I don't think positive or negative of anyone until they prove otherwise, but I do note that I'm quite pleasantly surprised when someone with great skills turns out to be a genuinely nice person. Though, I am not surprised when they turn out to be assholes.
Bottom line, don't mix someones demeanor or attitude with their skills.
Most of the dismissive/arrogant people I've met at conferences tend to be moderately intelligent junior professors with a chip on their shoulder. Meanwhile, the genuinely brilliant and famous folks are enjoyable to talk to; three of the nicest people I've met at a conference are probably three of the most famous (Robert Moog, Craig Reynolds, and Espen Aarseth).
Some could be the particular social dynamics of this area, e.g. junior professors are still trying to climb a career ladder and feel they need to network at conferences with important people, while already-established people are happy to talk to grad students. (And of course there are exceptions.)
You do have to be smart, but you also have to make friends.
(And, let me hasten to add, there's nothing particularly wrong with this. The point of academia is to build knowledge by connecting with your students and your peers: Teaching, and learning. Socializing is the name of the game. If you want to hide in your closet being an isolated cranky genius you don't need the university, and vice versa. Well, except maybe for the libraries. There's a reason why research libraries have the reputation of being filled with slightly crazy cranky people. ;)
I think it's because people see things that they consider 'good causes' (be it open source software or doing medical work in refugee camps in Africa) through rose-colored glasses. I guess that sounds like stating the obvious, but it's not until one does these things for long enough that one is really confronted with the realities and gets a more 'fundamental' understanding of these dynamics than just rationally 'knowing' but not internalizing it.
If I understand you correctly, you think greater skills to some extend correlates with not beeing nice. This is not my experience. For some personalities skill leads to confidence, for others to arrogance.
Here's a bit of academic work on the subject:
"The goal of the current study was to test the hypothesis that ketone bodies can inhibit cell growth in aggressive cancers ... all cancer lines demonstrated proportionally inhibited growth ... The results bear on the hypothesized potential for ketogenic diets as therapeutic strategies."
"Some sweet code has been written by ... (in at least once [sic] case) someone who believes that fasting will cure cancer."
I wanted to point out that said person might not be a crackpot, and I thought HN might find an exercise in pedantry somewhat amusing.
Anyway, the person mentioned in this subthread did reply in a comment on the original post. (http://rusty.ozlabs.org/?p=196#comment-721)
I was trying to combine the insinuations that we are generally too ready to call each other names and that all our judgements are relative.
Incidentally, the author of that article may or may not be guilty of crimes in Sweden.
Maybe people who are rockstar hackers all the time have a little more piss and vinegar in them to fuel their coding.
She attributed the same notion to a young programmer I hope will be able to make an impact on other coders.
Sounds like it might (piss and vinegar) might contribute to people hackin' stuff out that hadn't been tackled before.
I got pissed at Emacs the other day and solved a problem that had been bugging me, for example.
People often say things and appear to be what they say though only on face appearance and they do themselves believe it to be true. I then considered how someone's true character, beliefs and the like are shown in their actions and in their work - or rather, the things they create ...
Or consider some beautiful fashion models looking at you from covers of big magazines. People tend to transfer their beauty (which is only due to good make-up in many cases) to their personality. They construct an image of a perfect women usually forgetting the what they see is just a picture in a magazine.
When we meet people we admire in everyday life we can be badly disappointed by reality... unfortunately.
Is it me or is this information already available in 5th grade?