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Technically, everyone has a say in the direction of a large, free software project. It's called a fork.

Practically, it's impossible to maintain one without a proportionally large team that can spend proportionally big amount of time.

As one of most obvious examples (unrelated to Mozilla or Microsoft): there are uncountably many custom Android ROMs out there, left abandoned. And most were merely cosmetic changes or even packaging (like inclusion or removal of certain pieces by default). Usually, unless luck is that there's a large social momentum and a lot of advertising among same-minded people, fork maintainer struggles for a few versions then gives up and surrenders to the upstream way of thinking. Sad but true.

Forking usually happens when a group or individual is unable to steer the direction a project. Having to go on your own is pretty much the opposite of "having a say".

Depends on the strain, not sure if I'd go into one of these after smoking a sativa-dominant strain.

That's exactly what I go for :)

Most corporations operate essentially like a cult. You are expected to drink the Kool-Aid and tow the party line. Pay inequality is just another symptom of a systemic problem we have in the tech industry. Labor is fundamentally not respected, nor is it justly compensated at the fair market value.


Larry Wall is a great guy. Perl brings me back to the days of my Pentium 2, tinkering about with my primitive IRC bots.


Perl was what made one my all-time favorite side projects possible.

Back around 2000, I was working at a mid-size company that stored tons of data in a company intranet. There was lots of useful stuff locked up in there, but hardly anybody ever used it because the web interface was clunky and slow.

One day I had a brainstorm, and after a few evenings' Perl hacking it was up and running -- a conversational interface to the intranet, running over AOL Instant Messenger. You added the bot as a buddy, and then you could query the intranet a bunch of different ways; IM it a client's name, for instance, and it would ping you back with their contact information, who their account reps were, what projects they were associated with, etc. (Which is very useful when your phone rings and it's someone you don't recognize.) Pretty nifty stuff, for the time. Everyone had AIM running all the time anyway, so this turned out to be a big hit -- much bigger than I ever expected.

And I probably never would have been able to get it working were it not for the ease of programming in Perl and the ability to tap into CPAN's massive library of code and take advantage of modules like Net::AIM (http://search.cpan.org/~aryeh/Net-AIM-1.22/AIM.pm). So thanks Larry, and thanks to all the Perl folks who contributed to CPAN over the years!


Seems like an interesting premise.

However, I don't know how I'd feel about being introduced to a potential romantic interest by a female friend.

I don't claim to be an expert on dating, but I intuitively understand how social dynamics work.


Yeah, a woman letting go of a great guy seems strange. Women fight over great guys, not recommend them to other women.


What about women who are already in relationships? Or platonic friends with the guy? Or not into men?

There's a lot of situations in which this dynamic would work just fine.


Why wouldn't they just recommend the guy in real life then? Why need a complicated set up?


What would such a woman be doing on a dating website?


Cannot ++ you enough. In my experience, people prefer to surround themselves with those similar to them. The same holds true for any software organization.


How does any CEO get selected? I'd imagine it has something to do with knowing the right people. I wouldn't necessarily blame Pao entirely for what transpired, but it works both ways. Nadella, for instance, has been attributed with many of the positive changes that occurred recently within Microsoft. Was he single-handededly responsible for all of these positive changes? Hardly.

Human beings are poor at grasping complex and sometimes chaotic systems. Hence we concentrate our emotions on a single target. The amount of vitriol in this instance may or may not be warranted, but I'd hope that someone who took the job title of CEO was prepared for it.


Can you elaborate on the experience? I assume the burn out comes from the time constraint. What would be the antithesis to the burnout you experienced working on an MMO?


Hm, there's a lot to it. Maybe the best way to do this is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style of answer.

Do you want to know about...

1) the incredible complexity of MMO development and why nobody wants to make an MMO (though everybody thinks they do)? 2) the origin of Ultima Online as a small, skunkworks project that led to extremely awkward core engineering? 3) the even more awkward munging together of the Ultima IX and Ultima Online teams that led to a suddenly massive team trying to ship a massive game in six months (and succeeding!)?

Pick one.


Okay, you choose 3.

Ultima Online had begun as a small band of junior developers within Origin back in like 1995. The original concept was to build a massively multiplayer game using a variant of the Ultima 6 engine. That was a pretty far throw back considering that Ultima 7 and 8 had shipped with much more advanced features and Ultima 9—fully 3D and "modern"—was on its way. The group of programmers who worked on Ultima Online for the first few years were brilliant, talented, and driven, and they produced a lot of great work. The game would, of course, never have happened without them. But, they were absolutely green programmers, fresh out of high school in some cases, and... well, let's just say that the Ultima Online engine began to sag under the weight of its massiveness by the end of 1996.

One example just to illustrate the idea. In most game engines even at that time there was a conceptual difference between The Camera and The Player. Though the camera would often be attached to the player, you could normally move the camera someplace else—to show an in-game cutscene in which the player wasn't involved, say. But in the Ultima Online engine this distinction was lost. The camera was the player: where the player was, that's what you were looking at. It meant that when we wanted to show a cutscene, or a clairvoyance effect or suchlike, we had to use a hack: make the player invisible and non-colliding, teleport the player to the scene, move it around like a camera, then teleport it back to its original position and reset its usual state.

This sort of thing was commonplace. Imagine this times 100,000.

So here we have several young, gifted, powerful programmers making history—as they know, though hardly anyone else did—building a brilliant but difficult concept into a working implementation, often naively, sometimes shoddily, but effectively, productively.

Late in 1996 Electronic Arts (who owned Origin) woke up one day and realized that they had a massive potential hit on their hands. A game they could sell not just once, but once per player per month. Game subscriptions were a whole new concept, and boy what a tasty one.

After waking, the next thing EA did was to demand that the game ship by summer 1997. That gave Origin about six months to ship a huge, complex, wildly innovative concept that was barely out of the prototyping phase. This was, to say the least, an ambitious goal.

So they threw bodies at it. The Ultima IX team had been working on "the sequel of sequels" for quite a few years. The team was large but progress was slow. Although Richard Garriott would never let the game die, EA had no real enthusiasm for it (and indeed in the end it shipped, and was quite good fun, but buggy and didn't sell well).

EA put Ultima IX on hold and moved all the developers onto the UO team. That more or less quadrupled the size of the UO team overnight.

So now you have a small, brilliant, fast, naive cadre of programmers for whom UO has been their baby for a few years squished together with a large, perhaps less brilliant, slower, but wiser and more experienced pile of developers who are pissed about losing the project they've waited their whole to complete and find the idea of shipping any game, much less the world's first bona fide MMO, in six months positively laughable.

There was fear. There was anger. There were frenzies of productivity. There were frenzies of laziness. There was hope. There was dread. There was culture shock. There were absolutely awful tools. There were absolutely indecipherable codebases spanning Windows and Unix, with no documentation and the only people who understood it were too busy (or just didn't care) to answer questions. There was a game that could never live, could never run, could never be tested or debugged on a single system—a game that was intrinsically an MMO and needed a shard to run.

There were tiny bugs that took many, many, many weeks to find and fix.

This feels like the right time to quote Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Only it wasn't. It was just the worst of times. And despite all the joy that UO seems to have given other people, it was a loathsome development experience—I can't think of a worse or more accurate word than loathsome—and after it shipped in September (was it?) of 1997, just about on time, miraculously quickly, I never played it again.


After reading that I feel the need to thank you. Seriously. Thank you so much. As I've said elsewhere in this thread, and every time I see UO brought up, UO is responsible for the entire trajectory my life took since I was 13 years old. I wouldn't have the life I have today if it wasn't for what that game inspired me to do and to learn. Your loathsome experience didn't just bring joy to hundreds of thousands of people it sparked the fire of imagination for at least one person and I'm sure countless others. Someone pays me to program and to solve hard problems today because of the work of everyone who had a hand in UO.


3 sounds interesting to me as well.




This might answer you questions: http://www.quora.com/What-was-the-workplace-culture-like-at-...

Making games is not as much fun as playing them.


That's really bizarre. A person's political views have no bearing on the validity or usefulness of what they write.


I don't think jumblesale is arguing that his writings are incorrect or not useful, just that he doesn't like popularizing his works because of the authors political views.


It's still a shame. I certainly don't feel like I have to love everything a person does in order to learn something from them, or even respect some of their work. Likewise, I don't require everyone to agree with my personal opinions in order to pass my courses. Things would really become cumbersome were I to ever change my mind about something.


I agree. Seriously, who gives a toss about what anyone's opinions are on subjects unrelated to what you're reading by them? And even if they do creep in, what's to say you're right or they're wrong? I thought this was part of being an adult but I see it all too often: "so-and-so wrote an excellent technical manual on X but he's right wing so I won't buy it!"

I don't understand that way of thinking since no human being will ever 100% agree with any other on everything.


If someone writes something, it's "true" or "false" regardless of their political opinions.

On the other hand, someone's political opinions change what they're likely to write, so if you don't know whether it's "true" or not, knowing their political opinions can justifiably alter your beliefs about the text.

I think people tend to overweight the second consideration, and it seems particularly irrelevant in this case.

(Scare quotes because it's rarely as simple as true-or-false, e.g. "literally true but horribly misleading".)


Further, I suspect the main reason there's any concern at all about recommending ESR's writings due to his politics is because he bothers to write a lot about his political views in the first place, presenting something to potentially disagree with.

Many programmers / writers / programmer-writers may well have equally strong political views in one direction or another, with which others may strongly agree or disagree, but they just don't say much about them in public.


Undoubtably a deep philosophical argument, but brighter minds than ours have written at length about it both in science and jurisprudence. "Research ethics" and "Exclusionary rule" would be good illustrating Wikipedia articles.


Those seem only tenuously linked to me.

Research ethics forbids you from doing certain things when performing research, but it doesn't say anything about the political opinions of researchers.

The exclusionary rule says that if evidence is obtained by breaking the rules, it can't be used in court. But again, it doesn't say anything about the political opinions of the person obtaining the evidence.


Both are cases where the truth of the situation is put aside from a moral standpoint, which is analogous to suggesting that someone's political views could influence the reception of their engineering views.


Both exist mostly to disincentivize people from doing something immoral and/or unwanted, not to give light on the truth or false value of observations/evidence.

So the question is, should one really refuse to read/recommend ESR's book because of his opinions? Frankly, this smells to me like Index Librorum Prohibitorum all over again.


Unfortunately, you can't neatly compartmentalise one aspect of an individual's life and totally separate it from the others. Sometimes, the aspects with which you happen to agree might be used to indirectly (even invisibly) support the aspects you don't. Although it's difficult to judge that, it seems a reasonable condition for exercising caution. I say this as a huge fan of TAOUP.


Out of interest, what are these political views that are so terrible that they should influence our views of his thoughts on operating system design?

Edit: I really don't have any idea what they are...


Among other unpopular opinions, ESR denies AGW, believes that race and IQ are correlated, and was strongly in favor of the Iraq war.


None of these seem even remotely relevant to engineering. Moreover, research, discovery and innovation requires letting people having freedom to think. That includes holding unpopular, controversial or politically incorrect opinions.

We are so worried about Evil Government dictating what we can and cannot think that we haven't noticed the current organic trend to prosecute every other person for thoughtcrimes. It's not the jackboot that keeps us on the ground, it's social media, and the public outrage you get when you disagree with whatever's the most popular opinion on a topic this week.


ESR's views particularly on guns, libertarian economics and politics, and AGW, all present pretty standard cases of assuming a frame and fitting all data to that frame. Chopping, discarding, and/or fabricating data as necessary to do so.

That actually directly calls into question engineering validity, as solid engineering is solidly based in reality and a realistic interpretation of facts. Also the ability to discard frames which no longer fit.

My own work and research of the past several years puts a very high significance on both frames (or more generally, models), and on the psychology of interacting with those, with strong emphasis on denial in various forms.

ESR's political views call much of his work into question. I say that as someone who was strongly influenced by much of what he said, and enjoyed a fair bit of it. He's become a tremendous disappointment.

TAOUP has its merits. It's rather like recommending Ted Kaczynski's Manifesto a a social-technological critique. It's got some really solid points (see what Bill Joy's had to say on it: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html). But damned if the rest of the author's views and actions don't muddy the waters a tad.


ESR's views particularly on guns, libertarian economics and politics, and AGW, all present pretty standard cases of assuming a frame and fitting all data to that frame. Chopping, discarding, and/or fabricating data as necessary to do so.

That actually directly calls into question engineering validity, as solid engineering is solidly based in reality and a realistic interpretation of facts. Also the ability to discard frames which no longer fit.

"Engineering validity"? This is just a dressed up ad hominem. If some technical argument ESR has made is inconsistent or doesn't match up with empirical evidence, criticize away, but his positions on what exactly the Second Amendment means or what the best role of government is can't possibly inform that criticism. It could, perhaps, explain why he's made an error, but it can't identify the error for us.

ESR's political views call much of his work into question.

Which questions about what work? If you're going to cast aspersions like this, you'd probably best be specific.


    > This is just a dressed up ad hominem
No, it's explicitly and purposefully ad-hominem, suggesting that a person's lack of judgement in one area leads to questions about his judgement in a related one.


Actually, it's not ad hominem at all.

Ad homimen would be "people named Eric cannot be trusted".

This is calling into question ESR's general credibility, based on his record. That's a character judgement.

I'm also not saying ESR is wrong in all things -- a consistently wrong indicator is useful (read the opposite of what it says). An inconsistently wrong one is maddening: you've got to pay close attention to what its doing and determine the pattern to its errors. That's the taxing part.


Ad hominem is where you discount an argument based on the person making it. I'm not sure where the name thing is meant to come in to it.


I suppose the fallacy is where the attributes are irrelevant to the argument.

There's a somewhat related comment I'd seen recently which I've found useful:

Nota bene: a fallacious ad hominem only occurs when an accusation against the person serves as a premise to the conclusion. An attack upon that person as a further conclusion isn't fallacious and may, in fact, be morally mandatory.


That's not quite what I'm doing here: I'm leveraging the attack on credibility to discount further statements from ESR. But for numerous reasons of psychology and general reputation, if not a strict formal logic sense, there's a strong rationale to this.

Or: the narrator has been shown unreliable.


Traditionally, modern, credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise, which both have objective and subjective components. Trustworthiness is based more on subjective factors, but can include objective measurements such as established reliability.


> Ad homimen would be "people named Eric cannot be trusted".

Since you actually wrote this sentence 9 hours ago, it is safe to infer that you really don't know anything about logical fallacies or what you're talking about in general, since you can't possibly have learned all you need to know about them in 9 hours. Given this level of confidence in something that is both wrong and easily checked, why should we trust any of your claims at all?

Or... should we trust you? But not ESR? Would that not be hypocrisy?



"An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument."


"Ad hominem is Latin for "to the man." The ad hominem fallacy occurs when one asserts that somebody's claim is wrong because of something about the person making the claim. The ad hominem fallacy is often confused with the legitimate provision of evidence that a person is not to be trusted. Calling into question the reliability of a witness is relevant when the issue is whether to trust the witness. It is irrelevant, however, to call into question the reliability or morality or anything else about a person when the issue is whether that person's reasons for making a claim are good enough reasons to support the claim."


"It is important to note that the label “ad hominem” is ambiguous, and that not every kind of ad hominem argument is fallacious. In one sense, an ad hominem argument is an argument in which you offer premises that you the arguer don’t accept, but which you know the listener does accept, in order to show that his position is incoherent (as in, for example, the Euthyphro dilemma). There is nothing wrong with this type of argument ad hominem."


"An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling. It might actually carry some weight. For example, if a senator wrote an article saying senators' salaries should be increased, one could respond:

"Of course he would say that. He's a senator.

"This wouldn't refute the author's argument, but it may at least be relevant to the case."


ESR's claims about politics : ESR's claims about technology :: your claims about logical fallacies : your claims about ESR





Many (most) people, including many highly respected scientists and engineers, are fully capable of displaying incredible judgment in their discipline yet awful judgment in other aspects of their lives. Should we put an asterisk on papers published by researchers in the middle of messy divorces?


There are some flagrant examples. Peter Duesberg, the UC Berkely molecular biologist prof who thinks that the HIV/AIDS link is bogus, comes to mind.

There are also those who tend to know their limits and note when they're out of their depth or area(s) of expertise. So no, that's not a universal guide either.


In the unlikely case you feel most science and engineering is a "related area" to family life, yes.


...but his positions...

His making up shit (or buying in to others' made-up shit) to justify them does, as does his ignoring contradictory evidence and record..

Which questions about what work?

The problem is one of an unreliable narrator. If you cannot trust someone's judgement, and they spew crap, repeatedly, then the odds that they're blowing smoke elsewhere increase.

It's the same reason that lawyers seek to impugn witnesses or call into question credibility. Or, to pick another hobby horse of mine, there are news and media organizations which spew crap. Fox News gets a lot of much-deserved scorn for this, but they're not the only one. Bullshit in media (in the most general meaning of the word: any information delivery system) is something I've been paying a lot of attention to, and I'm rather sensitive to it.

Case in point recently involves a 123 year old quote I'd seen attributed to J. P. Morgan, the Gilded Age banker. It struck me as curious, and I dug into it. My conclusion: it's a hoax.

The item in question is referred to as the Banker's Manifesto of 1892, or as the Wall Street Manifesto. Almost certainly the fabrication of one Thomas Westlake Gilruth, lawyer, real estate agent, community activist, and some-time speaker and writer for People's Party causes in the 1890s and 1900s. (Pardon the digression: there is a point, it happens to be both fresh in my mind and sufficiently detached from contemporary affairs to be a fair foil.)

Among the evidence I turned up, several contemporaneous newspapermen who'd drawn the same conclusion. Mind that this was a time of highly partisan press, but these were editors of People's Party papers in various locales.

From The advocate and Topeka tribune. (Topeka, Kan.), 7 & 14 Sept. 1892:

The Great West and one or two other exchanges reproduce the Chicago Daily Press fake purporting to be a Wall street circular. The thing originated in the fertile brain of F. W. Gilmore [sic: should be T. W. Gilruth], who held a position for a time at the Press. He has been challenged time and again to produce the original if it is genuine, and has failed to do so. The thing is a fraud and so is its author, and neither of them is worthy of the confidence of the people.

The following week's issue corected the typo with a emphasis on why naming and shaming mattered:

We desire to make this correction lest there be somebody named Gilmore who might object to the charge, and because the fraud should be placed where it belongs. Gilruth is a snide, and if anyone who knows him has not yet found it out, he is liable to do so to his sorrow.



From the Barbour County index., July 06, 1892, p. 1

If the genuineness of this dispatch cannot be established, it should be taken in at once. If reform writers put it alongside the Huscard and Buell circulars and various other documents of like character, the public faith in the genuineness of all may be shaken. We cannot afford to father any fakes.



(My own analysis turned up other internal inconsistencies within the documents as well, detailed at the reddit link above.)

Much as those late 19th century editors, a hueristic I've increasingly taken to applying is looking at what sources (publications, companies, politicians, authors, online commentators, monitoring systems) do and don't provide reliable information. There's also a distinction I draw between occasionally being wrong (errors happen), and systematic bias. As the Tribune and Index called out, Gilruth was being systematically misleading. And apparently intentionally.

My issue with ESR isn't that I know he's bullshitting on any one point or antoher, it's that I don't know when he is, and, as with other unreliable data streams, sussing out the truth is a lot of work for low reward. He's like an unreliable gauage or monitoring system that sends off false alerts when it shouldn't ,stays silent when it should alert, and highlights the wrong areas of trouble when it does manage to go off at the right time. You simply start to lose your faith in it.

ESR's problem is he believes his own bullshit.

I've decided I don't need that problem.


I can't help but notice you managed to write something approximating the length of a short essay without once pointing out any "bullshit" in ESR's technical writing, let alone explaining how said "bullshit" must derive from his wrongthink.


I'm afraid I must apologize for failing to make myself clear: it's that his practices call into question his statements in other areas.

I have to confess that I don't have specific instances at hand, for two reasons. One is that much of his more technical writing on programming is outside my own area of expertise. The other is that, given his tendencies, I largely ignore him.

My point, however, wasn't where he is specifically mistaken, but why the traits he exhibits in his rantings on other topics do have a bearing on his engineering judgement.

I do hope that's clear now.


I pasted this link elsewhere in the comments; the rationalwiki page talks about ESR's objectionable ideas:


Now, his attitudes on HIV denialism and IQ and race don't deal with engineering, but they're pretty objectionable. And, you know, we can get good engineering writing and thinking from a lot of places. ESR doesn't have a monopoly on writing about operating systems. I'd rather promote the writers who don't carry around a ton of wrong/distasteful baggage.


I wrote a bit of that page, and I still listen avidly to his technical expertise, which is qualitatively greater than most people's. But the rest ...


That's like saying DEKs belief in the supernatural calls into question TAOCP, totally irrelevant


Sorry, but DEK?


Don E Knuth - The Art of Computer Programming


> ESR's political views call much of his work into question.

Presumably this question, whatever it is, can be answered by looking at his work. Do you think ESR's technical work and technical writings fail to stand up to scrutiny?


It definitely gives me pause. ESR clearly doesn't know when he's out of his depth (classic Dunning-Krueger).

I'm not enough of a programmer to judge his programming texts, though I am enough of a sysamdin to find his Unixy sysadminish stuff generally valid.

I've found CatB itself aging poorly and question a number of the assumptions behind it, particularly as concerns anthropology. It seems shaky. Though I think the general principles behind Free Software and the open source model have their merits. Just, possibly, not quite those ESR describes.


ESR expressed views on all sorts of items which are unknowable and much debated; programmers cling to this idea that there's a right and a wrong (protobuffers not JSON! One True Way vs TMTOWTDI! Emacs vs Vi! JavaScript is a reasonable choice etc etc). Generally there's not, there are just ideas and opinions without hard data. Systemd contradicts pieces of the original article.

So you tell me: how would we know if his technical work stood up to scrutiny? If I have experience that agrees, does that mean it does? What if my experience contradicts IT?


Indeed, this is the critical question. If L. Ron Hubbard secretly but accurately predicted the lottery numbers for last week, it doesn't mean we have to go back and change them. Things can seem wrong/impossible/against your worldview, but that sense doesn't help quite so much as _just looking_.

Fundamentally, calling things into question has little value until we generate an answer to the question it was called into. Considering it's relatively easy to judge him on the technical work, why not?


I continue to take everything ESR says about technology seriously. His opinions on everything else ... are an instructive example in the non-transferable nature of expertise.


You say you distrust the author's views and opinions because of his politics.

I say: good! You should never take an author's work at face value. Every bit of nonfiction you read should be read critically. Nobody's judgment is infallible – not even Nobel prizewinners.


No, not because of his politics, but because of (among other elements) his political argument methods.

If ESR would pose credible arguments and facts, exhibit critical thinking facility, not stoop to denigrating his counterparts, etc., I'd find his points of view more substantive.

But he does none of that, and, rather, the opposite.

I do seek out contradicting evidence, among my mantras (and a conspicuous posted note to myself) is "seek to disprove". I've changed my mind and/or views on a number of significant points and in some cases major views over the past few years. I do that based on evidence and argument, though. It's not a casual process, and doesn't happen easily.

But being able to admit I'm wrong is a large part of it. Also: not insisting on being wrong (valuing belief consistency with time over consistency with observed reality).

Questioning everything is, however, rather exhausting. Developing heuristics for when to start digging in to apparent bullshit claims helps a lot.



"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."


It's disingenuous to equate huge numbers of people disagreeing with you on the internet to the government suppressing you with law or force.

ESR is free to speak his beliefs in public, and in return people are free to criticize him, not recommend his books, refuse to invite him to conferences, etc.

Freedom of speech is about prior restraint, not immunity from consequences.


Is it now? When you can get fired from your job over your private beliefs, when even a Nobel prize winner can have his (and her - completely innocent - wife's) career ended on the spot, when you can lose your home over disagreeing with "status quo", I say something is wrong.

Maybe this is how democratic - as opposed to totalitarian - oppression looks like. When you have to avoid discussions out of fear you'll get fired and blacklisted in the industry, this suddenly doesn't look so different than what refusal to government "truth" looked like several decades ago.


The libertarian alternative to discrimination laws is people boycotting those they find reprehensible.

(Of course, if it's a libertarian favourite being boycotted, the same libertarians reliably shit - c.f. Brendan Eich - but anyway.)


I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed this


> None of these seem even remotely relevant to engineering.

Believing things that have no scientific merit in favour of things that have plenty of scientific evidence would be a huge concern in an engineer.

Given is (mostly memory-holed) mysogyny, racism, and homophobia that leads him to discard the views of people in a most un-meritocratic fashion and I think you have another concern.


You have the freedom to think........ what the hive mind whats you to think.


That's a surprise to me, I hadn't heard any of that. Not that I've followed things that closely.

What I found so far is [1], in which he seems to just be doing a bit of a "show me the data" thing wrt global warming (its fairly old I guess in defense). In [2] he's definitely saying IQ is race-related, and gender related to a lesser extent, in my quick readings.

I quite like that he doesn't mince his words, sugar coat things or seem to take any notice of popular opinion/political correctness. Not agreeing with him, but I find that refreshing.

[1] http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1436 [2] http://esr.ibiblio.org/?m=200311


Regarding [2]. So I guess this quote is the problem:

> And the part that, if you are a decent human being and not a racist bigot, you have been dreading: American blacks average a standard deviation lower in IQ than American whites at about 85. [...] And yes, it’s genetic; g seems to be about 85% heritable, and recent studies of effects like regression towards the mean suggest strongly that most of the heritability is DNA rather than nurturance effects.

So is the problem with him saying this that (a) this is factually false or (b) that it's an inconvenient fact that should be glossed over? He seems to be saying that it's factually true since he obviously read it in some or other study. If it is factually true it's disingenuous to label him as a racist.


I guess everyone and every group finds certain truths uncomfortable. It's especially sad that the theory of evolution seems to make literally everyone uncomfortable.

"Of course humans and chimps have a common ancestor! We have looked at the genetic code, and found that more than 95% is shared. Give up, it's over." The right will hate you for saying that.

"Of course there is inherited variation in intelligence, no matter how you define it! Otherwise evolution, in particular evolution of intelligence, could not possibly work. Give up, it's over." The left will hate you for saying that.

"Of course our moral intuitions come from game theory, not apriori reasoning!" And now everyone hates you, both the left and the right.


Evolution doesn't necessarily have a direct link with intelligence; nor even does natural selection which is the theory that, I think, you're basing your argument on.


That's a pretty weak objection. It's implausible that intelligence wouldn't be influenced by any evolved traits.


Flynn Effect gets you 20-30 points in the same gene pool, therefore via non-genetic factors.

If you see a 15 point difference and immediately attribute it to genetics, you're making an unwarranted assumption.


Re your deleted comment:

> I guess everyone and every group finds certain truths uncomfortable. It's especially sad that the theory of evolution seems to make literally everyone uncomfortable.

In context, this is a claim that race and IQ is a consequence of the theory of evolution. If you don't see this, then you don't understand communication with humans, or are being disingenuous.


I think the problem is, its a bit more complicated than that.

There are a myriad of factors that might influence that IQ score, and I haven't looked at the studies. Lack of wealth/opportunity I think is definitely a factor in the healthy development of the grey matter, as is access to good education.

Long/short, not sure. I'd be surprised if the colour of your skin objectively made a difference in IQ. Same with gender. Though, if the latter is true, I would probably use it with great exuberance on certain people I know e.g. my ex.


I wouldn't be surprised if skin colour made a difference to IQ. But I wouldn't be surprised for social and political reasons, not genetic ones.

It's actually not possible to make a genetic argument, because genetically there are no non-trivial markers that robustly correlate with "black" or "white."


Suggesting otherwise is simple ignorant bigotry.


To clarify, I was careful not to call ESR a racist. (I was attempting to describe his positions in terms that I think he'd agree with.) And I haven't seen anyone else explicitly do so on this thread, which is good going for HN.


"If it is factually true it's disingenuous to label him as a racist."

Not true. Something can be factually true but uninteresting or of no consequence; pushing that 'truth' forward as something that other should acknowledge betrays an agenda beyond just 'the search for truth'. (Note that this is not a judgement on ESR per se, just a comment on your specific point)


But it is interesting and of consequence. Especially as it highlights how truth ever becomes the slave of fashion. If it it is demonstrably true that race and IQ is linked then stating that as a fact does not make one a racist.


"g is 85% heritable" does not actually mean, imply, or even give strong evidence for the likelihood that "racially-linked genes cause the racially-correlated outcome differences in IQ tests." A trait that's 85% heritable is actually a complicated mix of many different biological factors, whose various causal powers (abilities to cause a specific outcome if interfered-with) we simply don't know, except that 15% of them don't seem to pass from parent to child in twin-studies (and I would certainly hope that separated-twin studies were actually done at all, because that's Genetic Causality 101 stuff).

Thus, if someone wants to claim that "black people have lower IQs because they are black", they need to dissolve the concept of race entirely and not only find much broader evidence than studies on African Americans who are, after all, something like half "white", but in fact just cut to the fucking chase and locate the relevant genes.

But of course, if you located the genes and alleles that make some ethnic groups smarter or stupider, you could invent a gene therapy that would make everyone as smart as the smartest ethnic groups, or at least understand what sort of trade-offs are involved in genetic treatments of that sort (ie: Africans often carry a gene that helps them resist malaria but can cause sickle-cell anemia if you get two copies of the recessive allele). If you located the genes and alleles, then within 10 +/- 5 years (depending on how quickly your treatment gets funded) we could eliminate all genetically-caused racial gaps in intelligence.

This, of course, would greatly displease the racists, who don't actually want people to get smarter; they want to justify a peculiar social hierarchy. This is why you always see certain people waving their hands at "racial IQ gaps" and "heritability" but not funding research into intelligence-enhancing gene therapies.


I'm not sure what you mean by "fashion" in this context.

Let's say that some kind of link between race and intelligence were proved and universally acknowledged, what possible positive outcome could entail?


>Let's say that some kind of link between race and intelligence were proved and universally acknowledged, what possible positive outcome could entail?

Intelligence enhancement would become a cheap, simple, universally-available gene therapy, since we would have found that it only relies on a few alleles of a tiny number of genes, so simple that it can differ significantly between ethnic groups that can still interbreed, rather than being a complex, many-gene feature that evolved chiefly among the species as a whole.


"heritable" is the weasel word here. It is applied when the kid matches the parents - but the leap from there to "genetic" is unwarranted, because parents and their children tend to be in the same social circumstances.

For comparison, the Flynn effect demonstrates you can get 20-30 points difference in the same gene pool, with the difference being social circumstances. So any difference under 30 points doesn't necessitate invoking genetics.


ESR wrote, among other things, this:

"One was: their skin color looks fecal. The other was: their bone structure doesn’t look human. And they’re just off-reference enough to be much more creepy than if they looked less like people, like bad CGI or shambling undead in a B movie. When I paid close enough attention, these were the three basic data under the revulsion; my hindbrain thought it was surrounded by alien shit zombies."

and http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4256


The first two are scientific, rather than political questions, aren't they?


Political in the sense that they have been politicized. And in the sense that a lot of people seem to believe the questions are Settled For Good, and anyone who disagrees with them is Just Plain Ignorant and/or Lying For Personal Benefit.


They are scientific questions if ESR publishes or attempts to publish scientific papers to support his opinions, or otherwise attempts to represent himself as a scientist.


Is that really it?


It's unclear whether you're suggesting his views are not sufficiently objectionable, or you're suggesting he has other views that are very objectionable that weren't enumerated above.


> ESR denies AGW, believes that race and IQ are correlated, and was strongly in favor of the Iraq war

The first two are healthy amounts of scientific doubt and the third is a political opinion. (Though it could be highly dependent on how these views are expressed.)

I was expecting hate speech or Nazism, instead I see overreactions to opposing opinions people confuse with moral failings.


He's pro 'gun-rights'.


What's wrong with this? Being completely serious here, what is wrong with citizens owning firearms?

I am all about reducing gun violence, but if you want to do that you have to do something to stem the tide of illegally acquired handguns in areas of concentrated poverty. That's where a lot of your gun violence comes from.

The recent happenings in Charleston are unicorns. Unpredictable and very rare events that you can't actually make a special law for, without the G-men physically going to every household in America and confiscating firearms. That is a policy I assure you you don't actually want.








so you are saying there is a correlation between guns-per-capita and gun-deaths-per-capita?


No, I'm (foolishly) responding to an Onion article of all things. The claim is being made that the U.S. is the only place where mass killings with firearms happen. I'm merely stating this isn't true.


Just to clarify, here's the headline (my emphasis):

"‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens"


More guns == more murder.

> “For each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership,” Siegel et al. found, “firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9″ percent.



And what homicide rate diminished? If it just moves the weapon of choice, its largely irrelevant.


I'm not sure I can say there's something absolutely wrong with it, but my opinion is that citizens shouldn't be allowed to own firearms. I live somewhere (UK) where they can't, and there is very little gun violence. That's not to say, of course, there aren't problems, but I just think - on balance - the world would be better off with fewer killing machines in it.


I'm not pro gun but many countries like Canada have pretty high gun ownership yet have low gun violence numbers. I think there is more to the problem then just disallowing private gun ownership would solve. It's a band aid fix in my view.


Its kind of like prisoners' dilemma. Who loses their firearms first, citizens or criminals? They lose.

I'd also like to say something about societies with ubiquitous government public and private surveillance, chilling of freedom of speech and repressive cultures, but I live in the USA so I can't throw stones.


Why wouldn't he/she want some sort of mass, nationwide gun buy-back program?

It's worked in Australia: http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2012/12/16/gun_control_afte...


Because guns scare people. Why do they scare people? Because mostly they're just seen either in the hands of cops, grunts, or criminals. Most folks (especially here) aren't hunters, or are so far removed from rural life that they have no experience of firearm-as-tool.

On top of that, there is big business in demonizing guns--related to the big business (I suspect) in demonizing fighting, aggression, machismo, independence, or what have you.

I'll be the first to admit that there is no peaceful practical purpose outside of sport or investment for owning firearms in an urban area.

That said, it never ceases to amaze me that in an age of such universal and pervasive surveillance--an age of such unaccountability of authority figures in the .gov and .mil--that folks here are still more than happy to trash on the final safeguard they've got if things get too bad.


By the time things get that bad we've already crossed my threshold for "final" safeguard.


Private gun ownership isn't a safeguard against "if things get too bad".

It's also unrealistic and implausible to imagine that the .gov and .mil are going to make "things get too bad".

That is no more likely to happen than a return to some sort of monarchy or crowning of an American king/queen.


Private gun ownership isn't a safeguard against "if things get too bad".

Really? Because it caused us a lot of trouble during our occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anything, that pretty much proves it as a check on US doctrine.

It's also unrealistic and implausible to imagine that the .gov and .mil are going to make "things get too bad".

Fifteen years ago, even in the wake of Ruby Ridge and Waco, I might've been tempted to agree with you. Unfortunately, there's been a whole lot of history since then, yeah?

return to some sort of monarchy

What are your betting odds on Bush III, or Clinton II, again? Your countrymen are apathetic and easily-manipulated when it comes to politics.


It doesn't make sense to me to compare the military occupation of those countries with the paranoid proposal that things "could get too bad" in the U.S. Too much seems too different about those two to be meaningful; I could point to the strict gun laws in most of the western nations and ask, "why haven't they degenerated into `could get too bad'?"

About the "whole lot of history since Ruby Ridge and Waco," well, I don't see any specific pattern of things getting "too bad". I'm not seeing the history you apparently are.

About the 2016 presidential election, couple of things: the presidency's just a job, and a short-term one at that, and the president doesn't have much power. Presidents run the country, they don't rule it.


What other countries are doing/not doing is a red herring--their people are not ours, their demographics are certainly not ours, their pain points are not our pain points. They additionally don't have the same political foundations and history that we do.

We have seen a continual increase in the militarization of police, the surveillance and fining of private citizens, the violation of privacy, and the bullying and exploitation of the poor.

If you're not seeing the history that I'm looking at, we're considering different news sources. I'm thinking of the Snowden leaks, the killings of citizens by police without cause (some in my own city, sadly), and so forth. I'm thinking of the delightful interplay of the prison-industrial complex with the justice system.

As for the presidency--we've seen pretty much directly the actual effectiveness of the executive branch in causing shenanigans, both in George Bush's administration and Obama's.


We're simply going to have to agree to disagree on this.


"What other countries are doing/not doing is a red herring" ..... but you brought up Iraq and Afghanistan.

I agree about the bullying and exploitation of the poor, I just don't think that's anything new.

I think what's new is that now, techie types like you and me are learning about the police-based murders of black people, and how hard life is for the poor. That stuff's always been going on, it just didn't make it onto our radar until very recently.


but you brought up Iraq and Afghanistan.

Note that example was done specifically as a study of armed irregulars vs the US--your examples of other Western states were in a very different vein. :)


When they constantly mix technology and politics, yes it does matter. Open Source is a political movement, and that requires taking ESR's version of it with a grain of salt.


Open Source is not a political movement; you're thinking of Free Software.


Who did a lot of the popularization of that term again? Who cofounded the Open Source Initiative?

It's in no small part due to the politicking and goodthink of ESR that we have Open Source as it is today.


Unfortunately, the general zeitgeist of the times seems to be that a person's politics are somehow a litmus test for whether or not they should be listened to at all, about anything.

Normally this would just be a quirk, but the fact is that a lot of technical people here on HN and other places would happily throw the baby out with the bath water just because they disagree with somebody's politics.

It's stupid and unprofessional. With so many companies focusing on such technically boring problems, image management is perhaps legitimately more of a business concern than having the best tech available.

So, unfortunately, we have people with dissenting opinions but excellent work slandered or ostracized...even if their opinions are actually worth considering. Then again, that just means that those of us who are more genuinely tolerant will have an edge during hiring. :)

Also, on ESR in particular:

You have to understand that, rightly or wrongly, his worldview is long-term Culture War. Literally anything which prevents The Right People from breeding faster (homosexuality) or defending themselves (attacks on the 2nd amendment) or arguing (kafkatraps) is suspect. Because he's playing for keeps, he'll do whatever it takes (including, perhaps, being less than perfectly equal in presentations on things) to further his agenda. That's just how it is, and it doesn't reflect on his technical contriubtions or aptitude at all.

Hell, the bitch of it is, he's even arguably correct on some of his cultural points, if he himself (much less his detractors) didn't spend so much time sounding so disagreeable and grumpy and wingnutty.

Anyways, it's just a sign of the times, as I said. It seems that most people are unable to handle a mental model which accounts for biased or unreliable narrators while still allowing the work of those narrators to be taken advantage of.


That's a bizarre statement in itself. Of course it does.


Except if he writes anything about politics, economics, society, etc -- in which case his political views have quite a bearing on the validity or usefulness of what they write.


Can't you evaluate his claims on their own merits? Unless he's saying "trust me, I won't expose my reasoning but it's solid", or unless you are outsourcing your thinking, such things would seem to be irrelevant.


>Can't you evaluate his claims on their own merits?

As with most things, it takes too much time to do that in detail for every argument one hears.

Thankfully with the magic of brain's pattern matching and previous experience to BS arguments we don't have to.

We can eliminate tons of opinions from the list of "potentially interesting to investigate" by their mere showing of certain characteristics we already know lead to bogus thinking. ("Hey man, I made a perpetual motion machine. Wait, where are you going? Don't you wanna hear how I made it? You're so close minded" -- or "I don't believe in climate change, it's all bogus. Here's what I think about educational reform...").

Sure, we might get a few false negatives (some good suggestions lost because their originator is a bigot etc), but the system overall works wonders for reducing the signal to noise ratio.


>You are conflating a property of the claim itself (violating the laws of physics) with a straw-man property of the person making the claim. They aren't the same thing - one enables a simple proof by contradiction, the other is ad-hominem.

I don't see why you think I haven't considered that.

My whole argument is based on the idea that ad-hominens are pefectly fine in some cases.

When? For people with a bogus claims record.

How? Under the observation that a person making some bogus claims is also likely to make more bogus claims -- and thus the person can be dismissed as a general bogus-claims-maker.

Why might lose some good arguments he might make here and there, but life's too short, and dismissing the person completely gives us time to listen to people with a better "claims" track record.

In essense, the very basic of filtering, that everybody does (more or less well), and you undoubtly do as well.

>I call your "climate change, it's all bogus" claim a straw man, and indicative more of your thinking than of reality, because that's not even a claim that skeptics make.

Actually lots of "spectics" make it. Some make a lesser claim, that's its not human-caused, but others also claim it's not happening altogether. There's even a term for that:


>I get the impression you are just looking for ways to dismiss arguments which make you emotionally uncomfortable.

Nope, I'm looking for ways to dismiss arguments which waste my time.


I'm going to dismiss everything you have to say because it doesn't look like you know how to properly respond to threads when there's a comment cooldown timer.


>I'm going to dismiss everything you have to say

Feel free!

>because it doesn't look like you know how to properly respond to threads when there's a comment cooldown timer.

I actually do, but am too lazy to click on the message to open alone...


You are conflating a property of the claim itself (violating the laws of physics) with a straw-man property of the person making the claim. They aren't the same thing - one enables a simple proof by contradiction, the other is ad-hominem.

Further, your "climate change, it's all bogus" ad hominem isn't even a real claim that skeptics make, and is more more indicative of your thinking than of reality.

I get the impression you are just looking for ways to dismiss arguments which make you emotionally uncomfortable. Consider religion instead, it's a lot more unapologetic about simply declaring who the heretics are.


They absolutely do, but I get your point that that's not necessarily so in every single case. ESR's page on the rationalwiki gets it right, though, when they call him a "stopped clock"--right every once in a while (and by coincidence):



How then do you evaluate the validity of writings by an author whose political views you do not know?


I don't, but I also don't feel the need to.

If, however, some other tech blogger I liked started writing about "kill the gays," well, I don't need to overlook that just because I like their tech writing.

Like I said elsewhere, none of these folks has a monopoly on good engineering writing/technical thinking.

I can read, and ultimately promote, writers whose writing I wouldn't be ashamed to share with all of my friends.


I don't think the parent was trying to apply pejorative labels or there was any malicious intent behind their post. It was more along the lines of being unable to parse the title, IMO.

It's also good practice to critically examine any written piece, regardless of whom it may come from. While you may derive aesthetic and ostensibly emotional value from it, not everybody may necessarily feel that way.

In fact, my life wasn't changed or impacted in any profound sense after reading this. You should keep in mind that not everyone may think the same way as you, or even share the same reality.


> It's also good practice to critically examine any written piece, regardless of whom it may come from. While you may derive aesthetic and ostensibly emotional value from it, not everybody may necessarily feel that way.

That's an interesting assertion, and itself worth examining critically. Is it generally good practice to critically examine any written piece? Possibly. Probably even. Is it always good practice? Perhaps even that is true. Is it always good practice to state the outcome of your critical examination in public? At this point, if your answer is still yes, we diverge. There's a time for stating your critical analysis, and a time for keeping it to yourself.

Death is one of those topics where critical analysis is generally unwelcome. To use a slightly extreme but actually fairly relevant analogy, if someone very close to you died and you were mourning them at their funeral a few days later, and someone there presents you with some kind of critical theory of the chemical nature of grief, while it might appear to be some critical analysis of the present moment it would nevertheless be most unwelcome.

Which brings me to your second point:

> In fact, my life wasn't changed or impacted in any profound sense after reading this. You should keep in mind that not everyone may think the same way as you, or even share the same reality.

There's nothing wrong with that, but I think you can tell fairly easily from the comments that other people were moved by this post. In some, it has brought up feelings of grief that they wished to share too. In effect, the original post by Sheryl Sandberg has made this thread a place of grief for many of the commenters here.

They will have come to it from many places, both real and imagined. For me it is imagining how I would feel if my wife died, or how she might feel if I died. For others it is remembering the death of a loved one. Either way, what they express is real and deeply felt.

I think this "promotes" this thread to a place of grief, and as a human being who respects other humans' right to such places, it is reasonable to keep your critical evaluations to yourself in such a place. There are other places to express your critical views of this. Yes, you have a right to express them here if you wish, but you should also be aware of the implicit request to let this space be what it is.

I know this is the internet and so expecting people to respect other people's feelings is somewhat extraordinary here, but I guess I have a high opinion of humanity in general.


I can understand how you feel that feelings (yours personally? others'?) were not respected. Especially very short comments can sound terse to the point of sarcastic. However, the tone that you're bringing here is not quite appropriate. You seem to be raring for an internet argument: you're taking offense at pejorative labels in posts which don't have pejorative labels, and trying to go badass-philosopher on equivocations (they said "It's good practice", you criticized "It's always good practice").

So, I know who, roughly, the affected parties are here. But if you look close, that's not actually contextually obvious. People who don't know who the affected parties are click "Back" and then look at the comments, because Sheryl Sandberg is very unlikely to tell Facebook exactly who she is, who her husband was, and how he died. So they will come to our HN comments with a, "not to diminish anybody's grief, but who is this and why do I care, again?" approach. A simple comment of "her husband was a Silicon Valley executive" is great there. I mean, maybe I'd have added "and she is the COO of Facebook" too, since I've personally never heard of the companies he was a part of, but I remember hearing about his death a while back.

It's just supremely ironic. Here you are, inappropriately critically analyzing the appropriateness of critical analysis and disrespecting the real expressions of others' feelings while decrying how the Internet disrespects the real expressions of others' feelings.

I'm totally with you that there is a deep sympathetic response here where you and I both imagine living without that love that we're presently consumed by, or forcing someone else to live without that love. Yes, our feelings are real. Their feelings are also real. It's not the time to perceive slights in terse comments and expand short sentences into philosophical analyses. The phrase "which brings me to your second point" should be barred from this context. It's not just us and our sympathetic grief; they and their confusion are also very valid responses to a totally-ambiguous out-of-nowhere post.


Interesting comment, and I'll think about it. Not to take away from your comment as a whole, I will nitpick one particular thing. There is a big difference in tone, imho, in saying "some Silicon Valley executive died recently", which I believe to have a dismissive undertone, vs saying "a Silicon Valley executive", which is fairly neutral. The "some" is probably what triggered me there.



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