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The Stubborn Computing Manifesto

Autumn 2022

Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
- Robert Conquest

Stubborn computing is about using computers the way you want to.

Stubborn computing is about being able to pick - and stick to - what you think is the best tool for the job. It's an investment in software over time: As with the carpenter's hammer, the chef's knife or the weaver's loom, it's about subconscious and intrinsic mastery of the tools of one's craft - a deep-seated skill growing along with a never-ending creative process. Ars longa, vita brevis.

Stubborn computing isn't about rejecting what's new; it's about embracing what's good. The stubborn user realizes the benefits of faster hardware, better encryption, higher resolutions, more colours and increased bandwidth, but will practice extreme caution when discerning between change and improvement. Stubborn computing appreciates real improvement, but is wary of unforeseen danger and thus careful to rely too heavily on it initially. Stubbornness builds slowly.

Stubborn computing isn't an ironic fling with a past never experienced, nor is it about sentimental reminiscing. The stubborn user doesn't install a Windows 95 theme because of a superficial whim or in a pointless search of lost time. The stubborn user might do so because their brand of stubbornness is rooted in the Windows 95 workflow, and they will go to great lengths to recreate this workflow in many more aspects than shallow aesthetics.

Likewise, the stubborn user doesn't fire up xterm in a fit of nostalgia. They do so because it's something they've been doing all their life, and because they haven't, so far, found another similar program worthy of replacing it. Stubborn programmers write code in Emacs, vi, Acme or any other editor of choice not because of the thrill in transgressing the mainstream or because it increases their nerd cred. They do so because their way of approaching their craft is helped by a tool that has shaped them as much as they have shaped it.

Stubborn computing is about working - sometimes hard - towards maximizing personal computational enjoyment. The stubborn user may present initiated comments on the current zeitgeist in hard- and software, and offers helpful advice if asked. However, stubborn users do not preach indiscriminately, nor do they dismiss the choices made by other stubborn users.

Instead, they appreciate all like-minded efforts and realize that it isn't blind zealotry, but stubbornness, that unites them - no matter if it's running Plan 9 as a daily driver, going to great lengths to avoid advertising or spending considerable time on fighting a blinking cursor.

Hence, stubborn users value all stubborn software. Between us all and the abyss of despair stands a thin line of stubborn people - some of them vi aficionados - hellbent on stopping Emacs from turning into yet another Atom clone. You can sleep safely at night because stubborn users are out there, watching, ensuring the existence of stubborn software for future generations of stubborn users.

Stubborn computing recognizes the importance of lowest common denominators. Stubborn developers often keep their web pages stubbornly simple, stick to open standards and protocols and prefer digital communication to stay as close to plain text as possible. Stubbornness can only thrive if stubborn propaganda is easily accessible.

To a layperson, stubborn computing may seem like trite, luddite contrarianism, but the stubborn user knows better. For in the end, stubbornness is about the freedom of choice. It's about the increasingly elusive idea that good tools make for happier, more efficient and thus more productive computing.

Productive to whom, you ask?

Why, stubborn computer users, of course.