- END #header -->

Haters Gonna Hate: The Psyche of the Tech Zealot

Linux Junkie

Actual comments to a reddit post I made regarding the Adobe Molehill 3D API:

“Since Adobe’s making it, will it use 3x the memory and be 10x slower than webgl?”
“Molehill? If it looks like a shitpile….”
“HTML5 and CSS3 already do that way better.”
“wtf… games are written in C++ or C”

Tech zealots, they are everywhere, particularly on discussion forums where they can make their views tactlessly clear. They have holed up in one camp and anyone using anything but their weapon of choice is clearly a moron. I’m not talking about open minded professionals with conflicting views, just those people highlighted by the pearls of wisdom above.

But why? Why would someone be so vehemently opposed to technologies they obviously have only a stereotyped or passing knowledge of? Insecurity of course, but more specifically:

Lack of Skill and/or Intelligence

I am dumb. You are dumber.This is the most common root cause of mindless scathing comments on technology. The purveyor of bullshit is not smart or motivated enough to speak intelligently on more than one technology topic, so all others aren’t worth discussing. His mind cannot be changed, as this would require a level of decision making and logic that is beyond him.

This person is the manifestation of why the “ignore” function exists on forums and networks.

The one hit wonder

I Love C++When is your hammer, everything looks like a nail. Aside from the true idiots mentioned above, these are the second most prevalent zealots. They have hitched their wagon to one technology and are going to ride it til the wheels fall off… and maybe even after that. And guess what? You need to agree that it was the right choice.

The best way for a one hit wonder to keep himself relevant and in demand is by increasing the numbers of his clan. Convince others that his tech is the holy grail of software development. He will find any opportunity to insert the technology he knows well into a situation, regardless of how inappropriate it may be, and cite it as the “right” solution.

I’ve had a small, basic website project in a PHP shop be diagnosed by a OHW as needing a C++ web framework. I’ve seen web servers created in Perl (OK, that was me). The point is, add more tools to your toolbox or run the risk that your hammer starts collecting dust.

Lack of experience, or just one bad one

Flash SucksYou know the type, the person who used Actionscript once 6 years ago and hinges his beliefs of Flash, Air, and any Adobe product on that experience. They cite shortcomings and problems that no longer exist. They perceive any former weakness as an inevitability that the technology in question will always be a total failure. Windows ME sucked so there’s no sense in trying Windows 7, right?

But this person is not beyond help. As easily as they dismissed the language, there is a chance they will applaud it in the future. The trick is getting them to revisit it. Unless this person gives the technology another try they will continue to perpetuate misinformation.

Fear of being made obsolete or jobless

Will code for foodIn this day and age the lifetime tech job doesn’t exist. Even worse, employers are viewing programmers as interchangeable parts of a business; assuming one developer can be swapped out for another. Then how does one remain important? By feigning a high level of expertise.

Unfortunately, the damage done by a developer pretending to know what he’s doing doesn’t end in the office. The guy who fooled your recruiters is a pain in the ass everywhere he goes… especially the internet. What better place is there to pretend you are smarter than someone else than in Internet forums and debates? Its vast, anonymous, and you can pretty much say anything you want.

So this one hit wonder is going to spend his time, as he does in the office, creating this myth of talent and expertise with anyone who will listen. He will unleash a deluge of buzz words. He will weave tales about wildly successful projects, of wildly varying validity. And like at work, he will get just enough people to believe him to make your interactions with him miserable.

Refuse to appear “wrong”

You’ll typically see this when a debate backs one guy into a corner, usually attributed to his own limited knowledge of the technologies in discussion. Lots of diversions and straying from the topic at hand. Dialogs like the following are sure fire indicators of this mentality:

Zealot: Python is just a language for blogs and little hobby websites. You need enterprise level Java for a scalable solution.
Normal person: That’s weird, it seems to work for Google and Youtube.
Zealot: Yeah, but only for small parts of their site. I’m sure they use a better language for their core.
Normal person: Nope, they have both cited that Python is the primary language used in their implementations. Check out this post from the creator of Python about Youtube.
Zealot: Python would never work for a REAL business site though.

The zealot here is blindly adhering to his perception that the technology he was bashing was “bad” for the described situation. When proven wrong he then throws out vague, unprovable statements in an effort to remain relevant in the conversation.

Mob mentality

Mob mentalityMisery loves company. And the more company the more misery. There’s power in those numbers. A stereotype’s effectiveness is directly proportional to the number of people you can get to believe it. Get enough people to chant “Java is slow,” “Microsoft is evil,” or “C++ is too complicated” and it can be enough to divert a person from a technology before they even try it. And yes, I even dodged Java for a long time because of the first one.

A person allowing themselves to fall victim to this mentality is usually a smattering of many of the above listed mentalities. Not enough personal experience coupled with a strong allegiance to other technologies that designed with similar tasks in mind can easily make you dismissive of another. Be vigilant and open minded. Make your own decisions.

The Open Source / Vendor Zealot

Microsoft HaterThis is a mentality I’m sure you are familiar with. Open source zealots that can’t admit that many commercial products far exceed the capabilities offered by open source alternatives. On the other side of the coin you have vendor zealots who feel that all open source software is invariably buggy, unstable, and inferior to commercial products.

I once brought the idea of converting IIS servers to Apache for our small web presence to one of my bosses. His reply? “Nobody really uses Apache anymore.” It blew me away. The product trusted to run ~60% of the world’s websites was dismissed without a second thought due to misconceptions about open source software.

This mentality is a really tough nut to crack. You take a healthy respect for a technology and compound it with preconceived notions about free/paid alternatives to create unfounded animosity. The worst part is that there’s tons of people who have this mindset and will not only avoid free/paid techs, but slander them as well. Much like fixing phobias, a steady diet of forced exposure to positive events regarding the technology they fear or hate is the road to recovery.

Final Thought

If you fit one or more of the mentalities above, take a deep breath before you start hammering me with inflammatory comments. The fact that you read the article means you are not a terminal case. You may have a valid allegiance to a great technology. But has it blinded you to other opportunities to learn and excel? Have you helped perpetuate myths?

*** Take a hard look at your own views and you may find yourself a little less angry at me and a little better of a developer in the end. ***

25 Responses to “Haters Gonna Hate: The Psyche of the Tech Zealot”

  1. Mattis says:

    Great read, I too was once slave to the misconception that Java “is so slow”! And the only thing that cured that lunacy was to actually use Java for real projects.

    Even though I still prefer C# (personal preference), I no longer look at Java like a sick puppy that needs to be put down.

  2. Julien says:

    pretty neat article, couldn’t agree more about most of what you said. zealots, give us a break and go back to your “we know it all” community ;)

  3. Mattis,

    Haha, yeah, it took Android development before I would finally shed my misconceptions about Java. Glad to hear that a successful endeavor with Java was all it took to realign your perception.

  4. Julien,

    If it wasn’t for know it alls, we wouldn’t look so good by comparison! ;)

  5. Andrius Bentkus says:

    Too bad Flash is still sooooo sllloooow on Linux.

  6. Andrius, I know I know. There’s a price to be paid for global usability and with the copious amount of distros to account for, it probably isn’t cost effective for Adobe to pursue it.

    What distro do you use? Is this is problem common to all Linux distros? I use Linux primarily for server development, but I’ve had no problems with the limited usage of my Ubuntu 10 desktop.

  7. Zealot says:

    You do know these zealots dont just pop out of nowhere. For example, many people consider Microsoft “evil” for a reason. You may not agree with those reasons, but I don’t think it is particularly effective to call such people stupid for being opposed to things like the SCO/TomTom lawsuits. You can argue that technology should be considered separately from issues of morality, but not everyone feels that way.

  8. Badguy says:

    Pretty silly article.
    you can say alot of these things about everything in life.
    one person thinks that the viewpoint they hold is valid, while others prefer yet another one.

    I think you have missed one viewpoint your own.
    here you stand all high and might claiming what exactly?
    that every language and method is equal?
    that they all have a place?

    even the dreaded waste of time API’s created that have gone?
    and languages?

    I am not very clear on exactly what the benefit of this information is.
    I am pretty sure we have a clear understanding of these attitudes already, but thanks for clearing it up?

    how exactly do you differentiate between “open minded professionals with conflicting views” and these so called tech zealots?

    I think you would say to me, by the amount of passion they use when discussing things.

    I for one, stand behind the right technology to get the job done in the most innovative way.

    I could give a shit if its linux kernel mode drivers, or MFC applications.
    or HTML5 web pages. or c++ OpenGL code.

    but I respect someone who has information in the field they choose.
    and know how to use it, and are passionate about it.

    I hate it when, some tech clown thinks he knows everything about how to do things and claims flexibility and capability then shows me his huge list of crappy languages and API’s he has wasted all his time on.

  9. Zealot,

    I see what you mean and you are right. I can’t argue that someone should compromise their morals (if they see it that seriously) in order to give a technology a fair chance. That said, they should at that point bow out as not to allow their own views muddy the waters of a technical conversation. If its not a technical conversation the gloves are off.

  10. Badguy,

    Not sure what has your feathers so ruffled. Seems odd that you would question the quality or value of the information if you decided to read the whole thing.

    In any case, open mindedness and a diverse toolset do not exclude themselves from expertise. I think you are confusing the “clowns” who jam pack their resumes with acronyms with developers who actively try to make themselves more effective by learning other techs.

    Are all techs equal? Obviously not. But more often than not they exist for a reason and to summarily dismiss them is only hurting yourself.

  11. Andrius Bentkus says:

    I’m using Debian unstable.

    Flash pretty often freezes whenever I have more then 2 instances running.

    A 720p video on youtube usually eats up 80% of a dual core. Spawning multiple youtube videos (where only one is running and all the others paused (for precaching)) eats up 100% of the cpu. And it is a common problem not only on linux, but every platform which flash supports but Windows. I tried it with Ubuntu, Debian and Arch, doesn’t make it difference.
    There is a reason why Jobs didn’t want Flash on the iPad – it’s because Flash is a cpu hog and it sucks the life out of the battery in no time. And the absolute worst part: he can’t do anything about it, except for not running it at all. (There is a flash version for android and it sucks the battery dry in no time).

    “There’s a price to be paid for global usability and with the copious amount of distros to account for, it probably isn’t cost effective for Adobe to pursue it.”.
    You are right, it isn’t cost effective for a company to support every possible platform, but why do I have to pay with decreased usability? Why does Adobe promote that it is cross platform if it really is not?

    I have to admit that the linux rendering is pretty messed up and there are a lot of different libraries, which are used by different distros, but why is WebKit doing the job still so good compared to Flash? Why is it that there is no difference in execution speed if I use a browser which runs WebKit on linux x86, linux arm, linux sparc, any linux dist, mac osx, windows, android or ios?
    Did Apple invest money in order to make WebKit run faster on linux or windows – Hell no, it is not in their interest. Did Google invest money to make it run fast on windows and linux – yes, because it IS in their interest, they don’t care what OS you are running, they want their web apps running everywhere. This is the magic of open source: every group of interest does it’s own part of the job.

    Now let’s get back to Flash. It is supposed to be cross platform so Adobe can brag about it, yet they don’t want to spend money? Yeah right … And THAT is actually not a problem, if the flash player would be open source, every interest group could adjust it it to their running environment, but it isn’t. And THAT is not the problem either, not solving the issue is the actual problem.

    There are 2 choices from my point of view, either they keep it proprietary and do optimize it for every possible running environment therefore spending a lot of money, or they make it open source and let the others worry about optimization. There might be other solutions and I am totally ok with them as long as it solves the issue.
    But from what I have seen so far Adobe has chosen the the absolute worst path: keep the issue and don’t care about it. And as long as it stays this way – Flash will suck. And while your article is still perfectly valid and I totally agree with technology haters for no particular reason, I have a very solid one to not to like Flash.

  12. Pay attention everyone… this is a legitimate gripe. Notice how instead of just bitching about the technology Andrius proposes a solution. Great comment.

    I agree, if they tout it as a true cross platform development framework, they should tighten up the quality on the platforms its meant to support. That said, it does in fact support these platforms, just not well. ;) Unfortunately it has deep market penetration and there probably isn’t much of an ROI on bringing Linux up to speed. I’m not gonna get into the whole Apple vs. Adobe thing,though, thats a whole other monster.

    Have you tried any interaction or graphics processing similar to flash yet in HTML5? That’s how you would leverage that Webkit consistency. But here’s the problem. I have tested some HTML5 stuff and the performance is all over the board. You can’t rely on a consistent user experience from one browser to another.

  13. Don't let technology Run YOU says:

    I’m sorry but technology does not exist in a vacuum. Your comment “That said, they should at that point bow out as not to allow their own views muddy the waters of a technical conversation.” Wow do you know where the sciences are derived from? Philosophy. In fact most sciences were called Natural Philosophies for a long time. The technical merits of a technology do not stop at computer level. There are adoption based and social implications as well. How can these not be technical when have entire branches of science dedicated to them?

    Technology exists for us to use and the social merits are just as important to discuss.

  14. I understand your point, but let’s not compare vendor bashing with Plato’s Republic. There can obviously be debate about how technology is applied in a social context, but that’s not what is being discussed here and that’s not what you typically see in a technology discussion forum. Spend a little time in one and I assure you that you won’t confuse the dialog with philosophy.

  15. Andrius Bentkus says:

    “Have you tried any interaction or graphics processing similar to flash yet in HTML5? That’s how you would leverage that Webkit consistency. But here’s the problem. I have tested some HTML5 stuff and the performance is all over the board. You can’t rely on a consistent user experience from one browser to another.”

    I have, some things are faster, some are not. I tried running a video with HTML5 on youtube and it is much more faster then Flash. Other things are slower, especially if they use a lot of scripting effort: The JS implementations of web browsers are not as fast as the bytecode jit engine of the adobe scripting language. Generally HTML5 is slower, for now.

    While the user experience is not consistent from web browser to web browser, Adobe even fails to provide a consistent experience within the same flash player on different platforms, google and firefox chrome manages to provide a very consistent one.
    I’m for example using chrome, and there is no difference between the different chrome versions running on different platforms (i know for sure that there is no one between chrome running on windows and chrome running on linux). But there is one if I use Adobes Flash player on linux and on windows. The only consistency I see is that Adobe forces the user to use Windows.

    Now imagine there would be another flash implementation which is a little bit slower then adobes one, but had no performance issues between different platforms. Adobe would be scared shitless and solve the issue at once. People call it the power of competition.
    That’s why IE9 is so much faster compared to IE8 – there is now competition in the browser market – chrome, firefox, basically every browser on the market is faster then IE8.

    Different browser implementations may introduce an inconsistent user experience between browsers, but this is the best thing that could happen: most of the time *different user experience* is just another expression of “this is an issue which is present in implementation X and not in Y” or “browser X does this specific thing better then Y”.

  16. HTML5 made a great move in getting video right, but the real slide in performance is with game type mechanics. User interactions and rendering definitely perform better in Flash.

    You are right, I hope the competition raises the bar for both sides of the rich web content battle. I want to an open, standards based tech like HTML5 to become consistent across browsers and I want the incumbent in Flash to perform consistent across platforms. I even recently did a demo of HTML5 to broaden my horizons and get a sense of what it was like.

    Like you said with Firefox and IE, its only when one tech can threaten another that you really see change occur in an established product. I hope to see more of it.

  17. ZagNut says:

    Flash doesn’t do Lua, therefore it sux for gaming…

    …just kidding :)

    @Andrius: re: Flash sucking on Linux, it’s kind of hard not to expect very slow change on this front. Like it or not, Adobe’s gravy comes from Flash on Windows boxes, so their win dev team is probably 10x the size / prioritized over Mac, and Mac 10x over *nix.

    Anyone look at these alternates:

  18. Matthew Fabb says:

    @Andrius, only Adobe can’t completely open source the Flash Player, as there are pieces of it that they don’t own and it’s licensed code. Instead they created the Open Screen Project, where partners who join them can get access to the source code. So Apple could get the source to the Flash Player and optimize it, if they joined.

    Meanwhile, HTML5 video is a good example of different experiences, where on a Mac it runs smoothly on Safari, which uses QuickTime to play the content and accesses the GPU, but on Firefox on a Mac it runs slowly (from what I’ve seen of Firefox 3.x, I don’t know if they have fixed it yet in the Firefox 4 beta).

    From what I’ve seen as a Flash developer who pays attention to what the Flash Player team does, they give Mac a huge amount of attention, but they don’t always the API’s they need that Microsoft is quick to help out with on Windows. Look at the speed increases in 10.1 update in Mac 10.6.3 after Adobe finally got access to the GPU for video. Then they got access to CoreAnimation in Safari on a Mac and suddenly graphic rendering was faster on a Mac than Windows.

    Anyways, that aside, great rant about zealots. :-)

  19. Andrius, Flash’s video playback eats more than standalone media players or integrated browser video players because Flash is doing so much more than playing video. You have object overlays & being interfaced in so many ways than just playing video inside or embedded in a box.

    Check out Flash Linux engineer Mike Melanson’s post about it:

    Consider this:
    With the newer versions of the Flash Player, Displaylist objects now have 3D properties (z-axis, x/y axis rotation) that are being rendered in software (a CPU-expensive operation). Next, videos can be embedded & integrated inside these objects as children, so technically, these videos can now be running as 3D textures in a software 3D renderer (very CPU expensive!!!)

    Hope this makes everyone understand why video playback with Flash eats much more CPU than average media players.

  20. I was hoping to avoid rehashing the love/hate Adobe conversation from the reddit thread about this post: http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/el08j/haters_gonna_hate_the_psyche_of_the_tech_zealot/

    That said, I am loving the Adobe and Flash insights!

  21. The Technology newsbucket: analysing cables, multi-user iPads?, zeroing hard drives and more | Gat0rs says:

    [...] Haters Gonna Hate: The Psyche of the Tech Zealot >> SavageLook.comObviously, this doesn't apply to anyone who comments here. But just in case you ever visit another site… [...]

  22. Coder says:

    “Flash, Air, and any Adobe product”

    Sorry but Adobe are not doing themselves any favors with the software they release. Flash and Acrobat security vulnerabilities every month, shovelware download managers, concealed toolbars and anti-virus products bundled with software updates, etc.

    They brought it onto themselves, no turning back now.

  23. CW says:

    Hmm, I’m not really fussed either way about speed, but am I allowed to dislike Java simply because I think it’s horrible? Strings. Deliberately confusing type names. autoboxing… made so much worse by the magic of object caching… I mean, c’mon.

    And Microsoft ARE, at times, pretty evil. Doesn’t mean they don’t produce some cool tech, granted, and (and this is where I stray into the kind of heresy which can get a man strung up) Apple do seem to be trying to out-Evil them, in many ways, these days. Though they of course have even cooler tech. Or at least better looking.

    As to Adobe, I tend to think of them as responsible for Photoshop (which is impressive), not Flash (which isn’t, so much, but which is clearly improving since they acquired it).

    I know addressing the shibboleths in turn isn’t the point here, but, y’know, everyone else was doing it.

  24. The Technology newsbucket: analysing cables, multi-user iPads?, zeroing hard drives and more says:

    [...] Haters Gonna Hate: The Psyche of the Tech Zealot >> SavageLook.comObviously, this doesn’t apply to anyone who comments here. But just in case you ever visit another site… [...]

  25. Anonymous says:

    This is very insightful, thanks!

    I can think of quite a few people who are like this, and it obviously isn’t isolated incidents :D

    Sometimes I can fall prey to some of them too, especially the stereotype one.