We’ve all seen the thousands of articles that pit ‘ASP vs JSP’, or ‘Why Ruby on Rails is better than Zope’, or one of the other millions of permutations on the theme. To say that one language is generally ‘better’ than another doesn’t make a huge amount of sense; is one spoken language ‘better’ than another, even if it does take longer/shorter to say a sentence, or has more/less words/letters in it’s vocabulary? So why are so many people willing to make this claim, with such emotion?
Abraham Maslow proposed a “Hierarchy of Human Needs”, which are basically:
- Physiological (Basic survival)
- Safety (and security)
- Belonging (community)
Could these drive our ‘need’ to support the main language that we use?
The first two ‘needs’, in this context, could be translated to our need to work. In order to survive, we need a job, which pays us money to buy food. We choose a language which allows us to better find a job (e.g. Java rather than FORTRAN), but then need to ensure our (job) security by keeping the language ‘in fashion’ and in use. If negative press is published, that attacks our language of choice, it could lead to businesses being less likely to adopt/support the language. Conversely, positive press on a language could persuade IT directors to use it in a new project, and will also convince more developers to adopt the language (which, through a feedback system, could produce more jobs, and sustain the life of the language).
Even if our language is relatively ’safe’, we then move to our need for belonging; to be a part of a community, to support it and protect it. By producing these ‘Language X is better than language Y’ articles, we are contributing to our community and (in some ways) trying to protect/defend it at the same time.
The Esteem need pushes us to gain recognition; which these controversial articles almost certainly guarantee. People with a larger than average need in this area are purported to be ’snobbish’, which again could account for articles of this nature.
Tying ‘Self Actualization’ into this argument is tricky. I’ll leave that up to the interested reader (i.e. I can’t think of anything at the moment, apart from a weak argument based on the following quote from the Psychological Review: “Self Actualization is the intrinsic growth of what is already in the organism”).