How many ways can you get Android wrong in one article?

One of my regulars pointed me at Is Android Evil?, an article by one Andreas Constantinou which purports to be a brave and hardhitting contrarian take on Android.

I read this, and I’m asking myself “Wow. How many different ways can one guy be wrong in the same article?” Particularly entertaining, and the main reason I’m bothering to rebut this nonsense, is the part where Mr. Brave Contrarian Guy claims that the success of Android has nothing to do with open source and then lists three “key factors” of its success in every one of which open source is critically involved.

“With the unprecedented success of the iPhone and the take-it-or-leave-it terms dictated by Apple to network operators, the carriers have been eagerly looking for cheaper alternatives…” Damn straight they have been. And two of the key advantages of an open-source cellphone stack are: (1) avoiding per-unit licensing costs, and (2) you get to leverage the fact that somebody else spends most of the NRE. One wonders how Brave Contrarian guy thinks these could ever be duplicated by a closed-source OS.

“Android provides the allure of a unified software platform supporting operator differentiation at a low cost (3 months instead of 12+…)” Yes, it does. It’s not like there’s any secret about open source cutting time-to-market; embedded-systems vendors for things that aren’t cellphones have been relying on this as a key part of their business strategies for years now. One wonders to what else Mr. Brave Contrarian Guy wants us to attribute this time-to-market advantage in the cellphone case. Are we supposed to think it was left under the telecomms operators’ pillows by the Tooth Fairy?

His third point is mostly repetition. “In other words, in an Android handset, most of the OEM budget goes into differentiation; compare that to Symbian where most of the OEM budget goes into baseporting.” Well, duh. This is somebody-else-paid-most-of-the-NRE again. Mr. Utterly Oblivious Contrarian somehow fails to notice the central reason that investment could be spread across multiple stakeholders in the first place. You don’t get competitors covering each others’ engineering costs unless everybody rationally expects to get more out of the pool than they put in, and that’s exactly the promise open-source development both makes and delivers on.

Mr. Brave Contrarian Guy then proceeds to list eight control points that he claims make Android “closed” even though the SDK is open. All of these miss the central constraint on Google, which is that if participation in Android doesn’t return more value to its development partners than they’re investing they can fork the codebase. His failure to grapple with the implications of this is even funnier since he notices that China Mobile is actually doing it.

You have to think game theory about the second-order, third-order, and nth-order effects of irrevocable strategic commitment to really get what’s going on here, something Mr. Brave Contrarian Guy seems unwilling or unable to do. Everybody knows that one of the constraints of the open-source game is that overcontrol leads to forking; because it’s so, Google’s business partners can form justified expectations about its behavior that enable them to make billion-dollar bets with much more confidence in the stability of Google’s behavior than they could have otherwise. These expectations, in turn, create future value for Google in ways I’ve previously described…and so on, out through several more layers of strategic minimaxing by both Google and its partners. The bottom line is that these selfish agents can form a stable cooperative equilibrium that wouldn’t be stable without the open-source commitment.

Against this background: Wow. So Google has process, partnership-agreement, and trademark constraints that push against any attempt to fragment the platform. How shocking! How unexpected! How courageous Andreas Constantinou is to write about them! I’d say the real question here is how anybody this dim manages to operate a keyboard, except I don’t actually think Constantinou is as stupid as he appears. What he’s done here is adopt the rhetorical posture of Mr. Brave Contrarian as a way of sexing up a business-case analysis that would otherwise rather boring and obvious. Well, except for the part he doesn’t get: those control points create value for the Android OEMs, too by stabilizing the cooperative game that all parties are playing.

His failure to get that would be OK, because the factual material about specific Google control points isn’t completely useless even without the insight that they’re game stabilizers, if Constantinou hadn’t felt he needed to set up his rhetorical ploy with a quite idiotic series of claims about open source being irrelevant. But Google knows better and so do its partners — and if they somehow managed to forget that, the China Mobile fork would be there to remind them.

97 thoughts on “How many ways can you get Android wrong in one article?

  1. MBCG refers to an “anti-fragmentation agreement” as somehow “closed”, but that link refers to it thus:

    Alliance members have signed an anti-fragmentation agreement, they will contribute back GPL like. This is not binding and doesn’t cover applications.

    So the “anti-fragmentation” is the fact that it’s Open Source!

  2. The bottom line is that these selfish agents can form a stable cooperative equilibrium that wouldn’t be stable without the open-source commitment.

    Well, wait; weren’t you arguing in previous posts that open-source is a (the?) stable equilibrium without need for formal or enforceable commitment? Or is it that the commitment is either a product of the equilibrium, or a catalyst that Google introduced to bring this favorable situation about faster?

  3. I thought it was a quite good post, because he laid out some information on the process that Google’s using for Android that I haven’t seen elsewhere. He points out that it isn’t a completely open source process, because various components are closed and there are contractual requirements in place on top of the Apache-licensed code, then goes on to overstate the importance of those constraints. One big argument for Android that cannot be ignored is that Google is basically giving away a mobile OS for free, open source or not, so that they can control the future of how their services will be accessed. Open source proponents then want to pin Android’s success on it being open source, when the fact is that any free closed-source OS with Google’s resources behind it would have been as successful, particularly given how much Google is controlling the open-source Android anyway and if what he says about Android not accepting outside patches much is true.

  4. Do any of the points raised in the article (particulary #4) threaten, in the short term, your smartphones disrupting PC’s idea. Doesn’t this make it hard for current linux distributions to easily work on smartphones, since the difference between stock and android kernels are so extensive.

    ESR says: Go look at Cyanogen. It proves that the gap you’re worried about is not unbridgeable.

  5. @Ajay-

    Open source proponents then want to pin Android’s success on it being open source, when the fact is that any free closed-source OS with Google’s resources behind it would have been as successful, particularly given how much Google is controlling the open-source Android anyway and if what he says about Android not accepting outside patches much is true.

    I’m not sure that Google not accepting many outside patches is all that relevant. Linus has a small pool of contributors that he relies on and so forth. If I submitted a kernel patch, I wouldn’t expect it to be accepted. Android is new enough that Google’s “protection” of the code base, as it were, is probably justified so that it doesn’t fork too crazily and cause it to implode on itself. I think a better time to pass judgment on patch submission would be in another year or so. after more “eyes” have a chance to investigate it.

    Also, if Google truly does employ the cream of the crop where coders are concerned (notwithstanding individual standouts- who likely have their own projects to worry about), it’s doesn’t seem all that sinister that the majority of accepted patches come from in house. Give the broth a little time to settle…

    I’m also disinclined to agree that Google would have been just as successful with a closed-source version of Android given away for free. Surely they considered such a model and, obviously, they rejected it. I suspect “trust” being an issue here, perhaps perceptions about “don’t be evil” as well.

  6. >Well, wait; weren’t you arguing in previous posts that open-source is a (the?) stable equilibrium without need for formal or enforceable commitment? Or is it that the commitment is either a product of the equilibrium, or a catalyst that Google introduced to bring this favorable situation about faster?

    Good question, and reveals that I should have been more precise about what I meant by “open-source commitment”. Google’s initial move – throwing open an open-source cellphone OS that doesn’t suck – implies a stable cooperative equilibrium all by itself, in exactly the same way every other open-source project does. Google offers sweeteners, like access to the Android Market, but none of these affect the fundamental logic of the situation, they just make the payoff gradients more obvious.

  7. Some excellent points ESR..

    My question is how they compare contrast with two other ‘open source mobile’ processes..namely Symbian OpenSource and LiMO?

    Reason patches are in-house.. it takes some time to master a particular api area in the Android OS..often company sponsored individuals have better resources to face that challenge..

    However, that still does not stop individuals finding bugs and correcting them..my first bug fixes showed up in Android SDk 1.6..:)_

  8. >My question is how they compare contrast with two other ‘open source mobile’ processes..namely Symbian OpenSource and LiMO?

    I don’t know yet. I don’t understand those projects well enough.

  9. An interesting article (for varying values of ‘interesting’) was posted on reddit today. It’s a long read, but the author basically argues that most FLOSS/open-standards advocacy is self-serving, and “walled-gardens” are actually friendliest to both users/customers and third-party developers,

    ESR says: I have left a comment there.

  10. > ESR says: I have left a comment there.

    Eric,

    Regarding your comment that opens with “You are a fool”.

    Is there anything you can teach us about when it is and is not appropriate to insult people in public? Or were you simply being cranky?

    As a fellow cranky programmer, one of the hardest lessons I ever learned was “never let rude words escape your head”. Insults float around out there forever, predispose the target to not consider your argument with an open mind, and for the audience almost always reflect more negatively on the speaker than on the intended target.

    But I’m willing to listen to any alternative theories of persuasion you would like to present.

    =Shawn Yarbrough

  11. >Is there anything you can teach us about when it is and is not appropriate to insult people in public? Or were you simply being cranky?

    Whoever that guy is, I judge he’s a hopeless idiot. Reasoned argument would, accordingly, be wasted on him; my response was aimed at his readers.

    If I respected him more, I’d have left a much longer, more detailed, and more temperate response. As it is, the best, I think I can hope for is that people who read that incoherent screed will also read my comment and get the clue that he’s ranting about a phenomenon he completely fails to grok.

  12. guest,

    That’s a Linux-Hater-worthy article which hits upon some of the pain points of the open-source movement while being deeply flawed in other areas. For example, something like three-quarters of code in the Linux kernel is written by employees of large corporations who are paid for their kernel work. This puts the lie to the notion that Linux still represents the efforts of a hippie commune operating from a spirit of pure altruism and warm and fuzzy cooperation. From the beginning, Linux is the product of very selfish motives; Linus himself wanted a robust OS kernel to study and tinker with, but didn’t want to do the “crap work” of e.g., maintaining drivers to handle the peculiar interfaces of really shitty PC hardware, so he crowdsourced the crap work to the internet. Likewise, IBM, HP, et al. do not want the crap work of maintaining and supporting a commodity datacenter OS, so they crowdsource it to the rest of the Linux community, the other people and companies who have a stake in the development of Linux, focusing only on those parts peculiar to their products or business needs.

    I’ve become known for loudly and stridently disagreeing with ESR on a variety of topics, but this is what he gets right; matter of fact, it’s his Big Idea. The thing which will keep people dropping references to CatB for perhaps decades to come.

    Secondly, the App Store is pretty much a walled-garden remix of the true innovation that is apt-get. Back when I was an open-source-uber-alles fanboi, apt-get was one of the things that I trumpeted as being the death knell for Microsoft: a one-stop shop for the latest versions and security updates for your OS, apps, and libraries. Software repositories with automatic, virtually transparent dependency resolution are perhaps open source’s biggest contribution to software engineering since the Web itself. Small wonder that these systems should be copied in watered-down form to proprietary OS’s. So the App Store doesn’t represent an advancement over what OSS provides so much as a user-friendly, paywalled skin over systems innovations that OSS itself generated.

    But the pain points in OSS development are still there; for one thing, the lack of interest in mundane maintenance, and in timely addressing issues of critical importance to end users, that’s endemic in many OSS projects. Even with a whole internet’s worth of hackers, there will be holes that need filling, and you can’t rely on altruism — not even the selfish Linus kind — to fill them. You have to incentivize the process somehow. The best way so far to do that is to charge for the software product itself and pay the developers for working on it; but alternatives compatible with OSS have emerged. The AROS community, quite unlike the Linux community, have evolved a functioning bounty economy in which users interested in a certain feature (say, USB support) put their money where their mouth is, offering substantial payment to the first developer who implements it. (Amiga users are quite accustomed to paying a premium for superior performance and functionality.) This results in rapid development of things which are essential to real-world users. If someone put bounties up for them, maybe it wouldn’t be such a pain in the ass to get freakin’ sound or WiFi to work under Linux…

  13. esr Says:
    > If I respected him more

    I wonder if modern political correctness has robbed us of an important dimension of human society: the open license to verbally “smackdown” those who are leading others astray.

    On the other hand, harsh judgement for someone I assume you’ve never met. Was anything in his article rude? I only skimmed due to the length. He may have been an honest and intelligent but misguided person who would have listened to your actual arguments. After your comment, that is far less likely.

    Tough call. I try to err on the side of good, not evil, but maybe your judgement of character across the internet works better than mine.

  14. >Was anything in his article rude?

    I considered his contention that open-source advocates pine for communism not merely casual rudeness, but a deadly insult amounting to fighting words.

  15. Just because you hold yourself to be libertarian (or even an anarcho-capitalist) doesn’t mean someone has insulted you (as an individual) when someone paints the non-aligned movement in which you participate (perhaps ‘founded’ or, more correctly, ‘assisted in founding’) with a broad brush.

    Seriously the guy said,

    They want communism to win because they think it’s more moral and “a better world” even though time and again, history has shown that it is death. They want capitalism to be temporary or tempered — because otherwise it isn’t “better”. Yet time again, capitalism — the business model that seeks a profit and that uses proprietary software — wins. It wins in the real free place of real openness — the market.

    Taken out of context, someone could claim that you could have written that about the FSF, and it would be quite believable.

  16. >Sword p0rn (SFW, unless you’re a dead pig)

    I’ve handled that sword – I mean, that particular Cold Steel model. I haven’t cut with it, but I’m pretty sure those those videos ain’t lyin’.

    My swordmaster has told me he spotted me as a likely greatsword player before I even started training with him, and I believe him – with what I’ve learned since, I know I have a combination of physical build and combat style that’s well-enough suited to the weapon to make it pretty obvious. I regret that I haven’t been able to train with it more. Said swordmaster encourages me to work forms and sparring with it under supervision and avers that the only reason he hasn’t already certified me for combat is that he’s concerned I might overpower the weapon while adrenalized. And I respect that concern – the greatsword is unlike our other training weapons in that an overpowered strike with it could easily inflict enough blunt trauma to kill.

  17. >(as an individual)

    Why do you suppose I must feel insulted as an individual to be offended by his poisonous bilge? Let’s transpose this into a key you might understand: in my eyes, he did the equivalent of accusing my friends and peers of being a bunch of Nazi racists. Whether the insult was aimed directly at me or not is nearly besides the point.

  18. and back on-subject, a different POV: http://qntm.org/code

    the HN comment here is interesting, too:

    The author has inadvertantly stumbled upon a part of hacker culture with wide-ranging implications, that is almost never discussed—and that is that people expect that you publish code because you want it to be changed, and not simply read. This stems from a deeply-rooted tradition in programming of not reading a codebase until you have a problem with it that you must fix. People don’t “read for pleasure” in the programming world; they don’t even read To learn—have you ever had a school assignment that charged you with reading more than 1KSLOC?

    [...]

    Which, I think, is a part of the Hacker culture that many (including esr) come from, but not me.

    Rather, I used to read the Lion’s book and large bits of the 4.x UCB Unix sources (writ large on the line printers of the day) over breakfast in the morning.

  19. et’s transpose this into a key you might understand: in my eyes, he did the equivalent of accusing my friends and peers of being a bunch of Nazi racists. Whether the insult was aimed directly at me or not is nearly besides the point.

    Well… now that you’ve gone Godwin-mode, the discussion is supposed to end. Your Reductio ad Hitlerum is a falacy, quite literally an ignoratio elenchi.

    He quite clearly called you and your friends Communists, not Nazis. That you equate the two only suggests a lack of intellect, or perhaps a lack of presentation skills. Your swordmaster is asserts that, the only reason he hasn’t already certified me for combat is that he’s concerned I might overpower the weapon while adrenalized.

    And here you have in similar manner, “overpowered” your weapon (literary criticism), perhaps while adrenalized. Your swordmaster won’t allow you to use the broadsword in combat due to your lack of ability to regulate your emotions, behaviour and desires.

    If you can’t see the pattern, then feel free to rage at me.

  20. > a deadly insult amounting to fighting words.

    In a different time, might you have challenged him to a duel? Just curious.

    I perceive you aren’t rude to anyone lightly, and I suspect our culture, as evolved as it may be, has gone too soft. At the same time, I know how easy it is to be too rude.

  21. > you’ve gone Godwin-mode

    Doesn’t seem to me that ESR’s statement was in the spirit of Godwin’s Law. It is possible to make valid comparisons to the Nazi’s. See the linked article. I think this was one of those cases.

  22. > In a different time, might you have challenged him to a duel?

    I think not.

    Dueling was reserved for the gentry (gentlemen). Eric lives off the earnings of his wife.

    Further, if Eric challenged, the other party would obtain both choice of both weapon and position. Knowing Eric’s limitations, I’d choose pitchforks, and make him run uphill.

    Moreover,

    “The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He can not only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.” — Robert E. Lee

  23. >That you equate [Communists and Nazis] only suggests a lack of intellect

    But if I’m wrong to equate them, it’s because the communists were worse and the insult less forgiveable. Count the bodies.

    And the real reason I would be unlikely to challenge such as he to a duel even a society that allowed it is that a rencontre with him probably would be far too much like simple murder. There’s no honor in destroying an opponent far below one’s own skill level; more appropriate to just publicly pistol-whip him after having declared my reasons to the community around us.

  24. The main difference is that the commies had worse uniforms, and that the Nazis were more organized. Paraphrasing Hayek, one type of socialist totalitarian will hate and fight another type, because they both want complete power, but only one of the organizations can have it.

  25. >> you’ve gone Godwin-mode
    >
    > Doesn’t seem to me that ESR’s statement was in the spirit of Godwin’s Law. It is possible to make valid comparisons to the Nazi’s.
    > See the linked article. I think this was one of those cases

    Are you blind? How else could you have missed this part?

    It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.

  26. Eric,

    Did you actually wade through that entire drivel???? I couldn’t make myself do it. His ignorance is absolutely BLINDING.

    I’ve met so rabid anti-FOSS folks (worked with one recently), but this guy should be on a watch list somewhere :^).

  27. > But if I’m wrong to equate them, it’s because the communists were worse and the insult less forgiveable.

    (no ‘e’ in forgivable)

    German communists were among the first victims to be sent to concentration camps. They concerned Hitler due to their ties with the Soviet Union and because the Nazi Party was intractably opposed to communism.

    Approximately 11 million people were killed because of Nazi genocidal policy.

    Depending on how you slice it, Communism has probably killed an order of magnitude more. link

    However, if you’re a student of history, you’ll know that the ‘Christian Church(es)’ have killed at least that many as well.

    So what was your point, again? That you were insulted, so you decided to throw insults back?

  28. Jake,

    speaking from a post-Communist country, the traces of Communist-led bloodshed and tyranny are pretty fresh among
    living people. Moreover, there are apologists and ideologues who actually attack the victims for failing to co-operate with such a great system, which adds insult to injury.

    Crimes of Christian churches are mostly 200+ years old (before modern nationalism), and, as such, buried in the depth of history in a way similar to crimes of ancient Babylonians. I do not think that anyone alive has been really personally hurt by anti-Cathar crusades.

    That makes a huge difference.

    Marian

  29. Prokofy Neva has reason to be as stridently anticommunist as you are, Eric.

    And he is right about one thing: while CatB showed that leftist communitarianism is not a necessary condition for an open-source economy to arise, in the open-source economy we have, leftism predominates; “all the real programmer elite are wobblies”. Vint Cerf is a staunch admirer of George Soros and Al Gore. The structures of the economy and its products will thus reflect that.

  30. Jeff Read> Prokofy Neva has reason to be as stridently anticommunist as you are, Eric.

    The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Even an idiot can have the right idea for the wrong reason and the stupidity here is to say that ESR and RMS are essentially the same animal. Not so much.

  31. @Don and Jeff:

    More to the point, not only are ESR and RMS not the same animal, but as far as the open source economy goes (as in people working for monetary benefit, as opposed to simply for ideals), the predeominate worldview is essentially capitalist, not communist. Vint Cerf may be a staunch admirer of George Soros and Al Gore, but he worked hard to form ICANN and he’s currently a VP at Google. Doesn’t sound like much of a communist to me; neither do Gore or Soros, both of whom are entrepreneurs. (The U.S. political left isn’t communist and hardly even qualifies as socialist.)

  32. > Approximately 11 million people were killed because of Nazi genocidal policy.

    > Depending on how you slice it, Communism has probably killed an order of magnitude more. link

    > However, if you’re a student of history, you’ll know that the ‘Christian Church(es)’ have killed at least that many as well.

    You must be new here, if you expect Eric to consider what you’re implying to be a contradiction.

    Now I come to think of it, what point are you trying to make? That an ideology can be responsible for megadeaths, and still somehow not be evil? What does it take?

    > And the real reason I would be unlikely to challenge such as he to a duel even a society that allowed it is that a rencontre with him probably would be far too much like simple murder. There’s no honor in destroying an opponent far below one’s own skill level; more appropriate to just publicly pistol-whip him after having declared my reasons to the community around us.

    How do you square this with the libertarian maxim that the only licit use of force is to prevent or forestall coercion?

  33. Now I come to think of it, what point are you trying to make? That an ideology can be responsible for megadeaths, and still somehow not be evil? What does it take?

    Well, both major American political partieis have been responsible for megadeaths and they aren’t e…..oh wait, never mind. :)

  34. >How do you square this with the libertarian maxim that the only licit use of force is to prevent or forestall coercion?

    In many societies that have an active code duello, reputation is modeled as a form of extremely valuable intangible property; this is more likely to be the case if judicial means of contract enforcement are unavailable or extremely expensive. Some forms of insult are therefore considered rather like attempts to commit arson against the target’s home.

  35. Morgan: Agreed. Cooperation for mutual gain is a reasonable free market strategy.

  36. > Now I come to think of it, what point are you trying to make? That an ideology can be responsible for megadeaths, and still somehow not be evil? What does it take?

    My point, to re-quote myself:

    “Just because you hold yourself to be libertarian (or even an anarcho-capitalist) doesn’t mean someone has insulted you (as an individual) when someone paints the non-aligned movement in which you participate (perhaps ‘founded’ or, more correctly, ‘assisted in founding’) with a broad brush.”

    It was Eric, not me, who brought the Nazis to this party.

    > “all the real programmer elite are wobblies”

    Pretty much, yup.

  37. > “all the real programmer elite are wobblies”

    Look, I’m sorry LinCity sucks, but we can’t control the ideological sympathies of everyone who contributes to an OSS project. :)

    Seriously, if you are really making this claim, show me a list of, say, the top 1000 contributors to the kernel and documented evidence of their political sympathies.

    My educated guess would be about 60% moderate liberal, 30% libertarian and 10% other, and most of it is because of the demographics that typically attract technologically-oriented persons rather than the inherent politics of the OSS movement. The only difference I’d expect from the state-monopoly software culture is the libertarian segment being replaced by less-principled lemon capitalists.

    Let’s see who is closer.

  38. The share of libertarians among good programmers is really significant. I can’t think of another societal group with similarly significant libertarian subgroup, perhaps economy professors.

    Small businessmen in non-IT areas tend to be rather conservative with libertarian streak. Maybe this comes from frequent contact with people, including some real scum (gangs etc.)

    Academia … no comment :-)

  39. Marian says:

    ‘I can’t think of another societal group with similarly significant libertarian subgroup, perhaps economy professors.’

    Think SF readers.

    KB

  40. Hehe, you’re right, Kurt … it is a coincidence (though not complete coincidence) that these two groups tend to overlap in my social circles.

  41. This is a curious turn to the conversation. I’d never really thought about the distribution of libertarian views among my peers, but now that you mention it, it DOES seem to be a bit common (at least more so than the norm looking back).

    I’m wondering at the cause for this. Here’s the possibilities I can think of:

    1. I think that one of the most common traits among us it is a completely dispassionate desire to “fix” a problem (nothing makes a hacker angrier than when some PHB won’t get out of the damned way when he’s got work to do :^), so perhaps that lends us the willingness to trash traditional Left/Right Republican/Democrat labels and ideals to pursue the “fix”.

    2. Many of us having been “outsiders” while growing up, we don’t really NEED to follow any particular herd.

    3. Since our society (hackers) values accomplishment and intellect above all else, we are … less subverted (?) by wealth and power. That may be a bit of a stretch, but I do find it interesting that I’ve never known anyone who circled among the hacker crowd that was interested in political office (something we should probably change, BTW).

    4. We are a “culture of honor” who judge quickly and decisively based on the displayed honor of others, and we see that there is no honor in any of the existing political parties or the platforms they stand on. This one only comes up, because as a group, MANY Texans (and I think many southerners) fit this description and I see parallels there, however tenuous.

    Does any of these ring true?

  42. >Does any of these ring true?

    Yes, but you missed the most obvious predictor of libertarian convictions: high intelligence.

  43. @esr: Well, yes, but I think that would be obviously implied by Don’s use of the word ‘hacker.’ How many dumb hackers do you know?

    ESR says: But “high intelligence” also predicts (correctly) which *non*-hackers are likeliest to be libertarians. Thus, it’s a stronger theory.

  44. In my more cynical moments, I’d say that the greater predictor of libertarian ideation is *poor social skills*. Or, “Tact? Oh, yeah, the first syllable of ‘tactics’, right?” :)

    I see libertarians and socialists as the ideological fringers; they are a font of enthusiasm, and good ideas – but lousy at implementation. Living in the overlap between college campuses that I do, I periodically encounter young 20-somethings who have drunk deep of the Kool Aid.

    It’s always a fascinating discussion. Both have blind spots and earnest convictions. The main difference is whether they venerate Hayek or Hegel as the source of Received Wisdom from the Tribal Elder.

  45. It’s always a fascinating discussion. Both have blind spots and earnest convictions. The main difference is whether they venerate Hayek or Hegel as the source of Received Wisdom from the Tribal Elder.

    Meh. Not all libertarians (or all socialists) are ideologues, either. Eric, for example, actually has posted several very thoughtful and realistic solutions that could be implemented in the real world. Furthermore, the way he runs open source projects is actually a microcosm of his ideologies. That’s not say he’s without his faults and weaknesses, overall he seems to be a very practical guy.

    Unfortunately, not all libertarians are like esr in that respect, and the younger they are the more ideological they tend to be (but being an ideologue does not necessary imply youth). Then again, you could generalize that statement and apply it to just about any ideology…and the difference, I think, is that our young 20-something Kool-Aid drinking future overlords tend to be what they are: young, 20-something, and Kool-Aid drinking. IOW, they’re naive. That shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone.

  46. >The main difference is whether they venerate Hayek or Hegel as the source of Received Wisdom from the Tribal Elder.

    I know that you know better than this and are just being snarky for effect, but I will point out that even on this level the situation is not symmetrical. Taking Hayek seriously and applying his thought results in The Cathedral and the Bazaar; taking Hegel seriously and applying his thought results in the most horrifying run of deliberate mass murders and genocides in human history.

  47. yeah good rule of thumb everybody….

    Steer clear of the German philosophers. Just…. don’t go there.

    I admire Hayek and Adam smith myself, and their latter day exponents.

  48. ESR:

    Actually, the fourth option would exclude high intelligence (although it might allow for an intolerance to ignorance and stupidity :^). That one is more of a survival technique. Independence is largely a way of life for most southerners and that mind set precludes the whole nanny-state thing.

    From my experience, the fourth item has more to do with the rural life style. I’ve always attributed it to the fact that if you grow up on a farm (or in a farming community) certain basic bits of knowledge about how life actually works become apparent and “city folk” are more or less insulated from those bits of knowledge and experience.

    For instance, how many people on this list that grew up in an urban setting have sent cattle they raised off to slaughter and then eaten that meat. This kinda sort of thing puts life (and your place in it) into perspective in a way that the Boy Scouts and Burger King really doesn’t.

    I think the best predictor is a strong belief in self reliance in other parts of your life. If you’re the type of person who believes that you better be able to do for yourself at least where your basics of life are concerned, then the whole idea of cradle to grave government control of your life is going to be anathema.

    Hackers have that independence because we tend to fall outside the norms of our social peers and as such have to fend for ourselves a lot growing up. “Rednecks” have it because … well we’re rednecks ;^). Many military personnel and law enforcement personnel have it. Pure and simple, it’s about survival, and those who can do for themselves quickly realize that what the government does, even when it is really trying to help, is more destructive than helpful.

    As always, YMMV.

  49. The percentage of anarcho-capitalists in the #Mises channel on freenode who are involved in some way with computers and technology are truly staggering.

    People still did not connect F. A. Hayek with The Cathederal and the Bazaar until I told them so, or at least that was not my impression.

    Anarcho-capitalism is probably the natural path of political evolution for hackers.

  50. > The percentage of anarcho-capitalists in the #Mises channel on freenode who are involved in some way with computers and technology are truly staggering.

    I should probably point out that freenode is basically run by the OSS community, so this really isn’t that surprising.

  51. > I should probably point out that freenode is basically run by the OSS community, so this really isn’t that surprising.

    The reason that #Mises channel is large as it is because mises.org, a libertarian think-tank that really doesn’t have tech as its focus, made it their “official IRC channel” by providing a web irc client that connect to it. Before that, there are only a few people who frequent it.

    It is only a coincidence that many of them just happens to be hackers.

  52. I should probably point out that freenode is basically run by the OSS community, so this really isn’t that surprising.

    ‘Basically’ is an understatement. It was essentially started by the OSS community, or at least one prominent member (the late lilo).

  53. Eric, while I was indeed being snarky…

    The message there was that idealogues, as a rule, tend not to think about what they’ve absorbed, but parrot it and use it as an epistemological bludgeon. Again, fun conversations, but largely of the variety of ‘I have an ideological hammer, all problems are nails that can be hit by it.’

    I have found that the number of ‘former libertarians’ and ‘former socialists’ increases as median age in the demographic curve rises.

    Imagine, for the sake of argument, that you’re trying to win seats in the Greek parliament on a Libertarian/Hayekian platform.

    What do you tell your voters? Particularly in light of what ‘so called’ free marketeers have done (and are continuing to do) on Wall Street.

  54. >What do you tell your voters? Particularly in light of what ’so called’ free marketeers have done (and are continuing to do) on Wall Street.

    I tell them their system was constructed on false premises and is doomed. Which is the truth. Whether or not it gets me elected is besides the point, because the whole apparatus of the Bismarckian/socialist state is coming crashing down around their ears, doomed by demographics and the logic of the Olsonian interest-group scramble. That story is unfolding in California, too, and you know very well how hard it’s going to hit the Feds before the end of 2013.

  55. WRT an earlier post: I stated that I worked with one rabid anti-OSS guy at my current job. He left the company earlier this week.

    I win! ;^)

    Sorry couldn’t resist :^).

  56. Ken: I’d say this: A “free market” is one in which consumers are prevented from effectively regulating the sellers. The only way a free market can come about is by government colluding with business to inhibit consumer regulation of markets. For consumers to be able to regulate markets, governments must cease regulating markets. Government regulation of markets inevitably ends up being run by people who understand the market … because they used to, or will, work for one of the regulated companies. And that is a situation in which corruption inevitably rules the day.

    It shouldn’t be a surprise that consumer regulation of markets generates the best deal for consumers.

  57. Morgan, Gore is a political entrepreneur. He uses politics to create a market for his business. Calling him “lowlife scum” insults lowlife scum.

  58. “I think the best predictor is a strong belief in self reliance in other parts of your life.”

    In modern/urban/suburban environments the most important type of self-reliance is intellectual self-reliance (or autodidactism), which requires a threshold IQ in the low to mid 120s. It’s not surprising that, as Eric said, “conviction” libertarians (which to me implies sufficient intellectual processing) form a small minority of the population.

    If one wants more libertarians, I suppose one should do the counterintuitive and agitate for as much nootropic/IQ genetic engineering government funded research as possible. ;)

  59. >Jeff Read: Vint Cerf is part of the “programmer elite”? Oh, do please point to some code he’s written.

    You fail this one, Russ. Vint Cerf was one of the principal designers of ARPANET. However, there’s also no evidence in the bios I can find that he’s a Wobbly, or anything like one.

  60. Bringing the subject back to cellphones…
    I’m currently managing 3 projects that create applications for cellphones. One uses a browser and is fairly straight forward to bring up on Android and the iPhone. It routes around the closedness of the iPhone.
    A second one uses uses a digital pen that links to the phone by Bluetooth. It will work nicely on most Java ME (ME = Mobile Edition) and Android phones, using built in standard libraries to talk to the pen.. The iPhone speaks Bluetooth, but not to smart devices that in some way might jeopardize Apple’s total control over the phone. I’m told we can never expect the pen and the iPhone to integrate.
    The third project builds an app on the phone using Java ME. This exposes a number of issues where the developers of Java ME and the people porting it to the phone have shot themsleves in the foot.

    – There is no standard way to ask the phone which subscriber ID it currently has. Each vendor has its own way.
    – There is a standard API for generating icons and software generated menus and buttons. These will look radically different on differet phones. So different that everyone rolls their own GUI, managing the pixmap themselves.
    – When you put functionality on the standard default buttons (the ones that have the green and red phone symbols for instance), the functionality shows up in different places, even on phones from the same manufacturer.
    – When accessing the file system or other resources on the phone the application must be signed with a certificate in order for the user not to have to OK each access. Unfortunately there is no root certificate scheme. You have to have a certificate signed by the phone manufacturer and one signed by the telco for things to operate properly. Needless to say, these are quite expensive.

    This means that there is one sane development platform for mobile applications, and that is Android. Google needs to enforce openness and interoperability for it not to end up a mess like Java ME.

    (I’m aware that Java ME is not an OS, but it is the component that provides the standard libraries for applications on Symbian and some other OSes. Android comes with most libraries as part of the platform.)

  61. Russ,

    in addition to ARPAnet, Vince was the primary designer of TCP, and one of the main designers of IP(v4).

    He also has a M.S. and PhD in CS, as well as several honorary PhDs.

    and he even taught CS for a while.

    So, as Eric said, you lose this one.

  62. @Russ> Morgan, Gore is a political entrepreneur. He uses politics to create a market for his business. Calling him “lowlife scum” insults lowlife scum.

    He’s a former Senator and VP. Have some respect.

  63. The statement about wobblies was originally made by Craig Brozefsky; in full:

    When your [sic] done, remember, libertarians are people who think they sprung from their own asshole, the free market is a plot to exploit your sorry ass, and all the real elite programmers are wobblies.

    In short, it probably was an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it rings true in that the bulk of hackerdom these days tends to support progressive causes; hackers too were affected by the Bush years. Libertarianism seemed more common during my mid-nineties larval period.

  64. Al Gore uses pseudoreligion to create a market for his business. In that sense he’s closer to Deepak Chopra than M$.

  65. >how hard it’s going to hit the Feds before the end of 2013.

    I have been reading the “economic collapse” literature since I stumbled on Casey’s “Crisis Investing” in the early 1980s. They have really good arguments, and the collapses they predict never happen. In the late-90s, after reading “Crisis Investing for the Rest of the 1990s”, I sat down and tried to figure out why they were all so consistently wrong.

    The conclusion I reached was that humans are fundamentally more flexible and more adaptable than their arguments allowed for, and society managed to work-around all the regulations and other problems the government and big businesses keep creating. Since the regulations and rules keep growing and creating more problems and rigidity along the way, eventually there will be a collapse, but anyone that gives any kind of timing for it is grabbing at the short end of the stick.

  66. I do think that this current round of problems will likely be the one that breaks the current social/government paradigm – I just think the timing is unpredictable and will likely drag-on longer than most observers expect. As to why it is worse than most previous recessions, I wrote this a few months ago on Megan McArdle’s blog:

    Unfortunately, “just avoiding making things worse” seems to be more than most people can do any more.

    You can see the same kinds of problems with people being unable to do basic home repair, like fixing a faucet or a porch railing. I remember in the late 1970s there were a lot of people doing their own remodeling and stuff, partially because of the sucky economy at the time.

    If the economy doesn’t really start to improve, we could be looking at a situation worse than the Great Depression, even if none of the financial indicators get as bad, simply because people are much more dependent on buying services through the economy and less able to do for themselves than any previous “hard times”.

  67. Quaker Shaquer> He’s a former Senator and VP. Have some respect.

    Wrong. Any respect that Gore deserved for the offices he held have long since been buried in the bull shit he’s been peddling, especially in the last decade.
    He is the worst kind of human being, willing to destroy the work of (m|b)illions to line his own pockets, using lies and deceit to propagate a political and social agenda that advantages himself and a few of his wealth friends while bankrupting the rest of us.
    If he is allowed to succeed, it’ll be like living during the dark ages again (literally I think, as we won’t be able to afford turn on the lights).
    Russel is absolutely right.

  68. > Quaker Shaquer> He’s a former Senator and VP. Have some respect.

    > Wrong. Any respect that Gore deserved for the offices he held have long since been buried in the bull shit he’s been peddling, especially in the last decade.

    I have no major opinion about Gore, other than he can be pretty funny at times. But, the thought that anyone in government should be given explicit respect is just silly. They should be considered guilty until proven otherwise. Anything less and you’ll find a fine dagger in your back eventually.

  69. Android is looking less… stable. (ahem)

    Google has removed any and all reference to the Sprint/CDMA variant of the Google Nexus One from its Nexus One web site. Sprint spokesperson Michelle Leff said via email, “We are not bringing in Nexus One as EVO 4G is more robust in 3G markets and amazing in the growing number of 4G areas.”

    Google had originally hoped to sell variations of the Nexus One to all four major U.S. carriers. Verizon Wireless also decided it would pass on offering the device, having replaced it with the more powerful HTC Droid Incredible. The Nexus One is still available for customers of T-Mobile and AT&T.

    https://www.google.com/phone/choose?hl=en&gl=US&s7e=

    http://www.tgdaily.com/mobility-brief/49698-sprint-on-nexus-one-no-thanks

  70. Android is outselling Apple

    Android blew past the iPhone in 1Q2010 and is now beating it in unit share, 28% to 21%. Blackberry’s still in the lead at 36%. Windows Mobile is sinking. Palm OS and others are noise.

    But Android’s share is still rising. From the graph, it looks to me like Android is in the process of hammering the crap out of Blackberry and has made significant gains against the iPhone. On present trends it will knock Blackberry off the top of the heap in a quarter or so but have a longer fight with the iPhone, which will bleed market share gradually until and unless Apple pulls something radical.

    I predict serious embarrassment for Apple fanboys…

  71. >Also, developers go where the money is… where is the money in Android?

    You’re failing to ask several relevant questions. But I’ll pose one as an example of all of them: What if developers don’t matter on this device? Maybe what consumers are trying to buy right now is not, in fact, an app platform but a, you know, superior phone.

    This is not a thought I particularly like, mind you, being a potential developer myself. But it has to be faced.

  72. You’re failing to ask several relevant questions. But I’ll pose one as an example of all of them: What if developers don’t matter on this device? Maybe what consumers are trying to buy right now is not, in fact, an app platform but a, you know, superior phone.

    Eric… have you used an iPhone for any length of time?

  73. >Eric… have you used an iPhone for any length of time?

    You can go on fetishizing Apple’s supposed superiority at UI all you like, but the unit-share numbers are telling us that flush is busted. I am now, officially, pointing and laughing.

  74. jake, I don’t understand your question about the money in Android: are you saying that people won’t pay for apps on Android? It is probably true that it is easier to bleed cash from the kind of price-insensitive wannabes who buy iPhones, but I see no indication that Android apps won’t make money. In fact, if Android comes to dominate mobile like Windows dominates the desktop, it won’t much matter if a typical iPhone app buyer pays double what an average Android app buyer pays if there are 10 times as many Android handsets and buyers out there. That is why Windows apps dominate on the desktop and why many tech companies want to reach the same level of ubiquity.

  75. > You can go on fetishizing Apple’s supposed superiority at UI all you like, but the unit-share numbers are telling us that flush is busted. I am now, officially, pointing and laughing.

    iPhone refresh coming up in 4…3…2…

  76. > This is not a thought I particularly like, mind you, being a potential developer myself.

    the image of esr hacking away in Java is the best thing ever produced on this blog.

  77. “…the image of esr hacking away in Java is the best thing ever produced on this blog…”

    Since your MO is often trollish, I presume this is intended to be a snide jab at our host. I just don’t get it.

    ?

  78. You can go on fetishizing Apple’s supposed superiority at UI all you like, but the unit-share numbers are telling us that flush is busted. I am now, officially, pointing and laughing.

    All this means is that Android is poised to occupy the same position in the smartphone space that Windows occupies in the PC space. Which is pretty much the scenario I predicted: Apple would hold on to the high end with Android occupying the middle and low ends of the smartphone market. Although Apple would love to dominate this space, they care more about selling the best to those who demand the best.

  79. > I just don’t get it.

    Eric doesn’t like Java.

    ESR says: Better Java than C++

  80. I always enjoy observing the kids have their programming language pee-pee contests ;)

    They’re sooo 1337

    Boring old farts like me are just content to use the best tool for the job.

  81. > Boring old farts like me are just content to use the best tool for the job.

    Me too, but C, Java and now C# seem like the best tools for most of what I would use C++ for.

    I’m sure there are cases – particularly where C++ has the best domain specific libraries – where C++ is best.

    Of course my knowledge of C++ is also old. If standard C++ now has a good garbage collected memory management – particularly if it frees malloced pointers which are now garbage, than C++ is much better than I remember.

    Yours,
    Tom

  82. No GC in ‘standard’ C++….not that I lament this. GC is wonderful when taken advantage of by people that understand why it is so wonderful…a demonic cancer otherwise ;)

    I use C/C++ about evenly, along with Java, C#, Ada and Python, as my core languages….but I see the good in many languages whenever the need arises :)

    So much silliness is revealed when people start blathering about “better” – it says much about their level of understanding of what these languages actually are.

    Is it a Stroustrup quote – “there are two types of languages: the ones people bitch about, and the ones nobody uses” – always makes me smile ;)

  83. > GC is wonderful when taken advantage of by people that understand why it is so wonderful…a demonic cancer otherwise ;)

    … and then …

    > So much silliness is revealed when people start blathering about “better” – it says much about their level of understanding of what these languages actually are.

    Your comment refutes itself. Blathering about “demonic cancer” is logically equivalent to blathering about “better”.

    Actually, GC is wonderful when taken advantage of by anyone. This is called a useful abstraction. I don’t manage the blocks on the disk by hand, either. I just write to files. There are advantages to understanding both GC and how a file is laid out on disk – but for most application level programmers neither is particularly helpful most of the time.

    Yours,
    Tom

  84. >Actually, GC is wonderful when taken advantage of by anyone.

    I agree, with a limited exception for hard realtime and OS kernels.

  85. “…Your comment refutes itself. Blathering about “demonic cancer” is logically equivalent to blathering about “better”….”

    Oh no no no…I could tell you horror stories about Java code written by people that didn’t understand its GC mechanism. Their code truly was cancerous. And demonic.

    I love GC, and I understand it, and I take advantage of it with care.

    I appreciate that it is a “useful abstraction” but like the ease with which (say, in Java) threading is made available to programmers, a lack of understanding about what is actually going on can result in dreadful code.

    Hence my “demonic cancer” quip – no logical equivalence to “better” at all.

  86. “I agree, with a limited exception for hard realtime and OS kernels.”

    I have experienced other situations where GC is problematic too – again, understanding what it is you are coding, and the implications of GC within that architecture, can reveal much.

  87. “The problem is really the ’style’ of GC in-play, not the context in which it is deployed.”

    Sure. The manner in which GC is implemented is critical. However, given the kind of GC we have to deal with in common languages, ‘context’ (or how it is being used) is of paramount significance.

    Thanks for the good read btw :)

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