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It's Not About Your Tools

The evolution of the internet blessed us with always-on, globally-available communications. It has allowed me to conduct informal cultural exchanges with citizens of foreign countries, stay in touch with traveling friends, and collect an endless string of interesting contacts, some of which I’ve met while unplugged.

Unfortunately, that isn’t all. It also provided a platform for every kind of bitching you could imagine, and you would be amazed how embroiled some folks get even with a limit of one hundred forty characters. It’s shit-talking at the speed of light, and it disgusts me.

The technical elite - web developers, designers, video editors, and other generally trustworthy individuals - are the worst offenders at times. Wordpress versus Drupal, Flickr versus 500px, Twitter versus Facebook, and countless other battles rage on in my social stream. All I want is to silence everyone involved.

Tonight on the train, I encountered this same madness. Many close friends know that I converted my video editing suite from Final Cut 7 to Final Cut X. As a storyteller, the new version exposes common functionality that I used everyday in an intituive way, instead of hiding it behind twenty-one menu options. Does that mean it’s the ideal editing suite for everyone? Absolutely not, but I’m able to produce good work with it.

As we rode on, I discussed this somewhat-recent development with my friend, when my attention was rudely yanked away by an animated gentleman behind him. In the minutes that followed, our CTA video prophet extolled the virtues of previous nonlinear editing platforms, and did everything he could to disparage my use of Final Cut Pro X. As we exited the train, he said, “if I was the client, I wouldn’t pay shit for anything edited in Final Cut Pro X.” “If my five year old can learn it, nobody else using it is a true professional.”

I walked home, thinking hard about his commentary. In the past, I’ve fought in holy wars of one system versus another, and mostly seen the winning side. I don’t think I would’ve ever insulted a stranger for their choices, but I’m also very opinionated, and it’s hard to recall what I’ve said, or worse, predict what I might say in the future.

Earlier today, I (link: https://twitter.com/nicholaswyoung/status/319501923348795393 text: commented negatively) on Adobe Dreamweaver’s messy HTML output. It’s a simple product, intended to help beginners learn the basics of website design, but it teaches them the wrong concepts. The markup it spits out is unintelligible, and in many cases, incompatible with modern browsers. This is an example where my tool choice directly affects the quality of my work, and clients should call me out if I provide substandard service.

What matters is the output. Dreamweaver can be used as a simple code editor, though it’s difficult to do. The capabilities of Wordpress and Drupal are both growing in unique ways, Flickr is being reborn under new leadership, 500px is continuing to florish as the underdog of photo sharing, and Final Cut Pro X receives monthly upgrades from Apple. If any one of these tools improves my creative output, it was the right choice, period.

It’s easy to sit back and pass judgment on tools we don’t fully understand, but most of the time, it’s not about the tools. I wrote this post in markdown and published it to my blog using Git – without the help of a modern CMS, that, according to the armchair critics on Twitter, is a must-have for any serious website. You’re reading this post, which means it was published in the best way possible for me.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t evangelize. If your tool of choice can possibly help someone, recommend it. Just don’t be too disappointed if they choose something else. Similarly, if we see our tool rise to mainstream adoption, let’s be happy, rather than sulking like angry hipsters whose favorite band just sold out. If we had knowledge of a platform before, we should spread it, rather than seeking to maintain a status quo of the past.

Creative culture is rarely about the tools you choose. It’s about what you say and do. If your tools help you write, shoot, publish, or edit faster, that’s the goal. Choose what works for you, and ignore the complainers.

(Image Credit: Apple, Inc., from the example project included with Final Cut Pro X.)

Published 4 Apr 2013