Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I think I've learned a Genuine Life Lesson

I used to be quite the armchair analyst. Well, probably no more so than any other software engineer, but as a group we do love to speculate. There's just so much drama out there, with the jockeying and jostling of companies and technologies.

But for the most part we are also naturally skeptical, so I never got that carried away. Indeed, I was quite proud of how much I didn't get carried away.

At least, before I started working on a high-profile project that routinely gets press coverage. If I took things with a grain of salt before, I take them with 5-pound bag, now.

It's odd though: I haven't learned anything I didn't already know (remember that reporters always have angles, and so on), but now I don't just know it, I know it all the way down to my marrow.

I went through phases, too. At first I was indignant ("How dare they miscontrue us so grotesquely?") or amazed ("Well I'm glad they like us, but that's a bit over the top.") On my way to where I am now (mostly indifferent with a mix of amused and irritated), I passed through a few other minor phases, of which my favorite was a sort of cognitive vertigo: "I know it's not true, but... everybody's saying it. Maybe... maybe I'm wrong and I don't know it?"

We've had everything from cleverness to malice to incompetence attributed to us. There have been reports of Android devices launching ridiculously early (February? seriously?), as well as implausibly late (2009?!). People "familiar with the matter" have been quoted saying things that sound like they came from a different universe. Based on just the press, you could be excused for thinking that.... well, that there's drama.

What this has taught me is that there's just no point in judging anyone -- especially companies -- by anything other than their actions. But what I've learned is to include in that what they say: if Nokia/Symbian says they want to open up, then I assume that that's their plan, until they do something else that says otherwise. If Apple says they don't have background processes because they want to protect the user experience, then I don't automatically assume that's just cover for wanting to hamstring third-party developers.

I no longer scrutinize companies for drama, until they actually do something dramatic. Conspiracy theories and armchair punditry are fun in their way, but for me they've become an indulgence I try to avoid.

No comments: