There is War!
No, I don’t want to write this article. Not at all. But I have to.
I recently had to look up a phrase that didn’t mean anything to me so far, the phrase “flame war”. Wikipedia defines “flaming” as “hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users”. So when I learned the meaning of “flame wars” my first thought was: “Ok, I understand, it has something to do with religion.” Usually discussions between religions are hostile and often insulting, and in all cases they state that one party is right and the other is wrong. Regarding religions this might be the only way of discussing things, since religions don’t have solid facts that can be contributed as arguments. They are based on beliefs and opinions, and only some religions derive these rules and opinions from observations and experiences (usually the ones that don’t go into flame wars).
Unfortunately the flame war I was dragged in was not about religion, it was about programming – but it was fought how only religious discussions are fought. I was pretty startled when I found myself in the middle of such a war, although I never was a religious person! Thank God(!) a wise man from a foreign country (Great Britain) knocked on my door and stopped me before someone could chop off my head, so here a short warning to you all: You can’t win with those people. Don’t get into a fight. Shrug your shoulders and mind your own business.
But what was all this about? Well… let’s see.
There is a very basic fear that all animals share: The fear of the unknown or the incomprehensible.
If you are the father or mother of a child and you belong to a ethnic minority you might know what I’m talking about. Your child looks different. It may speak a bit different. Maybe it plays different games. Some of your child’s classmates might be curious and ask questions like “Why do you always wear these funny rings around your neck?” or “What does your name mean?”. Others (usually the ones that are more bound to instincts than to thinking) might react with rejection or even aggression. They follow their fundamental fear, and, in the case of aggression, also the rule “Kill it before it kills us”. Okay, that might be a bit strong, but basically it goes like “I don’t know what the foreign child is doing, so I don’t like it, it might be (no, it is!) evil.” So in the end non-understanding results in rejection.
And what does that have to do with programming?.
Sometimes programmers behave like children — or animals, or bigots. Sad, but true. For example when they state that “their” programming language is the only language and all others are stupid. You might then ask them “And why you say feature-A of language-A is evil?”. And you get the answer — usually after some deeper digging — “Because I don’t like it”, which then (again after some discussion about the benefits of feature-A) turns out to mean “I don’t (totally) understand it”. This is sad. Not only because it doesn’t do justice to those “other languages”, but also because these people are limiting themselves and their advancement.
Also a very childish behaviour is their effort to find something where other languages are not as good as their own favourite language. When they find it, they behave like children who are bullying another child with a disability. “Haha, you have to indicate the type of a variable, I can pass anything to my function! Retype, retype!” A good programmer on the other hand will always be interested in finding the best solution for his problem, and he will be excited to learn new techniques and features that allow him to get better, especially when he discovers the weaknesses of his own favourite language.
All in all this kind of informatics chauvinism or IT-racism is immature, self-limiting and results in unnecessary flame wars that have no winner.
To say it in religious words: The best way to get an impression of what God might really be is to have a look at as many religions as possible, because God is everything. Whenever you exclude something you won’t get the whole picture.
A small joke to finish this:
A priest, a minister, and a rabbi were all sitting at a table, finishing dinner and discussing theology. Suddenly an angel appeared before them. “I have been sent to grant each of you one wish,” he said. “Who will go first?”
The Catholic priest stood up. “I wish for the destruction of all Protestants!”
Then the Protestant minister bolted up. “I wish for the destruction of all Catholics!”
The rabbi kept seated, so the angel asked, “How about you? What do you wish for, rabbi?”
The rabbi answered, “Well, if you’re going to grant their wishes, I’ll just settle for another cup of coffee.”