Digital Kayak

Similarity Breeds Dislike: or The Narcissism of Small Differences Online

When we're online, we often disagree the most with the people who are just like us.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published June 12, 2009

When the wildly popular online multiplayer game World of Warcraft came out a few years ago, I played it for about six months. Like just about every other multiplayer game out there, WoW offers players a faction to join; in WoW's case, either the Horde or the Alliance.

This choice is often arbitrary, although once someone has chosen a particular faction, their friends will often choose the same one so they can play together. But at the time a player joins, they have no particular love for the side they choose or hatred for their faction's enemies.

This soon changes, however, especially on game servers that promote warfare between the factions (so called player-vs-player servers, such as the one I played on).

A raging hatred exists between players on opposite factions that extends out of the game world and onto forums, blogs and so on, where people insult each other, claim the other side has an unfair advantage, etc.

In other words, people who have a ton of things in common, from their frequently similar personal characteristics (young, male, etc.) to their obvious appreciation for the same type of entertainment, spend hours flaming each other as a result of an arbitrary, meaningless choice when they first started playing the game.

As in the world of video games, so in the world of web development. I'm sometimes dismayed by the attitudes expressed by Python programmers towards Ruby programmers, and vice versa.

Don't get me wrong: lots of people from these two communities are perfectly civil towards one another, and some of the tension is simply a healthy competitive rivalry. But that is not always the case, which is weird: after all, both languages are dynamic and cutting-edge, both communities are producing fantastic software - and both communities are generally contemptuous towards people who program in PHP. So what's the problem?

Or check out the massive flamewar on Smashing Magazine because someone had the nerve to suggest that web developers don't need to use Macs.

Five hundred comments (and counting) of Mac users bashing Windows users bashing Mac users, occasionally interspersed by pious Linux users wondering what all the fuss is about.

But all of these people are web developers. Some, of course, are respectful to each other, but others are not: the fact they are speaking to someone who is probably much like them, with the same career and probably many of the same interests, does not matter as much (at least at that moment) as that person's choice of computer.

When we're online, we often disagree the most with the people who are just like us. Is this the result of competition, like the conjured up war between the Horde and the Alliance in World of Warcraft or the pressures of the hyperactive pace of web development?

Or is it a way of insisting that we are unique individuals, even when presented with evidence to the contrary - our peers?

Offline, the situation changes. Put a Ruby programmer and a Python programmer in a room together at a party and they're bound to meet at some point and trigger the kind of endless, arcane-to-normal-people conversation that prompts their wives to suggest leaving.

Put a couple of WoW players into a room at a party - actually, never mind, WoW players don't really leave the house.

There's a simple solution for all of this then: when you deal with people online, treat them the way you treat the people you see every day, in person. Even if they still use PHP. Or they're Horde. You ganking bastards.

This essay was originally posted on Adrian's blog.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By languagesnob (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 09:43:59

"Even if they still use PHP."

LOL posted on a blog powered by ... PHP, and re-posted on a blog powered by the only language PHP developers get to make fun of, ASP.

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By self-hating nerd (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 10:06:16

I think we nerds and geeks hate each other because we remind each other of what we don't like about ourselves.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 10:43:47

Yes, felt like an open bear-trap when I saw "Even if they still use PHP.".

You can't really have this argument when you're mimicking the same things you're denouncing.

Right tool for the job, regardless of language, OS, etc.

I also posted the SM article. When I saw it, I knew it was gonna bring out the troll in many. :)

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By stark raving (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 11:21:37

@synxer I know Adrian, I'm pretty sure he's being tongue in cheek re: PHP. He used to be a PHP developer himself.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 11:46:19

My preference is not PHP, neither, but it is a powerful language especially when you consider a framework like CodeIgniter.

I do concur with the article. I never really understood why programmers tend to burn bridges with other programmers, whom they should share a great respect with.

It's uncomfortable when one of the guys you're working with has had a prior tiff with some other firm and you end up having to work together on a project. Makes everyone look like a jerk.

Programming involves a lot of logic. Logic and emotion rarely meet on the same street, so what gives?

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By Brush and FLOSS (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 11:59:46

@Ryan why IS this site in ASP, anyway? All the stuff I've seen lately about open source seems a bit contradictory, n'est-ce pas?

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By synxer (registered) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 13:42:57

As a guess, Probably because Python can be a language option for ASP.

Awesome FLOSS reference.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 15:10:29

I've found Ruby/Python to be fun and easy to grasp. It would be neat to be able to do more Ruby/Python professionally, but most of our clients (especially higher-ups) have specific requirements that usually exclude what they see as "enterprise unfriendly". I don't personally share those views, of course.

Whenever we get a "don't care where it's hosted" client, we like to delve into the fun stuff.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 15:26:17

I was always confused why, when RTH produces unique much needed content, that Ryan and others were busy re-inventing the content manager wheel. Like how many FLOSS content managers are out there? How awesome is Wordpress? But I digress.

As per the article, yes, familiarity does breed contempt. It's important to be mindful of how the online world brings together people who'd not regularly interact previous to some arbitrary internet epoch. One easy way to remind yourself of that is to axe your WoW account and leave the house.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 17:04:03

@brodiec they could host the site on carrier pigeons for all I care, I'm just glad we have it.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted June 13, 2009 at 09:19:28

stark raving said:

I'm pretty sure he's being tongue in cheek re: PHP.

Which is correct. I have nothing against PHP developers, just as I have nothing against people who happen to have chosen the opposite faction I did in a video game I stopped playing years ago.

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By B.N. Picky (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2009 at 13:34:07


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By Dabeseakarmd51ty (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 10:19:33

Sitting knee movement
Keep your spine straight, knees bent, sitting on your sciatic, feet flat on Kigtropin the floor, ankles and together, put your hands back to support.
Concentrate on your abdominal muscles, lower your legs to the left until they are about 6 feet from the ground position, keeping the ankles pressed igtropin
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Lateral pressure campaign
Register well with your body lying on the floor with your legs straight. Place your right forearm around his waist, put his right buy kigtropin
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Use your left deltoid oblique (instead of his right arm), reduce your belly and your left shoulder off the ground about 2-3 feet, and put his left leg lifted about 12 feet, to maintain this action 2 seconds after slowly return to its initial position. igtropin
The beginning of the right side, left to 8.5 times. Slowly increased to 12 to 15 times on each side. Each do 1-2 groups, each minute of rest between them.

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