Why Religious Wars are Stupid

Yesterday I made what I thought was a lightweight claim about how the “choice” of languages in .NET is not as much of a choice as you might think.

Some people assume that this means I am against .NET, or I’m “clueless,” because I don’t understand the productivity benefit of managed code.

OK, they didn’t read what I wrote less than a month ago praising the productivity of .NET.

Of course, when I wrote that, some people assumed it meant I was for .NET, and dug up an old article from two years ago in which I complained that an early white paper on .NET didn’t say anything. (It was true, the white paper didn’t, and .NET didn’t ship for 2 years). So I’m a hypocrite because I used to be against .NET and now I’m for .NET.

Anything as complicated as .NET is bound to have many positive aspects and many negative aspects. Duh. The stupid thing about religious wars is when one person says, “you don’t get as much language choice as you think” and the other person says, “you are clueless, because you’re 4-6x more productive!” What a waste of time.

The World Is Complicated. Get Used To It.

Some people can’t. Look at how angry Michel gets because I point out that (a) features sell products and (b) choices reduce usability. So? The whole point of design is that you have different goals that you need to resolve. Want to design a trashcan for street corner? You have to make it light so it can be emptied easily. You have to make it heavy so it won’t blow away. You have to make it big so it will hold lots of trash and the trash won’t blow out. You have to make it small so it won’t take up too much space. You have to make it easy to throw trash in so people don’t miss and litter. You have to make it hard for trash to get out so when it’s windy the street doesn’t litter itself. Design is all about making hard choices and, hopefully, sometimes, hitting upon elegant solutions that solve conflicting goals. But when you can’t solve conflicting goals, you have to be smart enough to decide which goal to solve, and not just be a lazy punter and pretend that adding a checkbox to the options dialog will solve it.


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About the author.

In 2000 I co-founded Fog Creek Software, where we created lots of cool things like the FogBugz bug tracker, Trello, and Glitch. I also worked with Jeff Atwood to create Stack Overflow and served as CEO of Stack Overflow from 2010-2019. Today I serve as the chairman of the board for Stack Overflow, Glitch, and HASH.