If you mention the words “good enough” to someone in the tech geek community, you will usually get a condescending look and fervent defense of the reasons that concept should always be shunned. The community usually takes the stance that one should always try to find the “best” product out there, not one that is just “good enough.” You can see this in sites such as The Wirecutter or The Sweet Setup, whose entire purpose is to find the greatest products in specific categories. This is a good thing most of the time, because far too many people blindly accept things that are “good enough,” without realizing there are far better options out there. However, sometimes “good enough” isn’t the mortal sin that geeks make it out to be.
I’m reminded of a debate between Marco Arment and John Siracusa on the Neutral podcast. On one side, Marco would advocate buying BMWs because they were superior cars that made him feel more alive when he was driving. On the other side, Siracusa was perfectly happy buying Honda Accords, because they were fairly inexpensive, safe, and reliable.1 Siracusa realized he was making a compromise in buying the Accord and that he would probably enjoy driving more with a much more expensive car. But he found the Accord was “good enough” for his purposes and the trade-offs did not outweigh the advantages of getting the more expensive car.
To me, this exemplifies why “good enough” is not always a bad thing. Everyone’s life can be separated into various categories, and each person must determine how much time and money they put into each of these categories. You may think that Dom Pérignon is the greatest Champagne available, but do you really want to spend hundreds of dollars on it when you could easily buy a $12 bottle of Champagne that is “good enough?” The same can be said with technology, as a person might realize the $1,000 MacBook Air is the superior product, but simply don’t care enough about computers to spend that money and are fine with the $300 Dell that lets them check their email and Facebook.
I think geeks sometimes get too caught up in our little niches that we cast unfounded judgment on people that make these compromises, even though we make these compromises ourselves. How many geeks out there will insist on the top of the line Mac Pro, yet go outside wearing an old t-shirt and cheap pair of sneakers? To someone into fashion, wearing cheap clothes might seem just as wrong as buying a $200 generic tablet seems to an Apple geek. Each person has their own categories, which are different from everyone else’s. We can’t be perfect in everything we buy and have to make choices, which means sometimes going with the “good enough” version instead of using up untold time and money to find the superior product.
Therefore, I’d advocate geeks let up a little when confronted with a person that is making a compromise. Of course, make a case for why you think there is a better product out there for this person, but also realize the circumstances of this person’s life. If they have very little interest in technology, maybe it’s not a sin that they are still using a 5 year old netbook and a Blackberry phone. They are most likely focused on other things in their life, things of little interest to most geeks. For them, the “good enough” version is simply “good enough.”
1. The third co-host, Casey Liss, seemed to have only one criteria in buying a car, whether it was white or not.↩