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Be careful about what you dislike (pocoo.org)
351 points by JonoBB on Nov 5, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 169 comments



I have realized over the years that it is wise to be naturally skeptical of any opinion that is strong, either positive or negative. People who have an appreciation for gray areas, even if they ultimately do have a preference, tend to be a lot more emotionally balanced than those who maintain a very strong stance on something. I have noticed this so consistently over the last 15 years that I now consider it a fundamental benchmark by which I can gauge my ability to work or socialize with someone in general, on any topic, over the long term.


Espousing nuanced opinions and making effective arguments are often at odds though. It's very easy for people to lose the thread of an argument if it is chock full of footnotes.

I try to aim for "strong opinions, weakly held" - present a specific, actionable and strong position but be open to changing it if a better argument is made.


There's a parable of a guy who lost his keys in the park at night. Upon realizing he lost his keys, he begins to look for the keys in the street near a street lamp. When his friend asks why he's looking for his keys in the street instead of in the park where he lost them, the guy responds that the light is better in the street.

It's true that espousing nuanced opinions and making effective arguments are often at odds, but the fact is, reality is often nuanced. Glossing over that nuance to make your argument more effective is like searching where there's light. Sure, it's more persuasive, but if you are persuading toward an incorrect idea, what are you really accomplishing?

Of course as Asimov's Relativity of Wrong points out, not all wrongs are equal. It may be worthwhile to persuade someone of a not-very-wrong given limited resources. But this sort of compromise has problems of its own. A social justice movement that ignores the nuance of handling white men's needs is effective until it needs white men's cooperation but instead generates backlash (Trump). The devil is in the details.


Ideas are unlike keys in that the details can be glossed over sometimes and you might still go in the right direction.

In an argument about climate change with a denier I might say "Glaciers are shrinking" and until they bring up the the Tibetan glacier is growing I can be content with my intellectual honesty that all other glaciers are shrinking.

I agree with your notion of using details to garner supporters.


The Relativity of Wrong by Isaac Asimov http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm is one of the essays on this subject.


It's hard to make any true statement when terms are defined by what they aren't, rather than by what they are.

For example, the term "SJW". What is an SJW? I can tell you what it isn't. It is not racist, not misogynistic, etc. But what is it actually defined as?

I've never been a fan of post-structuralism, or any postmodern philosophical theory, but as of late I've been drawn to Jean Baudrillard. At the very least, our political landscape itself has become a simulacra of true political thought, as evidenced by groups defining themselves by the nihil or negation, i.e. there is no Universe where the statement "I am a bigot" can be made true.


More to the point, nuanced opinions are at odds with clickbait/flamebait. If you want to get lots of attention and start a big internet fight, say the most outrageous aggressive thing you can, and argue sloppily, with just enough reasoning behind you to get the folks who agree with you to come fight for your side.


Sounds like what happens in most diatribes against PHP and systemd I've read lately.


Or, make the headline outrageous, but in the body apologize for the clickbait headline and proceed to say a bunch of nuanced and reasonable things.


I don't consider internet "debates" something to seek replication.


It also works in presidential elections.


I'll take it one step further and say that nuanced opinions are at odds with modern society's increasingly short attention spans.


Where did you pick up the phrase "strong opinions, weakly held"?


Paul Saffo is a potential source:

> Since the mid-1980s, my mantra for this process is “strong opinions, weakly held.” Allow your intuition to guide you to a conclusion, no matter how imperfect — this is the “strong opinion” part. Then –and this is the “weakly held” part– prove yourself wrong. Engage in creative doubt. Look for information that doesn’t fit, or indicators that pointing in an entirely different direction. Eventually your intuition will kick in and a new hypothesis will emerge out of the rubble, ready to be ruthlessly torn apart once again. You will be surprised by how quickly the sequence of faulty forecasts will deliver you to a useful result.

http://www.saffo.com/02008/07/26/strong-opinions-weakly-held...


Lost to the mists of time. A little reconstructive memory spelunking via Google yields a plausible theory though:

A blog post [1] quoting a blog post [2] quoting a guy [3].

[1]: https://blog.codinghorror.com/strong-opinions-weakly-held/

[2]: http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/07/strong_opinio...

[3]: http://www.iftf.org/bobjohansen/



I find that people who sit in the greys tend to be very worried about their public perception or have very little passion beyond maintaining personal comfort.

The people I look for are those that take strong stands but are willing and able to adjust and even quickly reverse those stances.

To me it's the difference between a leader and a worker bee.


> The people I look for are those that take strong stands but are willing and able to adjust and even quickly reverse those stances.

Sometimes called "strong opinions, weakly held".

I find this principle to be incoherent - if you understand something well enough to have a strong opinion, you understand it well enough to hold that opinion strongly. Holding strong opinions on things you don't understand that well seems unhelpful.


We all know arguing against a strongly held opinion usually results in the person with the strong opinion digging their heels in even deeper. At that point, things like reason kind of go by the wayside and don't have much effect.

As a poor example, my mother has fully bought into a snake-oil scheme where they sell you concentrated hydrogen peroxide as a cure-all. She won't hear a word against it, she always brings the conversation back to "OTC hydrogen peroxide has stabilizers in it." Asking "what is a stabilizer" gets no response.

The truth is, she doesn't know what a stabilizer is, but it's plausible enough to her that they could be "bad" that she's willing to buy the rest of the farm, along with the cow.

How can you argue against that kind of strongly held opinion? When the other party won't listen because of how strongly held the opinion is, you might as well talk to a wall.


How concentrated? Concentrated hydrogen peroxide (> 90%) is a rocket fuel. Above 8% is considered somewhat hazardous. Above 28%, hazmat precautions (corrosive, burns skin). Above 35%, unstable. Above 50%, even large industrial users usually don't go.[1]

[1] http://www.h2o2.com/technical-library/default.aspx?pid=76&


I'm not sure, I believe it's 35% or more. She once mentioned that "it's not the legit stuff unless you have to sign a hazardous materials sheet" or something to that affect.


Odds are good that the supplier's lying on both the benefits and qualities (concentration). A fake MSDS/hazmat sheet would be par for the course.


You don't need to understand something well to be justified in having a strong opinion about it. Your belief should be based on the evidence you have, even if that means a small amount that leads you to an extreme conclusion. Otherwise you will have a bias toward the median belief, and there's no reason to expect, in general, that a median belief is any better than an extreme one. The strength of your evidence should only affect the level of attachment that you have to your belief.


If you don't understand something well, then any opinion you might claim to have on it is not actually on it, but rather on what you currently understand it to be. In that case, why not just say that you simply don't know enough to have an informed opinion?


In that case, why not just say that you simply don't know enough to have an informed opinion?

Up against a dishonest debater, this is exploitable to lessen your influence, even if your position is relatively stronger, against (unsubstantiated) claims of being an expert.

"ball_of_lint claims to be uninformed and doesn't have an opinion. That's okay, listen to me, I'm an expert"


So you'd rather win one debate at the cost of loosing reputation for years?

If someone strongly claims they know something and I later find out that they were wrong, I simply can't trust that person ever again.


If someone strongly claims they know something and I later find out that they were wrong, I simply can't trust that person ever again.

I'm glad you're a critical enough thinker to do that (although it's unfortunate that you don't account for honest conviction or that person obtaining further understanding such that they change their position; after all, not all strong claims revealed to be wrong are meant to deceive). Not everyone is that kind of critical thinker, especially up against a savvy, dishonest debater/character/charlatan. Some people just keep shouting "I know the answer" or "Believe me!" to every question or issue and they end up with a following.


> Your belief should be based on the evidence you have, even if that means a small amount that leads you to an extreme conclusion.

That's one way of thinking, but I reject it. You'll easily be manipulated by political and corporate agendas if you think this way.

Often my own intuition is at odds with the "evidence I have" and I turn out to be right later. If I had jumped to the (extreme) conclusion that smoking was healthy back in the 70s and 80s because of the evidence big tobacco was pushing from the shadows (doctors recommending brands, etc) I might not be here today.


You won't be easily manipulated by virtue of having strong opinions, as long as they're weakly held, because you'll probably state your strong opinion to someone who knows better than you. If your opinion is actually weakly held, you'll recognize that their opinion is closer to the truth and adjust yours accordingly.

Often my own intuition is at odds with the "evidence I have" and I turn out to be right later.

I mean evidence in a broad sense, encompassing all information available to you for basing your worldview upon, including your intuition. If your intuition has been reliable in the past, and the scientific evidence was being put out by entities with obvious incentives for a certain conclusion, then it's rational to weigh your intuition highly relative to the scientific evidence.


What does 'a strong opinion' mean to you? Because I think we have different ideas of what that means.

I think the people who are against forming strong opinions on little data, thinks it essentially means being confident, speaking your mind, and influencing others towards seeing things your way, when you haven't done much research into a topic. Which I think is a bad idea, because it has a high chance of propagating misinformation.


One aspect you're missing here is time; just because something is true today doesn't make it true tomorrow.


The end result of knowing a lot about a topic is often that you can't make very strong statements about it; they always end up being something like "you're kind of right because XYZ, but also kind of wrong because XYZ". So the ideal situation is more like "weak opinions, strong actions".

Let's take the example of where someone yells "Duck!". Most likely, you weren't paying attention and you have no clue why they would yell such a thing. There is a high chance that it's some kind of prank. But, I argue, you should still duck anyway, because the potential benefits (not getting a concussion) outweigh the risks (looking stupid).

Similarly, if you are running a startup, you should prepared to pivot at the first sign of customer mismatch, but meanwhile the majority of work will be in one direction, and you should work on it passionately.


Often I find the opposite, a better understanding of something means that you have to very clearly understand both its pros and its cons.

So by understanding something you dislike well, you need to appreciate its pros, which will lead to a weaker negative opinion about it. Conversely, understanding something you like well, means you need to come to terms with its cons as well, which should lead to moderation as well.


I think another way of thinking about this is "being open minded". Life is full of seemingly contradictory truths and perspectives, facets and angles.


[flagged]


> Forgive my vitriol, but after seeing those people flush untold millions down the drain and hurt people and families countless times, they belong flipping burgers or in a mass grave.

We can't, unfortunately. Hacker News is a place for civil discussion; please don't post like this.


The view stated is that positions held in opposition to all fact and experience are exceedingly and manifestly harmful.

History bears this out. There's nothing quite so violently dangerous as wishful thinking.

I'd prefer HN supported that perspective, and do so aggressively.


That sounds like something I might've said long ago, but today it seems to me that those at the extremes are the ones concerned about public perception. Like "Hey everybody look at me with my strong opinions!" It's a sales pitch for that person, for you to like and pay attention to them. And it will be necessarily very simplified and won't represent reality per se. A clickbait headline would get no clicks if it said "10 nuanced observations on the subtly complex and contradictory nature of reality, complete with all the exceptions. Number 6 will leave your mind totally blank as you stare out at the foggy hilltops!"

Also look at Trump (if you can stand it). He sells himself by saying extreme stuff. You do want that "extreme" person in a position where they can sell your company! But sales is orthogonal to leadership. A person who appreciates subtleties, if a leader, will quietly lead you to a river of money and not make your life hell on the way there. Or if they're a worker-bee, they'll quietly write bug-free and dependable code at a steady pace.


>I find that people who sit in the greys tend to be very worried about their public perception or have very little passion beyond maintaining personal comfort.

Or, you know, the issue is grey. Why take a strong stand when you have plenty of reasons not to?

The funny thing is that I find the opposite. I call it the "cowardice of taking a stand". Being a fence-sitter in this culture is fairly negatively perceived (except out of academia). As such, I notice people are very reluctant to state the nuances - they're afraid of being labeled a fence sitter. Cowards, in harsher words.

>The people I look for are those that take strong stands but are willing and able to adjust and even quickly reverse those stances.

The people I look for are those who ponder over, and see the flaws in their stands before becoming a strong proponent.

Wisdom is usually inversely proportional to posturing.

This is very reminiscent of: "Do you want a fantastic firefighter on your team, or one who prevents fires?" The firefighter is very noticeable because he keeps saving teams from crises. The one who prevents fires doesn't get noticed because there never was a fire. Poor managers reward firefighters.

I remember when I was interviewing for my last job, I would try to pose indirect questions to the potential manager to get an idea on whether they can handle uncertainty from their employees. If not, I would move on to the next interview. Managers who say stuff like "I never accept 'I don't know' for an answer" are to be avoided like the plague. They end up with a team of employees who are pretty adept at BS.

Society wants people who take strong stands, and your comment is a perfect example of it.


I imagine the firefighter that prevents fires has strong opinions about how they start.


I am honestly curious... Do you feel like putting out fires is a matter of opinion? Do you think firefighters are leaders and not worker bees? How does this rhetorical statement speculating vaguely about firefighters support your argument that leaders should have strong opinions about an issue even when they don't fully understand the issue?

FWIW, since you used the word "prevent", firefighters only put out fires that are already burning. The people leading in fire prevention aren't firefighters. Other people think about how to prevent fires. One example is the Forest Service in the US. The Forest Service is having nuanced debates about how to prevent forest fires, and one side of the argument is that many forest fires are natural. Fires have historically always happened, and they are part of our ecosystem. So, some of the thinking goes, we should let them burn. We are actually doing some ecological damage by putting out fires that start natually. We are also doing financial damage spending tax money on a "problem" that will never go away, and isn't a problem if we stop trying to live in the forest.

Other people who have properties & cabins in the woods would prefer that their choice to build a cabin in the woods was protected by firefighters no matter how the fire starts.

What is your opinion about whether naturally occurring forest fires should be fought?


Sure the leader may have a strong opinion. But most people do, and often about complete BS, which is particularly obvious during election season. So it means nothing. The more important differentiator is the leader is more persuasive in backing the opinion. The nuanced opinion/argument is often more difficult to make persuasive though.


That sounds to me like a loudmouth versus someone who thinks about what he's saying before saying it.


You're right. It's almost instinctive that when I hear some forcefully presented opinion, even if I agree with it, I put a mark next to the person's profile (in my mind).

One quite large issue is that once you've said your opinion, you are held to it. It's often easier to go even more extreme than to backtrack. And the effect is worse the more extreme you've gone.

I've had some sympathies for libertarian opinions lately, but when I see how far some of my friends take it, I wonder whether they're really thinking as clearly as they like to imagine.


"The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity." - Yeats


What an apropos quote! Never seen that one before, good to know it now.


My reading of the poem is somewhat at odds with the implication of that quote by itself. Overall Yeats seems to be lamenting a particular situation in which the best and worst have these qualities, rather than simply stating that they have these qualities in general.


Yes, along the lines of the quote, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."


That's only true for opinions that are not generally accepted.

I believe you have strong opinions about all sorts of things, e.g. you probably have a strong stance against slavery. Take this strong stance 300 years back, and you would be seen as an emotionally unbalanced person, by your standard.

I'm glad there are people with strong opinions. The world would be a much darker place if everyone was always on the fence.


Yea, Hitler had strong opinions too. This can go either way, I guess.

I think having strong opinions based on a deep understanding is better. And generally a deep understanding means you'll discover both pros and cons to most situations.

This means you can make balanced and calculated efforts, instead of blindly starting a crusade and hope you turn out to actually be right.


You misread me. I didn't say on the fence, that is something else entirely. I said, an appreciation for gray areas, even if you ultimately do have a preference.


> I now consider it a fundamental benchmark...

Sorry to be pedantic, but I just wanted to point out the paradox you get by holding such an opinion so strongly.


I thought someone might say that. It is possible to have a general opinion on something, or at least some guidance, without maintaining a stubborn perspective on it. I can easily be proven wrong, when someone with strong opinions reveals to be an exception to my experience. I have no problem with that. Doesn't really happen much, though (yet).


I only hold one opinion strongly, and that is that people with strong opinions are full of shit :)


I've found it very difficult to write/argue gray-ish about any topic.

Either it's positive or it's negative.

The way between is full of self-contradictions and footnotes. That makes a difficult read/conversation.


Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.

J. R. R. Tolkien


“Ask two Jews, get three opinions.” - a jewish quip given to me by Rabbi Glickman.


It seems you have a very strong opinion about who you can work and socialize with... ;P



There are issues where being unable to take a strong stance is indicative of a weak mind, such as Nazism and genocide. If you can't stand strongly against things like those, you're simply a bad person.


what matters in the end is being right. When opnions have to turn into action, knowing what is the right thing to do (knowing what technology to use, for example), and a careful balance of tradeoffs is always the sign of good leadership. This may include taking very strong stands on various things.

I've found people have tendencies to delude themselves in certain ways, however. Either being too positive or negative. The former is less harmful than the latter, but both are miscalibrations of judgement.


This is true, however, I think the people who have strong opinions end up becoming successful entrepreneurs.


Or utterly failed ones...


I'm passionate about how wrong people are to be convinced of everything.

What does that mean?


It means you've been convinced of something that is wrong.


Understanding of man, the ultimate wisdom- Confucius


I'm fascinated by the topic of English Prime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Prime

It introduced me to the idea that 'is' should be treated very carefully. Any assertion outside of strict formal languages that use it are half-truths at best. It also introduces heightens the emotional tone of a discussion. If you say "John is foo" you tend to create the impression that John will always and has always been foo. Foo-ness is a taint on his soul. Contrast that with reformulations that make it explicit that John's foo-ness is a fleeting association related to both his present situation, your current perception of it and the current socially accepted meaning of foo along with all it's implied baggage.

I realise I might be rather off-topic :-)


> If you say "John is foo" you tend to create the impression that John will always and has always been foo.

Interestingly in Spanish and Portuguese there are two verbs of "to be": "ser" and "estar". These have different meanings: ser ist mostly used for persistent states of being, while estar is mostly used for something that is only temporarily as it is, but could be different the next time.


Also interesting is that this distinction occurs in some dialects of English as well. In AAVE, this is the distinction between "Elmo is eating cookies." and "Cookie Monster be eating cookies." The former indicates a current action that is taken. The latter indicates an action that is often taken. One is a statement about a person's actions, while the other is a statement about a person's habits.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitual_be


The distinction between current and habitual actions also exists in standard English, of course: "Cookie monster eats cookies" vs "Elmo is eating cookies". I'm not sure whether this is quite the same as the distinction the comments you are replying to are talking about. They're talking about a less absolute way of using "is" to ascribe attributes, rather than actions. More like the distinction between "John is an angry man" and "John is angry right now".


The thing is that 'to be' is a special verb in English, so the distinction between "John is being angry" and "John is angry" isn't there, and "John is angry" could mean either current or habitual anger.

You can't argue that because a distinction exists for 'to eat' it also exists or is understood the same for 'to be'. English admits the sentence "Big bird does eat cookies" but not "John does be angry".


In the first case, I read both as temporary states, and the only way to express it as a habitual state would be to make a more complex construction such as 'John is an angry person.'

As for the second case, I think the usual way to achieve that effect in English is to use a frequency qualifier, such as in "John is sometimes angry," to modify the transitory state into a habitual one.


Isn't that a bit like "is" vs. "is being"?


> Isn't that a bit like "is" vs. "is being"?

I'm not a native speaker of English, so I might not perceive some subtleties. But at least how I perceive it is the meaning of "is being" is similar "estar", while "to be" is used for both meanings in English. In Spanish and Portuguese (as far as I understand it, I'm still learning a lot) "ser" is used only for the "permanent" meaning.


The "is being" construct also exists by using the two verbs ("estar a ser") but it's not the same. Basically in order of permanence:

ser -> a mostly permanent characteristic

estar -> a current characteristic that could change in the future

estar a ser -> a characteristic of the specific interaction


In https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12879933 you gave an example of "estar a ser" for Portuguese. Since I currently try to learn both Spanish and Portuguese: Does a form similar to "estar a ser" also exist in Spanish or is it specific to Portuguese?


I think that pedrocr is from Portugal so in case you're learning Brazilian Portuguese you should consider that Brazilians usually use "estar + present participle" where the Portuguese use "estar a + infinitive" (for example "estou a falar" vs. "estou falando").

Brazilians thus have "estar sendo" which can be used in many cases where English has "is being", but as a non-native speaker I'm not sure what I can claim about its connotations or whether it's the same as "estar a ser". But my initial guess is that the Portuguese say "estou a ser" just as they say "estou a falar", while Brazilians say "estou sendo" just as they say "estou falando".

Spanish-speakers in turn have "estar siendo" with the Spanish present participle of ser, like "estoy siendo". I suspect this is the standard form of this construction in all kinds of Spanish.


Yep, that's exactly it. "is being" and "estar a ser"/"estar sendo" are pretty much the same thing. What english doesn't have is the "ser"/"estar" distinction, both map to "to be".


Thank you for the explanation. This clarifies why I haven't (consciously) seen the "estou a + infinitive" form yet - the Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese forms look more familiar to me. :-)


You might have an amusingly confused time in Portugal, as I did!

"O comboio está a chegar."

(plus different phonology)


Is that last one like, "I am to be married on Saturday"?


Not really, that's just a future tense. Here's the correspondence instantiated:

"I am tall" -> "sou alto" (ser)

"I am broke" -> "estou falido" (estar)

"I am being boring" -> "estou a ser aborrecido" (estar a ser)

What english doesn't have as easily without context is the distinction between the first two forms because it has a single verb for both.


Not exactly; you would never say, "I am being hungry". You just say, "I am hungry" -- with the exact same form you'd use for, "I am amazing."


While there isn't a single word change, you can not merely say "I am hungry" to express a habitual state of hunger. Used without qualification, hunger is a transitory state. To express habitual hunger you could add a frequency qualifier, such as 'I am often hungry.'

On the other hand, "I am being amazing" is a perfectly valid construction, because 'amazing' by default describes a habitual state rather than a transitory one, and 'being' changes it to a current action rather than a habitual state.


An example that someone gave me when I started learning Portuguese is that someone could be insulted if she came to a party and you said "está linda!" or "que linda está!" because of the potentially implied contrast with her normal or usual appearance (akin to English "you look lovely" or "you look lovely tonight": does that mean to suggest that she normally doesn't?).


I had never heard of E-Prime, but this reminded me of Reginald Braithwaite's presentation "Optimism" [1].

He advocates becoming aware of when people use temporary or permanent language, and suggests using temporary language for criticizing other people and permanent language for praising people. This is a brilliant bit of human psychology that is highly practical in everyday situations.

I don't know whether E-Prime is practical, it seems problematic to try to police the language itself, but the goals & rationale have a good heart. We probably would be better off if we could all speak less dogmatically and hyperbolically.

I do recall someone here on HN mentioning attempts to create a new language in which one could not lie, I wonder if E-prime was what was being referred to...

  [1] https://github.com/raganwald/presentations/blob/master/optimism.md
  https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12298898


> Any assertion outside of strict formal languages that use it are half-truths at best

I was going to say this is ironic but I will rather say I find this ironic


Who would admit to lying sometimes? Almost everyone. Who would admit to being a liar? Fewer people. But what is a liar other than someone who tells lies sometimes?

I agree that the idea something "is" something else is a tricky one in language.


The irregular nature of "to be" in English comes from it being a blend of three different roots with a somewhat similar division you're talking about (but certainly not as clear, division was more about tense than duration).

The fallacy you're talking about I consider a specific instance of the labeling problem. If someone is marginally in a group and you apply the label of the group on the individual, suddenly it seems ok to use attributes of the group to reason about the individual. One jumps from specific to general and back to specific again without acknowledging the loss of information from the abstraction layers. Often comes up in post hoc rationalisation of harsher criminal punishment, for example. John is a criminal; we need to be tougher with criminals; therefore we need to be tougher with John - without regard for the specifics of John's case.


One analysis of this is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accident_(fallacy) but there might also be other ways of thinking about it.


The example given in that shows it's not the same thing at all.


How about in the other direction?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Converse_accident

While I don't mean to say that these provide a full analysis of the issue you're talking about, I don't see how they're unrelated to it.


I don't think you went off-topic at all. The article says "avoid judgement of a particular thing, since it will become outdated in future". E-prime says "now you can't make such judgements because I have taken away your tool of doing so". I think they have the same goal.

(I wrote this comment in E-prime :)


In the case of the judgments of Python that the original article refers to, I can see ways that E-prime could help (because the criticisms might be phrased more concretely, like "Python 3 lacks the 'u' qualifier for strings" or something, allowing a reassessment of whether this problem was still true in the future) but maybe one could still say something like "its creators designed Python 3 hastily and sloppily without regard to programmers' convenience", which, if true or believed at first, never stops being applicable even if the language gets improved later on.


English prime should help you become a better writer if only because it forces you to consider sentence structure which forces you to pay closer attention to what you're writing.

I didn't use it here because I'm lazy.


completely on point, actually. Plus a link to a cool, thought-provoking concept. thanks!


> Then the entire thing spiraled out of control: people not only railed against TTIP but took their opposition and looked for similar contracts and found CETA. Since both are trade agreements there is naturally a lot of common ground between them. The subtleties where quickly lost. Where the initial arguments against TTIP were food standards, public services and intransparent ISDS courts many of the critics failed to realize that CETA fundamentally was a different beast.

CETA has ISDS as well, and if only on that point alone, CETA is objectionable. This argument comes off as disingenuous, the similarities between the deals are not imagined. ISDS isn't even the only similarity; CETA also contained objectionable new copyright provisions (though apparently those are mostly gone now), for example.


> CETA has ISDS as well, and if only on that point alone, CETA is objectionable.

Author here: that is not disputed. However the ISDS in CETA is a permanent tribunal where both Canada and Europe elect lawyers equally. The processes also require transparency and there is an appeal process. None of that was in the original draft of it and has been added over time as a response to criticism.


Well, that might be a slight improvement, but it's still ISDS. The fundamental problem with ISDS is not its lack of transparency, but that it allows corporations to sue governments for domestic policy changes in the first place.


> Well, that might be a slight improvement, but it's still ISDS.

There is nothing wrong with ISDS.


In that case, can you explain how Canadian and European legal systems are so insufficient for seeking legal recourse for legitimate grievances that companies need to be able to sue either government in international tribunals? Because that's ostensibly the argument for ISDS, and I don't see how it applies to Western liberal democracies with properly functioning courts.

The argument against is cases like the Philip Morris v. Uruguay case. Why couldn't the same happen under CETA?

If you don't see ISDS itself as objectionable, it's not surprising that you disagree with the argument against CETA, but please try to understand where opponents are coming from.


> In that case, can you explain how Canadian and European legal systems are insufficient for seeking legal recourse for legitimate grievances?

That's the wrong question to ask even though there is a very simple answer to it: that the state is not impartial. The better question to ask is why ISDS exists in the first place and this is something that the states and governments came up with and not the companies.

> The argument against is cases like the Philip Morris v. Uruguay case. Why couldn't the same happen under CETA?

Phillip Morris lost the case. Cases should be judged by the outcome and not by the pure fact that it takes place. You can drag someone in front of a court of a lot of things. As far as CETA goes you can only claim unfair discrimination and a whole bunch of things are outright excluded. In particular an investor has very bad cards due to both the health and ethics aspects of CETA.

In any case that is all super irrelevant anyways as countries already signed a ton of BITs that include significantly inferior ISDS provisions. The company in question is currently dragging a few countries in front of ISDS courts without the help or need of CETA. ISDS would have to be discussed separately and not in the context of CETA. As far as ISDS goes, CETA is an improvement over prior contracts.

If you want to replace ISDS then companies will just walk up the local justice systems which will not be any cheaper or more efficient and that might go all the way up to the supreme court or the highest european courts.

> If you don't see ISDS itself as objectionable

I understand the arguments against it very well but instead of throwing the entire concept away I find it much more reasonable to attack the individual points of criticism and that's what CETA was about. If you want to kill the entire concept then we just open up a new hole that will need filling.


> That's the wrong question to ask even though there is a very simple answer to it: that the state is not impartial.

The judiciary is what is in question, not the state per se.

But even if they're not impartial, is that necessarily bad here? Shouldn't the health of a country's citizens take priority over the interests of shareholders? Why should foreign businesses have greater rights than local businesses? (this is the contention of the Australian government)

> The better question to ask is why ISDS exists in the first place and this is something that the states and governments came up with and not the companies.

The nature of how trade deals are negotiated means we don't necessarily know who came up with it or pushed for it. But it's irrelevant in any case. What matters is its effects.

> Phillip Morris lost the case. Cases should be judged by the outcome and not by the pure fact that it takes place.

Plenty of these cases have been lost by governments. For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investor-state_dispute_settlem...

> In any case that is all super irrelevant anyways as countries already signed a ton of BITs that include significantly inferior ISDS provisions.

It's because of existing ISDS provisions that we know of their problems. Why do we need even more?

> If you want to replace ISDS then companies will just walk up the local justice systems which will not be any cheaper or more efficient and that might go all the way up to the supreme court or the highest european courts.

“All the way up to the highest European courts”? That's not how the EU's legal system works. You can't just appeal cases to the EU level.

I'm unconvinced it would not be cheaper to sue at a national level, anyway. If only because local courts are less likely to award a huge payout in such cases.


> But even if they're not impartial, is that necessarily bad here? Shouldn't the health of a countries' citizens take priority over the interests of shareholders?

It is in CETA.

> The nature of how trade deals are negotiated means we don't necessarily know who came up with it.

Arbitral tribunals predate modern day FTAs by 150 years or more. If you have an interest in this you can easily read up on why they exist.

> Plenty of these cases have been lost by governments.

I am aware since I read about all of them in the last few months but this is going into details. Out of the ones that have been lost, the initial NAFTA case has even been controversial among the signatories. However there are plenty of other court decisions in traditional courts that I would argue are not any less controversial.

> It's because of existing ISDS provisions that we know of their problems. Why do we need even more?

I am not sure about Canada, but the EU does not want more, they want better ISDS provisions since the current ones are quite defective in many ways.

> “All the way up to the highest European courts”? That's not how the EU's legal system works. You can't just appeal cases to the EU level.

You can definitely drag cases in front of the ECHR. Case in point: Yukos.

Anyways. This entire conversation is something that is completely removed from the original point of the article which was moving goalposts. I do not actually see a value having a conversation about CETA, particularly now.


> This entire conversation is something that is completely removed from the original point of the article which was moving goalposts.

Perhaps. I feel that your article misrepresented the argument against CETA when it used it as an example. I realise that you probably don't want to argue about this (nor do I, really), but I felt it was important to provide a contrary perspective. That's all.


When you bring an example for "people stick to negative attitudes even when the things improve or are not like another bad thing", and the example you bring is actually a really bad thing – out of state tribunals are fully unacceptable, also in the way CETA modeled them – then it is very valid to question that example. It could be that your whole observation is wrong, that people do not really stick to negative perspectives, but rather that you became unwilling to see them as valid.

Your Python3 example works for me. But CETA does not. It just does not support your point.


If you consider where CETA started and where it ended, the transparent tribunal solved the initial complaints same as with the restrictions on when you can sue. That now the new tribunals are also not good enough is a moved goalpost.


You really think that's true for everyone, or are you just looking at a subset of complaints?

There have been huge protests against TTIP and CETA in Germany and around Europe, and you can't resolve their legitimate concerns by saying "excuse me sir, but by your own logic, you just proved my point".


> You really think that's true for everyone, or are you just looking at a subset of complaints?

That is true for the group of people that nearly derailed CETA in Austria (green party and the right wings party). I don't think I wrote everybody.


> can you explain how Canadian and European legal systems are so insufficient for seeking legal recourse for legitimate grievances that companies need to be able to sue either government in international tribunals?

States can't be expected to be impartial.

Investors and citizens should rightfully expect protection from discrimination and uncompensated expropriation. We're in an era of economic nationalism (Brexit, Trump) and easy access to impartial protection of rights and rule of law is more important than ever.

This isn't just protecting big business - half the cases in US agreements concern small to medium busiensses who can't afford to know every local law in every nation nor afford teams of lawyers[0]

I don't think there is anything wrong with the concept of ISDS - without it it's arguable that it would have been difficult to develop the trade agreements in the 60s and onwards that sprouted the current crop of developing nations.

The problem and more recent phenomenon is with corporations becoming more creative in exploiting old agreements. This is being fixed in the more recent agreements. I don't think you'd find anybody defending the old agreements and their very loose definitions of expropriation (or lack of)

Canada would know - they've lost 7 cases with NAFTA and learned a lot in redeveloping ISDS for CETA[1]

[0] https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/fact-s...

[1] http://www.nationalmagazine.ca/Articles/March-2016-Web/CETA-...


>Philip Morris v. Uruguay

A bad example. Let's use one were the plaintiff actually was successful.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/ottawa-pay...


I was thinking Vattenfall vs. Germany. It's ongoing, but interesting because Vattenfall is wholly owned by Sweden.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/nuclear/swedish-e...


Every single trade agreement has something like ISDS and the entire purpose of these courts is to make sure people follow the agreement as it was written. It's not like you will be invaded if you break the rules of the agreement and ISDS rules against you, you will simply be kicked out if you don't follow the rules. Why do morons spread fear about this shit?


> Every single trade agreement has something like ISDS and the entire purpose of these courts is to make sure people follow the agreement as it was written.

Huh? ISDS isn't about enforcing the trade deal (which might also go to arbitration), it's a separate issue.


Because you have elected legislators and permanent courts to apply national laws for a reason.

Bypassing democracy with pseudo-courts and pseudo-legislation and pretending it is ok is insulting to the citizens.


More broadly speaking, this is a reason why it's not necessarily irrational or unreasonable to continue to believe old arguments - the effort required to claim that yes, things have changed and the old arguments are therefore invalid is so disproportionately small compared to the effort required to confirm the changes are in fact inadequate or non-existent.


This brings to mind a fantastically lucid comic about the utility of questions vs answers:

http://kiriakakis.net/comics/mused/a-day-at-the-park

After all, the an opinion is just an answer to the question, "What do I think of this?"


Please submit this to HN. That's fabulous.

(It's also much better than a few similar conversations I've been having myself.)


I took your suggestion and posted it, let's see if it gets any traction


Not much, but if you check the HN guidelines, it's fair game to re-post after a few days or so. Again, really good, and thanks for sharing this.


That is superb. Thank you for referencing it.


A very common cognitive bias or logic pattern our brain follows is to whitelist or blacklist things. When we trust something, we follow it without question or we begin rationalizing it no matter what. And in the day of the internet and Google we can confirm basically any bias we have on either side of an issue.

You should scrutinize your own thoughts and opinions and others to see if they are just believing something because it was true in the past.

In terms of Javascript, there is definitely a lot of hate out there for the language and ecosystem which was entirely true. But I would argue JS has the best trajectory right now of any language out there. So you better learn it if you want to stay relevant in development.

Lastly, I've found it best to not be so opinionated about everything. Sure having some opinions are great but you develop too many biases otherwise. So what if something sucks, use it anyway. You might learn something new, or maybe you can help improve it if it has potential.


> JS has the best trajectory right now of any language out there

> I've found it best to not be so opinionated about everything

Lol


To be fair, JS does have a pretty good trajectory. When you start from near the absolute bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. I do not mean that as a crack against the language; it is an observation that even JS partisans ought to agree with if they think for a moment. I'm looking back all the way to its creation, when it was a language designed to handle onclick events that fit into one attribute tag. There was a lot of up to go from there.

However, looking into the future and seeing where a language with Javascript's technical foundation can end up, it's hard to see it ever exceeding Python 3 or Ruby, and both of those languages, while perhaps not in outright decline, are certainly looking at having peaked and entering their "maturity" phase. Confident declarations that it is the future are probably not warranted when it is at most the present. I don't think WebAssembly will "kill" Javascript any time soon, but once it really gets going it's going to start eating away at all the really big uses of it, because WebAssembly will permit languages that can fit into niches other than the 1990s-style dynamic language maxima. It's a nice maxima (totally no sarcasm, I'm just barely old enough to have tasted the paradigms it replaced and dynamic languages got as big as they did for a reason) but it's now in 2016 also abundantly clear it's not the only one.


Our realities are each a collection of stories we each tell ourselves. Sometimes parts of the stories two people believe will overlap and we'll call those opinions or facts depending on situation.

I'm finding it helpful to view every signal my body encounters as a chance to choose how to process it, including what I do, taste, or hear.

Since adopting this view, I've effortlessly enjoyed eating foods I've hated my entire life (tomatoes, olives, CILANTRO?!), listening to country music, and doing things like chores that used to bore me to tears.

If anyone sees danger in learning to view the world that way by default, I'd love to hear about it.


> Sometimes parts of the stories two people believe will overlap and we'll call those opinions or facts depending on situation.

I'd argue that happens slightly more often than "sometimes" - this is the basis which communication, and with it relationships and communities need to function.

> If anyone sees danger in learning to view the world that way by default, I'd love to hear about it.

The main danger I see is not trusting your body. Your virw seems to treat all reactions to signals as equal - but that ignores that some reactions might be more justified than others. Some contain knowledhe by others, some evolutionary development by your body. E.g., even if you could bring yourself to like the taste of rotten meat, it would be a very bad idea to do so.


True...now that I think about it, I can always choose to find some sort of relationship between what I believe & what you believe, even if metaphorical. That's fun :)

> The main danger I see is not trusting your body. Your virw seems to treat all reactions to signals as equal

I'd argue what I'm doing is learning to dampen the bias my mind introduces when it processes signals from my tongue/nose/ears. It's trusting the signals my body generates more than what my mind has to say about them. Rancid food is still going to taste/smell/feel/look spoiled & if I do somehow enjoy it, my body's still likely to react negatively in other ways to let me know it was a bad decision.


This sounds like an excellent blog post, or even a book.


I'm definitely going to blog about it, now that you've said that. Thanks for the inspiration :)

I think I'll title it "Olive happier when olive olive the foods." (I live happier when I love all of the foods)


It's unfortunate, but we have a tendency to take some beliefs so deeply that they become a part of our core identity. Once this happens, validation of the idea becomes validation of ourselves. Attacks upon the idea become attacks upon ourselves.

Once someone has reached this point, logic simply cannot reach them. Successfully defeating their arguments will only strengthen their resolve (the backfire effect), because they're being driven by the amygdala, which only understands threat response. They will grab onto any argument, no matter how flimsy, and be completely unaware of how little sense it makes. Any further argument with them will at best do nothing, at worst make you look as much a fool as he.

The wise man learns to recognize this state and back off.


It's not the responsibility of the author to anticipate future changes that might weaken his current arguments. The reader is responsible for taking into account the time and context of the text they are reading.

It's why we like to have e.g. "(2013)" added to anchor texts on HN, for example.


It is, when the author is writing them (or saying them) in 2016. I thought he made it pretty clear that was what he was complaining about.


For comparaison, Ruby 3 is gonna introduce a pretty big breaking change (frozen string literals) but they already shipped a way to optional enable it by-file (magic comment) and globally to the ruby interpreter (just a parameter) so that all the libraries and projects can slowly fix it in a compatible manner (often just calling .dup is enough).

So that's when it's time for Ruby 3 the transition will be pretty painless.

More info: https://wyeworks.com/blog/2015/12/1/immutable-strings-in-rub...

(Frozen string literals allows strings to be in memory only once and not having to reallocate each time, so a pretty big memory and cpu optimization)

(Also for instance rubocop already recommends adding the magic comment to all ruby files)


(Frozen string literals allows strings to be in memory only once and not having to reallocate each time, so a pretty big memory and cpu optimization)

Isn't this the purpose of symbols in the language? This seems like a pretty basic optimization, surely there were good reasons not to introduce it in earlier versions.


e.g. 1000.times { "hello" } creates strings 1000 times but: 1000.times { "hello".freeze } only one time.

The thing about frozen strings is they can't be changed "inline":

e.g. : "Hello".freeze << " world" doesn't work but "Hello".freeze + " world" does because it creates a new string.

(It's funny because << is often recommended as an optimization)


Magic imports from __future__ are the usual way of turning on features in Python.

The incompatibilities introduced in Python 3 weren't done that way to save on implementation effort among other reasons.


Maybe python2 --enable-print-parentheses and other flags could have been useful to slowly detect future issues on python 2 code.


Python 2.6 has from __future__ import print_function.

There the saving of implementation effort would be not supporting print statements in 3.0.


Nice it actually gives "SyntaxError: invalid syntax", but then it affects all the imported libraries so I still prefer the per-file way as a transition.


__future__ imports are per file. A few posts up you were proposing an interpreter-wide switch. Did you change your mind?


Awesome. I think both are great, first doing file-per-file and once it's working switching the global switch is a pretty good transition workflow.


This is a quite good example about myself. After I realized that too many people around Ruby do not understand the concept of immutability, I stopped to care about the whole ecosystem around it.

If this catches up, it is worth to give the Ruby a fresh look.


There are a few immutability options, for instance Hamster: https://github.com/hamstergem/hamster/blob/core/README.md


I naturally see both sides of almost any argument, and my personality is such that I would rather synthesize the arguments of both sides into a final position via dialectic.

I have lost almost every major argument I've had in a corporate environment.


compromise is often wise, but beware design by committee

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_by_committee


As a relative newcomer to Python, I had no real interest in working with 2.x. But I appreciated Armin's critiques of 3.x -- it was really difficult finding thorough, thoughtful critiques that were focused on 3.x's flaws, not on the pain of porting/division of the community, which is of less concern to recent bandwagon jumpers like me. Most of all, I appreciate that his libraries -- Flask, flask-sqlalchemy, Lektor -- are 3.x compatible.


Hear! hear! I also recommend, more generally, reviewing logical fallacies, cognitive biases, and misconceptions as part of a regular self-review. It's important to keep a flexible mind, though achieving greater degrees of interior freedom is hard work.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions


Part of the issue is efficiency, we have to make choices and cannot reevaluate everything constantly. Also, we can't be specialists in everything.

So programming languages, we have to pick a few and become good at them. It's one thing to take another hard look when applying for a new job for example, but we cannot keep track of all programming languages and their evolutions.


I think a sideline point here is to not appropriate other people's opinions from a specific point in time just because they happen to align with yours (opinion/bias) at the current time.

And of course, try to have as wide and deep an understanding of the subject as possible before forming strong publicised opinion in the first place.


Hmmm... while agreeing with the sentiment I am unimpressed by the lack of evidence for one of his supporting examples. What stood out for me was this bald assertion with no reference to falsifiable specifics:

"_Not_only_was_it_already_a_much_improved_agreement_from_ the_start_,but it kept being modified from the initial public version of it to the one that was finally sent to national parliaments."

Either the writer of this is an expert on the topic, well-known in the field and the weight of this judgement on its own is a valuable primary source; or, the writer is referring to such an analysis conducted by other experts but has not bothered to include a citation/link; or, the writer has their own critique but instead of presenting _that_ has just stated an opinion which they know to be controversial.

All of the above possibilities contribute substantially to the noise around any discussion.


Same thing with this line:

> TTIP was negotiated in secrecy (as all trade agreements are)

That seems like a really steep assumption to try to start a conversation about changing perspectives with time. He opens with a purported tautology about how you must do trade deals, which I feel hurts the argument against moving goalposts - because that seems like the exact kind of sentiment that leads to the behavior in the first place. This has always happened, thus it must always continue to happen is rarely a way to start productive dialog about something.


That's another good example. The original post is actually nearly an example of "How to start a flamewar."

You can even see the discussion of CETA spawning a long, subsidiary thread which distracts from the central thesis which we should be arguing about. (I am not offering an opinion on the content of that discussion.)


The real takeaway should be that if you want to make a point about the topic of discussion you really cannot use real world examples. Nothing is black and white, everything is nuanced, and online someone will argue anything (including the connotations associated with the word "is" in this very thread).

It should be no surprise that if you make a post trying to talk about the meta of controversial topics, that if you start directly citing said topics the discussion ends up being a debate about the controversy rather than the original intent.


Any example about a topic with a lot of emotions is going to do that. Be it static Be static typing, free trade vs protectionism. Etc.


Paul Graham in one of his best text explained similar concepts writing "I finally realized today why politics and religion yield such uniquely useless discussions"

Highly worth read: http://paulgraham.com/identity.html


I have to reference an Arthur C Clarke essay, "Hazards of Prophecy" with this quote

  > When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that
  > something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When
  > he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.
I have found that the wisest, smartest, most mature folks will re-evaluate their opinions in light of new information, and often change their mind.


Try not to move the goalposts. If someone compromises, acknowledge that and thank them for it, rather than saying "I am glad you finally saw the light, but now we need to take it a step further".

Brinkmanship rarely serves to get anything done, and burns bridges when it does actually accomplish something.


We need to establish that all communication is the senders responsibility. In the case of CETA, bot parts are not senders. Only one part is. They have a clear obligations to let people know about updates and imprecision about their communications.


I think the effect described in the text has another side: imagine that at some point using XYZ was obviously a bad idea for multiple reasons for a specific person in specific circumstances. Obviously, keeping track of the changes in XYZ will have a lower priority for a person who is not going to use XYZ anyway, even if one of the multiple show-stoppers gets fixed/changed/redesigned. This means that the person's opinion about XYZ slowly gets stale.


The bit on CETA was interesting. I was very disappointed when I heard CETA was signed last week because I strongly opposed the copyright term extension and anticircumvention clauses from the 2009 leaked draft. However, as far as I can tell, those are not in the final agreement. Opps.


This is a broader topic, it touches on how to deal with communication, debate, idea exchange, solution finding, society. I've seen the postures recently from supposedly right wings partisans that were mostly stuck up on old negative facts that don't apply today.


Web URL's are seriously underrated ... You can not go back in time and change what you told someone ... But if you have a blog that has an URL, you can actually update the content.


It may be less the responsibility of the "consumer" of the information and more the responsibility of the "producer" of the information.

If the argument is presented as if something is and will always be a certain way (or even if the argument is presented without admitting that something may change) it can probably lead a lot faster to groups of people assuming the argument will be valid forever.

EDIT: Or can be misinterpreted that someone presenting an argument believes the argument will remain valid forever.

btw. never saw the talks the author cites, and have not followed the trade agreements very closely so I'm only speaking generally here.


for me personally it is news the_mitsuhiko is "not vocally against python3 anymore". i cannot find any other recent blog posts besides this one, where python3 is praised or encouraged fully. so why be surprised if people still think he is a big python3 critic?

as i see it, the issue is less about parroting other's outdated technical opinions, it's about not being vocal enough about the change of heart.


> i cannot find any other recent blog posts besides this one, where python3 is praised or encouraged fully. So why be surprised if people think he's a big python critic.

I think this attitude is exactly what the article argues against.

If (1) you read his earlier posts about python 3 and (2) understood the specific objections and (3) are aware the current state of python 3 is such that those objections don't apply, then you have no good reason to suppose he still considers them to be valid objections.

If (3) isn't the case, you still don't have a good reason to assume his opinions haven't changed, because the world moves on and that has to be accounted for.


Headline: Engineer cries Political Arguments are not 'valid'; Forks off own nation.


Two words:

Socrates, Marx


Except Internet Explorer... that will always be the same. :)


Good article.

List of some of the things I don't like for which I have to occasionally take another peak to see if I'm finally wrong:

1. (In languages) Garbage collection and the idea of "safe code". I didn't like it then and still don't.

2. ORMs

3. (Relational) Data models with compound keys flying around as FKs everywhere.

4. The idea of self service BI (like PowerBI etc in the hands of a business user)

5. Regexp


It is your lucky day, I can solve 4 of your problems (I don't even know what 4. is). The answer is: They are neither bad nor good. They are just tools, whose usefulness depends on the job.




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