The conflict happening here is between maintainers, who don't want a dated left-leaning joke embedded in the glibc documentation, and Stallman, who does.
If there's "political correctness" involved, it's right-leaning. But, as a left-leaning pro-choice person: there's no "political correctness" here at all.
It's a story because Stallman has played the "I'm the boss, you can't outvote me" card, not because anyone's in a tizzy over the politics.
But RMS' order may be. He just reminded everyone working on that project that their authority ends on any given issue wherever RMS' whims begin.
Not that it doesn't happen all over the place...
RMS is a CEO and he ultimately controls the project goals. If you think otherwise you fork.
I think the monarchy of the United Kingdom is good way to look at RMS's position here. On paper the monarch has a lot of power, but the reality is that they don't and trying to use it would provoke exactly the kind of crisis we're seeing here.
Monarchs exert soft power pretty much constantly, with public appearances, knighthoods, and recognition of great deeds. They often end up as the most popular political figures of their republics. So while monarchs are a fossil species in modern governments (since WWI), they retain enough of the royal prerogative to exercise those paper rights it when it actually matters. I think we're all second-guessing RMS here because he's using the perogative in a situation where it truly doesn't matter.
The emperor of Japan is really awesome.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think there's something wrong with that statement :p
No, they are just representative democracies. Which aren't coextensive with republics: you can be either without being the other.
Obviously, yes. RMS is currently the president of the FSF and glibc is a FSF project, created and directed and maintained and funded by the FSF.
Just because some developer parachutes into a project that doesn't mean the project owners lose their rights over the project, or that the developer becomes the new owner.
If you want to contribute to a project, you do so by respecting and complying with the wishes of those directing the policy. The FSF started the glibc project and manages glibc's development and establishes the policies followed by the glibc project. It's the FSF, and not any random developer who just so happena to have commit access to a repository.
Why then should the dictatorial mode be the way a non-profit or volunteer effort works?
Moreover, in a company it's the Board of Directors which delegates authority to the CEO. And the shareholders could override even them.
So if we interpret glibc as as a cooperative where the shareholders are also the developers and others working on the project, then certainly the shareholders could override management.
well, he definitely is for those under him (not those besides).
I mean, people called Obama a dictator (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-newly-see-obama-... ), Jeremy Corby (http://www.livetradingnews.com/jeremy-corbyn-turns-dictator-... ), a teacher's union (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/i-am-a-dictator-... ), and more.
When I wrote that, I was thinking specifically of how a union could override a CEO's demands demands, eg, by (threat of) lawsuit over breaking an employment agreement, or by collective action.
Then again, a dictator also has to worry about a mass uprising.
Then again again, so does a president - the US president is the chief of the executive branch of the US.
Do you think a CEO is dictator by definition, or that there is no way for a CEO to be anything other than a dictator? If so, what do you mean by dictator?
Now what is a dictator to me ? A dictator is someone you can't disagree with. The dictator may be benevolent or not, may exercise his power or not, but in the end he's the one in power. And you can't disagree with him because you have much less power (he can fire you, he's got the money, he decides on what you work, you're the one who needs the job, etc.). Just try to contest the authority (not the ideas, the style or whatever, just the authority) of your boss, and you'll see what happens.
Now from the board of director point of view, the CEO is not a dictator, he's someone who's running the company and giving advice on how to make it grow, make it better, whatever. So he's definitely in a positive role.
Could he be something else than a dictator ? Maybe. He could be "secretary" and then the power could be given to a part of the company's personnel, like a union. Those people would attend the board of director. But that would assume the fact that the board is willing to do that... I guess it's easier to scream on the CEO than on a group of people :-)
I found an example of a CEO who fired an at-will employee and as a result the company was successfully sued for breaking an oral contract where the board of directors had promised that the employee would not be fired for speaking about workplace problems. https://www.jacksonlewis.com/publication/south-carolina-jury...
That would be an example of where the CEO is not a dictator, yes?
In some states, a CEO cannot fire someone without just cause, or for reasons motivated by malice or made in bad faith. And there are civil rights, disability rights, etc. which also prevent certain CEO actions. But these can also be viewed as dictatorial government actions overriding dictatorial corporate actions. :)
That's why I brought up union representation and employee contract rights which prohibit the CEO from certain actions.
I think there are also cases where the CEO is unable to impose demands because certain key staff would ignore them or leave the job, or the CEO fears the public reaction should that happen. Eg, http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UltimateJobSecuri... .
Whether or not we call a CEO a "dictator" is perhaps a distraction - although I think the word usually fits in the colloquial way people tend to use it. The important thing, I think, is the recognition that CEOs orders tend to be followed, sometimes even against the desires of people executing those orders. The controls placed on CEO's power tend to be consequences rather than immediate limitations.
Even as stated, you miss the mark. The president is chief of the executive branch of the US, yes. But the president is not chief of congress, or the judicial system.
This is trivially true as the CEO is not the authoritarian head of a country.
So I must have meant something a little hyperbolic.
I just don't know how to define that in any meaningful sense so as to be able to talk about it.
I don't know what mark I missed. I objected to the llukas' proposition that the CEO in a business "ultimately controls the project goals." I agree that in the US government, the chief executive does not have full control. I think it's meaningful point that the chief executive does not necessarily have final control.
Personally, I think it's a simpler story to talk about the CEO as some sort of heroic authoritarian leader, which is why we end up with those sorts of stories.
I like the joke, and I sympathize with RMS to let it in. In any case he opposed it so there is now a power struggle about the control of his project. I would love to see a better maintained glibc btw. Too much politics, not enough competence.
I don't see the point. RMS directs the organization and establises the policy it follows. I fail to see how a maintainer could feel entitled to dictate that policy just because he has access to the repository. That would be like a printing press janitor feeling entitled to censor what he feels a newspaper should not publish.
Compare that to the education of doctors. They need to persist on proper terminology and are hardened in a long process. PC is absolutely counterproductive there.
Many obviously did not get the reference in this paragraph, but it still relevant, as this episode showed. Abort vs kill is loaded by a long fight, hence the reference about future censorship attempts.
A. No, the terminology used by medical professionals is constantly shifting to do things like acknowledge that people with issues are still people.
B. Your reasoning is presumably about confusion and lack of clarity, yes? How exactly is a reference to a law that has never been proposed serving that?
While I agree with Ulrich, it is pretty brutal.
See what Drepper is doing now: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ulrichdrepper
He went from Technical Director at Redhat (i.e. glibc maintainer), to VP at Goldman Sachs (i.e. booted and being called an asshole), and now he is Engineer at Redhat.
The community spoke and said they did not like dictators in development of glibc. Since Drepper's removal, many would agree that the quality of glibc has increased significantly. RMS is well aware of this and the delicate political situation. He should recognize that coming in and declaring himself in charge would not play well with a community that stated about their maintainers following Drepper: "This does not confer any extra ability to make decisions for the project; community consensus is what matters there."
Same as with stdlib++ btw, where strings are now uselessly bloated and most data structures are getting useless also.
Where are utf8 strings? u8"" constants only is for nothing. Everybody needs an u8 api.
Where are the secure _s extensions? Pickering about callbacks and Microsoft is all they can do. But they rather add env hooks.
__bos/alloc_size support is getting better, but gcc still cannot do proper usable const expressions in C. It's a nightmare.
You still cannot compare strings, even not with the crazy wchar_t strings (size 2 or 4), nobody uses anymore. wcscmp only compares buffers, but not strings according to the unicode rules. I believe strings would be pretty important to support, not?
What about a fast malloc? Not even ptmalloc3 went in, there's still stone-age ptmalloc2.
double-close leads to crashes, really? Similar to freopen with NULL.
This is your great community consensus. BSD or even musl are far ahead.
You have a source for that? it wouldn't surprise me, GNU code tends to be more bloated than a similar BSD licensed project.
But recently also bos and align_size support got better in other libc's, which do use clang and not gcc. gcc sucks big time with those optimizations. freebsd and darwin all use clang. This is in the ~60% ball figure.
The size of dynamically allocated malloc'ed structures, not just constants. The majority of pointers have an alloc_size, but no object_size (i.e. bos: __builtin_object_size).
In terms of personal respect, sure.
In terms of attention given to an argument, maybe, but that's also how you end up with a narrow bubble.
In terms of retaining a unclear joke designed as backhanded political advocacy on an issue that isn't central to the shared ideology that defines GNU in the technical documentation of a GNU project? I can't see it, no.
He is the "boss". No doubt about it, he is the copyright holder, everyone working on the project has surrendered copyright over to him. I've got my strong reservations on BDFLs and the way their egos get stroked, but it is what it is.
But he is not a "leader". Because a leader does not cut the legs out from under the people he delegates to run things. He has every right to insist that GNU maintains his dumb joke... and everyone who's put in all of the hard work and effort into the project over these more recent years has the absolute right to leave over it.
If he were on the same level as other people, this behavior wouldn't be accepted. So the question then becomes:
Does the fact that he's "the boss" excuse his behavior of fighting against the consensus on an issue of this level of importance?
The point I keep coming back to is: What is the purpose of the documentation? What goal does it achieve?
There was a gcc frontend/backend clean architecture dispute: some wanted it so that gcc could be used for more things that clang is being used for. RMS argued against it, on the basis that GCC technical architecture should deliberately avoid it working with proprietary non-GPL backends.
The official story is that a technically worse compiler than loses market share is still superior for the FSF goals of pushing free software: they are willing to accept people moving to clang to avoid GCC from being the front half of a non-free compiler.
That goal is inherently political. It isn't obvious whether drawing attention to harmful suppression of information by the government is also in the projects mandate, but it is obvious that the projects mandate isn't just to make the best technical and professional result.
Personally, I'm much more comfortable with the approach Linus Torvalds takes, where writing good, functional software takes precedence over purity concerns, and where technical limitations would not be introduced with the purpose of complicating interactions with proprietary software.
Just because a goal of the project is an inherently political one doesn't mean that any outcome or action even remotely political is inherently the goal of the project. That's an absurd hasty generalization.
Further, just because one of the overall goals of the project is political doesn't mean that every goal of the project is political. That's a composition fallacy.
The truth is that FSF is primarily a political organization. It is more of a political organization than any other open source foundation, eg they do things like refuse to endorse any OS that distributes any piece of non-free (read: GPL) software. They advocate against non-GPL open source as harmful. They guide their projects to be technically worse if it supports the political mission.
There is confusion here about what Stallmans role even is since he isn't an active technical contributor: his role to make sure the political vision is being enforced in the projects under FSF/GNU stewardship and that is exactly what he is doing here.
Basically, if something is not advancing the goals of the FSF then it shouldn't be a part of the FSF. It isn't news that the goal of the FSF isn't to make high quality software and they just think free software is the pragmatically best model to achieve that:
So what? That doesn't matter. What part of the FSF or GNU project suggests that abortion is an issue relevant to their mission or goals? Why is abortion a software freedom issue? How about we say RMS does adopt it. Does that benefit the other stated goals of the organizations? How?
What happens when the FSF runs a fund raiser, and they hear, "I'd love to give to your organization because I support free software ideals, but I can't because I disagree with your stance on abortion." Does that benefit free software? What happens when they're working with legislators on bills to re-enforce net neutrality, and the legislator says, "I'd love to help you on net neutrality, but I can't. My constituents are overwhelmingly pro-life, and I've gotten hundreds of voters contacting me since Fox News ran a piece on how your organization is pushing this bill to promote pro-choice laws. The National Right to Life and National Pro-Life Alliance have been calling to lobby against this bill as well. I'm sorry, but it seems that people think net neutrality is a pro-choice issue." Does that benefit free software?
So, is the FSF and GNU willing to sacrifice their software freedom goals in order to further pro-choice goals? Should they be?
No, that's just your prejudice talking. The consensus can just as well be that RMS has a point and that a lone maintainer has no legitimacy to dictate policy, let alone override executive decisions. RMS is the founder of many GNU projects and is also the president of the FSF. Just because some dude has access to a repository of a FSF project that doesn't give him the right to hijack the project to suit his fancy. It's a FSF project and the project's driving policy is set by the FSF.
And it specifically says not to remove. RMS only objected when they tried to introduce a change he specifically said not to remove. Calling this an unwarranted exercise in authority is also a dick move.
It isn't even a code change. Let's talk priorities: glibc could see improvements preventing y2038 bugs and fuzzing, but we fret over a joke.
Also there is no evidence that the joke could be traumatic to anyone.
The tech world is still largely based on prime movers. May be that will stay like that forever in engineering disciplines.
People who make it rain, call the shots. This includes their political positions too. I'm not sure why this is so surprising to people.
You’re right, the conflict is elsewhere. However, something about Richard Stallman making that statement, which marginalizes the intense conflict women often feel over intentional abortion in their own lives, not to mention traumatic abortions brought on by rape or medical issues, really speaks to a yawning gap existing between him and empathy for other people. It seems to imply that he thinks women leveraging their right to choose are pleased or joyful that they can do so, and this distantly makes the joke worth keeping. He might be pro-choice, and keen to defend it, but the way he defends it models an entire cadre of people who look up to him. He’s speaking from a position with multiple layers of privilege, on account of his stature, race, and gender, and basically saying “abortion, no biggie, right?” How does that help us recruit women in tech?
Did my nose find it, or do we care more about who maintains a C runtime?
Immediate future prediction: -4 on this comment, a disengaging reply from you, a barrage of comments below me lining up to defend Stallman (likely calling him Dr. Stallman) or tell me I’m misinterpreting a direct quote and/or its context, and I sign out again and return to dormancy and lament this community’s symptomatic demonstration of this industry’s faults: it’s about who runs glibc! That matters! Ignore everything else, it’s a tizzy! Just look at the top thread. Not an abortion joke, an abortion law joke. That makes it all better.
Edit: Oh good, we are on to the apt-get cow.
RMS's conduct here is just... pretty inappropriate. Jokes about abortion, rape, race, sexual orientation, etc, etc, are not something you should be touching as the maintainer of a public project, no matter what your opinions are or how strongly you hold them. The glibc maintainers (completely reasonably) decided that the man pages weren't a good place for potentially-charged jokes like this, and removed it. RMS overruled them in a pretty childlike and insensitive fashion, and that's not appropriate when you're the public face of anything.
I don't give a shit about the politics of glibc - but I do care that someone who is a role model and a public figure acts like this.
But is he? Who considers rms as a role model generally? Barely anyone even knows his positions on anything other than software, and those are often derided. And that's on HN, where he's actually known. My colleagues wouldn't even know his name.
Why? It's fine to be offended. It's his project. Just fork and move on, if necessary.
The problem is not anything to do with glibc - it's the conduct of someone who, like it or not, is a role model for a lot of people in the community, and has taken on a very public role.
Policing humor is a trope in dystopian novels for a reason.
If someone wants to make unsightly jokes, you're free to be offended. But implying that it's not acceptable to act that way is probably a bit far.
(Not saying that happened here, just reacting to your broadening to “policing humor.” Humor is also, you know, funny. That did happen here. Stallman should stick to his day gig.)
Here's his full reply in context:
The issue is whether Stallman gets veto rights on glibc commits. The maintainers say he doesn't. Since Stallman doesn't do much glibc work, and the maintainers do, presumably Stallman is going to lose this, unless they let him save face out of affection.
(Focus, people. Stallman’s commit bit. Stay on target and let’s figure this thing out. Did we get closure on the apt-get cow, or are we tabling that?)
You’d be surprised. It bottomed out at -3 and is now oscillating around 0 and -1. That’s a surprisingly encouraging sign.
I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of a problem. I think the industry’s reaction to it is an even bigger one and it’s right here, in this thread. Or lack thereof.
Commenting on downvotes is discouraged in the HN guidelines. It's boring, it's trite and this isn't Reddit/Voat.
It's probably not healthy to take them seriously.
> this isn't Reddit/Voat.
But... there's also an unnecessary joke in the public documentation of an important free software project involved here, and I think it's also interesting (perhaps even important) to talk about the content of the joke, and if things like that are ok/productive/positive/offensive/bad/exclusionary in our world.
Unfortunately, I wouldn't really expect any discussion of this latter point to be particularly productive on HN. I don't say this with any amount of derision; I just feel that's the way it is.
(For the record, I say good riddance to that particularly unfunny joke, and I think it's worthwhile to remove dreck like that from our projects.)
It's a standard talking point in the pro-abortion (I am solidly pro-choice and I use pro-abortion deliberately here) crowd who feel the need not merely to negate but to invert everything the anti-abortion right argues.
In https://stallman.org/articles/children.html Stallman describes "Why it is important not to have children."
I can easily see "don't have children because it's a traumatic experience" as fitting on the list.
Among other things, btw, he says that his decision to not have children opened up time to work on GNU and free software.
If you're going to pull the "I'm the boss, you can't outvote me" card, the best place to do it is somewhere trivial. Especially when you added it yourself a long time ago. Even though I would prefer some sort of vote for these things.
there's no "political correctness" here at all.
Of course there is, Is anyone trying to remove apt-get moo?
Fair enough, though for me the personality is what I like. It's the same way I feel about ESR, even if I don't agree with whatever point is being made, I enjoy intelligent outspoken brashness.
I’m not seeing that here, just a lot of heat and no light.
The advantage is, for better or worse, they tend to have the kind of vision and consistency that allows a project to thrive.
I think it'd be nice if they had a HR department they had to answer to, or something like that.
your job is being a professor and researcher: That's one hell of a
good excuse for some of the brain-damages of minix. I can only hope (and
assume) that Amoeba doesn't suck like minix does.
> Of course there is, Is anyone trying to remove apt-get moo?
If the joke only showed up in some joke manpage, that would be one thing. But the joke was in a real manpage, and I think it seemed out of place regardless of one’s political leanings.
Secondly, the joke is extremely US centric, and might make no sense to somebody now familiar on the US stance on abortion and its political impact.
I think it's misplaced for those reasons, and I am left-leaning and pro-choice. So while i agree with the political viewpoint in the joke, i don't think it should be in the software documentation.
That being said, i think easter eggs are fine, but this feels misplaced to me.
Joking about social/religious/political topics in deep technical docs is something else entirely, unless I'm missing something about moo.
If you're not a native speaker, I'll try to explain it better. First I quoted the statement that it was not about political correctness. This indicates that the next line is in direct response. Then I wrote "of course there is" Which is to say that of course the comment in the original post was about political correctness. Then I gave the example of apt-get moo as a joke that is very public, and not political at all, to point out that nobody wants to get rid of it.
If forced to choose, I would actually prefer touchy political jokes in the documentation over non-political easter eggs baked into the code, because IAGNI.
In general, yes, but in this particular case it is clearly "I am the Law!" case - he's being authoritarian. And your next two sentences pretty much confirm that, even if you dismiss it with "they knew he was an authoritarian when they joined" and "he's been an authoritarian for a long time". Maybe true, but doesn't make it better.
> If you think any exercise of rightful power is authoritarian
No, not any - this particular one, and in general one that is done "because I want it so, and your opinion doesn't matter because I decide here".
It's so low quality that I suspect many people simply don't care about keeping it in, especially as it comes out of left field and not, let's say, general snarky tone (which can be great as anyone in the trenches can recall from time to time).
So there is concern about free speech and abortion but the government is compelling pro-abortion (or at least anti-anti-abortion) speech this time.
Bottom line: Don't make your project a GNU project if you want control of it. Benevolent dictators aren't always benevolent.
The good news is that the devs can fork Glibc, which has happened at least twice before IIRC.
I've gone into a bit of detail on my view of the cultural/generational gap here: https://lobste.rs/s/ei9fcf/who_controls_glibc#c_lfucpv - but the bottom line is that RMS' values are very different to those of the project, and he's not going to change them. GNU's values were founded in the counterculture movements of the 70s, and the social issues of those times, which are different to those commonly adopted today.
As always, the Simpsons did it best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMqZ2PPOLik
Starts at "And now for some not so nice things".
Somehow, using the glibc documentation to attack US anti-abortion policy offended not the right wing, but the modern feminist left; ironically enough, the same folks who believe that everything must be political and that any developer who doesn't care about politics is an active enemy of the cause.
Anyway, no where in the article is the actual "joke" mentioned. So I'd like to include it here just so people can judge for themselves.
"Proposed Federal censorship regulations may prohibit us from giving you information about the possibility of calling this function. We would be required to say that this is not an
acceptable way of terminating a program."
So, on that level, it fails as a joke: if you aren't aware of the policy it's trying to criticize and make people aware of, it reads like a clunky abortion joke, and one that isn't very funny.
I think it's interesting how one's background can affect this too. I think everyone agrees that GNU & FSF are left-wing projects but where the "left" falls on different issues depends on where you're from. For RMS & most American lefties, "freedom" includes things like abortion rights. I think in other countries like Latin America & Catholic Europe the "left" generally favors restrictions on abortion. Lots of people that have become involved in the free software movement recently are from Latin America & RMS probably doesn't pick up on what his core audience believes on these things.
I am a Latin American and can say it's just not so - at least in the countries I know, the left is usually pushing for more sex ed, and more availability of abortion.
It'd be interesting to know _where_ in Latin America the left favors the restrictions on abortion - at least to document that perspective and share it around.
Cuba & Venezuela are not within the normalcy of LatAm - different economic models, different politics. Mexico has good abortion laws - at least in the capital.
There are awful abortion rights records. Agreed - even in my own country, where we're fighting to have it allowed at least for extreme cases (nonviable fetus, or situations that put the mother at big risk, like ectopic pregnancies). Most LatAm countries at least allow abortion to save the mother's life.
Agreed that there's not been enough support to effect changes to the laws. It's an uphill battle; most of America is historically very right-leaning; military dictatorships and rights infringement were the norm for most of the 20th century in much of the subcontinent, and people who lived - but mostly those who _grew up_ - through that have the lingering effects of those predispositions.
But - yeah, the left is generally out of the circles of power in LatAm, and the laws - in particular abortion and other religion-endorsed observations - are very right leaning.
What?. You'll have to explain to me how you've come to such a conclussion.
It was also fully legalised under communism.
The USSR was very big on getting women into the workforce (to help fill some of the enormous manpower shortage caused by WW2 casualties); improved reproductive health & choice obviously let women contribute more to industry & helped post-war rebuilding efforts.
Abortion was fully legalised in 1957 (after being controlled by communists since 1947): it was Nicolae Ceaușescu (the second Communist leader) who criminalised it in 1966, as part of his totalitarian autocrasy.
Not everyone who disagrees with something is offended by the thing they disagree with. Shall I say that someone who prefers writing documentation in man pages instead of Markdown is offended by Markdown? Is Project Zero offended by buffer overflows?
They want clear, concise and accessible help. They don't want or need tasteless jokes. It is disrespectful to their time to include random garbage.
This is supposed to be read by people who need it, not people who know what is going on and want to enjoy a good laugh.
This is a bad take. When wading through dry technical documentation a little humor can make it much less laborious.
As long as the humor doesn't result in ambiguity, there's no problem.
Something like "You can tune a filesystem, but you can't tune a fish." at the end of a manpage may elicit a chuckle but doesn't reduce understanding.
"I agree with removing this joke. A bit of humor is fine - indeed, the manual could use a bit more than it has - but this attempt at humor does not work. The manual should be high-quality, and that includes high-quality jokes."
"your technical documentation should have a consistent tone"
I appreciate light-hearted asides in documentation. But more if I expect it than when it's unexpected. Like you wouldn't want to end up confusing some ESL programmer who goes ask a lawyer whether they should be worried about this?
Or if you're really ambitious, make all your docs super funny! But if you mix the tone it's disorienting and maybe bad writing.
I would even go so far as to say that Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby directly contributed a great deal to Ruby's popularity because of the witty content alone.
I do agree with some professionalism in things that want to be taken seriously. I don't even really like the "Apt with super cow powers."
I do agree this isn't about political correctness. At one time GNU tools were just a bunch of devs trying to write open source tooling for fun or to learn. But with it being such a huge part of our industry now, it does need to grow up.
If you're working on your own small open source projects, have fun with the docs and comments. But don't be like Stallman. Realize if your tools are really successful, those quips might get cut out one day. c'est la vie
> "Notably, man is not available as an output format from the standard Texinfo tools. While Texinfo is used for writing the documentation of GNU software, which typically is used in Unix-like environments such as GNU/Linux, where man pages are the traditional format for documentation, the rationale for this is that man pages have a strict conventional format, used traditionally as quick reference guides, whereas typical Texinfo applications are for tutorials as well as reference manuals. As such, no benefit is seen in expressing Texinfo content in man page format. Moreover, many GNU projects eschew man pages almost completely, referring the reader of the provided man page (which often describes itself as seldom maintained) to the Info document."
They can take some getting used to if you're not familiar with them, but given how much documentation is available in these formats, it's worth taking a few hours to become accustomed to them. A lot of it is duplicated online as well, so you can often use your favorite search engine.
info --subnodes -o - $PROGRAM | less
Although I think I would start by saying this: where "spam" and "eggs" is used in Python, it is in the place of any other word, usually a nonsense word like "foo" or "bar", and its presence does not distract. I doubt anyone thinks of actual SPAM or actual eggs when they run across it, and I seriously doubt the documentation authors intended or expected anyone to.
The (so-called) joke in this glibc discussion is a) essentially a pun on the name of the function, i.e., introducing mental confusion; b) a political subject; c) an ill-explained reference to a political subject (did you know it's about the global gag rule? do you know what the global gag rule is?); d) intended to make you think about that subject instead of tuning it out.
Python's use of "spam" and "eggs" adds some character, that's about it. (Python's insistence on "eggs" and "wheels" and "cheeseshop", on the other hand... I find the names cute but if you wanted to get rid of them all in favor of slightly more descriptive words, I'd honestly be in favor.) This joke serves no purpose other than, at best, to distract the attention of the person looking up documentation onto a completely different subject.
They haven't always been that way. The Python docs back around 2000 were not that great. A lot of work has been put in by people in the community to get them to the state they're in.
Just last friday I tried to find authoritative definition of the leading underscore mangling behavior in the docs and was not able to do so.
In any case that question seems wildly unrelated to the question at hand, which is about a joke that's intended to be a present-day political reference.
This isn't a well-constructed joke in that sense - it's likely to cause confusion, not increased understanding.
Disagree with his application in this context
I don’t give a damn about your politics when I’m trying to solve a problem unrelated to them
I've been dreading the day OSS projects became as soulless and boring as corporate ones. If we can't have jokes in technical documentation then it seems that day has come.
Next the FOSS HR department will be asking them to rename the abort function.
But glibc, and huge other parts of the FOSS ecosystem, has been a corporate project for years. Maintenance comes from stodgy companies like Red Hat who install glibc on the sort of extremely stodgy companies who are Red Hat customers.
And for those of us whose day jobs involve using glibc and reading its documentation, we deserve the benefits of free software as much as everyone else. If it is an ethical imperative (as RMS says!) for all software to be free and for proprietary software to die, it follows that the primary battleground is the servers of soulless, boring corporations. Your hobbyist laptop is important, too, because everyone deserves free software. But if free software weren't around, you would have installed a pirated copy of Windows with a keygen with some hentai as its background image and enjoyed the non-HR-compliance of the process, and Microsoft would have been quite okay with it because you would be locked into their proprietary software.
If free software is an ethical imperative - or even if it's not, but even if open source is simply a better way to develop software - then everyone who wants a job in software engineering and is qualified for it should be able to have a job in writing and maintaining FOSS. Human society has determined that if we want everyone to participate in an activity, things work better if everyone agrees to uphold a few norms. They don't have to be the same norms as boring corporations uphold (and you can quite easily argue that the norms of boring corporations aren't that good, actually, at making sure everyone is welcome to participate on equal terms). But the fact that we open our shared infrastructural work to accountability and public judgment is sort of how civilization works.
Hobbyist projects are still as possible as ever. Twenty years ago, you wouldn't have been able to get inappropriate jokes in the technical documentation for Solaris libc, or into MSDN, or whatever, but you could work on some upstart free software project with your friends and do whatever you want. You can still do that. If you want to be the young, upstart libc with some off-color political jokes that's being an alternative to the boring corporate libc, more power to you. Not everyone will participate, but that's what you want. Meanwhile, the libc whose goal in life was to displace the corporate libcs has won - and needs to step into its role.
This is simply untrue; you can look at the patch's commit message and the review thread. The primary justification was that it wasn't appropriate, and the secondary one is that it wasn't actually funny and was tasteless. Nobody said "offensive". You can read the thread yourself.
(The April history shows the conversation between maintainers regarding the patch itself; if you want to see RMS' reply, go to the May index. RMS and Alexandre Oliva, the two people defending the joke, brought up the concept of "offense", and people repeatedly say in reply that they're not offended. Oliva later says he's offended by other people in the discussion.)
Of course, you're also welcome to believe that everyone who disagrees with you must be offended; you're entitled to your opinions.
The consensus was that it be removed. It was removed. Just because HMS is a FOSS legend doesn't make him God.
According to RMS he does have ultimate authority over all GNU packages, including Glibc: https://lwn.net/Articles/753661/
Isn't that what happened to emacs?
The unforked (for lack of a better term) GCC was set aside, and the fork became the official version.
This is walking very close to the line of outright political advocacy. If you read the entire email thread, one of the examples  clearly crosses that threshold. Once that threshold is crossed, it is illegal for a government employee to contribute to glibc in an official capacity, or even a private employee contracted by the government. This includes things like people who need to modify glibc to get them to run on government supercomputers.
 Someone suggests blocking out code with #ifdef REPUBLICANS.
No matter how much of a "thick skin" you may think you have, I'd lay money that in a world which truly worked this way, you'd last under an hour before abandoning your position and calling for stronger social norms against being an ass to people.
You want to transport me back to the 70's MIT AI lab? I'm so there!
(No, Levy's book was not honest to the facts)
What a lot of people don't know is that one of the descriptions used by RMS to talk about how "AI Lab lost people", the story of how he couldn't meet people at lunch, isn't because they left AI Lab for "evil corporations". It was because a lot of people avoided RMS, especially after lawsuit often considered more crucial for the creation of GNU than the Xerox printer story (Stallman violated Symbolics-MIT source licensing deal).
From better sources, I have met two AI Lab members from 1970s - one even claimed to have been RMS' supervisor back when RMS was Harvard Undergrad working part-time (and if certain war story is to be believed, is indirectly responsible for Emacs happening) - the impression left was that a lot of RMS' AI Lab contemporaries wouldn't shake hands with him since 1980s.
Heard also interesting stories on RMS' mismanagement of early Hurd initiative and how it resulted in close to 0 work being done.
I just said I agree with RMS on this, and you straight up attacked me personally.
The worst thing I would wish on you is for you to live a while in a world run according to your own espoused values.
If you feel that's an attack, it's a problem with your values.
(at least, that's how I think I'm supposed to respond here, since people aren't supposed to "feel attacked" or "get offended" by such things, apparently)
Probably not the right way to have a discussion.
I do think that's wrong. And I do think having to live in a world where everyone operated by those values would quickly cure the original commenter of believing this sort of thing. In fact, I think it's a very easy way to communicate what's wrong.
But... damn if he's not right about this. The joke has meaning. It still means what he meant when he wrote it. The issue is an important one (to RMS, at least). And no one else has a real argument here other than "it's unprofessional and embarassing and we want it gone".
Same old, same old. The crusty bearded guy is a jerk, but he's right.
No one needs any better argument. It's unprofessional, and it's embarrassing (both as poorly executed joke and as political advocacy bolted onto the technical manual). RMS has a perfectly good personal site and lots of speaking engagements where he is very welcome to advocate whatever he likes and people are happy to see him to do just that. And nobody has a problem with it - nobody ever, as far as I know, demanded to close his site or protested him speaking anywhere, let alone demanded him to be banned. His advocacy (the fact that he's doing what he's doing) is very accepted even among people who disagree with him. However, he insists on doing in in the place where people don't want it. That's just being annoying and stubborn for no other reason but "because I want it so".
I do. If you want professional, there are plenty of professional proprietary vendors out there. Or if you insist on Free Software, probably the BSDs are more professional.
GNU is a social project first, with quality and professionalism being secondary considerations.
The whole argument is about the removal of a statement against censorship (interpreted by some as an "abortion joke"). Of course a GNU project shouldn't remove such a thing for reasons of "being professional". I agree with rms here.
On the other side is the scope. Why is rms being so difficult here? Even though I think he's right, why not shrug it off? Why even bother?
I would disagree with rms here, were it not that in the past he's often been ridiculed for being quirky and irrational about minutiae, and yet here we are, with Facebook and Google controlling the internet, each one of us carrying a personal tracking device and loving it, and e-books being deleted remotely from devices we thought we owned.
So maybe this silly, trivial disagreement about some documentation is more important than I give it credit for at this moment.
rms is known for being difficult, not for being wrong.
I do not see existence of other professional vendors a valid reason for behaving unprofessionaly. Nobody says RMS should behave professionally because otherwise there would be no professional vendors left. He should behave professionally because it's the right thing to do in this context, not because of availability concerns.
> GNU is a social project first
No, not really. Almost all effort is dedicated to code and surrounding matters (yes, GPL too), and very little is dedicated to societal change as such.
> with quality and professionalism being secondary considerations.
If it were true, GNU projects would die long ago. Nobody needs a compiler or a shell that is social project first and quality software second. Nobody would use it (ok, maybe a dozen or so of people would, but that's it). Fortunately, it is not the case at all.
> rms is known for being difficult, not for being wrong.
He's known for both. He has been wrong plenty. He also has been right plenty, including in many important things, but that doesn't make him infallible.
Only if you're American and also have the requisite background knowledge to understand it, which many don't.
If you don't know the context, it's meaningless. Which is not a good thing to have in technical documentation.
You really have to be clueless to not get the joke.
I had no idea it related to abortion . I have no knowledge of or interest in abortion laws. I assumed it was something related to US munitions export laws.
It's literally the C library reference manual. That's true of the whole thing!
The point is that it has meaning, however obscure, and reflects a particular principled intent of the author. And the request to remove it is cosmetic. And you resolve that by holding to the author's intent and not just polishing it to fit your sense of aesthetics.
Your argument would be an excellent reason to reject a submitted joke that didn't reflect a consensus of the active maintainers; not so much to remove one decades after the fact.
what do you mean by the "C library reference manual"? The glibc man or something else? Cause to me glibc is just GNU's implementation of the C standard.
RMS can decide what goes in the GNU manual, sure. But you didn't even address the fact that the joke is not understandable unless you're from a very specific background (how many people are familiar with US imperialistic politics and the global gag rule?)
Many of us are, more or less. RMS's intention may be to inform more people about such rule(s), since US politics affects the whole world and it is good to be informed.
You have to know about the global gag rule prohibiting health providers that receive federal funds from discussing abortion with their patients to understand the entire C library reference manual? News to me.
All you're telling me is that you'd prefer to be googling for strftime() examples on StackOverflow than reading an explainer on US abortion rights policy. Which is fine. But it's not like it would hurt you to learn a little extra stuff along the way, and RMS thinks it would be good for you. And he wrote the manual.
Is joke in documentation useful? Probably not...
I do not believe that for a second. RMS is completely capable of seeing it, and he himself on his own site has this separation, and in there's no indication he is incapable of distinguishing between UNIX API and political advocacy. He just wants to use his considerable technical capital to promote his political agenda. In places, where such promotion is not appropriate.
What I write or not write in my manuals is not for you to decide. If I want pro-choice or pro-life advocacy in there, that's my decision. If I want "I'm with Her" or "MAGA" in there, still my decision. If I make a sucky hoke, you cannot and should not be able to force me to stop telling it.
Of course, you're free to criticize me, or offer feedback on how to improve, or just go with or create a competitor to my stuff, or even just resort to call me a "poohead" if you prefer. But don't ever presume you can just dictate to me what is OK, or "professional".
Same goes for RMS, whom I agree with in his argumentation in favor of his joke, but utterly wrong for trying to dictate to the actual maintainers of the glibc to keep it in against their wishes.
The notion that making mockery of law that prohibits one's freedom of choice being the same as mockery of the said choice itself is astoundingly absurd.
The first, mockery of law-- specially one that imposes restrictions on citizens is a political consideration, while mockery of a personal subject outside the context of politics is an ideological concern.
To make it more clear, please consider that it is possible to be against prohibition of any choice while simultaneously find said choice unfavorable.
Edit: I'm really curious what kind of people are downvoting me. To those who are, I'd really like to know what your rationale is for believing that an abortion joke belongs in technical documentation.
In fact, it could be argued that the core principal and objective of FOSS and GNU project is reinforcement of liberty by protection and promotion of freedom of choice in the digital age.
There's no requirement of that, just like there's no requirement that technical documentation be stab-your-eyes-out dry and boring rather than having an occasional bit of humor.
Apolitical technical documentation is a style choice, saying that you want to emulate a certain style of documentation.
RMS started the FSF for political reasons, as a reaction to the sudden intersection of code sharing, business and copyright law. Not only was it not in any way separate from RMS' political views, but it is in fact entirely an expression of them down to texinfo and his uncompromising views that helped spawn an entire culture around Free Software.
There are those that would like to separate and divide these from what they see as purely technical matter, but I would argue the mistake they are making in this case is in looking at it as merely technical documentation. It is that, but it is also more than this.
Maybe I'm old fashioned in my sensibilities, but whether I agree with someone or not is immaterial, I will always appreciate being able to catch a glimpse of the human face behind their work. RMS may not be the most agreeable man on the face of the planet, but I'm inclined to respect the man's legacy and how he sees fit to leave it, particularly as he still maintains an incredibly active role in the policies of the culture he helped to shape through his Foundation.
The merit of a stale joke from the 90s is meaningless, and posturing about its appropriateness is disingenuous. Open source principals have always been eccentric (Torvalds, Raymond(!), etc.), and the FOSS community tolerated it not only because of their technical contributions, but because the open source community itself is an expression of tolerance based on shared objectives.
Of course others would like to wield their influence in the generation of the DNA of the internet, and there is a tremendous amount to be gained by scandalizing, discrediting, and isolating its core maintainers.
Perhaps eventually RMS will come around and remove the joke himself, after finding it does not stand the test of time. But it would go a long way to resolving this if they could demonstrate they aren't just using the joke as a pretext for scandal to undermine the decision making structure of a project.
It's clearly not about the joke.
However, if those maintainers find that their faithfulness is rewarded by being told that they don't actually maintain the project, they're just tending it while RMS is busy, it seems entirely reasonable to me that they would become upset at RMS trying to undermine the decision-making structure of glibc. The principals here, the people making the technical contributions, are the glibc maintainers.
It's not ascribing ill will at all. They've stumbled on a canary or a "brown M&M," where regardless of how good they think they are, they've transgressed a boundary of the implicit agreement of who has final say.
They would have to be good and faithful to have contributions approved to glibc, so I would argue that's not the point. As the principals age, the question of succession and governance in key open source projects will become more explicit. Seems they walked into this one.
I dunno, is it fair to call it an "agreement" if one side doesn't think they agreed to it?
> I don't think I did anything wrong procedurally. RMS may be the project leader, but he is not a glibc maintainer. His wishes regarding glibc are perhaps to be given _some_ more weight than those of any other individual, particularly when he is also the author of text under dispute, but we have never, to my knowledge, treated them as mandates.
Seems pretty clear he isn't party to this agreement, implicit or otherwise.
Someone or some group/process has to be in charge, be the final decision-maker for a group. In the case of the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation is likely that decision-maker as the owner of the trademark for "GNU". The FSF as a non-profit organization has articles of incorporation and bylaws  describing its process for making decisions - but it is a corporation, just like any corporation, and its decisions concerning its assets are binding in the same way as if Google made a decision about one of its products.
I haven't read the FSF bylaws in detail, but it sounds like RMS believes that he has decision-making authority over the FSF and GNU Project, which he probably does. Someone has to - what's the alternative? In organizations like the FSF and Wikipedia, someone or some process has to have the authority to make decisions. There is no way to delegate actual decision-making to the "community" at large. A person has to have it, either individually or as the executor of a process.
I suppose the alternative is having no trademark nor legal organization in charge of a project, but in that case, a disagreement could result in two different projects contending for the same name. Besides, someone or some organization ultimately has to be in control of properties such as domain names and source control accounts. The moment that a project manages any properties like this, there has to be a formal decision-making process or the project is at risk of chaos. The person who has legal control over project properties like the project domain name, or IP like its trademark, is in de facto final control over the project itself.
There are undoubtedly options for going over RMS's head, such as convincing the directors of the FSF  to take a vote on the issue, or take a vote to remove him as president or as a director. Alternatively, people who feel passionately about this issue could lobby the FSF directors to put pressure on RMS to reverse this decision or delegate it, without using the mechanics of a formal vote, such as by threatening resignation. Furthermore, donors of the FSF could threaten to pull their funding over the issue.
Alternatively, project maintainers can fork the codebase and carry on under a new name, managed by a new organization, which is their right to do since the code is open source and free software. To the extent that an open source project or any project is operating under a specific name, managed by a corporation, we should all understand that someone is always "in charge", though that person or group may act with a light touch or operate largely behind the scenes.
P.S. This comment is not an endorsement of either side of the issue in a normative sense. It is intended to be a positive comment concerning the expectations we should have in working with corporations.
They stepped back from that years and years ago. If for some reason there's a decision that desperately needs to be made, but for which no decision is coming out of the normal processes, there's a technical board, elected by committers, rotating every release cycle, that can be asked to make the call (disclaimer: I've served three terms on Django's technical board).
But in both the BDFL era, and the current technical-board era, the people with final decision-making authority only exercised it when asked to, as a last resort when other mechanisms had failed.
For the final decision-maker to actively step in and veto something the normal decision process already has consensus around, or just pre-emptively declare something decided against what seems to be a consensus buliding the other way... is unthinkable for me. I'd treat it as a sign that it's time either to fork away from that person, or to remove that person's decision-making authority and put the authority in the hands of someone more responsible.
Note: I am not convinced yet that RMS was serious. I'm waiting for him to come out and say, "lol jk wuz troll." My opinion stated here assumes he was being serious.
See also the discussion mentioned by Ulrich Drepper back in 2001, regarding RMS' behaviour back when Ulrich started to port glibc to linux.
Especially on so trivial an issue. This is what RMS wants to throw his weight around for?
That is certainly true. And if this were a situation where, say, some subtle techno-political decision about the codebase or the license threatened to split the community, you'd expect a leader from high-- like Stallman-- to come in and lay down a prudent decision.
But in this case, the leader from high has come in and created a problem that would require a higher leader to come in and resolve. AFAICT that higher leader doesn't exist.
That's a weird situation to get into. I can't fathom why Stallman would force the issue when the stakes are so low.
Then again, perhaps it's serendipity that this puts a spotlight on governance on an issue nearly nobody cares about. There's much less possibility of splitting the devs than there would be if there were a big technical feature at stake.
I think you're confusing two separate issues.
Torvalds' acidic method of communication is certainly eccentric. But from my casual reading of LKML what he communicates is not. Like:
* some patch is prone to bugginess and not suitable to merge
* some patch shows that the submitter doesn't understand some fundamental aspect of C and thus isn't suitable to merge as written
* some patchset looks similar to some previous subsystem that caused massive problems and should therefore be avoided
* the patch was measured to break things or perform poorly
* the patch is shoehorning in a feature that doesn't belong in the kernel
* some non-technical proposal would cause future problems for Kernel devs and should be avoided
In the case of Stallman's joke, we can certainly say his method of communication-- popping in to make a surprise decision by fiat-- is eccentric. But we can also say the content of what he is communicating is also eccentric. What possible rationale could there be to tying up volunteer glibc maintainers' time for a bike-shedding session about a decades-old joke?
It's the difference between someone with a Penguin fetish favoring Penguin-based metaphors, and someone with a Gnu fetish forcing you to sit through 125 "funny" videos of Gnus.
Scratch that-- there are 10 more "Abortion Joke" messages from April. So make that 126 "funny" videos about Gnus.
This is more about politics than anything else, and hopefully everyone involved will learn it shouldn't be.
That isn't a comment on whether the joke should be removed or retained, but it's worth noting that this "stale joke from the '90s" is actually very relevant to contemporary politics.
That being said, I am really for professionalism in code and documentation. This might have been a fun joke for a pet project at one point in time, but I totally agree it should be removed.
I really feel like Stallman is lacking some serious maturity here as well. It nothing to even do with being offended about the joke, it's just a basic idea of professionalism around documentation.
It'd be different if the joke was in a comment, or even in a tutorial on how to use a library (if it wasn't an official tutorial or was intended to have a humorous tone).
To be clear, I don't even like the stupid "Apt has super cow powers" at the bottom of apt-get. If you want to make jokes, put them in your blog, or your YouTube screencast, or at most in the comments.
: Trigger warnings came from the idea of post traumatic stress. But you don't know what can trigger memories of trauma. A rainbow could invoke a PTSD episode for someone who associates that with a loved one that was killed. I think a better approach is the old TV saying, "Viewer/Listener discretion is advised" if something might be offensive.