On tolerance

I’ve spent the evening fuming. Earlier this evening, Norm said:

I use a Mac because I value my time at more than £0/hour.*

I hate that sort of comment. It’s a typical snide, sneering aside from a Mac user to someone who uses Linux. The subtext, which is hardly sub at all, is “clearly you don’t value your time because you spend it playing around compiling your kernel and fighting your operating system”. Suggesting that obviously I’ve never considered using a Mac because I’m too stupid to realise that my life would be so much easier. Like I spend all my day compiling a kernel, which I haven’t done for about a decade. Like they’ve seen the great wide ocean of possibility in front of them and I’m still scrabbling around on the beach looking at stones.* I was all ready to fire back something equally snide. “Yeah, I value trust at something more than £0.” Or “what do you use the time for, clicking ‘no I don’t want Quicktime Pro’ dialogs???” Or something equally mature. Or maybe an email to Norm, saying: do you realise how offensive a comment that is? Do you realise how sneering and holier-than-thou it sounds? And then I thought, now, hang on, this is Norm. He’s a sensible guy. The second half of his comment, after all, was “Free OSs are good, OS X is great.” He uses Linux all the time. And then came the second, darker, thought: that his comment was in reaction to one of mine. The conversational thread went:

  • sil: although does anyone not run ff3.5? what is this, the middle ages? :)
  • anonymous: why on earth would any OS X users run FF 3.5? Firefox is slow, crashes frequently, and is generally quite buggy on Macs.
  • sil: feel free to adapt the question to “why is anyone using a Mac” as well if you like. :)
  • Norm: I use a Mac because I value my time at more than £0/hour. Free OSs are good, OS X is great.

And do you know, I was just as snide and nasty. That was a humbling thought. There’s a lot of intolerant comment out there. There are plenty of people who really think that a modern Linux is still all about compiling your kernel and compiling all your programs and configuring your machine in emacs and not actually doing anything constructive. We, the Linux community, tend to either shake our heads and wait for them to catch up (in the best case) or flame the shit out of them like whiny teenagers banned from the cinema for throwing popcorn (in the worse cases). But there are an awful lot of people out there who think that Macs only have one mouse button and are just “shiny” with no underlying decency behind them. I try to not think that but, well, it’s easy to make that generalisation just to score cheap points, just like it’s easy to suggest that Linux users waste their time compiling kernels for the same cheap points. I should do that less. John Gruber said recently, “With regard to the freedoms that stem from the software being open source, something like Ubuntu isn’t just, say, ten times better than Windows or Mac OS X, it is infinitely better.” Sometimes I forget that just because my stuff’s infinitely better, it doesn’t mean that I can divide by that infinity to conclude that their stuff’s worth zero, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they think it’s worth zero.* So, sorry, Norm. I’ll try and do better next time.

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