Let me ask you this: Am I less of a person because I write code for a living?
How about this: Am I less of a person because I work in Flash?
I haven’t really (well, sortof) weighted in on the Flash vs. HTML5 debate yet, mostly because the main posters pro and con are both more technically qualified, have a stronger social following, and/or have more backing from marketers. It is the futility of the debate itself that interests me, both from a very personal perspective and from the perspective of an internet veteran.
The nature of the debate that I observe from the comfort of my Laptop is the following:
- Camp A: Here’s a bunch of reasons why Flash sucks!
- Camp B: Nuh-uh! Here’s a list of reasons why that’s not the case!
As you probably realize yourself, this argument structure is essentially religious, and can be replayed whenever two people have different opinions and are not willing to reconcile. It’s certainly not restricted to the technology space (Choice vs. Life anyone?), and the futility of entering into such an argument is well known to anyone who’s ever been involved in a flame war.
Now take this Adobe/Apple debate and pose it to our society (full of technology-advocates, evangelists and gurus), and you’ll soon come to realize that Adobe cannot win this argument, not given its current strategy. This is for two reasons:
- You cannot win a flamewar from a defensive position.
- You cannot win a flamewar with reason.
Secondly, any aggressor can very easily cherry-pick its arguments to attack the defender on weak points, and thus invalidate their entire argument simply because one point wasn’t well researched. While the overall flash platform is a strong contender on the web, you’ll notice that the argument is focused on a few key shortcomings – performance, accessibility, ‘open-ness’ and the like – in which HTML5 has strength. By defending specifically against these weak points, Adobe is then empowering critics to further choose sub-points where they have strength, and through this cycle the argument is diminished and diminished until at the end all we remember is that Adobe was trying to defend itself and their critics never ran out of anything to point to and say: “Hey you suck”.
Lastly, as I have seen in several cases, arguments have started go get personal, and as soon as you enter that arena you can invalidate someone’s argument simply by pointing out their own shortcomings. To use myself as an example, you can invalidate anything I have to say about Flash and HTML5 by pointing out that I’m not a real CS major, that I haven’t remained at a job for more than 4 years, or that I go so far as to claim that there are people more qualified to talk about this than I in the very first paragraph in this post. My experience and job title doesn’t matter – as soon as you say “Oh, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re not a CS Major” you’ve got me completely discredited.
But what bothers me the most is the first concession which the Adobe Community had to make, and that is that their pool of developers draws from the design community and are subsequently not the best. Now, every technology has a wide range of developer competence, yet with Flash it’s becoming a banner cry: “Flash Developers suck”. Your technology choice does not define how skilled you are, and yet it’s becoming pretty clear that those of us who choose Actionscript and Flash are seen as incompetent, less than human, and not worth listening to because we’re blind and ignorant fanboys who don’t understand what they’re missing with [Insert Language Here].
This last point is perhaps the most damaging, because it’s eroding Adobe’s hard-won community. Do you like feeling like a shitty developer? Do you want to be the pariah of the web? Do you like being told that you are the scum of the earth? No, and I don’t either, and if like myself you’re simply trying to make a living, chances are you’re seriously considering learning something else to make sure you remain employable.
So the real question is: Will rational minds prevail? I doubt it.