Make Love, Not Flamewars

I sincerely doubt that the statement “I like Mercurial” will catch anyone who reads this blog by surprise. I brought it to Fog Creek. I evangelized for it on the Fog Creek World Tour. I helped build a whole product around it. I’ve gone to a Mercurial coding sprint, I’ve sent a whizkid to a Mercurial coding sprint, and I’ve even written a few patches (mostly trivial) for Mercurial. So let’s agree that I like Mercurial an awful lot.

Reading crap like this pisses me off.

The question seems innocuous enough at first glance: Why is Mercurial considered easier-to-use than Git? A legitimate, simple question. And in a sane world, perhaps, a fair one.

But that’s not how things work amongst us developers, because we have these utterly inane religious flamewars. Emacs is for octopuses, Vim is for beep mode. Ruby is a language for potheads, Python is for BDSM fetishists. DOS is for PCP-using masochists…okay, that one may be legit, but it’s also kind of moot at this juncture. Point is, there are some topics where developers just cannot have a rational discussion anymore.

Mercurial versus Git is one of them. To save you time, here is every single Mercurial v. Git discussion I’ve read since 2005:

Harry: Mercurial is awesome, because it is easy.

Sally: It’s not easier than Git! You’re just too dumb to see the light!

Harry: Okay but like Git is written in Perl! And it doesn’t run on Windows! And I had my changesets fucking garbage collected once! And the man pages are like 900 pages!

Sally: It’s not, it’s written in C, and it’s ninety bajillion times faster than Mercurial! And I had to screw with its database once! Also Git does too run on Windows, and I lost nine weeks worth of stuff in Mercurial once due to enabling the MQ extension!

But don’t take my word for it; you can go watch the internecine fanboyism play out at Reddit, right now! In response to that crap question! Again! God! I live in Groundhog’s Day!

You know what?

Both sides are full of shit.

Yeah, I believe that Mercurial is easier to use than Git. But the best example anyone can provide on StackExchange is converting the author names in a pile of commit messages? Really? Because, okay, yes, I’ve done that. Maybe twice. And even if it completely stank, I’d just memorize how to do it and get on with my life.

What about the daily workflow? Is that easier? Why? Is it fewer commands? Is there more protection from you shooting yourself in the foot? Does the protection come with less power? Why do Git users swear by branching, if “it’s in Mercurial since <some low version>”? Why do Mercurial users swear by their branching system? Does Git have an emulation of it? Why or why not? What are the trade-offs here? Do they actually end up mattering?

These questions matter. And they’ve been answered, very eloquently, many times. But for whatever reason, that doesn’t resonate with people. They want to find the weak argument that they can refute, and then that gets traction specifically because it’s weak, and everyone can have the fight all over again.

This stops now.

I have a solution.

Instead of talking about why you are better than the other guy, let’s focus purely on why your system of choice rocks. That’s it. No whyfooisbetterthanx.com. Just whyfooisgreat.com.

Here, I’ll get us started. I whipped up I Love Mercurial, a site where you can talk until you pass out about why Mercurial is awesome. Just tweet with the #ilovemercurial hashtag, and we’ll pick it up and post it.

Note: why you love Mercurial. Not why Mercurial is better than X. Not why X causes brain tumors in lab rats and sterilizes your children. Just, things that Mercurial does that you love? Talk about ’em on Twitter with the #ilovemercurial hashtag. We’ll post ’em. Then, the next time, someone asks you why you like Mercurial, just point them to that site. Or the hashtag. I honestly don’t care. Point is, show them why Mercurial rocks, and not why the other guy sucks.

And then maybe, just maybe, just maybe, at least on this one little topic, the flamewar can die in a pile of love on why my tool is awesome instead of the 92835 deficiencies your tool has that mine doesn’t, and I don’t have to wake up to my alarm clock playing I Got You Babe ever, ever again.

Please remember to update manners to tip before tweeting.