Most Popular and Best are not Synonyms

I’ve noticed a peculiar response to the 2012 UK Construction Computing Awards. You know, the awards Graphisoft and ArchiCAD consistently do really well at, winning BIM Product of the Year in both 2011 and 2012. The awards that Revit doesn’t fair as well in. The response I see from one segment of the community is to dismiss the awards (as provincial, alleged, etc.). The argument boils down to “my software is more popular and therefore better. Ergo, this award should be dismissed because it doesn’t confirm my worldview.”

Let’s put aside dissecting whether the award was deserved or legitimate, or which program is better.

That’s not the point.

A Quick Thought Exercise

Where else in our lives do we accept that most popular is a proxy for better? Junior High School? Dating? Sports? Beer? Education? Housing?

Let’s briefly explore housing as an example. By the Revit fanboy logic of my software is better because it is dominant in the US market, then suburban ranches and colonials are superior to architect designed homes because the mass-produced builder homes are omnipresent and more people live in them.

How about something even closer to our particular debate. If Revit’s popularity relates to its value to our profession, then an even more popular program (Autocad or SketchUp) must be even better! Seems like a flawless argument right?

Remember the Alamo iPad

There are examples where best and popular coincide (the iPad, for instance). And just because something isn’t the most popular doesn’t mean it’s secretly the best (just about every non-iPod mp3 player ever…). So don’t conflate this post as some subtle way of saying ArchiCAD is better because it has a smaller market-share. That’s a bullshit statement too. Popularity and market penetration are dependent on way too many other factors than just the actual value of the product. For further reading, check out this article from the Economist about the poor state of beer in South Korea.

So the next time the pissing match starts, remember that popularity doesn’t count for much. Don’t use it as a crutch or as your go-to explanation of worth. Unless you want to base your whole argument on the benefits of peer-pressure.

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