If you’ve never heard a Ford-Chevy argument, you may find it hard to believe that such things exist. People actually get into arguments, sometimes violent arguments, over which trucks are better, Ford or Chevy.
More generally, a Ford-Chevy argument is an emotionally charged debate over the merits of two similar things with each side fiercely loyal to its position. These arguments look silly to outsiders but are serious to insiders. We all have our Ford-Chevy topics.
Have you ever gotten into a Mac versus PC argument? Emacs versus vi? Your favorite programming language versus some inferior language? How about your profession versus some rival profession? Your favorite sports team versus a competitor?
Thomas Gideon recently recorded a podcast on software tools. Gideon gives a good explanation for why we have technical Ford-Chevy arguments.
The time needed to gain mastery over a single deep tool usually precludes being able to learn anything else in that category. Pointing out feature differences, ones that may paint your chosen tool in an unflattering light, can make you defensive without realizing it. … how much effort you put in is being called into question, and to a degree, if only subconsciously, your intelligence or judgment may also be questioned by implication.
When you’ve made a large investment in time or money, you don’t want to hear someone question that investment. You may feel that your intelligence or judgment is being called into question. You may fear that you’ve picked the wrong tool but don’t have the time or energy to learn an alternative.
I’d like to think I’m above Ford-Chevy arguments, but I’m not. I would never get into a literal Ford-Chevy argument because I don’t care about trucks. But I could easily fall into a Ford-Chevy–type argument about something I care more about.
It’s no surprise that emotional factors influence our choice of music or clothes. But it is surprising how much emotional factors influence even highly technical decisions. For example, people often choose statistical methods for emotional reasons, though they would never admit it. Once we make a decision, we come up with rational justifications after the fact. This applies to choosing a computer or a statistical method just as much as it applies to choosing a truck or pair of shoes.
Read a few of the over 6,500 comments on the video to get a taste of a real Ford-Chevy argument.
Related post: Doing good work with bad tools