My first problem was when someone converted the Constitution of the United States into a COM file, but made some typos. I got hundreds of calls.
Then someone converted a entire library of gay porn text files which resulted in some uncomfortable phone calls to my wife while I was at work.
I released another version without my name and phone number, but the damage was done. I can still find my name embedded on com files in old archives.
The program was eventually bundled with an edition of "The Art of Computer Programming" by Donald E. Knuth. He used it to wrap some of the text files on the disk that came with the book. He paid me with a signed copy of the book and a very nice letter.
Reminds me of this - https://youtu.be/L8lA1pNvcz4 go to 2:45
Basically this guy is talking about the "first PC virus" called "Brain." 25 years after the virus first appeared (2011) finds a street address in Pakistan in the source code, goes to that address, and the malware authors are still there.
As an 80s BBS kid, I thank you for this. I'm sure I used this many times over and never considered the author. I think this was commonly used to package text files for download back in the day.
This is part of the reason some URMs can't get ahead in US corporate culture.
Yes, Linus does swear a lot, and uses aggressive language. That's part of his style, his culture, and how he communicates.
No, he is not a jerk. The reason Linux beat the BSDs is because Linus is a very nice guy. He created a community which, despite the harsh language, was very welcoming, and willing to mentor new people. The BSDs created elitist, closed-off communities, which were unwelcoming to newcomers.
If you made a mistake, the BSD communities would write you off. The Linux community would tell you what you did wrong, and how to fix it, even if they used harsh language to do so.
The Linux culture is also quite meritocratic. It doesn't matter how you communicate, or how incompetent you were a year ago. If you're doing good technical work today, you're welcome. More than other cultures, arguments are taken at technical face value, not by who makes them.
I disagree. We always can simply claim 'it's a cultural difference' as an excuse, but that doesn't make it true and it doesn't make the behavior acceptable. Mature people in every culture look to show respect to others. If someone insulted me and said that, I'd think they were irresponsible and a bit slippery.
I've lived in some of the places you mention, and my experiences don't match your descriptions. People, as they are are everywhere, are generally polite and respectful. They may have some different ways of doing it, but those fundamentals are universal in my experience.
People naturally and quickly divine social norms from those around them.When I travel internationally, I learn and respect the social rules of the places I go. On a sports team, perhaps we pat each other on the butt; I don't do that in an office and say 'it's a cultural difference'. I may kiss familiar women on the cheek to greet them in my culture, but I wouldn't presume to do it in others. Travelers who don't learn the local norms are called "ugly", as in 'the Ugly American". Even entering a new work environment, I learn the social norms; those who don't look incompetent and rude.
How long have the people cited in this thread been in the professional IT culture? If they didn't have their positions of authority and instead had a boss in a company, my guess is that they would very quickly find a way to be polite. My guess is that they are polite with their spouses and kids; their in-laws, etc.
My point in the GP was that the claim of 'cultural differences' isn't valid; we all learn and adjust to new cultural norms easily, and very few cultures, if any, have the norm of disrespect.
As far as I can tell you have not successfully argued that Linus / the linux community have no norm of respect. Other commenters have pointed out that the community does in fact have norms of respect, but that those norms include a clause along the lines of "if you bullshit and command a position where you are expected to know better, you may be bluntly called out on it".
> Up one level, you argue that newcomers should adapt to the norms of different cultures
My point was that newcomers can and do adopt norms quickly and easily. Therefore, bad behavior isn't due to 'cultural differences'; those are easily overcome.
> Your arguments are internally inconsistent
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. I'm afraid I am, myself, internally inconsistent. It's glorious. You should try it.
Sure, but making sure your defence of your argument doesn't contradict your argument can hardly be considered to be a foolish consistency.
Furthermore, if you think that bosses of companies are polite, you really need to work at more companies, because there's quite a lot of variance. There's a lot of bosses out there with very rough manners. And hell, in some places it was (still is?) someone standard to take business meetings at strip bars.
Similarly, I once worked support at an agricultural telemetry start-up, and swearing was part of the job. Our clients were mostly farmers, and swearing (if they were swearing) helped put them at ease and let us get on with the job.
I don't understand why there's confusion on that score. He knows what he's doing, he knows it's dickish, he does it anyway because people let him, and legions leap to his defense for it. It flabbergasts me, to be honest.
That's why he's a jerk, and that's why it's unacceptable.
It's also just generally a disrespectful way to treat other human beings, and that is pretty universal, actually.
But to be frank, I think that context was perfectly clear in my post.
"There's a problem with the function you wrote. I need you to fix it tonight."
"The function you wrote is non-optimal for our goals. Please reconsider and reevaluate when you get a chance."
"You fucked up that function. Fix up your shit NOW."
The first is "standard professionalspeak." It's clear, direct, gets the point across. It isn't rude. The second is worthless corporatespeak. The third is rude and dickish. It's also how Linus tends to communicate.
I agree the second is not great, but would you really prefer the third to the first?
My point is that you can be totally direct and clear about what must be done without being nasty to the person doing the work, and that is the ideal. I don't think there are many cultures that would prioritize being mean over being direct, but if yours does, I'd be curious to understand what advantage you think that confers.
Further, if we're going to embrace different communication styles, then I would say the onus is on people to learn to communicate inoffensively, not to learn to accept offensive communication.
Talking about language without context is meaningless and so I try not to judge Linus off of a few publicly available emails. My Australian friends will refer to each other with language that is shocking to me as an American, but I acknowledge the context aound it and don't write them off as assholes because of it.
It's clear from the very public, recurrent fallout from Linus's behavior that it is not a matter of camaraderie or simple outsider misunderstanding. I agree, context matters. It's precisely because of the context that this language is not tolerable. The LKML is not a private Slack channel for friends.
Absolutely, among friends, such talk is generally tolerated and isn't a sign of rudeness or disrespect. My friends and I do the same thing in private channels. But in public in a professional setting is not at all the place for that.
And this is the funny thing about it. Even the people he "explodes" on usually get a lot of friendly "stop" messages from him well before any inflammatory message comes out. Only real exceptions I can think of is that he will meet an insult with an insult. Which, ironically, can go a decent way to making everyone else feel safer in the environment.
Edit to add: I do want to quickly add that as much praise as I can offer Linus in this regard, Knuth really is on another level. I do not intend to compare them.
> My Australian friends will ...
There's a common thread here: if you already know for sure that someone has respect and/or affection for you, harsh language from them just reinforces that, precisely because talking that way to a stranger or acquaintance is hostile.
To me "fix up your shit NOW" is more open-ended, and if the fix takes me a week then that's perfectly fine.
How about if we modified the first comment to say "I need you to fix it ASAP"? I can't honestly believe that you'd much rather take someone shouting at you and making you feel bad about yourself, than a direct manager who ALSO speaks his mind, but can do so in a controlled, adult manner.
If he/she instead goes "There's a problem with the function you wrote", and in my head I need to go through the gymnastics of "I think he/she's basically saying that I fucked this function up and I need to fix my shit now", that adds a bit more effort to our communication.
Same is true in the reverse example of course.
Which is why people need to work with the right people, and there's no one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to something as intricate as inter-person communications. Culture fit is real.
The onus is very much on corporate America to accept diversity. Right now, the only persons of color who are hired are ones who have mastered the culture, for example. That doesn't have much to do with technical skills. That's almost the definition of discrimination.
Respect has to do with how you feel towards a person. People can read through the language used, and as unprofessional as "Fix up your shit NOW" may sound, the details of body language, tone of voice, and facial expression can make that disdainful, angry, respectful, or any of many other things, depending on how you read it.
"I'm a bastard. I have absolutely no clue why people can ever think otherwise. Yet they do.
People think I'm a nice guy, and the fact is that I'm a scheming, conniving bastard who doesn't care for any hurt feelings or lost hours of work, if it just results in what I consider to be a better system.
And I'm not just saying that. I'm really not a very nice person. I can say "I don't care" with a straight face, and really mean it."
-- Linus Torvalds, 09/06/2000, LKML
"I like offending people, because I think people who get offended should be offended."
-- Linus, 2012.
Linus Torvalds on why he isn't nice: "I don't care about you."
"people who get offended should be offended"
He's saying that if you want to join the team, you should have a thick skin. It's his prerogative as project leader. Maybe in his view there's a correlation between thick skin and the abilities required for a kernel hacker.
"doesn't care for any hurt feelings or lost hours of work, if it just results in what I consider to be a better system."
The objective to make a solid kernel is above your feelings, his feeling and anybody else's feelings.
"I don't care"
Same as above: the kernel is above you.
Maybe the harsh language is a good filter. I'm sure there's less politics in the organization with a direct language vs. euphemisms for everything. Kernel programing is harsh.
Although IMO self-deprecation is often also self-depreciation, for some liberal interpretation of that word in this context, but I doubt that's what you meant.
Why are we afraid to call people out on the shit they say? Is this some new level of political correctness? Or do we just see these people as something to project onto and dismiss anything counter to that?
No idea, but it seems we live in strange times where a man's own words are ignored for feel-good conclusions that have no merit or basis in reality.
At the other extreme, if you want to join your local flying club, you can expect to be treated courteously. If anyone treats you like an asshole, the problem is with them rather than you. It can be that way, because the group is not trying to achieve anything extreme, its just for enjoyment and largely social.
If you want to join in the white hot stream of activity surrounding one of the world's most important pieces of software, its not going to be like your flying club.
Its not quite the marines either, but it is a place where very complex stuff has to get done, urgently, absolutely correctly, in the face of hundreds or thousands of interjections and "what about" from more or less well-meaning contributors who just don't have or get the big picture in the same way the core of the group does. (Talking about Linus here, not Trump :)
Sometimes, such an environment functions better with a culture of abruptness and "take no shit" is built.
Its very unfortunate for anyone who aspires to join such a group that they have to put up with that. But sometimes we have to acknowledge that that "terrible behaviour" is part of what makes the group work. Not all clubs are suitable for all people.
Politely saying no takes time and effort, especially if communication isn't your strong point. If I'm walking down the street, I'll probably be pretty polite to the first homeless guy that asks me for a dollar. By the time the hundredth flags me down before I'm even halfway to my destination, I'll have boiled that initial polite response down to "Fuck off."
That polite "No, because of X, Y, and Z" rapidly turns into "I have made up my mind, no" and then into "This is not a fucking debate, so no, and fuck you." very quickly, especially if you're dealing with a constant deluge of stupid requests.
I'm not going to judge Linus for his outbursts, as obviously his method seems to work pretty well.
(This is different from Donald Trump, where people have actually complained about being wronged by him, rather than complaining about an interaction between Trump and somebody else where neither party had any complaints. And this is ignoring how offensive it is to equate telling somebody to do their job better with sexual assault and racial discrimination.)
In terms of profanity, if someone says "man, I had a really shitty day today", that's not really harmful and doesn't have significant consequences. But when someone says "you are a real piece of shit", that is harmful, and does have consequences. It doesn't even matter how the recipient felt. The giver had an intent of harm that was driven probably by anger.
It's the verbal equivalent to punching someone in the nose. The aggressor got angry and they wanted to inflict pain, in order to try to affect change to a scenario or thing they wanted to be different (that's what anger is). And regardless of whether the recipient was hurt, we as a society say that letting out your anger at someone in this way is not acceptable, that you are not allowed to try to injure someone, whether they felt it or not. Obviously our laws are a lot more lax about speech than about physicality, but it's the exact same concept just in different mediums.
A woman may receive a sexist comment and not be bothered. But we agree not to tolerate it, whether or not she was bothered by it, because the concept, and the intention, are simply not acceptable in our society. The point is not to tell her what to feel, but to enforce our moral values as a society. If you don't like that, fuck you.
This is a wonderful example of why human communication isn't only based on the semantic meaning of words. Flirting, sarcasm, irony - all would be lost to someone just parsing words, not being able to understand the finer communication on a subconscious level: Body language, rapport, etc.
I wouldn't be surprised if people who would call someone out on that language have a higher chance on being diagnosed with autism or sociopathy - which in itself isn't bad at all, but it helpts being aware that communication between humans is apparently perceived completely differently by different groups.
Behavior like that makes me far more angry than rude comments.
If someone told me to mind my language over a casual board game, I'd tell them to fuck off. A friendly jibe is just a friendly jibe, regardless of whether it had the word 'shit' in it or not. Words matter, but far less than intent does - and the intent of telling someone to clean up their act in a casual setting is that they're patronising you.
Err, no we don't. We have a society specifically to co-exist with each other. Proactively policing each other actually reduces our ability to co-exist.
It's much like the classic literary 'harsh father' figure - he may beat you, he may be strict, he may never show love, but he provides for the family and he teaches you to be moral, so everything he did must have been good. The beatings must have had a purpose. It's hard for us to accept that good and bad exist in the same person, and that somebody who does good things may also do very bad things, not just discretely, but often at the same time.
When you see one person who is personally or socially powerful, and that person is a champion of one thing you strongly believe in, you will support that person in order to have that thing come to fruition, as long as the other things that person supports aren't too distateful to you. It's then necessary to defend that person so they can continue to be your champion - either out of ego, or purely to achieve your goals.
But when it's Linus, people don't defend him because they need to achieve something. They defend him mainly because of what he represents to them, and also for the work he does.
When it's Trump, people defend him because he's simply the most extreme choice possible. He makes you feel good, and that combined with anger becomes a positive feedback loop. He could murder someone and people would still find reason to cheer for it, not because they like what he does, but because of what he represents to them: extremism. (and now the thread is going to go down a political spiral... oh jeez, this poor thread)
I would challenge that notion that using an aggressive and diminishing language doesn't imply being a jerk.
Also keep in mind that BSD have legal challenges that GNU/Linux didn't so community is not the only reason why Linux won the popularity contest
It's 100% a cultural difference. While you see it as personally aggressive and grating, a lot of people see "overly polite" language as a sign that you don't care about the topic being discussed and/or are trying to address an issue politically rather than by merits of a strong argument. Neither of these perceptions is really right or wrong, it just has to do with the perspective you have based on where you grew up and who you've interacted with the most.
From an engineering perspective it'd be optimal if everyone had the same universal expectations for how a conversation should be held, just like how it'd be optimal if everyone spoke the same language. People don't really work that way, though, and just like with languages we try to accommodate each other as much as possible and find middle grounds, etc.
For six months I knew that we had a hardware driver problem on the target hardware that was causing the drive to be accessed at PATA speeds (3 MB/s max throughput stuck out from my time spent configuring Linux).
Finally, finally I convinced him to let me sit in on a call to the vendor (VxWorks) and in fifteen minutes we identified the problem and a feasible workaround. Old VxWorks, new bridge controller(?) backward compatible with one they DID support.
All because he couldn't say what needed to be said.
We got a nice 35% jump in the app after the next firmware upgrade.
Not someone who's not able to communicate.
That's not what the parent comment was suggesting. Someone like Knuth isn't accused of valuing politics over technical merit because he simply addresses technical merit in a polite way. I'm not one of the people who cares all that much that Linus is an ass to people on a mailing list, but it's ludicrous to suggest that his being an ass on a mailing list is necessary to convey a technical point.
He's a perfectionist and he seems to get distracted easily.
Like me, he seems to overly inured to the siren song of Force Multipliers (making other people more productive) and really should have spent more time practicing the craft.
If I had it to do over again I probably would have spent a little more time coding and a little less of it thinking in my late 20's to early 30's. It would make a broader group of people understand what I'm about. Especially bosses who don't understand that it would take three people to replace me, even though the majority of the team close more bugs than I do.
In fact, Donald Knuth is so below average from a productivity standpoint that there is an entire book published about books and papers that Donald Knuth published: http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/cp.html
Aside from Art, the Tex books, his earlier work on computational complexity and the one on AI, isn't most of the rest of that his bound lecture notes?
His extremely long side rail into typography was mostly what I was talking about. Art was left unfinished that entire time.
Linux OTOH was already well-established before the SCO suits.
BSDs legal challenges happened largely before Linux had any popularity, so the narrative that pins the blame for BSD's failure in the marketplace on its legal troubles seems hollow to me. The biggest lawsuit was settled in 1994, when Linux hit version 1.0 and Red Hat released its first version. FreeBSD 1.0 landed the previous year.
I'm also inclined to think that fragmentation was a big part of why BSD didn't win out--not legal issues or licensing.
Being born in New York (City), still living close and working there, I have to smile at the distinction between "American inner city" and "parts of New York". It just reinforces our attitude that there is New York and then there is everywhere else!
Comparing Knuth to Torvalds and saying "look, you don't have to be an asshole to be a great leader" is like comparing Usain Bolt to Dean Karnazes and saying "look, you don't have to be really muscular to be a great sprinter." The comparison is pointless because Karnazes isn't a sprinter just like Knuth isn't leading major software efforts.
Find a successful leader of a large-scale piece of software who doesn't have a reputation for being an asshole and use them for the comparison.
Larry Wall. Tom Lane. Off the top of my head.
That makes sense, except that OP said "You don't have to be a jerk to get ahead in life", he didn't mentioned being a leader. The followed commenters brought the leadership point into attention and then subtly implied that there is more correlation between being a jerk and a leader.
Edit: And yes, the conversation pivoted to being a leader because that is a critical difference between Knuth and Torvalds which seems very relevant to this sort of comparison.
So pretty much everyone except for Torvalds and de Raadt? Those guys are the exception and not the rule.
I agree, still the exception, but I feel like it's extremely unfair to say "everyone except" and forget the devil himself :)
used in large-scale or has a large-scale developer base?
for used in large-scale I know some, but they don't have a large-scale developer base.
Flaming someone on a mailing list takes as much time as being nice to them. If it was about time then Linus could just ignore or dismiss things without going out of his way to type up insults.
Not if you take into account the time saved by (strongly) discouraging people from wasting your time in the future.
> If it was about time then Linus could just ignore or dismiss things
No, you absolutely cannot do that. If you ignore people on software projects, they do not go away. They just get more convinced that they're right, which means getting more shrill and insistent.
Edit: typical -> popular
"In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols."
So his justification for this was founded on a prevention of violence. We already have this in the USA, for example, in that we forbid incitement to violence, fighting words and the like. So unless you can show some strong nexus between these statements and actual, physical violence of some kind, you can't use Karl Popper as a justification.
It's not a wild west when you call people out because they are unpleasant. In modern world (as I see it) you create a competition and public follows best one.
I mean, sure, you may think that Torvalds provides more value than the people he isolates, but either way people are getting isolated.
You know, if it has to be our decision whom to isolate, why not create a competitive community and vote for it with commits, instead of destroying the original community by removing Linus out of the office?
People confuse directness with being an asshole. If your results suck, saying they suck isn't being an asshole. If you feel that something is horrible, sugar-coating it to make sure you don't hurt someone's feelings is unauthentic.
Here's the difference...
When someone says "your product sucks, throw it away" .. with the INTENT of causing that person to feel bad, thats being an ashhole.
If you tell them that their product sucks because you genuinely feel that way, and you're simply communicating authentically, then you're not being an asshole, you're being authentic.
Here's how you can tell the difference. The former in that example get stuck at best in middle management in low-quality companies... the latter finds themselves at the top.
If someone says I'm an asshole, I don't get to tell them they're wrong. It's how they feel about me, regardless of whatever I or anyone else feels.
The absolute best I could do is say that they're alone in feeling that way.
Lots of folks thought Steve Jobs was an asshole. You can say "well he was just direct" but that doesn't take away how they felt about him, or what their opinions are.
so the stories about him firing people on a whim weren't true ?
Maybe don't deify the guy who worked against you and your interests his whole career.
I find myself dealing with the same struggles at work. I can't believe how slow/stupid/careless so many of my co-workers are, but snapping at them is ultimately counter-productive and more than likely bad for my career. Frankly, I don't considering myself a good team player and I lean towards the hermit approach often. If I was the boss, who knows, I'd probably be a terror.
Can you imagine guys like Musk, Kurzweil, Hawking, etc saying such a thing. It seems like its very in vogue to be a "man of everything" and "expert in all things" right now. Hawking writes about AI even though he's done zero AI research or any AI software engineering. Kurzweil sees himself as an expert in aging and medicine even though he holds no M.D. Musk is an endless source of 'big ideas' many of which are highly questionable and well outside of his wheelhouse of rocketry and cars.
What a humbling response by Knuth. We can't we have more people like this?
Knuth lives a more or less "monastic" life; he practically doesn't need to deal with anybody, while Torvalds is strictly entangled with an entire community.
While this of course doesn't entirely justify both behaviors, the two contexts are certainly very influential on them.
I actually fear the day, when somebody more polite gets in and lets it known, (unintentionally, of course), that shitty, rookie code is now fine, that being lazy and not treating the trust that has been placed upon you by being a subsystem maintainer for the most important software project of the 21st century - if you don't consider that an important enough responsibility and are willing to embarrass Linus, who put his trust in you, then yeah, I don't mind him being rude.
I would mind if he was rude to first time contributors fixing a typo, that's not who he's rude at.
He can't fire these people as such, many of them work for sponsors who pay his salary and he has no direct control over them, so being rude is one of his last resorts - especially since it's hard to express just how hardly displeased over email WITHOUT being "rude".
He does give feedback, if you take a look at LKML he's only "rude" to the repeating offenders, not those who make a one-time honest mistake, but rather to those who got too comfy to actually review the code they're sending to Linus as "reviewed".
I am not saying Linus is always right, but if you actually follow his reasoning, it makes a great amount of sense.
I disagree with this kind of pluralism. Communication style and skill matter deeply, but styles aren't simply "different but equal". In the current context, it's easy for technical people to dismiss everything but the "content", usually a kind of reductio ad absurdum to "technical content". But communication, by definition, involves the audience's perception. If your communication style inhibits your audience's understanding or even their willingness to listen, then you are simply a bad communicator.
Case study: some years back, I was heavily involved in hand drumming. A really excellent master drummer had recently immigrated and settled in my area. The community was very supportive, but the local students had a serious problem with him: he was an abusive asshat as an instructor. This was definitely a cultural style, one that was the ubiquitous norm in his home culture, particularly with a large body of children as the primary students. But it was absolutely off-putting to enthusiastic, self-motivated Western adults who were there to learn. They weren't making mistakes because they were lazy or dumb or inattentive, but just because they were new. Fortunately, community members realized this, supported him, and he switched his style in record time... to both his own and his students delight. His own skills and his ability to mentor were never in doubt, but his communication style utterly destroyed his ability to actually communicate effectively.
So yes, I'll agree that cultural understanding is really important for both the communicator and their audience. But there's a line to be drawn at outright abuse. Just because it's the norm elsewhere doesn't make it acceptable anywhere. Some approaches to communication are simply more effective than others. Failing to realize the human impact of your communication style on your audience, or worse, realizing that it's negative and doubling down on it, make you an ineffective jerk.
It's certainly not that simple. This only makes sense if your goal is to communicate in a culturally-agnostic manner, which is not something you can reliably do. It's like flag burning: you can't really communicate the same point better in another way. It at least makes some sense to tromp on people's emotions in a context where you are trying to teach them that their emotions are an obstacle to success.
It is important for the teacher to understand the student, but it is arguably more important for the student to understand the teacher.
But sometimes an asshat is just an asshat. There are boundaries of negativity past which it's basically never productive to cross, and telling people who've received that kind of behavior that they should just grow a thick skin ... is pointing the finger the wrong direction.
For what it's worth, coworkers have pointed out to me how much of a bully Linus has been. I'm not sure it matters that the bullying wasn't directed at them. Bullying is still bullying.
To put it another way, would you want your manager to speak to you how Linus spoke to Mauro? Even if it was deserved?
Linus also doubles down and insists it's ok: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/07/linus-...
We have civility rules on HN for a reason, for example. I don't think civility is artificial in the ways that Linus is saying. You can be courteous to someone you're in command of.
It's much more newsworthy that Linus was rude, than that he wasn't. News is biased. Who knew!
None of this is assigning rightness or wrongness to anyone, it's just group dynamics. If he drives people away, he may be OK with that. It may even be his desired outcome. There's nothing wrong with him running things the way he sees fit, and there's nothing wrong with other people thinking he's an ahole and going their separate ways. I'm much more sympathetic to the latter than the former though. In my experience, leaders who are too focused on getting people to respect their authority above all else tend to be the "B's" in the "A's hire A's, B's hire C's" management cliche.
I do of course respond by saying it's inappropriate to call me directly in the middle of the night, and they should contact my employer for support or email the appropriate public mailing list and I'd be happy to respond there. Still happens a few times a year, though. Not surprised SQLite folks get overwhelmed, even if they didn't go out of there way to offer. I've worked on lesser-known projects and have never even been the key developer.
I was not polite. Figuring out how to type "git clone" does not entitle you to bother me.
Seriously, 32k in the days of shareware? I think the fastest modem I ever saw (in that era, anyway) was 19.2k, and almost nobody had those. Pretty sure I went from 19.2 straight to ADSL.
Yeah, but very latterly. Modems topped out at about 56K (although, in my experience, they rarely connected at that speed). That's the fastest I had before getting broadband in the late 90s.
Before that I had 9600 (maybe something else in between), although as I recall there were competing "standards" in the 9600 space.
56k modems were actually limited to 53k download and 34k upload: http://www.10stripe.com/articles/why-is-56k-the-fastest-dial... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modem#Using_digital_lines_and_...
(I'm 33, maybe that fact will shed some light)
As the Internet/Web and open source merged into the PC world from the Unix world--and it became easier to legitimately trial retail software--shareware largely morphed into just another category of retail software that was sold online.
Side (probably useless) note: I think majority of people ARE paying for support because it IS open source. You don't pay for support for commercial software, because that is included in the sticker price.
I personally just like knowing somebody read my letter instead of going into a black hole. And I kind of expect these things to go into black holes, so it's actually kind of heart warming when I receive any kind of response.
And this response would at least tell me to try a different contact. (I know in this case who Daniel Stenberg is and know what curl is so I wouldn't make this specific mistake, but sometimes hunting for support contact information returns things that are vague.)
If the customer gets angry at the response, it's fine because it just means they don't understand, which means they are just getting angrier at the car company. The car company deserves that since they made it so hard to contact them.
For a very long time I ran publicly accessible NTP servers. Usually this required little to no maintenance, sometimes we'd get hammered (like when a large ISP rebooted all of their customers boxes at the same time). But usually it wasn't a big deal.
Now, when you have hundreds of thousands of people using your services, it doesn't take many people who have decided you are going to fix their problem, as a percentage to get overwhelmed. Mostly users were great, but there were a few...
My company provided Linux support, and our support number included an option users could select that was prefaced with "If you are an existing customer and are having a service impacting emergency, press 1 to receive a call back from a technician within 15 minutes."
This system would allow them to leave a voicemail and then would log a bug in our tracking system and would start calling our senior on-call tech and their backup, 24 hours a day. It was either the second or third time in a week this happened, and I replied with a "You are not a customer, this is not a service impacting outage, and you are reporting our servers replying to your computer's requests for time service."
The level of vitriol I received in return convinced me it was time to stop offering NTP as a public service.
Most people will spend some time understanding what is going on before reaching out to someone they've never heard of before, expecting them to fix the problem. But if you have enough people using something you provide, you will run across people who have huge expectations of you and get pissed off if you don't fix their problem.
Did you charge callers. I wonder if "you will be billed £20 for this call [or $30 or whatever]; current customers will have this cost refunded" would be enough (even if you never charged) to put people off.
Alternatively, why not just require the customer to enter their 10+ digit account number to proceed further?
So, it was definitely a judgment call about if we should add something requiring a special code for access, charging, etc... In this case, we had to make the judgment call about implementing something like this, or stopping public NTP service.
Part of the equation also included that pool.ntp.org was now available and fairly well populated, when we started offering NTP service it wasn't a thing.
As for "if the customer gets angry at the response, it's fine...", well, what if you're taking the time to reply and then getting angry responses? What a waste of emotional energy.
Personally I'd agree that the correct thing to do is not to reply, there's only so many hours in the day, and there's really _nothing_ he can do to fix anything.
Never underestimate desperate people's selective deafness; when you want to solve a problem, you will filter out everything between you and it, and will see only "place $VERB in the subject of your email". The false positives from this method will be the most desperate, and probably the least congenial.
I have a TextExpander snippet auto-reply. Takes me maybe 10 seconds to reply to a given email. It's hard to give advice without knowing the rough volume of the emails the author deals with; I can imagine situations where this would be a perfectly viable strategy, or times when even that would be an unreasonable amount of work.
If you don't want to receive e-mails, don't put your e-mail.
If you just want to receive some kind of e-mails (like just congrats but not bugs), add that information in the end. Of course some people won't comply, but that's just human behavoir.
Now, just putting your e-mail and letting the black hole eat them without an answer is very disappointing to those who took their time to read the license/about/readme, find your e-mail, put their hope that you're able to help them in some problem, and then... nothing.
Yes, I did read the thread, the original post, and so on. I'm just putting myself in the position of the average costumer, or not-so-average, that took time to read the available documentation and tried to fix something, or to ask for a new feature, or anything else. He isn't receiving spam. I'm not suggesting, either, that he should address the problem or even find out who's the correct person to blame inside the company X that did the GUI of the radio for the company Y that finaly sold it to DENSO that will sell it to Toyota...
One way to fix would be, for example, changing the license in any future version to read "If you're using this software inside any component that will be used in a car, you should display the Copyright_automotive.txt contents instead of this one".
As far as I could find (in https://curl.haxx.se/docs/copyright.html), I would never blame regular car users, not even some tech users, if they couldn't find what Daniel is responsible for. The license just says:
COPYRIGHT AND PERMISSION NOTICE
Copyright (c) 1996 - 2016, Daniel Stenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org, and many contributors, see the THANKS file.
All rights reserved.
Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software for any purpose with or without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice and this permission notice appear in all copies.
THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT OF THIRD PARTY RIGHTS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.
Except as contained in this notice, the name of a copyright holder shall not be used in advertising or otherwise to promote the sale, use or other dealings in this Software without prior written authorization of the copyright holder.
If you read that and can find where it says that it's not about the GPS, the mapping of the Electronic Fuel Injection, the windshield wipers, or something else, or even that it's about some specific piece of software, please, just point it out.
He is not obligated to answer every email he receives.
He is certainly not obligated to play first-tier tech support for anyone who happens to purchase a product that uses curl.
Trust me, that wouldn't fix it. As someone who works for a company whose name resembles a popular Microsoft product, putting in disclaimers (in our case on our support contact form) doesn't help one bit. They don't care.
maybe you would be getting 2x the support calls without the disclaimer, even if this number is unchanged from before the disclaimer
My last job was managing the support for a smaller university, and every so often we'd get people who just searched "Help Desk" and somehow stumbled onto our University Help Desk phone number. They'd get insanely frustrated when, rather often, we were completely unable to help them because the product was too niche or specific for my technicians to even begin to know how to troubleshoot; we had low enough call volume that the free publicity for the school after helping strangers more than offset the time spent solving a problem that wasn't ours to solve. But when the callers would get really upset and disgruntled, I'm not entirely sure what they expected, especially since my technicians would make it perfectly clear that we weren't a generic Help Desk, we were specific to a university. I have plenty of sympathy for them not being able to get good support through the correct channels, but when you know you're not at the right place and just hoping, it doesn't seem fair to peg blame on the people you know are the wrong people to contact.
Edit to reflect your edit:
I would imagine that the part that reads "THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND,..." should give away that this is not for support. Also that it doesn't read like a support document at all, and that it's not included in the car's support manual, and that the email doesn't mention Toyota at all. If they email that address from that page, they're not reading the file, they're just scanning for an email address. I'm not saying people who do this are idiots or anything of the sort - as someone who loves helping with tech issues, I sympathize and even empathize after having crap service from many companies. But the people are creating their own disappointment.
Why would he know anything about the delay in audio and video when connecting through bluetooth? Or about the GPS?
He's happy to get emails about curl, even bug reports.
Have you ever had a customer service or tech support job? This line would just be used as a further launching point for an angry and argumentative person. Expect replies as "Thanks asshole" or "Surely you must know someone there who can help, instead you collect your big six figure salary while us working joes get stiffed," etc.
When I did tech support for $electronics_company, you would not believe the negatively you're on the receiving end of. The author is clearly making the correct move. Why be on the receiving end of negativity when you don't need to be? Yes, maybe there are people like you out there who would appreciate a short response, but you're maybe 1% of the population in regards to this. Argubaly, if you don't know what a FOSS copyright statement is and start emailing any email you find, more than likely you're not going to be the tech wizard who is thankful for a reply. You'll be the pissed off guy with a radio that doesn't work and see any reply as a smug 'piss off.'
I think one of life's tough lessons is that you can't help everyone and that discriminating who you let into your life is very important.
(I already ruled out the spark plugs and coils by swapping them around, and told them of this in writing, but they still told me that was the problem without running a compression test...)
I mean, a single web search would reveal that the person probably doesn't work for <insert brand>. Would you email somebody about a Toyota car if their address wasn't "email@example.com" or something? Besides, if they had bothered to read the license, it's clear it comes "WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND".
Also, many companies make it intentionally hard to find a contact address. Mr. Stenberg shouldn't be disadvantages because some company which doesn't care about customer relations has decided to use his excellent piece of open source software.
> I’ve learned over the years that just trying to explain how I have nothing to do with the product they’re using is often just too time consuming and energy draining to be worth it.
Responding to emails can be way more draining than you'd expect.
I think it's easy to say that "it's fine" without stepping into Daniel's shoes, but the responder still has to carry some of the emotional weight of that interaction through the rest of his day. I don't blame him one bit for wanting not part of that.
Remember, this is customer service. You and many others may be nice and have reasonable expectations, but it's the outliers that sour the whole experience. I also would not opt-in to wasting my time and energy on these responses.
I work for a small company whose name is reminiscent of a popular Microsoft product. We get a non-trivial amount of tech support-type questions pertaining to it. At first you either help them or politely explain to them that they have the wrong company ... after a while it's just noise.
When someone randomly throws an email in a direction completely irrelevant to their issue, they are just grasping at straws. It would not be unreasonable to assume they've tried 20 other emails before or after this one, where most are likely to be more relevant to their issue.
If that person doesn't know the difference, any response you could send them would be of no help nor comfort, and the risks of continued questioning once you've opened that box is simply not worth it.
They wrote me back! Not with the music, but an apology saying they didn't have the music score to send out. As an adult, I get it.. and I also have to say as a kid I was elated to receive a response back from the company. I didn't really expect to hear back from them at all.
I'm conflicted about this but I realize the bigger company has limitations. And a small shop has even more limitations. I get both sides.
To them a reply and it doesn't matter what's in the reply as they're not reading it anyway, means they have somebody to vent to. And if Daniel doesn't solve it. T-mobile is a bad company. DO NOT ever understimate the stupidity of people. No reply is best reply in cases like this!
Aren't statements like these frowned upon in HN? It's unfair of you to use a use a fake statistic like that and call people 'stupid'.
Turns out that thousands of people every year think they are being super clever by putting my email address in the "From" field. So of course I get zillions of "receipts" for these eCards.
"Sister, I hope you feel better soon"
...is the most popular by far.
I stopped looking at them years ago but there's often some very personal information included and if I were an evil supervillain it would be trivial for me to use a lot of these eCards to blackmail people!
Fortunately for these people there's a highly ethical person at the helm of that email address that filters them all right into the trash.
Email is hard and confusing for a lot of people. It's easy for us to forget that.
It's a slippery slope though - forget worrying about remembering or managing passwords, you have to deal with variations of an email address too.
Further, email clients will reply from whatever address you used to setup the client. Maybe you can add aliases, but that will be time-consuming, and even where supported there's usually a single-digit limit. This can cause real headaches - e.g. "reply with `UNSUBSCRIBE` in the subject line to be removed from this list" and being unable to reply from the right email address.
For instance, my very early-adopter Gmail address has a '.' in the address but it is an entirely different account from the one without. If you send mail to the one without the '.' I do not receive it.
There aren't a lot of people who are using my email, one is an older folk who uses it, and I always mean to contact him, and one was a DJ which accidentally used my email address instead of his.
it threw me in circles.
My email is <first name><middle initial>@gmail.com (six characters total) and I get about 1-1.5 misdirected emails per day. Receipts, phone bills, homework, meeting minutes, personal messages that someone passed away, angry email from a homeowner to his general contractor (in Botswana), and even a international love letter.
It's quite annoying, but the worst is sites that make it very hard to unsubscribe, or don't understand that it's possible for someone to enter an email address that doesn't belong to them in a form. In one case (a bank), I actually had to call customer service on the phone to get them to disassociate my email address with someone's account.
In the case of the love letter, I thought I should reply to say that the intended recipient didn't get the message, but when I did, the sender got really confused and didn't understand that she had mis-typed the address.
I've got an annual delivery of an expensive watch in my inbox like clockwork every year.
I'd stop using that account in a second, except I bought ~$100 worth of Android apps over the years using that email address and last time I looked I couldn't transfer them to a new account.
firstname.lastname AT nhs dot net
Or firstname.lastnameNUMBER if there's more than one person with your name.
Since the NHS is one of the largest employers in the world you'll find things like john.doe58@
> ".example" is recommended for use in documentation or as examples.
Using example.[com|org] for testing feels like shoehorning. I wish IANA had reserved test.com, because that's what feels right when testing.
After setting up a DMARC reporting address for my own domain I was surprised at the amount of emails supposedly from my addresses that are getting rejected, mostly by gmail and yahoo.
I'm not getting rid of my gmail address... mine ... though I do have another address I use, and may start using that one more once I move the email hosting (on my todo list for over a year).
On the other hand, I was getting Allstate billing notices for someone else and I was surprised how well they handled it. When I called, they understood that I was a third party and apologized. They were able to look at a record of all the email sent and verify I had not received any sensitive information (only last 4 digits of account number, first name, and bill total). They removed my email address and said they would contact their customer immediately.
The only way they could have handled it better would have been following best practices and sending a verification link as their first email. :)
Turns out people don't know their actual physical addresses either any more.
Just move countries and cities often enough, and throw some business travel in for good measure, and it's pretty easy for that to happen. I've e.g. had similar sounding zip codes in a variety of cities and countries, and nearly the same street name within a city. After a while you start to very easily make mistakes.
Whereas "firstname.lastname@example.org" (or more likely gmail.com) can be arrived at by multiple people named "Firstname Lastname", you don't have to worry about it if your email address is generated via:
echo "$(< /dev/urandom tr -dc a-z0-9 | head -c 12)@example.com"
You'd be better off taking an "xkcd" or "gfycat" approach and making your e-mail "email@example.com" or "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Monolithic. That one email address you put on business cards, hand out at conferences, post in public forums. Basically a catch-all that quickly becomes a firehose for spam and bacn but every now and then you get an actual reachout as described in this post. They are infact gems when you get them, and always remind me how precious E-mail, as a loose social network, is.
Registrations. For creating throwaway accounts on various online social outlets. Got an IMGUR.com meme you must send to a friend over IM? No problem, your trusty registrations e-mail account, or account(s) have you covered.
Commerce. Super secure email address which is on a trusted provider, and is rarely, if ever, given out publicly. You change your password frequently on this, and make sure not to contaminate it with other identities. Typically tied to several accounts where money moves in them. Accounts with credit cards, PayPal, etc.
Others? I am interested to hear other people's single-duty uses for email? I know I could write about other categories, but those three cover a large portion of what I use E-mail for.
When one businesses address starts getting spam I blackhole it.
Similar to the + suffix trick but works on any site.
As you point out, the ability to blackhole any of these one-off addresses makes the approach a great way to deal with spam and quasi-spam. It's a shame that so few people are set up with the necessary software or infrastructure, so it remains a bit of a fringe approach.
I particularly enjoy the reaction of some retail employees when they think, for a moment, that my e-mail address includes the name of their store. "Your email address is 'abcpeetscoffee'?" "Well, yeah, for this particular transaction it is."
Just make sure you renew the domain and maintain ownership. Even if the domain provider says they'll ensure ownership after expiration, I don't trust that they will. Assume the domain is ripe for new ownership by somebody else once it expires.
There are services like Mark Monitor which address this issue, but they are prohibitively expensive and only useful for large enterprise.
I have another category for family/close personal friends. For money matters, I go a step further and split out general commerce (online shopping) from financial institutions (banking/investment).