Inessential weirdness and secret knowledge

I’ve been thinking about this compilation of the “inessential weirdnesses” of the open source community, for a few weeks. The post (and excellent comments) are worth reading, but I’ll try to summarize the idea anyways: an inessential weirdness is a common practice or preference that doesn’t help further a communities goals, and often serves to exclude people who may want to get involved.

I’ve seen some of these same preferences (for the command-line, for the classic Unix text editors, against all things Microsoft or Windows) cause some friction and frustration at work, as well.

So: I get it. I agree these things are harmful. And, yet…

I love it so much. It’s fun to stockpile vim tricks, git arcana, and command-line combos. It makes me feel like part of a secret society, one of the initiate.

Imagine if the Freemasons, in addition to secret handshakes and code words and rituals and drinking, had a line on some real secret knowledge (say, how to make a slightly-better-than-average omelette). Yes, I’d be tempted to show off my secret omelette skills every chance I could. Yes, I’d be tempted to show disdain for the merely-average omelette, and those who would serve such an abomination.

(this analogy isn’t perfect: there’s almost certainly no proof that using obscure and complicated tools produces better work)

The point of all this, I guess, is that secret knowledge can be intoxicating, maybe even addictive. Moving past “inessential weirdnesses” is going to be hard work.

(That secret omelette technique might be baking powder)

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