Pragmatism, Idealism, Tension and Balance

A friend and I got into a brief discussion around audio codecs and licence restrictions today as we talked about working on something together - specifically why Firefox doesn’t support mp3 in their audio tag. Other discussions we have had hit on this idea of pragmatism vs. idealism. Today I was reminded of this now-out-of-date article that still had some interesting points to make (while also making dumb points along the way).

What I gleaned from the article is that there can be a good sort of balance these perspectives can bring each other. That balance is achieved in a tension between not completely ignoring the reality of the situation, and not completely capitulating on principles that matter.

It seems to me this thought can be applied more broadly to things outside the realm of software development. Church practice, politics, family life, etc. In most things I tend to find myself farther to the side of the spectrum of “we can’t compromise on principles”. Some people I have relationships with tend to balance my perspective with their “don’t be unrealistic” perspective. There can be some tension in those relationships in the process, but I am finding myself appreciating that more than I used to. The tension can be a good thing.

2020 update

mp3 and plenty of video codecs are dead simple to use on the web these days, and yet most music and video has moved into the walls of services like Spotify and Netflix. Podcasts could just use RSS but tend not to. Most “blogs” are hosted by facebook, twitter, or some other large companies, content on the web has the ability to be more free than it ever has, and yet it is as constrained by companies as much as it ever has been.