

Why is that? Might I suggest the deep, underlying problem is not the merits or demerits of the hardware, but rather a belief that there is only one right choice, and that it fits all?

The ultimate purpose of any computer, or computer part, is to please its owner. If it does (and the owner isn’t unaware of more pleasing alternatives), why should you care what the other person buys? So what if they didn’t buy what you bought?

Why can’t there be two right answers for two different people with different desires and needs? Yes, that does make matters more complicated; welcome to life.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “I prefer (fill in the blank) because it has (fill in the blank). That’s important to me, and if that’s important to you, maybe you should prefer it also.”

What is wrong is saying, “I prefer (fill in the blank) because it has (fill in the blank), and if you don’t agree with me, you are stupid, insane and/or evil.”

“I am right, so you must be wrong” is simply a simple-minded solution searching for a problem.

Stalking Horses

What I often see are people focusing on a single item, and turning it into a make-or-break issue, when it isn’t.

Some people have talked about RDRAM chips getting hot. Rambus itself hasn’t been too honest about that. However, RDRAM chips don’t get so hot that they melt their way down to the center of the earth. They don’t trigger nuclear explosions. Civilization will not be imperiled by their widespread use. Not even every RDRAM motherboard has melted to slag.

Is the heat a negative factor? Of course it is, but it’s not apocalyptic. That all by itself is not a reason for all sane people to say “No.” Put a fan on it like you did your video card. It surely doesn’t help the RDRAM cause, but it isn’t cyanide, either.

Many don’t like thinking that way. Apocalypses are very handy. They are simple to understand and they get your audience’s attention. If the ends justifies the means, so what if they aren’t very truthful? What is more compelling, “You really shouldn’t eat that peanut butter sandwich” or “That sandwich will kill you by the third swallow?”

Apocalypse Now is merely a new variation of a very, very old fable, the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Same situation, same result. That’s the problem, and it hasn’t changed since Aesop’s time.

I’m in the Boxing Ring, So Why Are You Hitting Me?

Something that always amazes me no matter how often I see it is how oblivious some people are to the inevitable reaction to their posts. They walk into the verbal equivalent of a barroom brawl, kick somebody in the teeth, and are shocked when they get hit.

Someone once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

By that standard, I have seen many insane posts. People post the exact same poor arguments that gets ripped apart again and again and again. They never learn.

Why? Do people think the argument becomes a winner just because they say it? Do they believe that if a stupid argument just gets repeated enough, it get better?

I don’t understand this, could someone please explain this to me?

To make this even funnier, after the latest wave of troops have blown away, do you know what the reaction often is? Not “we’d better come up with something better.” Not “maybe we should bypass the machine gun nest.”

It’s “Why aren’t you letting me win? You have no right to be here. Go away, and take your machine gun.” It’s not their fault they have a silly argument; it’s your fault for noticing. “Go away, kid, so we can tell the Emperor how good he looks in his new clothes.”

But They Lie!

Yes, they often do. However, many think the solution is to lie right back. That’s better?

I have found that in these arguments, people aren’t flat-out liars; they’re flat-out dishonest, and they think there’s a difference.

They lie with truths, but honesty is not just an absence of lies. You can put out twenty “facts,” all of them true, and paint a dishonest picture.

That to me is just as dishonest as flat-out lies, so that’s what I call them. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” is just as dishonest as “The sun is blue.”

And what are they lying about? You aren’t fighting for God or Country or Freedom or Democracy. You’re fighting for pieces of processed sand that rearrange particles of phosphors and rust. This is not the same as fighting Nazis.

Sure, correct the lies and dishonesty, but don’t add your own.

Hatfields and McCoys

What we have in these disputes are feuds. Do you know what you have in a feud? Both sides have done bad things. Either side can always find justification for their actions because of something the other side did, and it just goes on and on and on.

What makes these tragicomedies is that so often A calls B an idiot, and B calls A an idiot. They are both right, and neither ever notices.

Cause and Community

People often seek a cause greater than themselves for fulfillment. Many have found it in ideology, whether religious or secular. They all provide a complete worldview. They all provide a just cause. They all provide a sense of community with like-minded believers, a sense of strength in numbers, that you are not all alone.

Most have caused a whole lot of problems, for pretty much the same reasons listed above. Not because most of the initial ideologies were inherently evil, but because ideologies don’t do things. People do things, and people can be fanatics. And fanatics can be rotten.

I suspect these hardware fights are just a pygmy version of the same story, and it is sad to see some get so wrapped up in them. At least the older ones promised you eternal life or freedom or prosperity. That’s a pretty hard act for sand and rust to follow.

Here’s a Side to Pick

How likely is it that anyone or anything created by humans will always be right? Pretty impossible, don’t you think? So why act as if Intel or AMD or Apple or 3dfx or Nvidia or Rambus or Micron suddenly had the only keys to eternal truth?

Let’s take Intel/AMD. There have been times when I’ve thought Intel had the better processor, but that there was a good cost/benefit argument for some with AMD. When the Celeron was introduced, I found that cost/benefit argument lost most of its validity.
The Athlon came around, and I soon found myself recommending Intel for some purposes, and AMD for others. It looks quite possible I’m going to like AMD chips better than Intel over the next few months, but then I may change my mind when Willamette comes out.

Have I been inconsistent, or wishy-washy for not always liking AMD or Intel? Not at all. I’ve been very consistent and loyal to Bang for the Buck, which seems to me to be a better “god” to worship than the Intel or AMD “gods.”

It’s harder to figure that one out than just buying Intel or AMD, but I think the extra effort is worth it. You can disagree, and have good reason to based on what you find important. You can disagree, and have bad (by that I mean inaccurate) reason, in which case I might argue with you.

However, if you value Bang or Buck or some other things more than I, and you prefer products which best fulfill what you value, I can politely disagree with the values, but I can’t consider you crazy or evil just because you have different values.

If you have to pick sides, pick the truth’s. It certainly could use the help. What is truth? Truth is seeing reality without blinders. Truth is acknowledging that very little in this world is perfect or base, black or white. Truth can find “good” or “better,” while acknowledging that both can be in the eye of the beholder.

Email Ed


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