Saturday, October 04, 2003

Religion

Simon Moores, who has been writing prolifically of late, notes how the debate about open source has become too emotional. My sense is that it's always been that way - whether it is Mac vs PC, Technologists vs Luddites or Linux vs. Everyone else. Everyone loves a cause and there are those who like a cause that is supported by few others, at least initially. That makes it "theirs" and there is nothing better than absolute ownership to get the heart racing. Once it becomes mainstream, then many will move on - to the next cause into which they can put all of their emotions. In 1993/4 when I used to trade on the stockmarket pretty actively, there was a company called "Iomega" - some people will remember them, they made the Zip and Jazz drive. Iomega's supporters, called (naturally enough), Iomegans, were fervent, passionate and prone to emotional responses. The stock responded similarly, often doubling and tripling in the space of days or weeks, and then crashing down again (the chart below, on a monthly basis [taken from bigcharts.com] shows you the heights that emotional arguments can scale - from $1 to $135 and back). Anyone who dared doubt that the Zip drive would not replace the floppy drive as the universal way of exchanging data was ridiculed, loudly and emotionally, in the various bulletin boards. It wasn't about being rational - it was about being passionate about your cause and about being a zealot. I'm right and you are wrong. In that space, there isn't room to two rights, two nearly rights or even two things that could both turn out to be right - there is only black and white. In the end, Iomega missed out and, if anything, it was the CD that replaced the floppy drive. Who would have predicted that in 1994? I got used to it being like this, got used to the fact that there are many with whom you can't have a rational discussion, got used to each side belittling the other at every opportunity whilst the neutral ones watched, hoping for some calm. It wasn't different then and it won't be different in the future. But if floppy=windows and Zip=linux, what does CD=?

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