Monday, January 7, 2008

Looking for the Shiny: The Magpie Consumer

This article is completely off topic from what is normally written about here, but as I was reading, I was struck how it seems to work as a metaphor for consumers in general.

The core point is that magpie's and developers (particularly elite developers) are easily distracted by shiny things and new toys. That these individuals learn and do new things largely to differentiate themselves from what they perceive to be the larger crowd and lead waves of technology choices that inevitably force them to another new thing.

I'd submit that being a magpie isn't limited to developers, but rather to a great many people out there who receive a sense of self-worth by having the latest and greatest. Add to this a desire to keep up with the neighbors or other peers and, to buy into some of the anti-consumerism and consumption argument, that we've been trained to value ourselves by our belongings and having the newest and fanciest is a requirement.

So, we are all to some extent magpie's, filling our nests with the shiny and new at any opportunity. And not that this is in and of itself a bad thing, just something to be aware. As Mr. Atwood indicates:
That's the beauty of new things: there's always a new one coming along.
Don't let the pursuit of new, shiny things accidentally become your
goal. Avoid becoming a magpie developer. Be selective in your pursuit of the
shiny and new, and you may find yourself a better developer for it.
Replace developer with consumer, and reapply to self.