Announcing a new book: “The Programmer’s Way”

A decade and change after “The Art of Unix Programming”, I’ve decided to do another book. Actually, I have more than just an intention and some notes; I’ve been working hard on it over the last five days it and have 41 Kwords of rough-cut manuscript ready.

No, I didn’t write all that from scratch in five days! I’m a pretty fast writer but I’m not that fast. What I’ve done is comb through everything I’ve written about software engineering and its practice since around 2003, throw it together into an anthology format, and begun adding updates and bridging material.

It’s grouped into episodes under thematic parts. Long-time A&D regulars will recognize many of the episodes. Other parts are IRC transcripts, a paper on engineering zero-defect software I wrote in 2012 that needed an update, things I wrote for the NTPsec blog, and so forth. For each episode I’m taking time to reflect on lessons learned since I wrote the material it was based on and folding in those lessons.

The book has a theme: like “The Art of Unix Programming” it’s about the importance of right mindset. Knowing tools and techniques only gets you to the threshold of expertise. At higher levels it’s about a way of engaging the world, of perceiving, of carving problems at their joints. The material is less focused on the Unix tradition, though, because I already wrote that book. This one has a broader reach.

I’m experimenting with new ways to promote and monetize the work. Portions of the draft in progress will be posted on Patreon; you can become a Bronze supporter to get early access. I shipped the first episode there this morning.

I haven’t shopped for a publisher yet. I don’t expect to have any trouble finding one, as my previous books have all been exceptional sellers for their categories and had long legs to boot – my habit of actually writing most of a book before I sell it helps, too. But I might go indie this time – we’ll see, I consider all options to be open. Not having a contract means I don’t have to be in a hurry; it will ship when it’s right, not before.

Here are the present section intros. These are subject to change.


The Rectification of Names

I like to find common tactics and traps in programming that don’t have names and name them. I don’t only do this because it’s fun. When you have named a thing you give your brain permission to reason about it as a conceptual unit. Bad jargon obfuscates, map hiding territory; good jargon reveals, aiding reflection on and and improvement of your practice.

Thus, the episodes in this section are exercises in noticing features of the challenges in software engineering and giving them useful names.

Chop Wood; Draw Water

Zen Buddhism has a tradition of teaching stories in which an eager novice beseeches a master for the way to enlightenment, only to be confused when the master directs him to “Chop wood; draw water” or some other similarly mundane thing.

The master knows something the student doesn’t. Right mindset, in Zen or programming, is best and most deeply achieved when it comes out of practice rather than lofty abstractions.

This collection of episodes is about practice.

Theoria from Poesis

Engineers may learn their most enduring lessons from what Aristotle called “poiesis” (making), but chopping wood and drawing water as a way of learning has its limits, too.

Western intellectualism has a abstraction-centric bias that tends to put “pure” theory before practice. But at its best, Aristotelian “theoria” works in the other direction; it compresses regularities observed in large ranges of examples into generative principles that are easier to communicate.

This collection of episodes is about principles.

The Rise and Decline of Programming Languages

Whole-systems engineering, when you get good at it, goes beyond being entirely or even mostly about technical optimizations. Every artifact we make is situated in a context of human action that widens out to the economics of its use, the sociology of its users, and the entirety of what Austrian economists call “praxeology”, the science of purposeful human behavior under scarcity, cost, and limited-information constraints.

This isn’t just abstract theory for me. When I wrote my papers on open-source development, they were exactly praxeology – they weren’t about any specific software technology or objective but about the context of human action within which technology is worked. An increase in praxeological understanding of technology can reframe it, leading to tremendous increases in human productivity and satisfaction, not so much because of changes in our tools but because of changes in the way we grasp them.

I’m also fascinated by the challenges of programming-language design. The first four episodes in this section came out of my attempt to understand long-term tends in the rise and fall of computer languages in a praxeological way. The fifth, on the waning of Python, is a report from the trenches on what I had to do to cope with the kind of problem those previous essays were about.

The Dialogues

Programming is not a skill readily taught in a classroom setting – not above its lowest and most mechanical level, anyway. What our schools produce is all too often incompetence that is incompletely remedied by field experience.

The reason goes straight back to the duality of tools and mindset. While use of tools can in fact be learned in a classroom setting, teaching right mindset is a great deal more difficult. I’ve known a handful of gifted teachers who made a respectable effort, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

The mindset part is best taught by apprenticeship – that is, a close relationship between an individual teacher and an individual student in which the student practices imitating the skills and mental habits of the master until that careful memesis induces a near-replica of the master’s mindset to form in the student.

These episodes are polished from communications with people who were formally or occasionally apprenticed to me. The resemblance to Zen stories or Socratic dialogues is intentional; these are powerful, time-tested models of teaching right mindset that I adopted quite consciously and seem to have served well.


Because the community of commenters around A&D has influenced and in some cases motivated the development of this material, I’m opening the comment thread to suggestions of what else I should write about.

154 thoughts on “Announcing a new book: “The Programmer’s Way”

  1. Since you mention Patreon here, I do want to say that I deleted my Patreon account and sadly my (albeit small) monthly payment to you. I will not support a platform that thinks that it can at will eliminate anyone who does not toe the progressive party line. Sure I know what Sargon did was a bad social faux pas, but there are many on patreon to the far left of him doing far worse and receiving no punishment because its obvious Patreon has “no enemies to the left”. I would love to chip in more support for this book, but I will not condone hard leftist speech code enforcers at any level.

    • >I would love to chip in more support for this book, but I will not condone hard leftist speech code enforcers at any level.

      Can’t say I blame you. Unfortunately, bailing out of Patreon would blow a hole in my income I can’t afford right now.

      Perhaps you could hit the tip jar on this blog instead.

          • _in theory_ you could make the same Patreon rewards available to people who have donated to the tip-jar, but that seems like it will produce a cumbersome process (checking who sent donations this month, then “somehow” delivering the promised goods).

            You could make it relatively straightforward through WooCommerce and either the Membership or Subscription plugins.

            You would post the content like you post any WordPress content, make it of a certain category, and it would be available only to people who are paying. I’ve done this kind of thing before, so if you opt for this, I’d be more than happy to set it up for you or help you set it up – whatever you need, really.

            Now, this implies having a few paid plugins which you’d have to renew yearly in order to keep updated… that’d be the cost of doing business. The number will probably be between $150 and $400 a year depending on the plugins you choose.

            Bear in mind PayPal fees are 2.9%+30c (or 5%+.05c if you qualify for micropayments); I am not sure what Patreon charges, but it seems to be 5% for them + payment processor fees. I hope these tidbits help you evaluate the idea.

            I know it can feel unappealing to change the blog in this direction, because I felt it in my gut when I was writing it – maybe create a site only for that?

            Looking forward to the book :)

              • Please don’t. I for one have a strong preference for reading on dead tree.

                There’s a hard-to-describe gestalt *feeling* to leafing through a physical book, one that no tablet or reader captures; and the physical presence of a book on the shelf evokes memories in a way that a disk file cannot. My brother once asked me, while helping me pack for a move, why I keep hauling all my old books with me. I said I don’t mind packing them. Even if I never read them again, I remember what’s in them, and it’s good to poke those memories from time to time.

                I can’t get either the gestalt feeling or the mnemosynine experience from an epub, so it frustrates me when a work is only available digitally.

                • >Please don’t. I for one have a strong preference for reading on dead tree.

                  At minimum I do expect to set up a print-on-demand service via Amazon.

                • I have a different reason for preferring dead trees – they are far more likely to be around in 10, 25 or 50 years. Electronic data easily disappears.

                  OK that probably has something to do with my policy of not giving a flying eff about backing up data as well. Since all the work I do is for employers, my personal data tends to be nearly unimportant or easily acquired again. I am more minimalist in my digital life that IRL. I no longer collect music, there is YouTube. I could pretty much live my digital life browser-only. If a piece of music is really worth preserving, it is also worth preserving on an LP, not as a file.

                  I know this is going to be *extremely* counter-intuitive to most people around here, who are likely to be “cypherpunks” having their data encrypted to high heavens and stored in 5 backup copies, all far away from the watching eyes of Big Data and Washington. But my approach gives a similar kind of Zennish non-attachment as real-life minimalism. Beyond some family photos, what non-recoverable data am I so attached to that I would miss them? None, really.

                  Even if I had a different attitude, there is also the social aspect of paper books. People spot them on your coffee table and borrow it. Or talk about it. Ebooks are very asocial, albeit there is probably an app for that somewhere.

      • esr, it’s worth noting that the tip-jar allows recurring monthly payments, just like Patreon did. I just switched over, and I’ve closed my Patreon account.

      • Just an FYI – Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin are working on a similar platform to Patreon but without the political bias and censorship. They claim it will be available sooner than later since a lot of creators are in the same boat.

        • Several attempts at this have been made. All of the major payment processors immediately shut them off, apparently at the explicit demand of MasterCard.

          • Then MasterCard should be sued for tortious interference. Also, we should brandish Trump as a weapon against them–and anyone who caves to them.

            • Also also, this is what (some) people have been warning about for years – computerisation of banking, plus fiat currencies, plus the abandonment of cash money, plus very heavy legislation, allows people who are politically connected to control and censor political speech.

              In this particular case, they don’t even have to do it explicitly. MasterCard is almost certainly not acting because they care about the philosophy of free speech, or the politics involved.

              They are acting because of the risk involved. Which means that those creating the risk have plenty of plausible deniability.

              • To clarify what I mean by risk – the risk is borne by financial processors because of legislation (and precedent) that makes them responsible for how their financial platforms are used.

                You can’t blame MasterCard, here. It’s their balls on the line if ‘something bad’ happens on the platform Peterson et al are setting up.

                And you just know that it would, either because genuine bigots of all colours will flock to it along with the genuine Libertarians, or because it’ll be just too rich a false-flag target to resist.

                At which point you’ve (a) scared off the financial processors, and (b) tainted folks like ESR by association, because many people are hard of thinking.

                Given that deregulation of banking will never happen due to the power it hands legislators, I think the only alternative is a crypto-currency or similar. Or just go back to good ol’ fashioned cash … and note the restrictions being placed on that of late.

                “He who controls the spice controls the universe.”

              • Finishing this rant with one further thought: many (most?) of us are familiar with the term Three Star Programmer.

                The politics involved here are of the three-star variety; they rely on several layers of indirection that render them invisible to casual observers, and attributable to chance or error by the less cynical who do happen to notice them.

                It’s also very hard to prove intent as you climb through layers of indirection. “We had no idea these money-laundering laws would protect entrenched interests in the financial services industry.”

                • I buy guns and ammo with my Mastercard several times a year. They have no qualms whatsoever about risk. It is purely political.

          • I’m unconvinced that MasterCard is anything but a catspaw, here. The government claims that “Operation Chokepoint” has been completely shut down, but…

    • What you describe is just an extension of financial-industry SOP for decades. Banks and financial institutions won’t touch anything having anything remotely to do with organized criminal activity including terrorism, illegal drugs, sex trafficking, and CP. Which means that if you want to accept credit card payments for legal, consenting-adults porn, there are many more hoops you have to jump through and many banks won’t do business with you at all. Recently the financial industry added hate to its list of things they won’t touch.

      On whose behest do you think Patreon is acting? Do you think Big Red gave them a call and they decided, “welp, time to cut off people’s incomes because of this one ranter”? No, Patreon has been caving to the demands of Visa and MasterCard. PayPal will soon follow suit — as will any “alt-tech” money transfer site the right comes up with to replace them. As every right-wing conspiracy theorist knows (or they did in the 90s), if it comes down to you vs. the global bankers, you will lose and lose big.

      • > Recently the financial industry added hate to its list of things they won’t touch.

        Where “hate” is of course defined as saying “Mommy, mommy, the Blue Church Emperor has no clothes!” It’s only a matter of time before Patreon decides to deprive our host of income anyway. PayPal (who drives the tip jar here), too.

        Seriously, that is a recipe for totalitarian control of speech. I sure hope Trump really is attempting to build a parallel banking system to get around them. Meanwhile, if it comes down to de-platforming, I’ll personally send ESR cash by US snail if I have to.

        • Seriously, that is a recipe for totalitarian control of speech.

          Libertarians and conservatives who agitated for the right of bakeries to refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings do not get to complain of totalitarianism when private banks refuse to hold to transact money on behalf of racists. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

          • @Jeff Read

            You’re a smart guy, so I cannot credit the idea that you are this blinkered on the subject.

            First, lets just say that I find it a bit odd to find you – YOU – of all people conflating what rights private citizens should have with what rights banks and financial gateways should have. You’d think you were in favor of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United.

            Lemme clue you into something. If that baker were disallowing gay people from buying cakes from his shop, *he’d have lost his case*. He simply refused to custom-make a cake – providing his own labor to produce a -new- item – on the behalf of this gay couple.

            If you’d like to explain how banks specifically refusing regular services to people they ideologically disagree with is more analogous to creating a custom cake then it is to selling a premade cake from the shop, please go ahead with that. I can’t -wait-.

            Or you could just throw off your ideological blinders, just this once, and take a position that is not completely predictable by your obvious partisan agenda.

            Let’s face it, if the shoe were on the other foot, and people were denied basic financial services on the basis of being on the Left, you’d be rightly furious. Care to pretend otherwise?

            • From a libertarian perspective though anybody should be allowed to refuse to do business with anybody else for any reason at all. Who gets to decide what things are “appropriate” for someone else to discriminate on? If you decide you only want to sell to people who are left-handed, fine. That’s your decision and I wish you the best of luck. I hope you can charge enough of a premium to make up for the smaller market share. If I come in and hold a gun to your head, either directly or via the government, and say, “You will work for me or I will hurt you,” how is that different from slavery?

              That’s not the issue here. The issue is that the big financial institutions only exist due to economies of scale in regulatory compliance and regulatory capture. The little guys get driven out of the market or bought out not for failure to serve customers, but for inability to navigate the morass of bureaucracy where any misstep, however innocent, lands you bankrupt and in jail. The ones in charge of the bureaucratic swamp then end up dictating whatever terms they like to the big corporations. A wink, a nudge, and an insinuation that not doing as they’re told might lead to an unforeseen rule change that would cost them billions is all that is required.

              And this huge power grab has been accomplished one nibble at a time, all in the name of “protecting consumers” or “fighting organized crime”. The big financial institutions have been all for it because they rightly realized that it would squash their smaller competitors, so there was relatively little pushback. Now that the control base has been built we’re starting to learn, yet again, that “power corrupts.” If you build a system like this, it’s only a matter of time before some swaggering, tin-plated dictator with delusions of god-hood comes along and takes control of it. The only solution is to not build the centralized control systems in the first place.

              • @tlhonmey: I have tremendous sympathy for this view. But because of the regulatory capture and (government enforced) monopolistic nature of these banks and financial gateways, we are left in a mess. The pure libertarian solution cannot work here in the short term (though a drastic overhaul in that direction might be just what the doctor ordered!)

                For now, though, I think the only reasonable short term solution is to prevent banks and financial gateways from playing favorites on any grounds other than across-the-board financial ones, such as credit scores, and of course in compliance with specific court orders.

                It is illegitimate for Mastercard to be able to literally starve out people they disagree with, for example.

                In a truly free market, no consortium or firm would have this level of power, but sadly, we have no such thing in the financial sector.

                Now, when it comes to platforms, such as Youtube or Patreon, I take a more libertarian approach, specifically because I believe that competition is at least *possible* that could punish those that arbitrarily deplatform people. But once the rot reaches the financial sector, with services like PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard, I don’t think there is any feasible alternative except to curb their excesses by law.

                I only wish it were otherwise.

      • As someone who’s worked in the financial industry for just about a decade, perhaps I will weigh in.

        Financial institutions are in the business of making money. They’re quite willing to do some very shady things to make a buck. What they’re not willing to do is take risk if the juice ain’t worth the squeeze. Defending yourself from prosecution cuts into margins. Regulatory scrutiny cuts into margins. Getting defrauded cuts into margins.

        Dealing with outright criminal activity ain’t worth it.

        Dealing with something that’s legal but invites heavy regulatory scrutiny ain’t worth it.

        Dealing with porn means dealing with tons of fraud. It’s a PITA.

        Visa and MasterCard are willing to deal with far worse things than hate, so long as the margin is there and the risks are low.

      • While this sounds plausible, I don’t buy it, not in this case. The Patreon kerfluffle crossed my radar this past weekend, and I’ve been catching up on it this week. While in a recent call, the head of the Patreon’s “Trust & Safety” board tried to pass the buck of the responsibility for the decision to the banks, when queried on that, she was nonetheless adamant that this was Patreon’s decision, and no outside pressure was involved. Pick one, Ms. Hart.

      • > No, Patreon has been caving to the demands of Visa and MasterCard.

        I find this explanation unpersuasive, despite what Patreon may say.

        As another poster below notes, porn sites somehow manage to accept Visa and Mastercard, despite an extremely high level of fraud, and despite many fanatical activists wanting to shut them down.

        Now, it may be that the specific bank that Patreon is working with is controlled by communists, but that just means that Patreon needs to find a different bank.

        • I agree. I buy guns and ammo, even tannerite (an explosive) with my Visa and Mastercard all the time. It is purely about leftist extremist censorship.

          • Guns have a VERY low fraud rate. After all, you have to 4463 the damn thing.

            Ammo generally has a specific destination associated with it as well.

            So they can’t hide behind that.

    • My beef with pattern goes the other direction: they banned Naomi Wu (“RealSexyCyborg” on most platforms), for no decent reason, after she got angry at a magazine for reneging on the terms of an interview and thus endangering Naomi (China is a very different place to the US, a fact that magazine failed to grasp).

      • Some Redditors have dug up some convincing evidence that Naomi isn’t all she’s cracked up to be, and that that has much more to do with the Vice flap than any threat of the ChiComs black-bagging her (which would’ve been trivial, even before the Vice story ran, as she sticks out like a sore thumb in Shenzhen and her face is all over the intertubes).

        So much for everyone’s favorite self-taught electronics-geek waifu. We still have Jeri Ellsworth. Near as I can tell, she’s the real deal.

    • Sure I know what Sargon did was a bad social faux pas, but there are many on Patreon to the far left of him doing far worse and receiving no punishment because its obvious Patreon has “no enemies to the left”.

      I will no longer support Patreon not because of what they did, but how they defended this action. Honestly, I initially had concerns about the fact seems to be Patreon policing off-site behavior, which contradicts previous statements both made by Jack Conte (CEO and co-founder of Patreon) and their Terms of Service, which as written seems applicable to only content posted on Patreon itself. So when Jacqueline Hart, Patreon’s head of “Trust and Safety”, wrote a blog post discussed the reasoning behind Sargon’s ban, I was hoping for something which would make this seem far less of a reversal of their prior policy statements. Instead I found my worst fears realized right at the very beginning: the third sentence of that post states, “Before getting into the specifics, I’d like to warn you that there is some inflammatory language.” She then immediately provides a (HIGHLY excerpted) transcript of the discussion, where Sargon uses the words n*****s and f**gots [and yes, Jacqueline censored the words exactly like that].

      I was utterly boggled by this. There is really only one possible reason for both a warning and censorship to occur: if the forces which drove this decision do not recognize the use-mention distinction. Jacqueline is quoting Sargon as saying “n*****s” rather than using the full word because uncensored, this would be perceived as her performing the same hate speech Sargon did. To me, this is a threat far greater than “mere” deplatforming of some particular belief (or racial hatred): it is throwing out all possible discussion directly mentioning that belief, even with the intent to gainsay and refute.

      So my fear is not that ‘Patreon has “no enemies to the left”’ but that the political forces behind this — be they left or right; blue, red, brown, or polka-dotted — have abandoned the principles of reason and discourse in favor of wielding raw political power. That is a road down which I believe no rational person would wish to travel, and I will actively fight anything which I perceive as moving in that direction.

      • I think there is a more defensible explanation for the censorship choice.

        I do not use the one word because of manners I was raised to, but faggot is in my mind perfectly usable because it also has the definition of something to be burned. As a discussion of a type of person, faggot is a little too slangy for my taste. If I can’t make whatever point with formal and precise language, I probably ought not make the point.

        Imagine someone who instead doesn’t use those words because they mentally imbue them with a magical power.

        Wendigo and fox possession are mental conditions in certain cultures, which have beliefs that lead people to the conviction that something significant and magical has happened to them.

        The story of the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ organizer having been redpilled from being a leftwing activist did not make sense to me. I would expect so profound a conversion experience to have been traumatic enough that he wouldn’t just pick up some different contacts and continue doing the same thing. (Under a conversion model, imagine a devout sincere Catholic missionary converting to Calvinism and retooling as a Calvinist evangelist inside of a few weeks.) But if ‘redpill’ is closer to something like wendigo or fox possession, it makes sense.

        If the use of taboo words creates a state of ritual uncleanliness that can cause possibly permanent apostasy, we would expect such avoidance.

        An older model was that hiding conservative theology and teaching only leftist theology would mean that the young would grow up good members of the church of the left. When I became an apostate from the church of the left, I had a home to turn to, because I also knew conservative ideology, and I had never fully remade my life as a temple of the left faith. What we seem to be seeing from the younger apostates is more of a redpill model. Conversion by magic words, valuing those magic words over things like understanding Austrian economics or the writings of the Founding Fathers.

  2. One Shots of Wisdom:

    Basically, any great posts that doesn’t fit into a category you have listed above, or otherwise new categories others have suggested, but still fits with the general theme of the book itself.

  3. @esr: Western intellectualism has a abstraction-centric bias that tends to put “pure” theory before practice. But at its best, Aristotelian “theoria” works in the other direction; it compresses regularities observed in large ranges of examples into generative principles that are easier to communicate.

    Most theory derives from practice, as accumulated experience suggests that various things are related, and particular things are simply instances of a more general class of problems.

    Developing a theory that can create classes and assign things as members of those classes removes practice from purely empirical development to theory driven.

    Putting theory first and then trying to shove square pegs into round holes to fit the theory is probably the most fertile source of error I can think of in any discipline.

    >Dennis

    • Another minor typo –
      “I’ve been working hard on over the last five days it and …” => “I’ve been working hard on it over the last five days and “

  4. Perhaps you can opine on the hacker vs. programmer distinction, and why being good at one doesn’t necessarily make you good at the other.

    • Given that the book is themed around a particular mindset that programmers should take, it wouldn’t surprise me if it described hackers as “those programmers who adopt the mindset described herein”.

      Why do I get the feeling that this book is going to turn out to be The Tao of Programming for people who didn’t grok (and immediately laugh at, for without laughter there would be no Tao) The Tao of Programming?

      • >Why do I get the feeling that this book is going to turn out to be The Tao of Programming for people who didn’t grok (and immediately laugh at, for without laughter there would be no Tao) The Tao of Programming?

        I would consider that success.

  5. Um, just curious, but when was the last time you published a book?

    If I understand correctly, nowadays you can just upload it to amazon and voila, it’s published!

    As a comment: I will definitely buy your book if it’s on kindle.

    • I understand that uploading to Amazon can be a challenge in of itself. That even without special formatting concerns.

      I have not been looking for a good LaTeX to Amazon converter, and have not come across mention of one.

      If this has tables and graphics, it may not be worth the time to do the publication personally. On the other hand, traditional fiction publishing sounds like a mess and a half to deal with. I do not really know much about technical and scientific publishing.

          • There is still far less work and risk involved in using Word than in using something obscure like LaTeX. There is also far more likely to be tooling to help with the format conversion for Word than there is for LaTeX. Furthermore, if you are publishing for dead trees with a traditional publisher, chances are 90% your editor is going to want to see a Word copy of your manuscript. I fail to see why Amazon would be any different.

            • > There is still far less work and risk involved in using Word than in using something obscure like LaTeX.

              LaTeX is for print, not ebooks, and it’s far from “obscure”. Also, LaTeX is for formatting, not writing. Those are not the same thing. At all.

              Printing a Word document invariably gives you something that looks like you printed a Word document (i.e., it looks like homemade ass). Commercial publishers may want submissions as Word documents, but that’s certainly not what they send to the press (they’re more likely to use something like InDesign or DocBook than LaTeX, unless they’re technical publishers, but that’s still not Word). They will take your Word document and put it in their preferred format. Why not start with a better format in the first place and skip that grief?

              > I fail to see why Amazon would be any different.

              Amazon wants to see Kindle-format files (for ebooks) and print-ready PDFs (for print), and they don’t give a flying crap what toolchain you used to produce them. While I think they will allow you to upload a Word file to the Kindle publishing portal, that’s going to give you major problems if the book is anything but straight text. You might get a usable (if not particularly attractive) Kindle file from a text-only novel, but that’s just not going to work for a technical book with graphs, illustrations, etc.

              If you think any kind of fancy Word formatting is going to survive the Word->kf8 conversion process, I have a bridge that you might be interested in purchasing.

              Source: have done this, multiple times.

              • >Commercial publishers may want submissions as Word documents, but that’s certainly not what they send to the press (they’re more likely to use something like InDesign or DocBook than LaTeX, unless they’re technical publishers, but that’s still not Word).

                Confirmed. I did my last two books in DocBook. My SF story was submitted in asciidoc. In all three cases this made the publishers much happier – and created less work for them – than if I’d shipped a Microsoft Word blob.

                >If you think any kind of fancy Word formatting is going to survive the Word->kf8 conversion process, I have a bridge that you might be interested in purchasing.

                Again confirmed. As is so often the case, Jeff Read has no freaking idea what he is talking about.

                >Source: have done this, multiple times.

                Same here. And I can add something to Dr. Locketopus’s account.

                The publishing pipeline is kind of a tandem bicycle with editors in the front and a production crew in the back. The editors may like Word documents (so handy for their PCs), but I guarantee you the production crew does not. After you ship a Word document to a publisher and it passes through the editors, the production crew has to transcode it into a markup they can actually render on a typesetting system. As the Doctor says, this is likely to be InDesign or DocBook (or, at some specialty publishers, LaTeX).

                At a really tech-savvy publisher they’d actually prefer you to ship them DocBook. Or, nowadays, asciidoc, which compiles to DocBook.

                Like the Doctor, I have done this multiple times.

              • Thank you for the information. I was only estimating from hearsay on the fiction end.

                I have no personal experience, and had never heard of DocBook.

            • Businesses say they want submissions as “Word” files largely because they’re not actually technically literate. What they actually mean is “Something I can open with Word because that’s what I have on my machine.” Which actually covers quite a few formats. And what they really, really mean is “Something that will open when I double-click on it.” Which includes also whatever program they’re going to copy it out of Word and paste it into.

      • > I understand that uploading to Amazon can be a challenge in of itself.

        Nah, it’s dirt-simple.

        For ebooks:

        1) Make Kindle file.
        2) Upload.
        3) Set author, price, etc.
        4) Click publish.

        For print books:

        1) Make print-ready PDF
        2) Make cover (separate file for print, covers are internal for ebooks).
        3) Upload files.
        4) Choose trim size, paper type, etc. (obviously the paper size must match what you’ve set in the PDF).
        4) Set author, price, etc.
        5) Click publish.

        • The hearsay I had involved preparing epub and print ready PDFs from Word files. Thanks for the correction. I don’t really have advanced skills in any of the document production options, and this discussion has shown me some things to look into.

          • > The hearsay I had involved preparing epub and print ready PDFs from Word files.

            Well, the answer there is the same as the one to the old joke.

            Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”
            Doctor: “Well, don’t do that, then.”

            :-)

            It’s seriously amazing to me to see some of the convoluted and baroque stylesheets, macros, deals with Satan, etc. people will resort to just so they can keep using Word for a task for which it is manifestly unsuited.

            • No more convoluted or baroque than manually inserting and then living with the markup codes involved in composing prose directly in asciidoc or some other text-based markup language.

              But now that you’ve invoked Satan, this is starting to sound like a Holy War. (“Word Considered Harmful!” “No, ‘Word Considered Harmful’ Considered Harmful!”)

              • No more convoluted or baroque than manually inserting and then living with the markup codes involved in composing prose directly in [… a…] text-based markup language.

                Yeahbut –

                There’s a great advantage to using a markup language – you can completely separate content from presentation.

                Hell, we all do it all the time already for HTML (like I did in the last paragraph for “content”, etc.) – HTML’s problem is that it didn’t cleanly separate real presentation (“<em>”) from mere styling (“<u>”).

                Using a markup system, combined with semantic linefeeds, gives you the freedom to do all kinds of useful manipulation of the text (re-ordering clauses or whole paragraphs or entire chapters, more rational version control diffs, etc.), and the ability to re-render the same document into multiple formats without changing one whit of its contents.

                “You’ll get your an.tmac files back when you pry them from my cold dead fingers!”

                [T]his is starting to sound like a Holy War.

                Ah yes, the One True Troff Macro Package debate. Good times, good times…. ;-}

                • >There’s a great advantage to using a markup language – you can completely separate content from presentation.

                  To bring this back to the subject of the thread: one reason I strongly prefer explicit markups like asciidoc – and run screaming from things like Microsoft Word – is that content/formatting separation lets you style the same master in differing ways for different outputs – e.g. EPUB, HTML, PDF. I rely on this capability and am using it in the production of the new book – generating EPUB for sale, HTML for previewing, and will probably be making PDFs for print-on-demand.

                  The combination of asciidoc, CSS for EPUB, and the GIMP enables me to do my own book design, compose the cover myself, and produce a beautifully finished product that looks the way I want it to. “Word Processors” have never come within a long country light year of giving me that kind of control.

                  • I would add that markup languages are way more *fun* than word processors. Managing citations, tables, and figures in Word sucks; the visceral pleasure I get out of watching my computer automate those tasks in a matter of minutes makes me want to get more work done. There’s a zen-like joy in using and learning to use quality tools.

                    Have hackers ever tried marketing their UIs? From what I know of the culture, I would expect not—the focus seems to be on seducing desktop users with sexy, user-friendly graphical programs—but I’m still new and learning the tribe’s history. I ask because I bet that thousands of doctors, lawyers, and other such businesspeople would switch to Linux in a heartbeat if they knew how much more efficiently they could get their work done with an open-source system. “Yes, you need to put in some effort to learn Linux, but by the end, you’ll be able to manage your workflow like a God. Check out what I can do with i3 and vim. Oh, and don’t tell your boss, but you’ll have a blast along the way, too. ” That seems like a compelling pitch!

                    When I work in a coffee shop, strangers see my desktop environment and ask me what the heck I’m doing with my laptop. Nine times out of ten, they get intrigued when I show them; once, I even went on a date when a cute girl saw me call M-x tetris. There’s gotta be some way to evoke that same sense of wonder in business folks.

                    A final thought: I suspect that the abundance of heavy GUIs is an unfortunate Nash Equilibrium perpetuated by Apple and Microsoft’s marketing muscle. I bet most people would love curses-based interfaces if they tried them. They’re beautifully efficient, yes, but just as importantly, they look cool.

                    • The major issue for curses-based interfaces these days is lack of ability to do in-line pictures. Most people spend most of their time looking at webpages, and webpages without pictures and videos these days are seriously lacking.

                      The “Text interfaces are unprofessional” meme though, yeah, that comes from Microsoft and Apple. Mostly from Microsoft where any time your computer starts dumping text (especially with a blue background color) it means something horrible has happened.

                    • . Managing citations, tables, and figures in Word sucks; …

                      Actually, recent versions of Microsoft Word (since… 2010 maybe?) have pretty decent features for managing citations, figures, and other sorts of references. The real problem with them is, in a mockery of the Pareto principle (“80% of effects from 20% of causes”), then Word’s automatic reference management is in the 1% of features unknown to 99% of users… and mostly because it will likely break if the entire document does not avoid “direct formatting” [i.e. you may change text appearance / layout only by applying styles, fully eschewing the formatting tools front and center on the ribbon / toolbar]. In fact, the styles feature in Word is pretty decent about empowering the conscientious separation of presentation from content … Word simply doesn’t enforce this on users, which is a real pity IMO.

              • The choices aren’t just Word or manually inserting formatting in a text editor, though. There are actual dedicated programs (e.g. Scriviner) that are better than Word for both writing books and outputting them as a decent ebook.

                • Now there’s another Holy War for you: Between authors who love Scriviner and those who can’t stand the beast. Not to mention the contingent who find it great for working out and organizing background notes, outlines, etc. but not so good for producing the prose that goes into the actual manuscript.

            • Yeah. Word is perfectly suited to the primary task of word processors of the 1970s and 1980s — allowing secretaries to type up business correspondence. It is believing that the software built around that task is actually a general-purpose “word processor” that causes so many headaches.

              Sure, it’s got the nominal features to support other tasks, but the same can be said for a Swiss army knife. If you’re planning to unscrew a whole bunch of Phillips-head screws, you should get a screwdriver (or, moving up, a drill with a screwdriver bit), not rely on a knife.

    • A publisher may be optional; an editor isn’t. Beyond proofreading, a good editor will improve clarity of thought, and clarity of expression and communication of those thoughts. Good writing can be a solitary effort; excellent writing never is.

    • @Arron Grier: If I understand correctly, nowadays you can just upload it to amazon and voila, it’s published!

      *snort* There’s publishing, and there’s publishing.

      Uploading to Amazon is “self” or “indie” publishing. The books Eric has previously written have been “traditionally” published. A publishing house that makes its living publishing and selling books decided to publish what Eric wrote, accepted his manuscript, and paid him for the right to publish it.

      Yep, you can write a book and upload it to Amazon. Actually selling it and making money is quite another matter.

      Eric has a demonstrated track record of writing books in this category that sell, and publishers who issue the sort of thing Eric does are likely to pay him for the right to publish the next one. No, he does not just want to upload to Amazon.

      (And while you definitely want your books available through Amazon, they aren’t the only sales channel and you really don’t want to grant them a monopoly.)

      As for being available on Kindle, that’s primarily an eBook format question. Amazon bought an early eBook publisher called Mobipocket back in 2005, and used their format as the basis for Kindle editions. The original Mobi format has subsequently been extended into the newer Azw3 format, but Kindles and Kindle apps still handle either. If you can get it an Mobi or Azw3 format, you should be able to side-load it on your Kindle even if it isn’t on Amazon.

      >Dennis

      • > Eric has a demonstrated track record of writing books in this category that sell, and publishers who issue the sort of thing Eric does are likely to pay him for the right to publish the next one.

        That is an explanation of why a traditional publisher would want to publish Eric’s book, not an explanation of why Eric would want to let them do it.

        > Yep, you can write a book and upload it to Amazon. Actually selling it and making money is quite another matter.

        The hard part of self-publishing is publicity/eyeballs, which esr already has. There is zero reason for him to fork over 80% of the money to pay for some communist’s fancy Manhattan office.

        • @Doctor Locktopus:

          I’ll let esr answer why he let traditional publishers publish his other books.

          My answer would be “They paid me up front for the right to publish it. Whether it actually sold and recovered the costs of publication and the advance they paid me was their problem. They were making a bet it would.”

          The hard part of self-publishing is publicity/eyeballs, which esr already has.

          Converting eyeballs to sales is non-trivial, even if you have them to convert.

          There is zero reason for him to fork over 80% of the money to pay for some communist’s fancy Manhattan office..

          They aren’t Communists, and the offices aren’t all in Manhattan.

          As it what it pays for, publishing has costs. Every book has a budget where those costs are broken out. Just as a quick precis, and likely leaving stuff out, what costs get incurred?

          The editor’s time in reviewing the manuscript and deciding to make an offer.

          The advance paid for the rights.

          Contracts’ time in preparing and negotiating the contract to publish.

          The editor’s time in doing the line edit on receipt of manuscript to polish the book and make it more saleable.

          Copy editing and proofreading on the approved final manuscript.

          Possible review by Legal in the cases where a book makes claims someone might want to sue over to insure the book can be successfully defended if suit it brought.

          Creation of a cover design and commissioning of artwork for it, and creation of interior design by a book designer.

          DTP time in taking the Word Document, importing into Adobe InDesign, doing layout, markup and typesetting, with the e3nd result being a PDF the printer can make plates from to print the job.

          Creation of eBook formats from the Word document, which is a separate process.

          Actual printing, binding, warehousing and distribution of print volumes. (Note that these steps make up perhaps 10% of the normal book’s budget, and dropping print entirely doesn’t drop costs anywhere near as much as most folks believe who think that dropping print can make eBooks cheaper.)

          Attempting to actually sell the book.

          And last but not least, an allocated share of the overhead of the publisher in terms of office space, utilities, taxes, and salaries not directly directly chargeable to published volumes.

          And note that at least 80% of the costs of publication are incurred before the book reaches the form of publication in print or electronic form.

          Sure, you can choose to self-publish. But all the stuff above lands on you to either do yourself or pay someone else to do. And the money you spend to pay for stuff comes out of your pocket, with no guarantee the book will sell and you will recover those costs.

          Do you have the ability to do a lot of the above? (And no, you really don’t want to try to be your own editor, nor design your own covers.) and even if you do, is it how you want to spend your time? Eric isn’t trying to make his living writing. It’s supplementary income. He wants to write and deploy code. Having someone else handle that frees him to do his main job.

          If I were Eric, and a publisher who had already published my work wanted to pay me for the right to do it again I’d do it in a heartbeat. I might want to write the book, but the rest of the stuff involved in getting it published I’d be happy to hand off.

          >Dennis

          • >I’ll let esr answer why he let traditional publishers publish his other books.

            Indie wan’t really a thing yet when I did my last book.

            Much of your case for conventional publishing has evaporated. Going through your cost items:

            >The editor’s time in reviewing the manuscript and deciding to make an offer. Contracts’ time in preparing and negotiating the contract to publish. DTP time […] Creation of eBook formats. And last but not least, an allocated share of the overhead of the publisher in terms of office space, utilities, taxes, and salaries not directly directly chargeable to published volumes.

            None of these are any benefit to the author at all, they’re just overhead. Friction costs.

            >The advance paid for the rights.

            To me, not significant. Comes out of future income I’d be paid anyway, and the time value of having that money now rather than later has never been relevant for me. Nor ever will be as long as I have roughly the amount of the advance in the bank, and no publisher has ever offered me enough of an advance to bust that.

            >The editor’s time in doing the line edit on receipt of manuscript to polish the book and make it more saleable. Copy editing and proofreading on the approved final manuscript.

            I ship publication-ready copy. The editing pass on my books is usually a formality – if I want people to spot typos, all I have to do is put the text where hackers can see it. (Before or after official publication!)

            >Possible review by Legal in the cases where a book makes claims someone might want to sue over to insure the book can be successfully defended if suit it brought.

            Publishers do that to make themselves feel safe, not me. Since I don’t steal content from others, I’ve already performed the only defense I think I need. And I don’t buy the implied assumption that any legal review is protective against a determined attacker.

            >Actual printing, binding, warehousing and distribution of print volumes.

            Has become a nice-to-have but non-essential thing. I’d consider it a slam-dunk only if the cost were 10% of my take rather than around 90%.

            >Attempting to actually sell the book.

            Having done more than one book, I’m not convinced that publishers are good enough at this to justify the amount they charge for it. Again, this is something I might be willing to pay another 10% of my take for, but 80% seems really high to me.

            The actual benefits, as I see them, are (a) printing & shipping, and (b) sales/marketing. And I’m dubious about (b). It might be that in the past, or in categories other than the ones I publish in, publishers’ promotional spend was enough to make some difference in my royalties. I don’t think I see that any more – I think they market their own brand to some extent but that they’re not even very good at that compared to the instant reach of electronic publication.

            If you’re inclined to be skeptical about my cost-benefit analysis, remember that I’m not new at this game. I think my publishers have been pretty good to me on the whole, but their value proposition looks increasingly elusive from here. The major question I’m mulling at this point is whether I’m willing to pay what publishers charge for having a physical book in my hands.

            • I think a major advantage of a known publisher is that being published there serves as a seal of approval, people (at least, I) tend to prefer the books from the known good series. But since your name is a brand on its own by now, it probably wouldn’t make a big difference.

              I think, the editing is pretty useful too, but as you say, it doesn’t matter for you.

              And royalty-wise the self-publishing pays a lot more per copy, you can easily get something like $15 from Amazon sales and $8 from other sales instead of something like $1 from a traditional publisher.

              You can do e-pub to Kindle from HTML but there is a catch (or at least used to be 5 years ago): Kindle can’t handle the HTML tags that go for more than 64 KB. It pages over them forwards fine but breaks terribly when trying to page backwards. So if your HTML generator puts the whole chapter into a single (as Docbook does), Kindle can’t handle it. Or maybe they’ve fixed it, I haven’t tried recently. The weirdest part about the Amazon self-pub pricing model is that they pay a higher percentage as royalties for the paper books than for e-books.

              • >You can do e-pub to Kindle from HTML but there is a catch

                That’s not how I’d do it. My toolchain makes epub from asciidoc; translating to Kindle MOBI is a simple step from there.

              • > Or maybe they’ve fixed it, I haven’t tried recently.

                I’ve never encountered this and all the stuff I have in Kindle format is one-chapter-per-file, so I suspect it’s been fixed.

              • I think a major advantage of a known publisher is that being published there serves as a seal of approval,

                Nope.

                The major advantage, prior to (putting a stake in the ground) 2008 was that you had to be a somewhat major publisher to get books into a brick and mortar.

                For fiction (including SciFi) that is not as useful as it was.

                I also suspect that for people with reputations POD + Ebook on multiple platforms will result in more money in their own pocket.

            • Eric,

              As a minor self-publisher and anthologist, let me suggest a straightforward way to decide whether to go indie or traditional with your new book:

              Write something else first, something short and quick; self-publish it on Kindle priced at 99 cents; and see how well it sells.

              This will also introduce you to the wonderful (ahem) world of book marketing, which you will want to be familiar with before a major indie launch even with your existing audience. You can iterate on your skills and approach and then decide whether going traditional is still better or not, which seems a very hacker-like way to handle the question.

              (By the way, anyone here want to write a short story about asteroids? /shameless_plug)

              • >This will also introduce you to the wonderful (ahem) world of book marketing, which you will want to be familiar with before a major indie launch even with your existing audience.

                How does book marketing work when you’re self-publishing? What do you do?

                • There are two general challenges: first of all, letting the right people know your book even exists, and second, persuading them that your book is worth their time and money.

                  With a traditional publisher, the first step is (or was) much easier; simply by being published, your book automatically becomes an event that gets noticed, at least in passing, by reviewers and those who follow the industry. As an indie, it is much harder to even be noticed; there are millions of self-published books, most of which vanish into the aether as soon as they are published.

                  The second step is why book reviews were (and are) so important; they are authoritative voices telling you that the book is worth reading. Word of mouth also matters, now much more than ever; but even today, getting reviews in the right places is still crucial. It’s just that Amazon reader reviews are probably even more important than “professional” reviews, and matter more for long-term sales.

                  As an existing personality with a built-in fanbase, you are in a much better position to accomplish both of these things, and you will probably be guaranteed some sales to your existing fans even without much effort. If your goals for the book are to reach out to the broader programming industry, however, that means marketing. And the first step is very clearly defining who your target buyers are, and where they can be found.

                  Reaching out to programming-related book reviewers will be important (including providing them with free review copies), but also widely-read tech bloggers and the like. If you know of other writers who market to your target audience, setting up a cross-promotion with their work is an effective tactic as well. Attending conferences and talking up your book, especially if you can set up a panel discussion around it, would be very effective. Maybe contacting computer-science departments at universities, if you think this will be textbook material. Direct advertising might be worthwhile, but is a bit of a minefield.

                  You can also hire people to do these things, if your time is better spent elsewhere, but that assumes you can find a marketer who is in tune with the programming-related market specifically.

                  • >And the first step is very clearly defining who your target buyers are, and where they can be found.

                    Early to mid-career programmers interested in upping their game. Primarily in industry.

                    • Then you should spend some time learning what books, or other training resources, these programmers already use—and how they find them and where they buy them. Then try to get your own book noticed in those same venues, via reviews or cross-promotions or advertising.

          • > Creation of eBook formats from the Word document, which is a separate process.

            Eric has addressed many of your points below, but I wanted to set this out by itself.

            Word is a very poor choice for this process (or some would say, any process).

            One is much better off with a plain text editor (such as emacs), and then taking that plain text and converting it to epub (for Kindle, iBooks, etc) and LaTeX (for print publication). Writing and formatting are two different things, and trying to do both at the same time (as Word attempts to do) is basically insane.

            > Actual printing, binding, warehousing and distribution of print volumes.

            You can upload a print-ready PDF to Amazon and they will take care of all of that for you, and still pay you WAY more than any traditional publisher will pay.

            > Do you have the ability to do a lot of the above?

            Yes, actually, I do.

            • > You can upload a print-ready PDF to Amazon and they will take care of all of that for you, and still pay you WAY more than any traditional publisher will pay.

              Or if you are an Amazon hater (or are worried about getting your book in stores that may be run by Amazon haters), there are other vendors that provide that service as well (watch out for scam artists here, though… there are reputable vendors, such as Ingram’s IngramSpark, but also some dubious ones).

              • I just did a cost estimate on Eric’s The Art of Computer Programming, using the nearest trim size available and the page count and pricing given on the book’s Amazon page.

                List price: $44.81

                Ingram net to esr (after printing costs and wholesaler’s/retailer’s cuts): $8.85

                Amazon net to esr (if sold through Amazon): $18.47
                Amazon net to esr (if printed by Amazon and sold through another merchant): $9.50

                While I don’t know how much he’s getting from his traditional publisher, I would bet that it’s considerably less than any of those figures, and probably WAY less than the amount if the book is both printed and sold by Amazon.

                • >While I don’t know how much he’s getting from his traditional publisher, I would bet that it’s considerably less than any of those figures, and probably WAY less than the amount if the book is both printed and sold by Amazon.

                  It’s less. This is exactly why I’m thinking of going indie this time around.

                  You appear to know things I don’t. Do you have a heuristic for how I should price my ebooks?

                  • I’d think you, personally, could probably price them similarly to other books in the field.

                    Maybe if you were an unknown author you might want to use a lower price for your first few books (although not DRAMATICALLY lower, because that screams “cheap”), but everyone already knows who you are.

                    • For what it’s worth, I (being a new author) have tried to experiment with the prices, and it had zero effect on the sales. Lowering the price didn’t increase the sales at all but it ate a good deal into the royalty, so eventually I’ve just put things back to a reasonable mid-field price.

            • > Writing and formatting are two different things, and trying to do both at the same time (as Word attempts to do) is basically insane.

              I find the purist insistence on separation of text and formatting to be insane. Prose production is not text editing, and prose needs a certain amount of formatting. Now if you are comfortable with using text-file formatting kludges like asciidoc or markdown in longer works (rather than finding them merely tolerable in short text files only) then I’m happy for you. But not everyone is comfortable with that – particularly those of us who are mere lusers rather than ‘leet programmers. For us, word processing programs like MS Word that do mix writing and formatting are godsends – precisely because they mix the two.

              • > For us, word processing programs like MS Word that do mix writing and formatting are godsends – precisely because they mix the two.

                Until you want the result to not look like ass in either printed book or ebook form, at which point your “godsend” becomes a living hell.

                  • The only way to fix that “short-term annoyance” is to migrate your text into a completely different formatting system, which is what you should’ve done in the first place.

                    • Migrating the prose in Word to that different formatting system and dealing with it there IS the annoyance. Still two orders of magnitude less painful than trying to deal with that text-based formatting system from the start.

  6. In a blog post in the recent past you talked about systems architecture. I’d vote to read more of that.

  7. Is there any news on the linux CoC saga?

    Will anyone rescind?

    Why has Eben Moglen been silent over these last two months after declaring that he will “correct” the person saying that copyright holders could rescind.

    Why does everyone say “this is wrong, but we won’t lower ourselves to explain how/why”.

    Is it because they are full of shit?

    There is no attached interest.
    The grant is gratuitous.
    :. It can be freely revoked.

    Just like any property license.

    “But if they promised they wouldn’t revoke and we reasonably relied upon that we have this state law affirmative defense”.
    They didn’t, you can’t reasonably rely on what doesn’t exist, (note: the case would be removed to federal court as it relates back to a federal case or controversy.), and still no consideration was payed to the rights-holder for this supposed forbearance..

    Why is it that I have explained the law, and I’m “WRONG”,
    where as Eben Moglen and others have NOT explained their claims and they’re “RIGHT”.

    And why is no one talking about this anymore.
    Why is it that they can simply make declarations and it is “Correct”
    but when I explain the black-letter law, and refute any cases that are brought up,
    I am “Wrong”.

    Please explain this to me ESR, I do not understand.
    And why is there silence now?

  8. ESR: Example: No one ever successfully refutes the arguments. They just declare “you are not a lawyer” or “isn’t practicing law without a license a crime (DNG mailing list) etc.

    I am a lawyer, and my interpretation is correct. They never refute it, just stay silent or make vague statements.

    Yes: The linux devs can rescind their license grant. GPLv2 is a bare license and is revocable by the grantor.
    Raul Miller rauldmiller at gmail.com
    Mon Dec 24 16:02:08 UTC 2018

    Previous message (by thread): Yes: The linux devs can rescind their license grant. GPLv2 is a bare license and is revocable by the grantor.
    Next message (by thread): Reason for RedHat purchase 30 pct over market cap
    Messages sorted by: [ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ]

    (1) Wrong mailing lists – these are not linux mailing lists.

    (2) … (I am not going to go over the legal mistakes you’ve made,
    because of (1))…

    (3) Anyways, … people do make mistakes… But, please stop making
    these mistakes.

    Thanks,


    Raul

    On Mon, Dec 24, 2018 at 10:55 AM wrote:
    >
    > Bradley M. Kuhn: The SFConservancy’s new explanation was refuted 5 hours
    > after it was published:
    >

  9. There’s a lot of focus on the code but it would be useful to also have some information on how to maintain focus on high quality code under the pressure of a team environment. In a team, you may have other programmers who want to take short cuts or stakeholders who need the code RIGHT NOW. How do you maintain The Programmer’s Way under real world pressure?

    There’s also a difference between working on something you’ve already done versus picking up tools, techniques, and languages you’ve never used before. It’s taken me a few cycles of watching more senior people pick up new tools to get an idea of where to start. It would be useful to get your point of view on that as part of Programmer’s Way.

  10. You’ve said here that many computer science degree programs do not teach what you value.

    I suspect the computer science training I have access to locally may not be what I need to reach my goal. A problem I want to work on seems to require that I considerably broaden my foundations. I think I will need to pick up expertise in a field I will be studying next, and in computer science. I know where to find your hacking how-tos.

    I have programmed, but I do not consider myself a competent programmer. I tend to require a fair amount of refreshment whenever I dip my toe back into programming. I’m seriously lacking in both experience and in theoretical background.

    How would this book be as a textbook? Will it be a fairly basic level text? Or will I be lost if I don’t already have some depth in CS?

    What kinds of things will not be covered, because they are well covered elsewhere?

    What are you assuming about your audience in terms of theoretical prerequisites and experience prerequisites?

    • >How would this book be as a textbook? Will it be a fairly basic level text? Or will I be lost if I don’t already have some depth in CS?

      It won’t require a lot of CS theory, but it is aimed at people who have at least sone technical skill already and want to improve their insight.

      If you can follow my blog posts you’ll do fine with it.

  11. I’ve been recently thinking about programming as a skill, and it feels like a combination of two skills, both of which are needed: the intuition in problem-solving and the systematic “mechanistic” approach of breaking the problems down into sub-problems. The issue with teaching the programming feels to be that these skills are not taught explicitly, and many people tend to pick up only one of the two, because either one is enough to solve the simple problems used for teaching. And then they either manage to develop the second skill or often don’t. There is going to be my article on this subject in the next Usenix :login;, developed from my earlier personal blog posts https://babkin-cep.blogspot.com/2018/10/how-to-reinvent-bicycle.html and the next one.

  12. > (2) … (I am not going to go over the legal mistakes you’ve made,
    > because of (1))…

    I have not made legal mistakes, pompous programmer asshole*.

    A gratuitous license, absent an attached interest, is revocable at will.

    This goes for GPLv2 as used by linux, just as it goes for the BSD license(s).
    The only entities who have, with regards to BSD, an attached interests
    are perhaps those companies who pay for its development. Non-gratis (paying) customers
    may have some refuge under consumer protection statutes, for current versions they have
    in their posession, paid for by good consideration.

    Everyone else has NOTHING.
    Do you understand that?

    In the case of the 1000’s of linux copyright holders to whom no consideration
    was given by an entity, and the various BSD copyright holders (read: the programmers),
    who have not ASSIGNED their copyright over to some other entity, there is
    NOTHING to hold them to a promise THEY NEVER MADE.

    DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT?
    DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT NEITHER THEY NOR YOU HAVE PROMISED NOT TO ELLECT
    TO USE YOUR AS-OF-RIGHT OPTION TO RESCIND YOUR GRATUITOUS LICENSE REGARDING
    YOUR WORK.

    One cannot rely on a promise that was never made, additionally many of them
    were never paid consideration for this non existant promise either.

    *(Note: I am both a programmer and an attorney, so I know the type)

    >On 2018-12-24 16:01, Raul Miller wrote:

  13. You think there will ever be an updated edition of TAOUP? It’s turning 15 years old in 2019, by my count, and much appears to have changed since it was first published.

    • >You think there will ever be an updated edition of TAOUP? It’s turning 15 years old in 2019, by my count, and much appears to have changed since it was first published.

      It’s [possible – I think about it from time to time – but I have no current plans.

  14. I hope you’ll have lots of programming examples. (If wasn’t in my fifties I’d ask to become your apprentice.)

  15. Nicholas Nassim Taleb puts practitioners ahead of theoreticians. Complemented Benoit Mandelbrot as a Roman (practitioner) among Greeks (theoreticians).

    Come to think of it, Laplace transforms were a formalization of Heaviside expansions. The theoretician stole the meat of the idea from an engineer who was merely inventing and using the technique.

    Book recommendation: anything by Nicholas Nassim Taleb – Fooled by Randomness, Black Swan, Skin in the Game, Antifragile, OR Incerto – a compilation of the prior titles.

    The reason Taleb comes to mind is a) I read his stuff recently, and b) he expresses contempt for theoreticians much as DMcCunney does above.

    It seems to me that the greatest service any theoretician can perform is to make people understand how to write code that is more easily MAINTAINED, since most coding expenses occur after delivery

    • @V.M. SmithThe reason Taleb comes to mind is a) I read his stuff recently, and b) he expresses contempt for theoreticians much as DMcCunney does above.

      I’ve been reading Taleb too, and concur with your recommendation. But my contempt isn’t for theoreticians as a whole – it’s for theoreticians not grounded in reality. I see a lot of the latter, where magical thinking predominates, and an unconscious assumption that the world is whatever they happen to think it is and facts are inconvenient distractions to be ignored or dismissed. The real annoyance is that when the roof falls in on their head, the last thing they’ll admit was that it occurred because they were wrong.

      >Dennis

  16. Do you plan to include anything about the Luxury of Ignorance? Or would that be off-topic for this book?

  17. Guys I hate to go off topic but:

    Did I mention I am marrying Kauan Gracie? Yes those Gracies. From Brazil. Rickson is her dad!!

    She is going to pay me $500 a week to beat up children! Can’t wait!

    Check her out, and if you can watch this without crying you are stronger than me:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4tQrQvh8yQ&t=6s

    That vid is her memorial to her brother Rockson who died of a heroin overdoes. I went to Santa Monica and went Super Saiyan for 6 weeks. Long story.

    This is our song. I nicknamed her Rio.

  18. Do I need to mention that Dancing with the Gods was pivotal to this?

    She is terrifying, yet awesome and lovable. Just like Jordan Peterson and our host of course. ;)

  19. To play Zen master, I would give someone an Arduino and neopixel and tell them to blink the spectrum.

    I apprenticed someone, and they had a very limited 286 system, Power C, and managed to learn everything in many ways better than I know (he learned broad v.s. my deep).

    This might be part of the STEM dumbing down to make it accessible. Not that it is hard, but that it requires effort.

    A Coach is a teacher, but isn’t conveying things directly, he is encouraging playing the game.

    • If you did that to me, I’d say “But it’s an Arduino, not a Spectrum, what are you talking about?”

      (Offer him three shovels and tell him to take his pick.)

  20. What promise did you rely upon?

    It is the right of the property owner to revoke.
    You payed the property owner (Linux Programmer 721) nothing for his code.

    He never promised you that he would forgo his right to revoke
    (Read the GPLv2, there is no mention of not revoking the license. Something which the GPLv3 adds).
    (The SFConservancy’s artistic interpretations were debunked 5 hours after publication)

    Additionally you did not pay the LICENSOR for this forbearance.
    It is not reasonable for you to rely on a promise that was never made, and a promise that you never payed the owner for.

    In short: you are wrong,
    and you and others are attempting to convert the property of the copyright owners to your own property, essentially.

    (Your claim is that another’s property can be taken from him because to do otherwise would be inconvenient to the people that are committed to committing the taking.)

    On 2019-01-01 12:42, william drescher wrote:
    > “Consideration” can be in form of ”
    > detrimental reliance.” That means that you relied on the license and
    > that reliance cost you something.
    >
    > So if you spend money to pay programmers or if you spend time writing
    > programs based on the license you have paid for the license.

  21. I have some questions about looking for apprenticeships in technical fields, which I sadly do not currently have the sense to put into words. I am sure I will be able put them into words in a month or two.

    Would it be as acceptable to ask them here then? Or should I make an attempt to find a way to ask them soon, even if worded very poorly?

  22. As a fellow of the Austrian school and a language designer for C#, I’m particularly curious about your chapters on praxeological analysis of programming languages (“The Rise and Decline of Programming Languages”). Can’t wait!

  23. On 2019-01-03 12:19, MPhil. Emanoil Kotsev wrote:
    > vsnsdualcet wrote:
    >
    >> On 2019-01-02 02:32, Mike Galbraith wrote:
    >>> Take your medication.
    >>
    >> Don’t like the story? Why what is wrong with it.
    >>
    >> Was it the entrance, the middle, or the conclusion?
    >>
    >> It simply explains licensing in a way you might find helpful, as it
    >> relates to linux.
    >
    > No, it does not, because you can not copy and redistribute anything but
    > software.
    >
    > PLS give us a break!

    Your “no it does not because we are talking about software” argument is, to put it simply in a way you can understand: retarded.

    It shows that you, a software engineer, because you are learned in one field of endeavor, believe yourself to be “smart” and “reasonable” in unrelated fields of endeavors. You are wrong. This really shows how stupid alot of you western software-only guys are. (Also moronic is your constant disparagement of those who have to deal with the physical realities of things: the hardware guys).

    I have gone to lengths to attempt to teach you the foundation of licensing law, how it interacts with copyright, and how such applies to the specific facts surrounding the linux kernel; myself knowing the history of the kernel, and also being studied in US law.

    It doesn’t seem to get through.
    So simply: You are not a lawyer. Do not think your “common sense” as a software engineer applies to the law.


    (On to the knifeshack analogy/story:)
    In the USA, the law regarding licensing of various properties is similar. The key here is that the owner simply gave permission to use his property (he did not seek payment for extending that permission).

    To illustrate the fact, so that non-lawyers would understand, we have used a Knife as an analogy.

    Also note: It is from the USA that the CoC problem is emanating, so it is right to use the law of the USA to illustrate the point (also since that’s where lawsuits are most likely to occur: You do know about the USA, correct?)

    It doesn’t matter so much, in this corner of the law, that IP is not physical property. In the area of giving permission to use it, it is treated much the same.

    Remember: the “Thing” that was extended to you was the permission, that is what you “have”, you do not own the intellectual property you were licensed.

    Now, once we look at commercial licenses, things get more complicated because you paid for the license. But the key point here is that this isn’t such a situation. We are not discussing commercial software licensing here.

    When you cursory look up information to “fact check” me, 9 times out of 10 you will be reading about the law as regards to commercial licenses where there is bargained-for consideration. Then you cite that to say that I’m wrong. (PJ made this very same mistake on this issue in 2005, she’s still “cited” even though she’s just a paralegal (still) and not a lawyer, and is wrong (maybe that’s why she shut-up once her identity was know)).

    A license not coupled with an interest is revocable by the property owner. It’s fairly simple. Ask yourself “did I pay linux programer-copyright-holder 7829 for permission to use his code?”. No? Then you have not paid for whatever “promise” he made to you (if any). Thus you cannot bind him. And as I have shown; he never even made the promise you imagine he did.

    The whole counter-argument is to concoct some non-existent attached interest. The fact that we are dealing with software and not land or personal property is NOT controlling. I know you think it should be handled differently, but your uneducated opinion is not controlling law.

    Perhaps you would be better off with a video recorded in American to explain it all simply:

    Video: https://openload.co/f/mT_AH3xmIUM/TruthAboutLinuxandGPLv2__.mp4
    Audio: https://ufile.io/sdhpl

  24. Subject Threats of “blackballing” from industry if copyright-holders rescind.

    > lol, you people are idiots. In a time where you can and will be fired
    > and ruined for ticking the wrong box, rescinding your code from a
    > project such as the linux kernel will just blackball you from the
    > entire industry forever. For good reason too. I wouldn’t play with
    > someone who takes the ball home when he gets mad either.

    Why to think like a wageslave.

    The old-school linux contributors did not do it for money, and their
    copyrights (obviously) are still good.

    Why would you give a shit if you were blacklisted from “the industry”,
    you have a cause of action in your hands. Legal action can reap you
    dividends that you would never otherwise achieve through your entire
    life.

    A cause of action is worth 100 or 1000 of your earning years, often.

    > lol, you people are idiots. In a time where you can and will be fired
    > and ruined for ticking the wrong box, rescinding your code from a
    > project such as the linux kernel will just blackball you from the
    > entire industry forever. For good reason too. I wouldn’t play with
    > someone who takes the ball home when he gets mad either.

    If bloc-recissions and litigation happen, you may not have an industry
    to blackball them from.

    And you can’t “just reimplement” the removed code and functionality
    either: as that may be infringing on the previous work as-well :). More
    litigation follows to determine that.

    ——-
    Explanation in plain American:
    Video: https://openload.co/f/mT_AH3xmIUM/TruthAboutLinuxandGPLv2__.mp4
    Audio: https://ufile.io/sdhpl

  25. ESR: I notice that when Open Source was in vogue, the programmers were respected and seen as sacrosanct. (1999-2009)

    Then I noticed once the “in vogue” thing was “F/LOSS”, respect for the people that actually wrote the software evaporated. (2009-now)

    Why is this?

    • >Then I noticed once the “in vogue” thing was “F/LOSS”, respect for the people that actually wrote the software evaporated. (2009-now)

      Huh? I don’t remember being “sacrosanct” before 2009, and I don’t think respect for the profession has vanished since.

      • Before 2009 it was undisputed that the people that wrote the software ruled.
        After 2009 if they offended a new comer of a protected class they where attacked.
        And now the programmers are given zero respect and the new-comers of protected class status are given all the respect.

        The work of the programmers count for zero now. They are treated as “replaceable” (as Bruce Perens proudly noted), similar to employees.

        The new-comer who is of a protected class is lauded as indispensable, merely for the “intention” or “possibility” of in the future programming.

        Programmers, if they are no of the protected class, are happily thrown out of their own projects, and told they have no recourse, are replaceable, and to fk off.

        • >After 2009 if they offended a new comer of a protected class they where attacked.

          I see what you mean now. This isn’t just programmers and it doesn’t have to do with a change in the status of programmers per se. The “social justice” totalitarians are fucking over everybody this way. And will keep doing so until there is a popular revolt against their bullying tactics.

          • Popular revolt against tactics has some assumptions that I think are suspect. One is that the tactics are chosen cold bloodedly enough that merely changing the cost will have a strong effect on use. Second is that popular revolt has subtext with implications that perhaps do not match real world occurrences. Preference cascades in response to regime weakening or softening, and top down planned coups or civil wars are often described as popular revolts.

            The people choosing these tactical arguments from cold blooded calculation are not the center of gravity. You can find people making every possible kind of argument under the sun, but most of them do not have much influence because they don’t find a base of supporters and enablers. The center of gravity is the social justice supporters and enablers. Their behavior does not speak to cold calculation. It speaks to a deeply engrained social or religious taboo. My preferred model is religious, but the social pressure of a cult or a police state is similarly as tractable to mere punishment of tactics.

            As for process, I think this is a societal change, and we need to understand the earlier state of the United States. How mixing of European cultures produced a cultural matrix that has assimilated people from every culture, instead of a more typical result like the Austro-Hungarian empire. I keep on learning more about how complex the resulting mixture of shared assumptions, consensuses and agreements was and partly still is. Human changes are not only in one direction, and we know now that what we want is possible. I think part of the answer is in acting as an individual, and treating others as individuals.

            As for the religious angle, the Protestant denominations eventually developed some capacity to be at peace with each other, and that held as long that their practices and rituals were what a majority gave lip service to. The religious model of social justice appears to be a type of religious communism. One of the features of religious communism is the inability to be at true lasting peace with other communists. This isn’t feature we see in the mainstream of even religions like Hindu and Islam, which are fairly alien from Protestantism. I’m not sure how religious communism could change in the ways it probably needs to change to have the long term sustainability of the other major world religions. It will likely change or go extinct, but either way will not be boring for us.

            • I don’t know about Hinduism but Islam split between Shia and Sunni within a few years of Mohammed’s death and they’ve been slaughtering each other ever since.

              The various Protestant sects don’t like each other but they don’t resort to war.

              • “The various Protestant sects don’t like each other but they don’t resort to war.”

                Look up a little history. The 30 year war between protestants and catholics depopulated large areas of Germany. During that time, different protestant creeds also did try to exterminate each other.
                See, e.g.:
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_wars_of_religion

                In the 20th century, your creed of Christianity was all important for your social position in most Christian countries. In Northern Ireland, a civil war was fought between Catholics and Protestants in the latter part of the 20th century.

                And if you would like a taste of Taliban and IS, look at early Christian politics. Say, George of Cappadocia and Cyril of Alexandria (of Hypatia “fame”).
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_of_Cappadocia
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_of_Alexandria

              • For once Winter (mostly) has the right of it.

                Part of what lead to Christians (mostly) getting along was the notion of the “state” as separate from religion and the notion that one person could belong to multiple overlayed tribes.

                I can be an American, a former Marine, a Shannonist, a Gun Nut, a White Guy, a member of the middle class, Hetrosexual, a Libertarian, a Conservative etc.

                These are all sets that have intersections, but are not completely contained–there are Marines that are not Americans, depending on how you define “American”, and I’ve even heard that there is are Marines who aren’t all that in to guns.

                I suspect that it is this multiple-inheritance of tribalism that fosters the lower level of inter-tribal violence in the west. Because as a Gun Nut I hang out with Baptists, and as a Shannonist I hang out with Windows Guys, and as all of these things I also hang out with people who aren’t Libertarian or Conservative I tend to *know* those people as *people* rather than as “the other”.

                The funny thing is that he (and most other people) don’t understand the larger ramifications of this in the context of their ideologies and how those are implemented.

                • @William
                  “The funny thing is that he (and most other people) don’t understand the larger ramifications of this in the context of their ideologies and how those are implemented.”

                  I am not sure who the “he” is you refer to here. But if it is me, then I must say that I am perfectly aware of the fact that you can be all that you say at the same time, and also be a perfectly good and honorable human.

                  I even know about people who belong to conflicting sub-cultures that you would think would exclude each others. Like LGBT… who are very orthodox Jews/Christians/Muslims. I am not surprised about White people who want to be a member of the NAACP or even Black people who would like to join the KKK (there must be such people).

  26. This is for Kauan and all the Gracies:

    You gotta know
    I’m feelin’ love
    her name is gold
    I never loved her

    Her name is Rio

  27. ESR: Why is no one talking about the CoC anymore, the entryism, and legal remedies such as license revocation?

    Has anyone banded together to take action or do they think they cannot do anything because the people that want to convert their property have told them so?

    • >ESR: Why is no one talking about the CoC anymore, the entryism, and legal remedies such as license revocation?

      Lots of people are. Just not right here and right now.

  28. ESR: Any thoughts on the American vernacular edition of the explanation?

    Does it ‘break it down’ for ‘The People’?

    • >ESR: Any thoughts on the American vernacular edition of the explanation?

      I have no idea what you’re talking about. Context, please?

      • ESR: The post a few posts above which starts with “Subject Threats of “blackballing” from industry if copyright-holders rescind.” has the links at the end.

        Your software won’t allow me to post the links again. Bruce Perens etc reported the post to the LKML as spam and that is likely why. (He says he reports everything he thinks is from someperson as spam immediately).

        (Eventually it became apparent that many people were not reading the explanations given. (The same questions had to be answered over and over and over again))

        So an explanation in American vernacular was commissioned for those who abhor written English)

        • >ESR: The post a few posts above which starts with “Subject Threats of “blackballing” from industry if copyright-holders rescind.” has the links at the end.

          Then my thoughts are

          (1) It didn’t belong in this post thread.

          (2) I think you have a decent factual case. Now, if you could just stop sounding enough like an obsessed crank to be easily written off, you might get somewhere with it.

          • >Now, if you could just stop sounding enough like an obsessed crank to be easily written off, you might get somewhere with it.

            How do I do that?

            Fully explaining the issues and the law is taken as being “an obsessed crank”, doing otherwise would be insufficient.

            Not ignoring the issue after a paltry 2 months, again, is “being obsessed”.

            Not giving in is “obsessed” and “insane”.

            The job of an attorney is to be “obsessed” about a particular case or part of the field. You have to get into the weeds and down to the details to operate, and you have to do so over long time periods. You have to have a counter and an explanation for every point your opponent makes.

            This is why briefs are sometimes 100s of pages long (along with all the citations which add another 10s of pages).

            Give me some options here. I see none.

            I take it that everyone else have simply given up on this issue? They have accepted defeat and simply do not believe me.

            The only way that I can get them to believe me is if I explain the entire foundation and basis of the law. I do, and that is obsessed, or they don’t read it because it’s too long, or they bring up irrelevancies, and I have to refute them and explain more of the law (or else the programmers just think I’m wrong).

            I can’t win with you guys, can I?

            I’m doing this _alone_ and for _free_, again: this is used against me because “obsessed” “crank”.

            I’m looking at my bar registration card, my secure pass, and the various volumes of study I’ve consulted regarding this issue (not to mention the cases)… I’m told that I’m “not a lawyer” “lol” by programmers who don’t know a thing about the field

            (Note: I too am an OSS programmer, so I know about both fields)

            Is anyone talking about rescission, or do they just believe their peers who say it’s wrong because “we’re fellow programmers so know everything, lol guy’s a troll”.?

            • >How do I do that?

              For starters, what part of the sentence “didn’t belong in this post thread” did you fail to understand?

            • William O. B’Livion
              on 2018-12-28 at 11:32:48 said:
              You know you’re coming across as a obsessed lunatic, right?

              By posting LONG and REPEATED comments that are barely related to the original post and unrelated to any other conversation that is going on.

  29. Off-topic but I don’t want to create a G+ account just to tell you this: with G+’s closing and you searching for a new social media platform, have you considered dreamwidth? LJ clone, acceptable content is “anything legal to publish in the United States” (I was quite impressed by the owner’s comments on this post: https://dw-news.dreamwidth.org/38929.html – good moral foundation and a lot of thoughtfulness on top of it), a business model where users are specifically not the product, and they’ve had payment processors abruptly stop doing business with them before, and survived just fine, so I’d say they’re already battle tested.

    It also has communities, since you were looking for a home for the mechanical keyboard stuff. I haven’t looked into how well automatic import would work, though

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