Today I was thinking about the concept of acceptable evil. An acceptable evil is something that is far from being ideal but considering all the alternatives and the context is acceptable. For example, for me Apple is an acceptable evil; note the for me part, for others, they are pure evil or pure perfection.
They do a lot of bad stuff, but given the context, for me, they are an acceptable evil. I’ll explain. I don’t like the way they are covered with secrecy, nor I don’t like that they do so much closed source. And for sure I hate the way they close their products, not just code-wise, but also how they prevent interactions between their products and others. Or the way they take advantage of developers with their 30% fee on the app store. However, given I use a computer mainly for development and a phone mainly for everyday life, they achieve an acceptable balance.
My Mac just works. Since years. Day after day, OS update after OS update it just works. No matter where I go, who I need to interact with, I know I can rely on my computer, it very rarely disappoints me. I open it and it switches on, I close and it switches off, it behaves as expected. Many see a Mac as a luxury item, whereas I see it as a workhorse that can carry on the expected amount of work reliably for months before I must reboot it.
My iPhone is more or less on the other end of the spectrum. I only use it for very regular and plain usage. Making calls, texting, surfing the web, a few apps. What I expect from my phone is that it is always available. I don’t care about fancy features, crazy cameras, or unbelievable customisation, if it comes at the expense of reliability.
Of course, this is my set of requirements and my set of acceptable evilness. Many out there can’t stand a closed source computer and are happy to trade off reliability for openness. I deeply respect that. For them, a Dell running Ubuntu is their acceptable evil (I might be biased, I have used Linux for more than 10 years, both for personal stuff and professional life; my last experience with Linux dates to a few years ago, but at that time the system was far from being as reliable as a Mac. If things have changed, please drop me a line).
And finally, we often must face unacceptable evil. This happens every time a client or an employer forces us to use outdated software, chosen without considering us (the users!) and our needs. When this happens productivity is reduced and happiness goes away. And a sad and unproductive employee is someone who will leave the company, sooner or later.