You shall judge by the code alone

I support the open letter by Drupal developers protesting the attempted expulsion of Larry Garfield from the Drupal commmunity.

As a Drupal contributor who has never in any respect attempted to tie the project to his beliefs or lifestyle, Garfield deserves the right to be judged by his code alone. That is the hacker way; competence is all that matters, and no irrelevance like skin color or shape of genitals or political beliefs or odd lifestyle preference should be allowed to matter.

That I even need to say this in 2017 is something of a disgrace. The hacker culture already had judge-by-the-code-alone figured out forty years ago when I was a n00b; the only reason it needs to be said now is that there’s been a recent fashion for “social justice” witch hunting which, inevitably, has degenerated into the sort of utter fiasco the Drupal devs are now protesting.

Thomas Paine said it best: “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

It doesn’t matter how much you dislike Larry Garfield’s personal kinks. If you don’t defend him now, you may have nobody to defend you when some self-declared commissar of political and sexual correctness – or just a censorious project lead like Dries Buytaert – decides that you should be declared an unperson.

You shall judge by the code alone. That is the only social equilibrium that doesn’t degenerate into an ugly bitchfest with expulsions controlled by whatever happens to be politically on top this week. It was the right community norm forty years ago, and remains so today.

154 thoughts on “You shall judge by the code alone

  1. >Larry was not himself content to judge on code alone when he helped lead the charge to eject me from a group I helped to found.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    And, in any case, being expelled for disruptive assholery within a group (which is what Larry clearly thought he was doing, whether or not he was justified) is not the same as being expelled because Larry didn’t like your sex life or your politics or whatever.

  2. >Expelling someone for disruptive behavior in a group is not judging by the code alone– perhaps you should rephrase your motto.

    Judge by the competence alone, perhaps, where competence includes ability to mesh with others. Nevertheless I am reluctant to change the banner statement. We need people to start from criteria least vulnerable to political ratfucking and concede as little as possible to criteria that make political ratfucking easy, and “he’s an asshole” is notoriously vulnerable.

    >Has the ability of the hacker community to judge by code alone been tested?

    The only serious attempt I know of has been subjected to methodological criticism. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the authers went in expecting to find that female-identified contributors had difficulty getting commits accepted, and instead found they had a slight but probably insignificant statistical advantage.

  3. Context is dead.

    The Left has achieved a significant victory over the past few decades.

    We are now approaching their desired situation where the context of your politics precludes and overrides any other context, yes, including (very much orchestrated to be so) competency.

    There are “right” beliefs, and “right” thoughts and anything else, eliminates you from participation in any way.

    The mask hasn’t slipped, the left has taken it off and is coming to take away from all of us “that which they think they need”. Exclusion is the rule. Kafkatrapping is rampant. The left looks upon its evil and believes it an absolute greater good. The believe themselves to be soldiers of destiny.

    I don’t believe the effort to re-instate this developer will succeed, but I hope that it does, because maybe this tide can be turned. But I’m not at all confident the left can or will be stopped. I fear for the future. We let them train two GENERATIONS in how to destroy the nation, it may be well past time we’ll be able to stop them.

  4. > We need people to start from criteria least vulnerable to political ratfucking and concede as little as possible to criteria that make political ratfucking easy, and “he’s an asshole” is notoriously vulnerable.

    Yet by code alone can be misconstrued as accepting some crap that we would not put up with. Like disruptive behavior or judging others with stupid, irrelevant criteria. See the gap? You’re making a sound judgement and call to action against someone by judging something about them which is not code. We need to find a better way to express this idea.
    I like competency… It is incompetent to oust someone for things that don’t matter.

  5. You shall judge by the code alone. That is the only social equilibrium that doesn’t degenerate into an ugly political bitchfest with expulsions controlled by whatever happens to be politically on top this week. It was the right community norm forty years ago, and remains so today.

    Hear, hear!

    Judge by the competence alone, perhaps, where competence includes ability to mesh with others. Nevertheless I am reluctant to change the banner statement.

    I think Pieter Hintjens had a good answer – “Give them enough rope to hang themselves, then kick them out.” People who don’t play well with others will tend to write bad code – or write code that may be good by itself, but doesn’t interact well with other people’s good code, which is another way of saying, “They write bad code.” This is not a perfect rule, but it’s better than any alternatives that I know of.

    http://hintjens.com/blog:120

  6. Instead of being disruptive in the various forums, it is better to submit a major patch of better code demonstrating things work better your way.
    It wasn’t in opensource projects, but as a contractor at least twice I completely rewrote a fully working prototype with test fixtures because I got tired of politely arguing the old codebase was beyond patching.
    Criticizing other’s code (including designs) is not showing your own code is better.
    Although I prefer it if someone wasn’t, an asshole that writes, cleans, fixes, and documents really good code is still better than someone who minimally contributes code but does contribute lots of criticism, even if it is polite.
    BY CODE ALONE YE SHALL KNOW THEM
    You can find people to do the other related work, but you want good coders, and it is rare to find more than one supercoder on any project.

  7. >You’re making a sound judgement and call to action against someone by judging something about them which is not code.

    I see the problem. I don’t see any rhetorical hack against it that is obviously an improvement. And, um, sorry to sound egotistical, but I really am an expert at this kind of thing. I’ll give it more thought.

  8. In relation to this it’s also worth noting a reply I got regarding the whole Hugo/Puppy affair – I was explicitly told that correct politics _is_ a major measure of quality.

  9. If one of the coders on the project is disrupting by not judging by the code alone for others, they should be ejected.
    The CoC is “Everyone shall judge everyone by their code alone”.

  10. >You’re making a sound judgement and call to action against someone by judging something about them which is not code.

    “You shall judge by only the code and acceptance of this statement.”

    There, fixed.

  11. >If one of the coders on the project is disrupting by not judging by the code alone for others, they should be ejected.
    The CoC is “Everyone shall judge everyone by their code alone”.

    That may do as a solution to the “How do you justify ejecting a disruptive asshole” problem. If you attack people rather than code, you’re not doing it right and need to be gone.

  12. “I do not give one milli-micro-nano-fraction of a fuck what race you are, what gender you are or identify as, who you want to sleep with, how old you are, what your height or weight is, what if anything may be different about your body or brain, what language you speak, what country you’re from, what God you pray to, where you work, how much money you have, et fucking cetera. Is your contribution any good? That’s all that matters.” – From the Erbosoft Project Code of Conduct, rev. January 2016

    Perhaps I should change that to say “who you want to sleep with and what you want to do with them while in bed.” Or maybe the “et fucking cetera” is enough.

    In any event, I now have ample reason never to use or recommend the use of Drupal to anyone, ever.

  13. While I agree with the sentiment of only looking at the code, this is a PHP CMS we’re talking about. If it founders because of SJW bickering rather than technical competition, who cares? It was never going to last anyway.

    One wonders if open source these days is going through a more hard-core version of Sayre’s law, “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” Tough to avoid in these communities that are more about status than money.

  14. I’d already walked away from Drupal a while back after trying it. Is it far more extensible and ultimately powerful than, say, wordpress?

    Sure.

    Even then, the steps required to get anything basic done were… onerous. Modular “plug in your own WYSIWYG text editor” is nice. Not picking a reasonable default like TinyMCE to ship as the configured default – bad. I may code HTML by hand, but most clients I have would never do so. Ditto having to install picture uploading functionality before you could add picture objects.

    At least they incorporated most of the functionality from the object editor kit that was considered a de-facto minimum to really get things done, change page layouts, etc.

  15. @ESR
    > I really am an expert at this kind of thing.
    You don’t say :^) Still thought it worthwhile to add nuance to the bug report.

    @Joshua Brulé

    >I think Pieter Hintjens had a good answer

    The answer excellent. but the answer is to the question “how do I deal with bad actors (with the best possible result for the community)?” Not “what’s the best way to transmit the meme that describes our policy?”. “Everyone shall judge everyone by their code alone” is what we have right now. Because of the way he wrote, it seems that it’s the principle he used – and deemed easiest to communicate, too.

  16. While I agree with the general slant of the idea, I see a few stumbling points.

    I.

    It bears reminding that these claims about how coders ought to be judged is not intended to be backed by force, but rather by individual actions such as rejection of commits, refusal to use the app, etc. Any coder judged, is never judged universally, nor objectively.

    II.

    “Quality of code” is a vague enough metric that it’s vulnerable to gaming. There’s no push-button way to evaluate code quality, so working with a sizeable commit that’s plausibly feature-rich but non-trivial to adapt the other code to may end up hinging on whether everyone likes the author. This may sound like an edge case, sure… but so is Garfield’s and Eich’s.

    III.

    I was once on a project where one programmer was pumping out code that got things done, but was impossible to work with. For example, he quickly developed a style guide that demanded everyone document and organize their code in a standard way that he had no trouble obsessively following, but that slowed the rest of us down to the point that he would get frustrated, code his own version of what had been tasked to us, and then begin complaining that we weren’t pulling our weight.

    Now, I will admit that one could make the case that his general beliefs manifested as code that wasn’t fully getting things done, but only by arguing that “getting things done” included “cut the style BS down to where the other programmers can code their parts on time” and “stop letting your beliefs inform the way the rest of us should develop, to the point that it’s distracting”, or generally, “don’t be an asshole about your commits”. And at this point it looks very close to “get your politics out of here” or, everyone’s favorite catch-all: “be a good fit with the team”.

    Note that “to the point it’s distracting” is arguably me smuggling in a belief that programmers are entitled to a development safe space. I think we aren’t; there’s a point where we have to suck it up and double-check our code quality if Linus rejects our commit and chews us out in email or something.

    OTOH, in this other project, it was getting to the point where if we didn’t write our code Just So, it wouldn’t interface properly with Mr. Myway’s. Who’s in the wrong in a two-way API mismatch war?

    Are these notable problems? If so, do we have good ways around them?

  17. > Are these notable problems? If so, do we have good ways around them?

    Some thoughts; I am not pretending to be an expert on this sort of thing.

    I think these are real problems, but we cannot, and should not expect to come up with a memorable, accurate, fully-operational maxim that solves them. To steal a quote from (I think) Meredith Patterson, modern sociopathy has grown up with systems and learned how to use them against us. If we precommit to solving every social problem with a push-button rule, then it’s just a matter of time before someone figures out how to abuse it. I don’t think of “You shall judge by the code alone” as a steadfast rule, but a very firmly worded suggestion that should alarm and dismay us if it’s ever casually ignored. In particular, I don’t think anyone was seriously claiming Eich was removed because he was writing bad code, or making it hard for other people at Mozilla to write good code.

    >he quickly developed a style guide that demanded everyone document and organize their code in a standard way that he had no trouble obsessively following, but that slowed the rest of us down

    My instinct is, “This guy sounds like an asshole” which is a decisively ‘non-code’ judgement. And this sounds like an annoying edge case to the “You shall judge by code alone” maxim. But I think I’d hit this problem at the, “This is a bad style guide” level not a “You’re a bad person level”.

  18. @Mike

    While I agree with the sentiment of only looking at the code, this is a PHP CMS we’re talking about. If it founders because of SJW bickering rather than technical competition, who cares? It was never going to last anyway.

    Because not fighting them when it “doesn’t matter”, or when it would be rude, or a thousand other reasons is exactly how we got in this mess in the first place.

    Or put another way: First they came for the…………

  19. It’s the edge cases that make these kinds of dictums difficult to implement. Perhaps we can bring back dueling or mortal combat in the arena as a means of discouraging the faint-of-heart chickenshit complainers. When you aim to kill, expect a like response.

  20. Coming in from the outside, maybe the extended version can be “You shall judge by the code alone, and the judgements you make shall be part of your own code.”

  21. not fighting them when it “doesn’t matter”, or when it would be rude, or a thousand other reasons is exactly how we got in this mess in the first place

    Just make sure that it’s the hill you want to die on. There’s no shortage of things you can choose to get outraged over; the question is whether the treatment of guys who join a women-as-slaves subculture is your priority.

  22. >the question is whether the treatment of guys who join a women-as-slaves subculture is your priority.

    Garfield’s particular offense is completely irrelevant to the principle at issue.

  23. @Paul Brinkley

    > This may sound like an edge case, sure… but so is Garfield’s and Eich’s.

    No. Your examples are all generally about code, or work-related dynamics within groups of coders. The two cases you are conflating them with were – from what I can gather as an outsider – politically motivated witch hunts with no connection whatever to coding issues.

  24. I agree that they appear to be politically motivated witch hunts. But they were also edge cases. They were not the norm.

    Were Garfield’s and Eich’s views impacting the ability of colleagues to produce code? I sincerely doubt it in Eich’s case. Best I could tell, Eich wasn’t bringing up same-sex marriage all the time at Mozilla. (If he had, they wouldn’t have had to dig for a donation record before summoning the Crusade.) Likewise, if Garfield were honking off about whatever peccadilloes he had at every scrum, this wouldn’t have suddenly come up now. Therefore, someone had to go out of their way to out Garfield.

    That said, these are two edge cases which people are trying to extrapolate into a general rule about what to do about coders who are productive but disagreeable.

    Eric’s staked out what I consider to be a solid default rule. Which is to say, I agree with Joshua Brule that we’ll get nowhere if we insist on a universal simple litmus test. Default: if it’s not code related, assume the coder is still valuable, in absence of further evidence; by inference, if others try to shun the coder anyway, assume they’re in the wrong.

    That said, I still notice that the exceptions to that default remain within easy sight, at least for me.

  25. My instinct is, “This guy sounds like an asshole” which is a decisively ‘non-code’ judgement.

    Interestingly, my instinct said, “this guy sounds like he’s being framed as an asshole by someone else who might be the real asshole”. Even though I was the framer.

    Which made me chuckle a bit. But also reminded me of a habit I have of checking both sides of the story. (Was Garfield maybe being an asshole in other ways, and they picked this lifestyle thing to nail him on instead because it was more expedient? I’d support that open letter too, but if I looked deeper into the matter, it’s possible I might qualify my support.)

  26. @esr —

    > Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Agreed. And yet, “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” …

    > And, in any case, being expelled for disruptive assholery within a group (which is what Larry clearly thought he was doing, whether or not he was justified) is not the same as being expelled because Larry didn’t like your sex life or your politics or whatever.

    … because maybe that is what he thought he was doing, but maybe not. I will point out that the failed attempt to expel me was initiated some time after I helped resist the introduction of Coraline’s COC into the PHP project, which I think is fair to file under “politics.” Obviously nobody came out and *said* that was the focus, but if you look at the complainants and correlate them with the ones pushing the COC, there’s significant overlap. (I know: not scientific, but still.)

    In any case, I stand by my main point: if Larry was willing to judge others on non-( code | productive-output | technical ) measures, then perhaps he should be a little more willing to be judged by others in the same way. (I do hope that he has learned from this experience that it is a terrible thing to inflict on others.)

    p.s. FWIW, here is my initial response to Larry’s list of charges on behalf of the complainants: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/php-fig/w38tCU4mdgU/EUehhuf6CAAJ

  27. >if Larry was willing to judge others on non-( code | productive-output | technical ) measures, then perhaps he should be a little more willing to be judged by others in the same way

    My other commenters have evolved the correct response to this, I think. In the hypothetical that you were behaving like a disruptive asshole (I am not alleging this) then you were attacking people rather than judging them by the code alone, and placed yourself outside the protection of that rule.

    If your resistance to a CoC was involved, that is another matter. But I don’t know that, and apparently you don’t either.

  28. @Paul Brinkley

    You seem to have an unusual definition of what “edge case” means. Eich’s appears to be exactly a center mass example of what ESR is talking about.

    Because of private behavior entirely unrelated to his work he became the target of a political witch hunt. How is that an “edge case”?

  29. >Eich’s appears to be exactly a center mass example of what ESR is talking about.

    It should be, as it was the case that really alerted me to the problem.

  30. @esr —

    > If your resistance to a CoC was involved, that is another matter. But I don’t know that, and apparently you don’t either.

    Sure; it’s not capital-K “Knowable” in an absolute sense, without someone coming out and saying “it’s TOTALLY about the COC thing.” Being more familiar with the community and its history, I think I might be a better judge; but then, as the one who was attacked, I might not be. The deniability on their part is plausible, especially to “outsiders.”

    Having said that, at least one of the complainants referred to the COC incident more than once; here is an example: https://archive.is/1MiVA From this and other comments, I think it’s reasonable to infer that the attempt to expel me was in some ways politically motivated. (And these are the people Larry allied himself with.)

    In any case, I hope I have successfully pointed out that, while it is terrible that Larry was subjected to the sanctimony of others in this way, he was fine subjecting others to his own sanctimony, and that should temper our sympathy for him in this specific, limited situation.

  31. @Michael

    You seem to have an unusual definition of what “edge case” means. Eich’s appears to be exactly a center mass example of what ESR is talking about.

    Sorry – I mean it’s a edge case relative to all programmers. Most programmers are either productive and generally agreeable and getting acclaim, or unproductive and being generally ignored. A small minority are productive and generally disagreeable and consequently on the bubble.

    And remember, I mentioned all this in the context of cases where the code is plausibly good, but non-trivial to get working with the rest (or hard to test or whatever) – cases where I’d most expect the rest of the team might say “the code wasn’t that good” when in reality it was “we couldn’t tell if it was good, but Bob is a commie, so we decided not to go through the trouble”.

    These are either both common or both on the edge, depending on context. I think y’all aren’t really disagreeing with my point here.

  32. @Paul Brinkley

    “Sorry – I mean it’s a edge case relative to all programmers. Most programmers are either productive and generally agreeable and getting acclaim, or unproductive and being generally ignored. A small minority are productive and generally disagreeable and consequently on the bubble.”

    Ok, thanks. I now understand how you’re using the term. But I’m gonna disagree, for 2 reasons:

    1) They’re edge cases only if you assume it can/will only happen to a few people. It appears to me any of us could end up as the target of a witch burning. So the “cases” could be said to include everyone, sooner or later.

    2) I’ve seen no evidence that either Eich or Garfield were “productive and generally disagreeable and consequently on the bubble”. Seems to me they found themselves on the bubble through none of their own doing (as regards their behavior in the community/workplace).

  33. @Nancy Lebovitz

    There’s a reason that same orchestra study is so frequently cited, as it’s basically one of a kind. If bias were really so pervasive, we would expect to see a large number of similar studies all pointing in the same direction, but instead the same few studies get cited over and over again.

    Moreover, it’s no coincidence that virtually everyone who mentions the orchestra study cites secondary sources, because reading the original paper tells a different story. In addition to relying on an intricate (read: fragile and error-prone) statistical analysis, the paper includes details that cast serious doubt on their methodology and conclusion.

    In particular, on page 17 we find this astonishing admission:

    [W]e find that the screen has a positive effect on the likelihood that a woman is advanced from the preliminary round (when there is no semi-final) and from the finals. The effects, moreover, are statistically significant in both cases. The effect in the semi-final round, however, remains strongly negative.

    In other words, the “bias” the authors so carefully tease out of the data is reversed in semi-final rounds. The authors speculate about the cause of this reversal, but admit they have no firm explanation, which suggests the possibility of a serious methodological flaw in their analysis.

    I’ve seen this same orchestra study cited dozens of times in the mainstream media, but I’ve never once seen anyone mention this serious discrepancy. This is a strong indication that such stories exist to promote a political agenda rather than the truth.

  34. Pingback: The Code Stands Alone – Cigars and Legs

  35. >There was a study where they used voice masking for coders being interviewed

    That’s is very reminiscent of the GitHub study – a slight but not statistically significant advantage in being identified female when a disadvantage was expected.

  36. That I even need to say this in 2017 is something of a disgrace. The hacker culture already had judge-by-the-code-alone figured out forty years ago when I was a n00b; the only reason it needs to be said now is that there’s been a recent fashion for “social justice” witch hunting which, inevitably, has degenerated into the sort of utter fiasco the Drupal devs are now protesting.

    To paraphrase Trotsky, you may not be interested in the Cold Civil War, but the Cold Civil War is interested in you.

  37. How about “You shall judge only based on contributions to the project(s)”.

    There are some that can’t code that contribute by doing non-coding things, such as bug reporting and documentation, while there are coders that contribute a bit of code and a lot of misery. We need more of the former, and ideally none of the latter.

  38. >How about “You shall judge only based on contributions to the project(s)”.

    In theory, I like it. In practice, political ratfuckers will argue that acts of sabotage like writing a totalitarian Code of Conduct are “contributions”.

  39. You shall judge only based on contributions to the project(s)

    The maintainer should judge code contributions by the quality of the code (“I’ll accept your pull request if it makes my project better”), and mailing list access by one’s behaviour on the mailing list (“Stop top-posting or you’ll get banned”), etc. I’m not sure what the scope of Mr. Garfield’s removal was- surely if he sends a patch it can’t be treated worse than a drive-by patch?

    I’m shadowbanned from github (when I log out, my profile turns to 404 and my comments disappear; log back in and there they are). I don’t know what the offence was, but apparently somebody doesn’t like me; well, cut off your nose to spite your face if you like. It’s your own code that suffers.

  40. Eric,

    But code alone is not the only necessary contribution to open source projects. Open source also needs documentation, UI/UX design, graphic design, QA, support, etc. Some of these must be provided by specialists, as coders cannot be trusted to provide them to the standard of quality expected by the user base. How does “You shall be judged by the code alone” account for these contributions and their contributors, who may not be coders?

  41. >the question is whether the treatment of guys who join a women-as-slaves subculture is your priority.

    I’m trying to think of a single example where the major plaintiff in a landmark civil liberties case was some sort of spotless angel.

    Ernesto Miranda? Clarence Gideon? Larry Flynt?

    I mean, Miranda was an actual rapist, not just some dude who plays BDSM games with consenting partners.

  42. >I’m shadowbanned from github (when I log out, my profile turns to 404 and my comments disappear; log back in and there they are)

    I saved them the trouble and just nuked my repos myself after they hired Coraline Ada to be their political commissar.

  43. @esr:
    >>Eich’s appears to be exactly a center mass example of what ESR is talking about.

    >It should be, as it was the case that really alerted me to the problem.

    Speaking of Eich’s case, how should one act with respect to a project that engages in witch hunts when one is, so to speak, a witch? I am an evangelical Christian with fairly traditional views on the topic of homosexual marriage (though perhaps more willing than some to accept its legalization, should it ever be legitimately legalized by legislation or referendum as opposed to judicial putsch, provided that it remained legal to oppose it) . Now, I was never much of a Firefox user to begin with, but I have actively avoided using it since Eich’s ouster. If it were just a matter of my views on how software should be developed, I’d probably write a letter to Mozilla saying political witch hunts aren’t cool, and letting them know that I would avoid using Firefox in the future as a result of Eich’s ouster, and that would be that. If it were just a matter of my religious views, I’d view continued use of Firefox as inimical to my own interests and that would pretty much be that. Given the two together, I’m inclined to wonder if the second factor is influencing me more than the first, which makes me less confident that I’m reacting well than if I held either set of views alone (if not for the views on software, I wouldn’t see much worth salvaging in Firefox, if not for my religious views, I wouldn’t see Mozilla’s actions as directly inimical to my interests, and I wouldn’t see as much problem with acting reflexively in my own interest even if I did, so, having decided that Mozilla’s actions were wrong, I’d be less likely to examine myself for hypocrisy and cut Mozilla slack).

    In other words, what would you do if some kernel dev came under fire for some view you share, and (speaking very hypothetically!) Linus were to condemn it as unacceptable and show the guy the door? Let’s say that the accusation made was “This guy’s a gun nut!”

  44. “That I even need to say this in 2017 is something of a disgrace.”

    Americans and sex, not a happy relationship (not only Americans). This is part the rise of puritanism.

    What makes this case so absurd:
    A nerd punished for participating in role-playing games!

  45. @Jeff:
    > Some of these must be provided by specialists, as coders cannot be trusted to provide them to the standard of quality expected by the user base.

    For UI/UX and graphic design, it’s worse: Coders and users, or different segments of the user base, cannot be trusted to have the same idea of what “quality” means. Your pretty, intuitive, interface is the interface that gives me eye cancer and destroys my productivity.

  46. Jon Brase
    “Your pretty, intuitive, interface is the interface that gives me eye cancer and destroys my productivity.”

    There is only one truely intuitive user interface. And, yes, it has been known to destroy productivity.

  47. >How does “You shall be judged by the code alone” account for these contributions and their contributors, who may not be coders?

    If we need to, we can play definitional games with the word “code”.

    But I don’t think we’ll need to do that explicitly. The intention of the line is quite understandable.

  48. >In other words, what would you do if some kernel dev came under fire for some view you share, and (speaking very hypothetically!) Linus were to condemn it as unacceptable and show the guy the door? Let’s say that the accusation made was “This guy’s a gun nut!”

    Raise public hell and switch to *BSD, of course. Why is this even a question?

  49. > Raise public hell and switch to *BSD, of course. Why is this even a question?

    Because when members of the group being witch-hunted react that way, it risks tit-for-tat spiraling political sniping. Or, to put it another way, I don’t trust my judgement as much to be free of political or other ulterior motives when I have skin in the game as when I don’t.

    If Linus booted a kernel dev for being a “gun nut”, I’d almost certainly switch to BSD, because I’m not, and will almost certainly never be, a gun owner, so I can be relatively certain that my opinion that gun ownership is essential to the maintenance of a free state is not influenced by my interests and biases as a gun owner (since I’m not one), and, indeed, my position on gun rights is about the opposite of what would be predicted from my emotional reaction to being anywhere near a gun, on either end.

    On the other hand if Brendan Eich were to contribute to the kernel, and Linus were to boot him for the same reason Mozilla did, my general inclination would still be to switch to BSD, but, having skin in the game, I’d be more inclined to wonder if having skin in the game was making me overreact, just as I wonder in the actual case of Eich and Mozilla.

  50. >Because when members of the group being witch-hunted react that way, it risks tit-for-tat spiraling political sniping.

    You call it spiraling political sniping, I call it taking a principled stand for my values. I sure as hell would never kick someone off one of my projects for having political views opposed to mine; such behavior is invidious and must be protested loudly and publicly, on exactly the “You shall judge by the code alone” principle.

  51. > In any case, I hope I have successfully pointed out that, while it is terrible that Larry was subjected to the sanctimony of others in this way, he was fine subjecting others to his own sanctimony, and that should temper our sympathy for him in this specific, limited situation.

    The point I think you’re missing is two-fold.

    First, people don’t get less sympathy/support when they’re wronged if they also act similarly in other contexts. Both wrongs are deploreable and should be addressed as individually as possible. “They had it coming/It’s OK because of the way they treat others/etc” is political ratfuckery. It’s waiting until an opportune moment and trying to dogpile on unrelated items.

    Second, the point about judging by the code, is about separating the many parts of everyone’s lives. As much as possible, accept those parts that coalign and ignore the rest. If someone is being a jerk in a part that coaligns, deal with it there,as it is germane. If it’s not relevant, then bringing it into scope is reducing the benefit achieved in the common area.

  52. “In theory, I like it. In practice, political ratfuckers will argue that acts of sabotage like writing a totalitarian Code of Conduct are “contributions”.”

    Sure they are. But that does not preclude you from judging them based on that contribution. A totalitarian, Ehmke-style Code of Conduct is fully as negative a contribution as, say, a rewrite of GPSD in Visual Basic, and deserves exactly the same kind of rejection.

  53. @Winter

    “Americans and sex, not a happy relationship (not only Americans). This is part the rise of puritanism.”

    “What makes this case so absurd:”
    “A nerd punished for participating in role-playing games!”

    Winter, completely agree.

    But please note that the puritanism here is being driven by leftists – the “stay out of our bedrooms” crowd. Hypocrites, as always.

    The crowd I run with are all conservative fundamentalist Christians. Most all of them would have an immediate “Ewwwww!” reaction to anything resembling BDSM. But they would also quickly follow up with “what you do on your own time is your own business”.

    Yes, this case is beyond absurd. I appreciate ESR taking a no-compromise stand on it.

  54. @Michael
    “But please note that the puritanism here is being driven by leftists – the “stay out of our bedrooms” crowd. Hypocrites, as always.”

    I have not seen this puritanism limited to the “left” in any useful sense of the word. Remember Nippelgate? And the bathroom laws? Here are a number of Right wing puritanisms:

    These States Still Ban Cohabitation, Sex Toys… And Gay Marriage
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/gay-marriage-bans-_n_4907115.html

    States where sex toys are illegal:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_obscenity_statute
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Obscenity_Enforcement_Act

    The Complete List of Weird Sex Laws in the U.S.A.
    https://observationdeck.kinja.com/the-complete-list-of-weird-sex-laws-in-the-u-s-a-1485048155

    And then we have your VP that does not want to eat alone with women:
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/31/mike-pence-doesnt-eat-alone-women-speaks-volumes

  55. What if the comments in your code are offensive? It’s easy not to get a joke.

    What about your variable names? I see “cnt” a lot.

  56. Why do sympathy and support have to be directly linked both ways?

    Dan R > people don’t get less sympathy/support when they’re wronged if they also act similarly in other contexts

    I reserve the right to support the rights of others while feeling unsympathetic to their plight. To misquote Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “I find it difficult to sympathize with the plight of a hypocrite, but I will defend to the death your right to freedom to the very witch hunts you would use to persecute others.”

    Matters of principle need not be matters of personal sympathy. I thus sympathize with the suggestion of Paul M. Jones to “temper our sympathy for [Larry Garfield] in this specific, limited situation” if Garfield did, indeed, lead a witch hunt to persecute someone for irrelevant perceived wrongs.

    Of course, I haven’t looked into the details of these events, so all my talk is just about the principle rather than the circumstances at hand.

  57. I sure as hell would never kick someone off one of my projects for having political views opposed to mine

    Hmm. What if the view in question were that other programmers can and should be kicked off for their views?

    (Stipulated: I’m making a bad case here which would lead to bad law. I’m not trying to make law out of it; just exploring.)

  58. @ESR:

    I don’t see any rhetorical hack against it that is obviously an improvement.

    and @Irving Rivas:

    …but the answer is to the question “how do I deal with bad actors…?” Not “what’s the best way to transmit … our policy?”

    I have an even stronger objection than Irving; I do not think Hintjen’s answer is good, but he makes one point which deserves more notice (emphasis in this quote is mine):

    Here we have the problem with “rude,” which is short-hand for “does not listen to others to arrive at consensus.”

    This, I feel, is the primary black mark against the “Social Justice Warrior”—and perhaps the missing element of this discussion. When one encounters a clash of belief/values, there are (broadly speaking) three possible responses:

    1) stay silent and either follow the crowd*, or leave;
    2) demur, either politely or violently screaming, until the group relents; or
    3) seek an understanding of the group’s current position, and only afterward explaining their objections, if any remain.

    The problem, as I see it, is not the behavior that Eich or Garfield or whatever following target du jour have committed; nor is the problem that I object to defining that behavior as wrongthink which should be punished in any context. The foremost problem is that SJWs have chosen route #2 above: insisting that they, regardless of their actual, official role in the community, are the sole legitimate judge of right and wrong, and feel entitled to enforce this belief upon the rest of the community.

    [*: In all honesty, I believe this half of choice #1 is a failure mode worse than #2, but this is both irrelevant to the present discussion and poses different hurdles for discussion / detection.]

  59. @ Winter

    “And then we have your VP that does not want to eat alone with women:”

    Sounds like a smart guy to me.

  60. >Hmm. What if the view in question were that other programmers can and should be kicked off for their views?

    I don’t run my projects as democracies. If one on my committers were to express that view, I would tell him very firmly that that shit is not going to happen here, but I would not view it as a blocker to accepting his commits.

    Developers have politics. Commits do not. This is not even difficult, and I’m puzzled by people who somehow manage to think it is.

  61. If one on my committers were to express that view, I would tell him very firmly that that shit is not going to happen here, but I would not view it as a blocker to accepting his commits.

    And what if that committer somehow managed to acquire the authority to reject commits before their views on this had become known?

    I can see how it wouldn’t be difficult for you; you’re probably much better than average at evaluating code quality in isolation, and you’re probably either sole lead on your projects, or sharing it with leads of like policy, or have little problem with forking a project if its current leads are too infatuated with their social brand.

    I suspect most other programmers feel more desperate. The open source development market can remain in thrall to causes du jour longer than they can remain intellectually invested.

  62. “What about your variable names? I see “cnt” a lot.”

    I’ve often wondered what French radfems/bluenoses think of Lisp, what with those cons all over the place.

  63. “Here are a number of Right wing puritanisms:”

    Link to the last time any of those were actually enforced? Against someone who wasn’t intentionally trying to provoke a test case? kthx.

    The British didn’t repeal their law against witchcraft until 1951. Nonetheless, it had been quite a while since anyone was hanged as a witch.

  64. “The Complete List of Weird Sex Laws in the U.S.A.”

    Many, perhaps most, of these are made-up bullshit. There is no law against moose having sex on the streets in Fairbanks, Alaska, nor, as far as I (or Google) can tell, has there ever been such a law. The Kentucky statute against dogs “molesting people or property” is using an an entirely different sense of the word “molest” from the sexual one. And so on. Many of the others seem like they were adopted for practical reasons rather than “puritanism”. For example, the one forbidding you from allowing a dog or cat in heat to wander the streets.

  65. >And what if that committer somehow managed to acquire the authority to reject commits before their views on this had become known?

    All questions similar to this have the same answer: if you do not yourself judge by the code alone, you forfeit the protection of that rule and can be kicked out for disruptive assholery.

  66. @Winter

    The fact that you would even think to post a link to HuffPo is the stuff of belly laughter.

    “And then we have your VP that does not want to eat alone with women:
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/31/mike-pence-doesnt-eat-alone-women-speaks-volumes

    I have the same rule, as does every Christian man and every careful man I know. There’s nothing controversial or unusual about it. And enforcing “purtianism” on oneself is entirely different than enforcing it on other people, which is the topic at hand.

  67. Off topic:

    Eric: the “Who is ESR” page on catb.org, you comment on the tendency of the hacker community to give its heroes three letter handles. A very interesting datapoint in the history of that practice is an old Unix v6 image floating around in the net from inside Bell Labs, that, if you boot it up in a PDP-11 emulator, includes the user accounts “ken” and “dmr”. Also, according to his Wikipedia article, RMS had user accounts under his initials at Harvard and/or MIT in the same time period (early 70s). My speculation on the origins of TLHs as marks of status is that as timesharing emerged in the 60s and early 70s, most hackers were working on building the systems they were working with, which meant that they were fairly free to choose their own usernames, and many chose their initials, as it was a fairly easy way to generate a concise and likely-collisionless username. As computing and the hacker community grew through the 70s, the early hackers became heroes due to their status as founders, and, simultaneously, sites grew large enough that newcomers were more and more often assigned usernames rather than allowed to choose their own. By the early 80s, a freshman starting as a computer science major would have seen a fair number of high-status figures with TLHs (I will call these individuals the Ur-TLHs), and then a swarm of newcomers like himself with handles assigned by site policy. At some point, newcomers started naming hackers they respected with TLHs, whether or not they had TLH use accounts.

    An interesting test of this theory would be to interview likely Ur-TLHs and see if they perceive a TLH to be as much of a status symbol as younger hackers.

  68. @Michael eo
    The point of my post was that American puritanism is not a project of only the left.

  69. @Winter
    “The point of my post was that American puritanism is not a project of only the left.”

    I didn’t say it was. I pointed out that the puritanism on display here is of the left – who swear they don’t do such things.

  70. American puritanism is not a project of only the left

    American puritanism (which doesn’t mean what you apparently think it does) has essentially defined left for nearly 600 years.

  71. >My speculation on the origins of TLHs as marks of status is

    …to my knowledge, exactly correct in every single detail, including accurately identifying the original TLHers of which I was not in fact one – not in the sense of having that kind of prestige at the time.

    An interesting detail is that I used to use “eric” but changed to “esr” sometime around 1987 (I think) because “eric” was not distinctive enough in the space of USENET posters. One of my friends grumbled at the time that he understood the necessity but that it meant the ‘net was getting too large, less intimate.

    >An interesting test of this theory would be to interview likely Ur-TLHs and see if they perceive a TLH to be as much of a status symbol as younger hackers.

    I don’t think you’d get a simple an answer as you want. I think the old-timers fully understand that having a TLH is a status symbol now, but not one they intended to claim.

    Back in 2011 I speculated that for reasons of population growth leading to collision issues, “ESR” might have been the last universal triletterization, and the only later counterexample proposed was a bit doubtful (I had never heard of the guy by either TLH or full name). There pretty certainly have not been any since.

    That suggests that the sample space is so small that it underdetermines with respect to any single theory. Going through the candidates in my head I’m pretty certain there haven’t been even two dozen TLHers (in the univeral-title-of-respect sense) and it might be less than a dozen.

    My wife Cathy wandered in while I was typing this and pointed out something which, if I’d ever fully thought through before, I had forgotten. She proposes that RMS was the “original” triletterization, which both created a model for later ones (JWZ, ESR) and retrospectively gilded earlier ones such as ken and dmr. I think there’s something to this; in particular, it’s the later ones that are normally capitalized – I wouldn’t write KEN at all and would be reluctant to cite DMR.

  72. American puritanism (which doesn’t mean what you apparently think it does) has essentially defined left for nearly 600 years.

    Um, what?

    First, are you dating American puritanism to… before the European discovery of America 525 years ago?

    Second, what exactly do you think American puritanism means — capital-P Puritanism centred on reform of the Anglican church, but in America?

    Third, have you heard of the Sixties? The argument is probably stronger that the left has defined itself in opposition to existing puritanical norms since (at least) then, especially on attitudes toward sex – homosexuality, sex-education, etc.

  73. >She proposes that RMS was the “original” triletterization, which both created a model for later ones (JWZ, ESR) and retrospectively gilded earlier ones such as ken and dmr. I think there’s something to this; in particular, it’s the later ones that are normally capitalized – I wouldn’t write KEN at all and would be reluctant to cite DMR.

    I wasn’t actually counting “ken” as a TLH, as it’s his first name, not his initials (but Kernighan, also from Bell Labs, used/uses “bwk”), I was pointing to “dmr” as an example of a TLH , and just mentioned “ken” because that account existed on the same image and you hardly ever hear of one of those two being mentioned in the context of Unix without the other. In any case, even if we count “ken” as a TLH, it would almost certainly not capitalize fully even if “dmr” did, as a first name written all-caps would just look weird.

    Anyways, one question that it occurs to me to ask is “did being associated with the Unix/Usenet vs.PDP-10/ARPANET branch of hacker culture make any difference to the way a TLH was used, particularly with respect to capitalization?”

    ISTR that the DEC OEM OSs universally smashed case(?), and, indeed, many Jargon File entries that I can think of that came from that branch of hacker culture are generally written upper-case: “ITS”, “TECO”, “EMACS”, etc. Is it possible that capitalization of TLHs is only really a thing among hackers associated with the PDP-10 branch (either through having been part of it or through close association with people who had), and that your instinct not to capitalize “ken” or “dmr” comes from the fact that you never saw members of their community refer to them in caps? I don’t think “the later handles are generally capitalized” quite holds water because RMS on the one hand and dmr and bwk on the other were roughly contemporary. Meanwhile, RMS was definitely from the PDP-10 branch, ISTR that you cut your teeth there, and while I’ve never heard of JWZ being directly associated with the PDP-10 branch, he was involved with Emacs, which came from that direction. (The evolution of the capitalization of Emacs itself is interesting: PDP-10-era references to it are all-caps, its executable name on modern systems is invariably lower-case, and it’s generally referred to in writing as “Emacs”).

    In “Who is ESR” you also put forth the theory that Linus was never TLHed because there is less risk of aliasing problems associated with his name, but a can poke a small hole in this theory: in non-geek culture, “Linus”, with no other identifier, is strongly associated with the cartoon character, so there is an aliasing risk. I think the more likely explanation is that by the time the kernel had established Linus’s hacker bona fides to the point where he might have been TLHed, its name was firmly entrenched as “Linux”, which in turn guaranteed that no handle other than “Linus” would stick to him. (And it’s a good thing he didn’t have some project that got him TLHed before the kernel: I’d hate to try to pronounce “LBTx”!).

  74. >Is it possible that capitalization of TLHs is only really a thing among hackers associated with the PDP-10 branch

    It seems unlikely to me. I started in that branch, but I was triletterized by Unix people.

    >your instinct not to capitalize “ken” or “dmr” comes from the fact that you never saw members of their community refer to them in caps?

    That, on the other hand, feels right.

    >RMS on the one hand and dmr and bwk on the other were roughly contemporary.

    Not quite. dmr/bwk were famous a few years earlier; dmr, notably, from the late ’70s, bwk I’d say from around ’81. RMS, on the other hand, was not yet a legend when I first met him in ’79; one would have to date the period of his stellar fame from the GNU Manifesto in ’85. Those year separations may not sound like much, but the tech was mutating fast in those days; I was there and I think they mattered.

  75. I would not overlook the possibility that RMS is capitalized because it was already a well-known TLA among the electronics set.

  76. @Christopher Smith
    “American puritanism (which doesn’t mean what you apparently think it does) has essentially defined left for nearly 600 years.”

    I use this American definition:

    Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
    H. L. Mencken

    And I see it gravitating towards sex.

  77. >I would not overlook the possibility that RMS is capitalized because it was already a well-known TLA among the electronics set.

    I have seen a form of RMS’s signature in which he part-assimilated it to the notation for Root Mean Square in statistics.

  78. Um, what?

    d5xtgr: I think I recognize this, Christopher Smith appears to be peddling moldbuggery. I advise you to just give up that tangent unless you’re prepared to read several hundred pages of esoteric, poorly-edited reactionary theory arguing, among other things, that the current American Left is cladistically a branch of Christianity (what is the moral arc of the universe but whitewashed divine providence?) and that the First Amendment has a gaping security hole there.

  79. An interesting detail is that I used to use “eric” but changed to “esr” sometime around 1987 (I think) because “eric” was not distinctive enough in the space of USENET posters.

    Thwarted by the Eric Conspiracy! All part of their cunning plan to make you add your distinctiveness to their own!

  80. Mike Pence, a conservative VP serving under an unpopular President, does not want to set himself up for scandal by putting himself in a position where he can be readily accused of sexual harassment in a public he-said-she-said shitshow and the media will pronounce guilt before the first lawsuit even gets a docket number.

    That doesn’t sound crazy. It sounds like good opsec.

  81. @Winter
    Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
    H. L. Mencken

    Yep. Sounds exactly like the American left.

  82. Another flowery way to say it, from “A Man for All Seasons”:

    William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

    (full disclosure, I found this in another comment, on another essay about a similar topic)

  83. @Jon Brase:

    For UI/UX and graphic design, it’s worse: Coders and users, or different segments of the user base, cannot be trusted to have the same idea of what “quality” means. Your pretty, intuitive, interface is the interface that gives me eye cancer and destroys my productivity.

    The issues with UI/UX and graphics might be more easily discernable than those with code, but I’m not convinced they are worse. Just as tourists eventually destroy the object of tourism, good code will attract ill-conceived marauding pull requests, and uncritical acceptance of those would eventually render the code a slow, buggy, unreadable, unmaintainable mess.

    Linus’s ostensibly intemperate reactions work well for him and for Linux — it’s a big project, and his responses are actually quite useful at teaching would-be contributors that his time and attention are limited resources.

    Some smaller projects are very inclusive and collapse under their own weight; others are run by would-be Torvalds clones who mistake his crankiness for the cause of his success.

    But for most small projects, a more successful approach combines relatively high merge standards with temperate constructive criticism about unmerged code.

  84. @esr:
    > It seems unlikely to me. I started in that branch, but I was triletterized by Unix people.

    Well, by that time the PDP-10 had died and the two cultures had mostly merged. Are you saying that you were triletterized by people who at the time were using Unix, or are you saying that you were triletterized by people that you’re sure had no connection to the PDP-10 culture? The first is, for the late 90’s, fairly tautological from my understanding of the history, the second is an interesting datapoint.

    The latter case would indicate, assuming that my idea that capitalization of TLHs was a PDP-10 culture thing holds any water, that the two cultures had merged completely enough by the late 90’s that capitalization of TLHs had become universal.

    Does it sound generally plausible that Unix culture, early on, did not capitalize, while PDP-10 culture did? Can you think of any early pairs of roughly contemporary Unix and PDP-10 TLHs that would serve as examples or counterexamples?

    > RMS, on the other hand, was not yet a legend when I first met him in ’79; one would have to date the period of his stellar fame from the GNU Manifesto in ’85

    I had been going off your statement in “Who is ESR?” that Stallman was “already a hero when I was a fledgling programmer in the early 1980s, who was generally known as RMS even then.”

  85. >Are you saying that you were triletterized by people who at the time were using Unix, or are you saying that you were triletterized by people that you’re sure had no connection to the PDP-10 culture?

    I am sure of the former, and not sure of the latter.

    >Does it sound generally plausible that Unix culture, early on, did not capitalize, while PDP-10 culture did?

    Of the former I am sure; of the latter I am not. I think the handles of some early PDP-10 hackerswere not routinely uppercased,

    >I had been going off your statement in “Who is ESR?” that Stallman was “already a hero when I was a fledgling programmer in the early 1980s, who was generally known as RMS even then.”

    That is true, but the group to which he was a hero was much smaller and much harder-core then – I think numbered in the hundreds, not the hundreds of thousands it probably is today. He shipped the first Emacs months after I met him; that was a big step in the growth of his reputation.

  86. I had always assumed that TLHs happened because of name-space restrictions. 8 character names were common, and you had to put your mark on things (files, test-users, etc.) so that you knew what was yours and what was not.

    At least, that’s what I used to do, and I learned it from folks who’d been doing it long before me.

  87. >I had always assumed that TLHs happened because of name-space restrictions. 8 character names were common, and you had to put your mark on things (files, test-users, etc.) so that you knew what was yours and what was not.

    8 Characters, specifically, was a DOS restriction, and not relevant to the hacker community at the time in question. OTOH, ISTR that TOPS-10 had a 6 character filename limit (1 PDP-10 machine word with 6 bit characters), but TLHs were in use even in the Unix community where there were no such limits. I think the bigger limiting factor was typing time: at the baud rates then common, a fast typist could outtype their modem.

  88. I’m glad the “Who Is ESR?” page was brought up, because I’d appreciate some clarification on this passage: “…like the song goes, it took me twenty years to become an overnight sensation.” What song is that? (I only know it’s not the Raspberries’ “Overnight Sensation”.)

  89. >…like the song goes, it took me twenty years to become an overnight sensation.

    I just identified Hell No I ain’t Happy (2003) by a Southern alt-country band called the Drive-By-Truckers, but I think it’s an ironic reference to something in earlier country music – I’m certain I wrote that earlier than 2003.

  90. >The page is dated Nov 11 of 2003.

    Content is older, though. I’d never heard of the Drive By Truckers then – I didn’t know of them until I went Googling. No; I remember this much, there was some female trad-country singer who used “took me twenty years to become an overnight sensation” riffing on her own career.

  91. >Eddie Cantor?

    Hah! I betcha the female country singer I vaguely remember was quoting him!

  92. “You shall judge by the code alone.”

    Unintended consequence alert: this statement can reinforce the arrogant fallacy that technical prowess confers a moral right and duty to rule others. Sort of the technical equivalent of the old “white man’s burden”. Never underestimate or denigrate the value of project leadership and management (done right), even if those contributors aren’t the ne plus ultra of technical competence.

    Explicitly fight the (e.g.) SJWs on the moral level. “Show us the code” rhetorically undercuts their credibility and commitment to the shared work. Simultaneously and continuously vision cast the organizing purpose of the collaboration. Explicitly point out that the (e.g.) SJW entryists are denigrating and devaluing the contributions of the non-political technical contributors with their accusations of injustice. In contrast, express your appreciation and admiration of the code contributors. To that end, “you shall judge by the code alone” can be a powerful rhetorical rallying cry.

  93. Hi ESR,

    Consider this situation, What if the commiter is a pro ISIS but a competent coder. If he has to only submit the patch there is no problem, but the reality is the patch must be reviewed by other contributors and conversations must be exchanged. Do you think still the “You shall be judged by code alone” rule will work. The other anti ISIS contributors will feel uneasy to exchange conversations for a good reason. What are your thoughts on this kind of situation.

  94. >The other anti ISIS contributors will feel uneasy to exchange conversations for a good reason.

    That the other contributors should get spines. And that person can, quite properly, be told not to wave his politics around in project communications channels.

  95. > That the other contributors should get spines.

    I did not mean that the other contributors are afraid to make the conversation. Just that they are completely against things such as sharia law e.t.c and are not willing to participate in the conversation with the guy because he might end up as the project maintainer and might use the other peoples work against them.

    For example, if a pro ISIS competent coder starts contributing to the linux kernel project and takes over the position of the maintainer of the project by sheer competence then the other anit-ISIS contributors will feel like they had worked hard against themselves. Don’t you think that “You shall be judged by code alone” rule leads to “You shall be ruled by the competent coder even if he is an ISIS(or any unethical ideology)”.

  96. @Johnny
    (or any unethical ideology)

    Who decides this? Name any ideology / belief / passion / practice / -ism and there will be somebody who thinks it’s unethical.

    “Judge by code” is the closest you will come to something workable in this venue.

  97. >Don’t you think that “You shall be judged by code alone” rule leads to “You shall be ruled by the competent coder even if he is an ISIS(or any unethical ideology)”.

    Of course it does. But as long as what he is contributing is code, that doesn’t matter. I mean, unless you think his code is going to blow up a schoolbus or open a slave market or something? I think the project lead might something to say about that.

    EDIT: Note that my sarcasm was not directed against the idea that your hypothetical ISIS supporter would want to do such things in the real world – the evil of such people should never be underestimated. I was snarking at the idea that his code contributions would do them.

  98. While the details still aren’t out on the excuse of protecting Garfield’s victims, the story here appears to be slightly more complex than being simply about his kinks. It seems like it might be more about the sexist/misogynist views associated with Gor that he might also have and the ways in which he has allegedly expressed these and other unpopular political views in some of his messages on Twitter and the Drupal issue queue (these were on-topic for the conversation taking place). Here’s a Twitter thread by a Drupal core committer talking about some more of these. He has also been accused of stalling progress on efforts of making DrupalCon more diverse because he said he wanted wait for a couple more conferences to gather data before taking action.

    In addition I would speculate one or more people may have also complained because he brought his “slave” to a code sprint.

  99. @ESR

    A related question, I’ll use a hypothetical version of the SNMP library search as an example:

    Suppose I had found a library that technically exactly what was needed, but the BDFL had recently become a rabid SJW (or been replaced by one). Having a depended on library go to hell is not an acceptable outcome for a project that is looking at 50+ year time horizons minimum, regardless of whether that library is needed for core code, or utilities.

    The problem is that the libBDFL can be expected to destroy the project over the course of a couple years, if that. But the library is technically good. I see two answers to this:

    1. Use it. The code is good, and if the expected happens it can be forked.

    2. Don’t use it. The code may be good, but it is inviting a chaos timebomb into the project that *will* trigger at a random time.

    Now, option 1 is of course how things are supposed to work, but there will be a threshold of expected chaos above which it simply isn’t worth it. So which is it?

  100. “I am officially not taking a position on that question at this time, because my own views on the matter are not relevant to the point I am making.” My, what shocking, horrific bigotry we have here!

    If suggesting that college women would be sexually assaulted less if the binge-drank themselves into vulnerability less often is “misogynist” and “Gorean”, then I think we could stand to have more misogyny and Goreanism.

    The quotes from Garfield incline me to sign up on his side, actually. I’m seeing ethics and good sense from him, answered by blithering idiocy from his attackers.

  101. >Now, option 1 is of course how things are supposed to work, but there will be a threshold of expected chaos above which it simply isn’t worth it. So which is it?

    Use it. The code is good, and if the expected happens and if it isn’t forked, we can maintain it. SNMP isn’t that complicated.

  102. “I’m seeing […] blithering idiocy from his attackers.”

    You expected anything else from a gaggle of SJWs? They make up a stupidity laser: one’s stupidity bounces off of others, and gets amplified and reinforced with every bounce before finally escaping into the world to wreak damage wherever the beam passes.

  103. I’m in favor of the neutral consideration of code quality when judging patches and such.

    As the second-order discussion about people and effects seems unavoidable, though, I wish to contribute an opinion there that having ISIS members or other distasteful outgroup sending in patches to your project is a good thing and should be encouraged.

    Because if a generic Opposition Man is contributing code to your project, that implies Opposition Man is spending time peacefully (if perhaps uncivilly) working on a project with people he disagrees with, which is good in itself in addition to being time not spent on the thing you hate. Whereas if you kick Opposition Man off, this will probably result in Opposition Man spending less time peacefully collaborating across the opinion spectrum, while having more time for Oppositioning, now with a little extra incitement to oppose you.

  104. @nry:

    Here’s a Twitter thread by a Drupal core committer talking about some more of these.

    Morbidly fascinating.

    Did it occur to you that posting an open Communist emitting Communist duckspeak might not be a very good idea to make your case? Because I read that thread, read the linked articles and now I want catch56 persecuted and punished. Perhaps by being exiled to the Haiti he likes for its supposed role in ending slavery (for which read: murdering all the whites, including women, children and anti-racists, then reintroducing slavery in all but name, generally becoming a hellhole and arguably delaying the wider abolition of slavery by giving people certain ideas about what a state of freed blacks would look like and how they’d behave).

    In the current progressive idiom, I believe I would say that catch56 makes me feel unsafe due to his support for both the most murderous thing in the world in general and for certain atrocities in specific. He is the moral inferior of neo-nazis, and that takes some doing.

  105. @Erik

    I was merely providing more details. I didn’t mean to give the impression I’m saying removing Garfield was justified.

  106. @nry: You are rather giving away your position by something which may just have been a bad choice of word on your part, but which may have been not:

    > While the details still aren’t out on the excuse of protecting Garfield’s *victims*,

    (emphasis mine), when there is no evidence that he has actually caused harm to any person, or to any software project, other than by virtue of someone taking a dislike to him. Mere hurt feelings don’t count.

  107. Ian Bruene: you are missing the third, and correct, answer: Use it, but fork it if necessary.

    Consider what happened recently around another hot-button controversy among open-source hackers: systemd. When Debian decided to adopt systemd, the Devuan project was started. Not because the Devuan maintainers disliked Debian — because they liked it, just not the systemd bit.

    Devuan currently has more uptake than even I anticipated. I thought for sure that, barring a few but-muh-unix-philosophy shitstirrers (of which I was one), the Linux community had unilaterally embraced systemd, but enough opposition exists to maintain interest in projects like Devuan and adopt it as a base for other distros/projects.

    If you think that being run by an SJW is really a risk for a piece of critical open-source infrastructure, the answer is to start maintaining a branch of that piece of infrastructure yourself so you can tell the SJW to go sod if you wish. Open source means you are free to do this.

  108. Expanding on the ISIS hypothetical – Eric, you’ve posted at least once that I recall about receiving death threats from some Islamist (or somebody pretending to be one). Would it bother you having on your dev mailing list someone who elsewhere espoused Islamist ideology and who you suspect might wish you harm? How much extra caution do you have to exercise when there’s a discussion on-list about e.g. an in-person meeting, and is that extra cost/worry worth it?

    That’s the scenario that gives me some sympathy, especially considering that I’d expect the frequency at which one encounters expert programmers who would pose a risk to women to exceed that at which one encounters expert programmers who are also Islamist agents.

  109. > Devuan currently has more uptake than even I anticipated. I thought for sure that, barring a few but-muh-unix-philosophy shitstirrers (of which I was one), the Linux community had unilaterally embraced systemd, but enough opposition exists to maintain interest in projects like Devuan and adopt it as a base for other distros/projects.

    It’s interesting: I’ve got a bit of a “but muh Unix philosophy” attitude (for example, I’d like every window to be a device in a “/dev/vfb/*” tree), but PulseAudio, one of Poettering’s previous projects, never really bothered me that much, despite not being as Unixy as I’d like. And systemd didn’t bother me much at first. I use my machine primarily as a desktop, and systemd doesn’t seem to fall over too hard in that use case. But I’ve been growing to hate it: I do do servery things with my machine (and with a Raspberry Pi I’ve got set up as a timeserver) and systemd seems to fall over in puzzling and infuriating ways for some of those use cases (which wastes my time). I’ve seen things like services mysteriously not starting at boot, but starting just fine manually, systemd pegging CPU usage, etc. Dealing with systemd is beginning to cost me time and effort that I don’t want to spend, and one of these days I may just switch to Devuan or a derivative.

  110. @James M: I don’t approve of the decision. I was just repeating what the current party line from the people involved in the decision is. The system that allowed this to happen is set up so that nothing about these proceedings is supposed to be public so they claim they know of wrongdoings that (apparently) not even Garfield is aware of.

    Almost nobody in the Drupal community is happy about how this has been handled even though quite a few people seem to think the removal is warranted just based on his opinions… It will be interesting to see what comes out of DrupalCon Baltimore this week.

  111. >Would it bother you having on your dev mailing list someone who elsewhere espoused Islamist ideology and who you suspect might wish you harm?

    That’s the wrong way to ask the question, because it makes the answer about muh feelz rather than objective behavior. Even if it bothered me, my principles and my duty would require me not to act against that person out of mere botheration. Even werewolves and Islamists have the right to have their commits judged by the content of the work alone.

    But if the dude threatened me at a FTF meeting, he’d get a strong reaction. Previous discussion applies; if you judge others by anything other than their code, you forfeit the protection of the rule.

  112. That’s the wrong way to ask the question, because it makes the answer about muh feelz rather than objective behavior. Even if it bothered me, my principles and my duty would require me not to act against that person out of mere botheration.

    More concretely, then, would you be willing to tolerate the increased friction costs of maintaining your physical safety in light of the heightened prior that the contributor will do violence to you?

    Even werewolves and Islamists have the right to have their commits judged by the content of the work alone.

    I absolutely agree. The sticking point (to me at least) is not how their commits should be judged, but whether they should be welcome to fill other team member roles: moderate the project forums, organise conferences, and so forth. Judging a commit is comparatively risk-free – you can read the code and discover exactly what you’re getting. Predicting the behaviour of a being with free will is definitionally impossible.

    But if the dude threatened me at a FTF meeting, he’d get a strong reaction.

    I’d be surprised if it were otherwise. To be clear, the hypothetical risk I meant was not “He might utter threats if we meet face-to-face,” but rather “He might harm me without further warning if we meet face-to-face.” I think that’s closer to the left’s concerns about sexual violence, which are at least notionally the current political motivation for expelling people from communities, rescinding invitations to speak at conferences, etc.

  113. >More concretely, then, would you be willing to tolerate the increased friction costs of maintaining your physical safety in light of the heightened prior that the contributor will do violence to you?

    I’m a 27-year martial artist and routinely travel armed. Anyone who screws with me will get killed if I feel seriously threatened; bullet or blade or bare hand, I can do any of those if I have to. Against an an unarmed amateur I could probably control the situation well enough to only have to disable him.

  114. > I think that’s closer to the left’s concerns about sexual violence, which are at least notionally the current political motivation for expelling people from communities, rescinding invitations to speak at conferences, etc.

    Women who claim they fear sexual violence and then don’t (a) arm themselves to disable or kill attackers, then (b) take responsibility for their own safety, are just posturing for emotional or political reasons – if they really feared, they would really act.

    Those who don’t choose to defend themselves like adults…well, I’ll help them if I’m nearby, because that is what a man properly does, but I won’t willingly tolerate any “safe space” bullshit from them. People who choose to behave like dependent children should not get to set terms for the interactions of adults.

    Further relevant point: I not infrequently teach both armed and unarmed self-defense to women. I view this as part of my duty.

    Final relevant point: I view “the left’s concerns about sexual violence” as largely a sham, a lever on political power. If they really cared about what they claim to care about, they’d be teaching women self-defense en masse.

  115. >Final relevant point: I view “the left’s concerns about sexual violence” as largely a sham, a lever on political power. If they really cared about what they claim to care about, they’d be teaching women self-defense en masse.

    This is what worries me the most about their mindset–many on the left think what they are doing IS a form of self-defense. It’s the “if I can remove the threat before it actually comes to the point of violence, then I’ve done a good thing” mindset. To me, it stinks of an extension of the view that “I can do whatever I want, regardless of the consequences, and it’s your (society as a whole) obligation to not take advantage of that.” One of the discussions above linked to an article about the thought that if women weren’t binge drinking to the point of blacking out that they would be less likely to be raped; somehow this was seen as a bad thing to say when it should be an obvious truth. If you are aware of your surroundings, it is far more difficult to be taken advantage of. Being drunk does not give an attacker the right to take advantage of the situation, but who in their right mind thinks that an attacker gives a hoot about anyone’s rights? Protect yourself, don’t rely on the nanny state to do it for you.

    I’m of the opinion that I should be able to do what ever makes me happy (life, liberty, and all that) as long as it doesn’t infringe on the constitutional rights of someone else, or pose an unacceptable risk to cause harm.The popular view today seems to be “I can do whatever I want, regardless of whether or not it harms/offends someone else, but you cannot do anything to harm/offend me.” I don’t understand why everyone is so up in arms about potentially offending people either, but that’s another discussion entirely.

  116. @ESR

    Clever. You seems to have figured out something the Dark Enlightenment is mulling for a while. One basic failure mode of human interaction is competitive signalling spirals. It has many flavors, from the golden toilets of the newly rich to the synthol injected arms that nearly led to amputation for some really stupid body builders. But the specific form here is called holiness signalling spiral.

    The root trouble with moral goodness is one way you can get social status points of this kind – good guy cred – is to condemn the moral failures of others. You always seem to be better than the people you judge. This can easily lead to persecution spirals and Salem witch hunts, it is a feeding frenzy, everybody proving their virtue by loudly condemning the lack of virtue of a randomly selected scapegoat. We tend to believe this lead to things like the great terror and persecution of Jacobin and Communist periods (Nazis not, theirs was more centrally organized and less spontaneous, apparently, it seems to have have different reasons).

    This is precisely why the DE likes to be a bit cynical and “evil”, because we realized, paradoxically how evil good can be i.e. how much hurt and pain can the pursuit of moral goodness or at least the social appearance thereof can cause. Everybody who wants to seem like a really nice guy could decide one day to prove his niceness via accusing someone else of being evil and thus destroying them socially. Thus, loudly signalling that you are “evil” is a form of a social contract to not do it to each other. It is a promise that I will never hurt you through trying to prove my goodness via accusing you of evil.

    But that is mostly just fun. The real practical solution is to find good Schelling fences, acceptable behavior that has no slippery slope towards virtue signalling competitions and make them cast in stone standards. And “by the code alone” is an excellent solution for this.

    Here is a challenge. Figure out the ethical theory as well. I.e. create an ethical theory that 1) predicts well what most people would call acceptable, not saintly, but acceptable good behavior 2) has some inherent protection built-in against trying to gain social status by trying to seem extremely saintly and/or against trying to seem extremely saintly VIA accusing others of evil. That would be highly useful.

    We should realize that if evil mostly means harming or hurting people, most of the time someone wants to harm others, he will accuse them of being evil and thus the intended harm being a just retribution or defense. Thus accusing anyone of evil is basically like winding up for an attack. It is nearly a NAP violation. This means any good ethical theory should make accusations of ethical violations be highly risky unless really well substantianted, and maybe even then. But that would hinder the punishment of actual violations, which is a paradox. Thus, maybe the only solution is that the accuser gains no status. Ideally, even fully justified accusations should carry some kind of a cost.

    The root issue is perhaps that there is currently no social cost to accusing Larry’s sexual practices of being evil / unacceptable.

  117. >Clever. You seems to have figured out something the Dark Enlightenment is mulling for a while.

    It’s not my personal insight. The hacker culture had this figured out long ago. As usual, I am mostly just articulating its folk wisdom.

    >Here is a challenge. Figure out the ethical theory as well.

    That’s not a challenge either. It’s called libertarianism.

  118. @TheDividualist

    “The real practical solution is to find good Schelling fences, acceptable behavior that has no slippery slope towards virtue signalling competitions and make them cast in stone standards.”

    Dude. Humanity has been working on this since before forever. You may as well say it would be real practical to make pi a rational number.

    Note that “judge only by the code” was the hacker norm for decades and was as well established as a “cast in stone” standard can be. But it too crumbled before the strain of violent witch hunters and huntresses we now battle.

  119. @TheDividualist –

    > The root issue is perhaps that there is currently no social cost to accusing Larry’s sexual
    > practices of being evil / unacceptable.

    Sure there is, and you’ve already identified it (probably without realizing it). To the extent that rational, clearly-thinking people realize that attacking Larry is evil, and shun his attackers, they (“good” people) thereby cause them (“bad” people) to lose social status, network opportunities, etc.

    You don’t go “signaling” with your virtue – affirmatively or negatively. You just act virtuously and respond immediately and directly to others’ presence or absence of virtue. This does require a certain cold-blooded indifference to the “feelings” others report. But if they aren’t being immediately and directly affected by you, or aren’t directly affecting you, who gives a rat’s ass. (Of course, “affect” includes people you have intentionally included in your ‘circle of care’ – family, close friends, etc. I do care about the feeling my wife reports due to my beliefs, behavior, etc. Because I have decided to care – not because some screeching rando told me to.)

  120. >Dude. Humanity has been working on this since before forever.

    No, not really. You can assert that only by leaving out or underweighting the “Schelling point” part. What humanity has been doing forever is arguing about morality; systematic thinking about ethics from a position of neutrality about prior moral and religious and political claims is much more recent and specific.

  121. @esr

    “You can assert that only by leaving out or underweighting the “Schelling point” part.”

    Ok. I was meaning to argue against the notion that there’s some system of ethics out there that a) everyone will agree on, and b) is not subject to the myriad failure modes – all we need to do is just go find it. If Bigfoot existed we’d probably have found him by now, same for this.

  122. > if you judge others by anything other than their code, you forfeit the protection of the rule.

    So now the rule is “judge by the code and by your estimation of whether they have followed the rule”. So much for ‘alone’.

    How about judge the code by the code and judge other stuff (including presence in social venues, suitability to leadership roles, etc) by a range of things relevant to that respective element of someone’s participation. Saying “judge by the code alone (or whatever value of not-so-much-exactly-alone)” kind of omits the matter of to what purpose the judgement in question is meant to be used.

  123. @ESR

    Let me rephrase the question: BOTH sides have very old traditions in US culture, as in, Jacksonians vs. Salem Puritans. Jacksonians surely have evolved some methods to stop Puritan style harmful virtue signalling escapades in their ranks, and yes it must be related to libertarianism but probably something not as simple as the NAP. Rather something along the lines of either not assigning social status points to pharisee virtue displays or at least not assigning social status points to that specific kind of virtue display that operates via accusing others of vices. It is a question of culture now, Eric, not government. Thankfully, the government is not very involved in open source development so one has to approach this culturally, not politically.

    You’re a Jacksonian swordsmith in 1820. Someone accuses another smith of regularly beating his wife. The woman says nothing, it is unsure whether because it is not true or she is scared. The woman has no backup like brothers or friends. The accuser is not very well known in the community, you don’t know if he is a generally honest and sincerely concerned dude, or a social climber who wants to look like a paladin of goodness saving a victim and it is entirely made up. What do? Culturally, not politically. More importantly, what is the meta-theory behind what you do?

    (I get it, “then you can’t make no swords around here no more” is likely the dumbest of all possible options, so that is out, one either has to act decisively and intervent, or ignore it.)

  124. @Michael

    “I was meaning to argue against the notion that there’s some system of ethics out there that a) everyone will agree on, and b) is not subject to the myriad failure modes – all we need to do is just go find it.”

    If Yudkowsky is right, we have to find it or an AI will turn us into paperclips. Yudkowsky’s big insight is that ethical philosophising is no longer just masturbation: it is writing specs for coding a superintelligent AI and screwing up or not caring about that spec and ending up making a superintelligent AI anyway can lead to literal mass murder. This is a chilly prospect. We humans can afford to ignore the longbeards of the philosophy departments and just base on our actions on conscience, instinct and social convention. But an AI not… so this is sort of getting really important. Meanwhile, Google is writing algorithms to reduce the rankings of hateful or non-PC websites. So this is actually getting relevant.

  125. >More importantly, what is the meta-theory behind what you do?

    I ask her minister if she shows any signs indicating the accusations to be true. Part of the social function of clergy in those societies was to keep an eye on this sort of thing.

    In fact, the most likely resolution of this problem is that if her minister thought the problem were acute, he would quietly clue in the most influential men in the town. Who would then have a talk with the accused and make clear that abuse is no way for a decent man to behave, and that miscreants have been tarred and feathered for less. (One known and relatively large class of tarring-and-feathering victims was men who failed to provide for their wives.)

    Absent a correction in behavior, rough communal justice would follow.

    I trust the meta-theory is relatively obvious here.

  126. @TheDividualist
    “Yudkowsky’s big insight is that ethical philosophising is no longer just masturbation: it is writing specs for coding a superintelligent AI and screwing up or not caring about that spec and ending up making a superintelligent AI anyway can lead to literal mass murder.”

    This is an interesting line of thought. But it presupposes that everyone would agree to be under the thumb of this AI. Having observed the antics of AI writers (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) I can barely imagine anyone being that foolish.

    I suppose the retort is that we won’t have a choice. We will be forced by either the AI itself or it’s purveyors. Which brings us back to the only system of “ethics” that has ever had any real longevity: might makes right. Note that this is exactly the ethics of the left in this country, so no surprise there. Put me in the “no thank ye” column.

    If the point is that we should exterminate all “longbeards of the philosophy departments”, you are on your way to a compelling case.

    Or maybe all research/development into AI should be verboten. I’ve read enough sci-fi to be convinced such is not farfetched.

  127. @Random832

    So now the rule is “judge by the code and by your estimation of whether they have followed the rule”. So much for ‘alone’.

    All protective rules have an implied meta-rule: “If you willfully violate this rule you lose all of the protection you receive from it.”. This is no different.

    @Michael

    Or maybe all research/development into AI should be verboten. I’ve read enough sci-fi to be convinced such is not farfetched.

    Perhaps you should have read enough economics, or military history, or more SF. This solution results in AI being worked on only by those with evil intent, and a precious few working on defenses (Who is going to fund or even know how to build effective defenses when everyone is relying on security through obscurity?). Plus we all know how enormously well bans work, right?

    If you want to guarantee doomsday, then just nuke the world and have done with it. For most of the population it will be a relatively quick, clean death.

  128. > All protective rules have an implied meta-rule: “If you willfully violate this rule you lose all of the protection you receive from it.”. This is no different.

    The problem is that this makes whether someone has violated it subjective. They may, after all, consider the person they did not apply the rule to to have likewise lost its protection. And someone else may consider you to have violated it by revoking its protection from someone who they don’t agree deserves it. And round and round it goes… an eye for an eye makes the world blind.

    Far more stable to say that one’s ability and willingness to impartially evaluate code contributions matters not at all for their own code contributions and matters a lot (more than their code itself even) for, say, leadership positions where they are in the position to reject someone else’s code contributions.

  129. @Ian Bruene

    Perhaps you should have read enough economics, or military history, or more SF. This solution results in AI being worked on only by those with evil intent, and a precious few working on defenses (Who is going to fund or even know how to build effective defenses when everyone is relying on security through obscurity?). Plus we all know how enormously well bans work, right?

    Perhaps you should read what I wrote.

    I didn’t say the rule was a good idea or that it was feasible, only that it is not farfetched. That a rule is bad, impractical, or has unintended consequences has never yet given pause to the improvers of the world.

  130. >The problem is that this makes whether someone has violated it subjective.

    No more so than any other ethical rule that involves evaluating the actions of human beings, and a good deal less so than most. To meet your implied standard for non-subjectivity we’d need a benevolent AI or something.

    Let’s not be silly here. Of course “judge by the code alone” doesn’t cover every edge case. It’s an expression of intent that points at a particular style of decision making, one which hews to objective criteria as much as possible (does the code work?) and actively resists the injection of personalities or politics. And we know it works because we have decades of experience with it – as I keep pointing out, I didn’t pull it out of my butt yesterday. It is, as the Dividualist points out, a Schelling point.

  131. > and actively resists the injection of personalities or politics.

    You’re not resisting it very will if you’re willing to reject someone’s commits (i.e. “you lose all of the protection you receive from it” – all means all, and without it being all it raises the question of why whatever part is revoked was important for anyone anyway) based on their perceived violation of the rule. What’s wrong with saying commits* are commits and other things are other things?

    Why should I judge anything but the code by the code alone?

    *and purely-technical contributions generally – i.e. “the code”.

  132. >What’s wrong with saying commits* are commits and other things are other things?

    I don’t think I even understand your argument any more…

    >Why should I judge anything but the code by the code alone?

    …unless that’s it. In which case:

    Because the purpose of the rule is to prevent ratfuckery based on personal or political differences. Like Larry Garfield being kicked off a project where he seems to have been a worthy, productive contributor because somebody thought his sex life is icky. Part of the point of “judge by the code alone” is that Larry Garfield’s sex life is not anybody else’s damn business.

  133. > and actively resists the injection of personalities or politics.

    Hey ESR — I’m sorry, I don’t mean to keep harping on this, but Larry himself was demonstrably fine with judging on “personality” in the FIG debacle (and perhaps on “politics” but that’s not as easy to demonstrate). So I get you, I’m on board with “judge by code alone” and have been for as long as I can recall, but I also want to be careful about giving the benefit of that rule to those who do not want to give others its benefit.

  134. > if you judge others by anything other than their code, you forfeit the protection of the rule.

    Does this apply only to the extent that your in-project contributions violate the rule? Or does a minor transgression in-project open up all of your out-of-project activities to attack?

  135. >Did it occur to you that posting an open Communist emitting Communist duckspeak might not be a very good idea to make your case? Because I read that thread, read the linked articles and now I want catch56 persecuted and punished.

    Yes. If we’re going to start burning witches, I vote that we start with Communists. They quite clearly pose a greater threat to individual safety than Goreans do, given that the comparative body count is somewhere around 100 million to zero.

  136. > I believe I would say that catch56 makes me feel unsafe

    See, the problem is that when twerps like catch56 feel unsafe they go whining to the power structure (that they claim to hate).

    When I feel “unsafe” I make sure a rifle’s handy (Sometimes that’s a metaphor, sometimes it’s not.)

  137. A bit off-topic, but related.

    I have stubled upon a very bizzare example of rampant SJW-ism (although I hope that it is more like this blog post…). “The Architecture of Open Source Applications” open book (with chapter on GPSD in Volume II by ESR) announced the following (http://aosabook.org/en/index.html):

    We are pleased to announce that work has started on the fifth volume in this series, tentatively titled “What Everyone in Tech Ought to Know About Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Poverty, Harassment, Privacy, and How Our Political, Economic, and Legal Systems Actually” work. Please see this post on the editor’s personal blog for the full announcement, and get in touch if you’d like to contribute or can point us at existing material we might be able to recycle.

  138. @Jakub this is precisely what worries me, Greg Wilson seems such a totally normal guy to me, I would not expect him to have such a bizarre view to think that if racial minorities tend to fail education or literacy tests then the problem is with the tests and not with the racial minorities. This is what worries me, you could associate and work with entirely normal, intelligent, productive people and not know that they belong to crazy cult who think anything that inconveniences protected groups in any way is evil.

    Weirdest part is, I am sure he will get the facts the right. It is the values that are ultra bizarre.

    I mean, for him, the fact that literacy tests were meant to prevent black people from voting means that literacy tests were evil. Normal people and that includes moderate liberals decide if they want to have illiterate voters or not, and base their view on that, while treating the racial aspect less important. Normal people tend to focus on practical effects. The crazy cult works like a religion, they focus on intent, like thinking anything ever done with a racist intent is inherently bad. This is the logic of religious sin.

    And again my problem is that often you can’t identify these people. If I had a chance to work with Greg Wilson based on his bio, surely I would accept the job, seems like a great programmer: http://third-bit.com/greg-wilson.html absolutely does not seem crazy. Absolutely seems like a normal guy, me, you, the random dude down the street who thinks well if racism saved America from illiterate voters, then in that specific case racism wasn’t too bad.

    This is what worries me. This insanity is not detectable and sometimes very normal looking people are part of the cult. And you cannot convince them with facts, they often have the right facts, it is their values that are insane.

  139. > then the problem is with the tests and not with the racial minorities.

    The problem was certainly with the tests in the past. This is not a matter for which there is any doubt: We can see the tests, see how convoluted and poorly written the questions were, see that they expected it to be completed in 10 minutes with no mistakes, and, most damning of all see the “grandfather clauses” that were used to prevent white people (who would, we must assume the people making the policies knew, also have failed the tests) from being required to take them.

    It may or may not be reasonable to expect history to repeat itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to deny what history was.

    The problem is that they’re called literacy tests. A literacy test, in the literal sense, should consist of nothing more than reading some written sentence out loud, and writing down something that is said to you. These were logic puzzles. You or I could pass them, but the average person on the street, of any color, could not within the time given (and no way to ask for clarifications on whether, say, some comma really belongs there).

  140. >You or I could pass them, but the average person on the street, of any color, could not within the time given (and no way to ask for clarifications on whether, say, some comma really belongs there).

    It’s worse than that: on the ones I’ve seen were ambiguously worded so that each question had two radically different answers that were fairly easy to arrive at, so that whether you passed or failed depended on how the person administering the test chose to interpret the questions: he could fail anyone he didn’t like with plausible deniability.

  141. Absolutely seems like a normal guy, me, you, the random dude down the street who thinks well if racism saved America from illiterate voters, then in that specific case racism wasn’t too bad.

    Even assuming the tests were fairly administered (about which the last few posts have raised serious concerns), illiterate people get a say in how they want to be governed too. Rule by the educated elite and benevolent dictators for life are fine and dandy when they’re opt-in, but that definitely wasn’t the case of America’s black population upon the enactment of the 13th-15th amendments.

    In point of fact, in many states it was illegal for a slave to learn to read and write, or for anybody to teach him. So now you have a newly-free population among whom only those who had broken the law were literate – sounds a bit like “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns,” doesn’t it? That’s totally apart from the question of having held a man as a slave, and denied him an education on account of his status as a slave, whether it is ethical to disenfranchise him because he is uneducated.

    Now it’s true that this also mean the educated population would have had to live under rule of representatives elected by the uneducated; but to the extent this results in them being misruled, it is in fact an incentive to provide access to education and actually fix the problem, rather than screw around with grandfather clauses and “separate-but-equal” schools, etc.

  142. There’s a parallel between calls for requiring literacy tests for voters and other “reasonable voter registration measures” and calls for requiring safety tests for gun owners and other “reasonable gun-control measures.” Such measures *have* been abused in the past, in both cases, and as a result their advocates now have negative credibility.

    I myself support certain anti-voter-fraud measures (although not literacy tests for voters), but I also recognize that I’ll have negative credibility when advocating for those measures, due to past abuses. I’ve seen it when the subject has come up in previous threads here. The opposition to anti-vote-fraud measures in those threads has been attributed to a desire for partisan political advantage, but I think it goes beyond that. What I saw was the same sort of visceral radicalized opposition to voter-registration proposals that I’ve seen before (and felt myself) in response to gun control proposals.

  143. @ESR

    “I trust the meta-theory is relatively obvious here.”

    Yes. The Hippocratic Oath: avoiding doing harm has a higher priority than helping. Failing to help an innocent victim is less bad than punishing someone innocent. This is a Talebian philosophy of uncertainty: harming, punishing actions are more likely to succeed than helping actions because entropy. I can foresee avoiding doing harm better than I can foresee helping effectively. Therefore, I act very cautiously.

    Right?

  144. To multiple people:

    yeah, I got the case of those tests factually wrong. I retract.

    My problem with Greg is that his values are wrong, not facts, he seems to care more about racist intent than utilitarian outcome. Surely if you are a poor black dude in NY the bus not going to the beach is not exactly on the top of your priority list? Come on, I live in a European city without owning a car because fuck me the taxes here are crazy, and there is little public transport link to my favorite sporting event, do you see me crying for this? Nor did they, I bet. It is a mere inconvenience. For the utilitarian, it is a minor thing. For the type who treats racist intent as religious sin, it is very sinful.

  145. Another thing. Not writing advertising software so that landlords can target their housing ads racially? That is security through obscurity, basically landlords racist intents non-exposed but they will still act on those somehow. I can’t Greg belives that can work in a utilitarian way, I believe he simply thinks about racism in a virtue ethic way and wants programmers to keep their souls clean. The utilitarian solution is obviously security through transparency, i.e. buld a RateMyLandlord and enable people to expose and boycott racists landlords. And again this is not a left v.s right thing, I think this is what as sane, pragmatic left-liberal does.

    Utilitarian leftists are people you can reason with, at least try. The scary part is when an excellent programmer turns to be a non-utilitarian but quasi-religious thinking leftist. And then puts that into an important book series about software.

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