4 May 2012

Flamed-out Fireball

I first read Daring Fireball (henceforth: DF) in 2005, when I was in college, didn't have a computer of my own, and was forced to use the Fedora Core 1 machines that were in the lab. That was such a frustrating experience that it almost drove me to tears. John's insightful post about Linux usability, or rather the lack of it at that time, deeply resonated with me. It comforted me and assuaged the pain of having to use Fedora (until I bought my PC, which ran Windows), and I was hooked. Here was an insightful person who valued design and craftsmanship, and whose high standards demanded that things work beautifully and intuitively rather than just kind of work. I've since imbibed that spirit as well.

I've been reading DF practically every day since then, and for several years considered it the best blog on the web. I had an enormous amount of respect for John. But over the last couple of years, everything that made it great has sadly eroded. The insight gave way to snark and mean-spiritedness and outright insults like this one:
If I wanted to be a dick, I’d suggest that these surveys skew toward Android because Android buyers are more likely to be dumb enough to waste time answering market share surveys. But I don’t want to be a dick, so I won’t.
People who choose a different platform than John are dumb? Excuse me, "are more likely to be" dumb. This is just one example of the kind of posts you find on DF nowadays. I can't read this as anything other than the worst kind of mean-spirited, us-against-them fanboyism. In fact, fanboyism may be too oblique. The problem isn't that John is an Apple fanboy — we've known that for a while — but that he's abrasive and more likely to insult than to enlighten, more likely to inflame rather than inform. He's become a troll.

Compare the above with John's treatment of practically the same thing from 2006. One is a thoughtful, sensitive treatment of a touchy subject, and the other is put-downs and outright name-calling.

As I become more emotionally mature, I find that it's not just information that matters, but also the way I feel about things. As Matt describes so eloquently, it's time for me to push this source of negativity away from my life.

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