Thursday, January 3, 2008

Why Some People Dig Zed

Saw a couple tweets between Dave Thomas and Tim Bray expressing surprise over positive Web response to Zed Shaw's rant.

It's easy enough to understand.

There's a rule in business called The Asshole Rule. It's a simple rule: don't hire assholes. The problem with the rule, however, is that everyone is an asshole at some point in their lives. Asshole isn't really an identity; it's a state of mind. It's not an intrinsic quality like the color of your eyes; it's a thing you do. And some people do it more often than others. Those are the people not to hire. But everybody does it sometimes.

The benefit of a rant like Zed's is that you get to find out exactly when; we now all know what leads to asshole mode for Zed Shaw. Apparently it's six months of financial struggle and Rails programmers. That makes him less patient than Mother Teresa and more patient than Ben Stiller, who, if the trailer for "Heartbreak Kid" told the truth, can do zero to asshole in only thirty seconds of mariachi music.

Some people do asshole very publicly, very loudly, leaving you in very little doubt as to whether or not they're doing the asshole thing. Some people do asshole very quietly, with great subtlety, and you can still be wondering if they were really an asshole years later, even though you know for a fact that the money is gone, or the woman is gone, or things at that particular job really were never the same. It's the difference between the sixty megaton asshole and the X-Files ninja asshole.

The X-Files ninja asshole is a serious problem. The sixty megaton asshole is fun to watch. I could believe it if somebody told me that even Koz enjoyed Zed's rant. I think even its major targets had to appreciate the sheer sincerity of it. And let's face it - six months of financial struggle could do that to anybody, and six months of Rails programmers could do it to a lot of people. It definitely does depend on which Rails programmers, and how you interact with them.

There's a tiresome, unpleasant cliche type of Rails programmer. This programmer mocks "enterprise" and Java the same way DHH does, but that whole thing DHH did with, like, actually reading Fowler's "Patterns Of Enterprise Architecture" and owing his primary career-making stroke of genius to that book? Not so much so. Not so much with the actually learning about the things they criticize. Not so much with the being diplomatic, considerate, or fair-minded either. Or knowledgeable, for that matter.

My grandmother once described driving a small British car through a huge automatic car wash as like being assaulted by teddy bears. Disagreeing with the cliche ex-PHP know-it-all Rails programmer is like getting lectured by Teddy Ruxpin. (I apologize that I was not able to link in any videos of Teddy Ruxpin playing a Metallica tape. For once YouTube has fallen short of its promised greatness.)

The tiresome, unpleasant cliche ex-PHP ignorant know-it-all Rails programmer is a serious fucking asshole. Some people dig Zed because watching the sixty megaton asshole take on the asshole who had it coming is like watching Godzilla battle a giant robot. It doesn't matter who wins; either way, it's still bad for the whole city of Tokyo, and it's still fundamentally watchable entertainment.

I've got nothing againt either Koz or Kevin Clark, but that's not the point here. They point is why do some people enjoy this rant even though they don't have anything against those guys either.