Silicon Valley “maker” culture insists that if you don’t like something, it’s incumbent on you to do better. Bollocks. If we applied that logic to everything we’d say:
- Marcovaldo’s paintings bore me. Maybe you should paint a better one!
- The seats on this bus are uncomfortable. Maybe you should engineer some better bus seats!
- I’m so frustrated that this plane won’t take off for another two hours. Maybe you should re-figure the logistics for the Civil Aviation Authority so planes can get off the ground faster!
- Sylvia Plath is obnoxious. Maybe you should write some better poetry yourself. I don’t see you writing any poetry!
- I hate Palazzo Pants. They’re coming back and I can’t stand it. So don’t buy any!
- Economic theory is wrong. Maybe you should come up with a better theory!
- Star Trek is racist and paternalistic. Well, I don’t see you writing a hit TV show that’s not racist!
- I don’t like that restaurant. So don’t go there.
How could it seem reasonable to obligate someone to years of reparations for a one-minute whinge?
Kvetching may be a waste of time, but it’s also a natural part of life. We are a verbal species.
Just as innate as it is to
- angrily debate politics or
- to make an ugly face when you ask someone what they do and they say “Mathematics”,
it’s very simple and natural to express delight or disgust at good or bad design, craft, or taste—even outside one’s expertise. How is it incumbent on a whiner to spend ten years learning how to write software, because they said they disliked what you made?
If I say I didn’t like that restaurant and you say So don’t go there again, what just happened is that I expressed how something made me feel, and you instructed me. Maybe it is rational to not go there again … ok, fine … maybe it’s also rational to have feelings and to want to express them, even if I’m not going to take any further action beyond expressing myself.
It’s of course possible to override the natural instinct to complain. I could if I really wanted to. But Rails programmers in San Francisco already get enough remuneration. I’m not also going to grant them the power to dictate culture as well.
- Linux is still hard for most people.
- Mathematics is still boring for most people.
- If someone complains to you, a totally fine response is: “I see”.