Friday, January 22, 2021

Arguing about taste

Yellow is the best color.

If archaeologists discovered an ancient drawing depicting scholars arguing about tabs and spaces 200 BC I wouldn’t be surprised. The discussion of whether tabs or spaces are superior is older than tabs and spaces themselves. People have been going to great length to make the case for either.

Here is a mind-boggling idea: Both can be true.

  • Tabs are better than spaces
  • Spaces are better than tabs

I hope that didn’t break your mind, because it gets worse. Both of the following can also be true:

  • Emacs is better than Vi
  • Vi is better than Emacs


People have different tastes and preferences. Your taste can’t be wrong. If you like blue better than orange, that’s okay. If you prefer Pizza over Bibimbap, that’s okay too. Mostly. (To the person trying to find a scientific proof that Bibimbap is indeed the best meal: Good luck)

People share a lot in common, and yet we are individuals, each with their own preferences and experiences. Sometimes we need to pause and acknowledge that there is no better or worse. There are multiple choices tailored for different people. If you aren’t productive using Vim, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re using it wrong. It could be the case, but maybe it just doesn’t suit you. Try Emacs. Try Visual Studio Code. Invent your own editor. Whatever suits you best.

Familiarity is comforting, and sometimes we may prefer one thing over another, simply because we’ve been previously exposed to it. If you find yourself arguing in a pull-request about readability, it may help to pause and consider: Why do you like one variant better? Is there a rational argument to be made for either variant? Is one a commonly used pattern and another isn’t? Is there a semantic difference? A performance difference? Does it even matter?

Arguing over taste can drain a lot of energy. Sometimes it can’t be helped because you’re working together and need to find some consensus. These arguments become easier once you acknowledge that tastes are different, and that any choice is better than no choice.

Flip a coin and stick to spaces.