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    TL;DR haskellers aren’t condescending because they don’t look down on you. Rather they treat you like an educated adult fully-capable of taking initiative.

    Basically she’s saying Haskellers are academics. Every thing about that describes my experience in grad school. Friendly bunch.

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      Since the comments mention the Socratic method, that’s something that resonates with me: the only time I went to #haskell IRC with a question, the attempt to use the method didn’t sound like treating me like an educated adult capable of taking initiative, so it felt condescending, and really, it was a waste of everybody’s time. Of course, I can understand if the person made wrong assumptions about my question, but what’s wrong with a straight answer? As an adult, I’m perfectly capable of looking for, say “blargher co-types conjecture”, and I don’t need hand-holding. My main takeaway was to not ask more questions in #haskell :)

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        I’ve had a very similar experience with getting advice off of IRC in general: sometimes you get the jerk that just wants to put you down for no reason, sometimes you get a very patient kind soul who will take half an hour to explain something to you. You just need to grow a thick skin and get used to not being reactive about the jerks.

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          There’s a high degree of variance with the quality of help you get in #haskell. Sometimes you get Cale‚Ķsometimes you don’t get Cale. I’m sure you don’t mean to paint all 1200 residents of #haskell with the same pedagogic brush, but it’s worth making it clear that not every experience is going to be the same. I’d also take the opportunity to highlight that #haskell isn’t singularly devoted to teaching as such, it’s the big tent. People who haven’t otherwise given effective teaching a moment’s thought could end up “giving it a try” and scaring/burning some new person in the process.

          The variance in quality and noise problems are why #haskell-beginners exists.

          Related post about teaching in #haskell:


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            I think that it is good that there is a big-tent channel for a programming language and that you are right in pointing out that it is a very generic ground. I’d like to say that even if you just read the logs of the meaningful exchanges, one can learn a lot even without asking. A few of this, lots of papers, books and practice, will make you able to be worthy of Thor’s mjolnir one day. Lastly, not all people learn at the same rate; true fast learners may be as “dysfunctional” as slow learners, so whoever is involved into teaching has to have a lot of patience, good will and a shiny mood.

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        I think it’s a bit silly to talk about “functional programmers” or even “haskellers” as a whole. There are people in every community who are hostile or condescending in some way, but there are also genuinely nice and helpful people. Generalizations about groups of people are pretty much never accurate or helpful in general.

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          Nothing good will really come of me posting this, but …

          There’s an elephant in the room.

          The situation experienced by kf isn’t likely to have been just the result of that one exchange. One of the parties involved here is widely seen in a fairly negative light for activities over several months. You can’t take kf’s reaction out of that broader and much wider context.

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            I am the author of the blog post. I tried not to make it about specific individuals, because I think the topic is larger than that and I don’t find debating individuals' personalities to be productive.

            If I am understanding you correctly, the party who “is widely seen in a fairly negative light” is not the person kf was originally reacting to; she was originally reacting to a conference presentation by another person entirely. The thread already had many other participants complaining about the condescension–not just kf–before that party interjected. So, while understanding that kind of context can be helpful in some situations, I don’t think it’s especially relevant to this one.

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            Judging by this interaction with the poster and the referenced “complainer,” I think I must have a very different definition of condescension than the vocal social media types:


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              That does sound condescending, no matter the content or reference inferred from it. That’s an issue, whether or not it’s meant to be condescending. This is because condescension can be perceived, and when it’s widely perceived in FP culture by outsiders, they’ll be less apt to become interested in learning FP. This is actually an argument that extends well outside the bounds of FP and into general academia, especially social studies. Bell Hooks for instance finds that the knowledge that she develops and gathers throughout her academic career remains insulated from escaping academic circles, into the public, if the style behind its delivery remains the same. She found that when common folk were given one of her papers with academic references, they would lose interest because they either lack the resources or the ability to read the works referenced therein, and that academic (or as it’s called here, “intellectual”) speech, rhetoric, and tone also turn away outsiders.

              It’s also worth noting that the individual that posted this on lobsters is also the person involved in said argument, and has been driven so far by their need to have been “right” in the exchange, that they posted this article here as some way to validate their “intellectualism” in the face of internet discourse. When you’ve reached this point in conversation with any individual or party all value that might’ve been gained from further discussion has been lost. If you can not learn to empathize with others perspectives and viewpoints, and how they perceive things that you say and do, as opposed to how you meant for those things to come across, you will find people very often telling you that you are being condescending; and whether you want to reduce this to pedantry and argue the definition of condescension or not, this is how you are being perceived. By saying that you aren’t being condescending, you’re simply consolidating your bullheaded attitude as well as how others are viewing you, and that’s really doing nobody any good.

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                Aggressively assuming the worst about people and their motivations is another way to demonstrate lack of empathy.

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                  Or just the frustrations of online text. Something I learned the slow, painful way in BBS days was that people read posts and hear the emotion they’re feeling because there’s no body language. If a conversation gets heated, it takes me what feels like a lot of extra talking and bridge-building to get back to normal - a lot of words to explain what a self-deprecating shrug takes a moment to express.

                  So I don’t think the tweeter is demonstrating a lack of empathy, I think she’s frustrated, feeling insulted, and continuing to see that. I’ve had that feeling pretty often, it’s a lousy place to be. It’s a really normal reaction, and I wish I had a solution on Twitter because “use a lot of words to bridge-build” is a non-starter there. Instead I’m left with most forms of humor not working with people who don’t already know my voice, trying to be extra polite, and not engaging at all with people who are in a bad mood, which feels like a lot of wasted potentially good conversations.

                  So I have no idea to express that to the tweeter. Even saying something like “that hasn’t been my experience” will sound like “there must be something wrong with you” when someone is so frustrated. Just hope it works out or someone they already trust gets in touch and move on with life.

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                  Which part was condescending? Was it the “uhm”? Would prefacing with “Erm,” be not condescending? How about “FYI,”? I’ve heard all of these used both in factual and jerk-ish manners, and I don’t see how one can extract tone from that message under 140 characters (unless someone is simply looking to pick a fight).

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                    It’s the fact that op assumed kf didn’t know about the reference. 140 characters can tell a lot.

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                      I didn’t think that fact was ever in question. It’s pretty clear she didn’t know about the reference: https://twitter.com/kf/status/526426856380047361

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                        You just linked me to the same tweets I was looking at previously?

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                          From what I gathered, @bitemyapp was stated that it isn’t a condescending title because it’s an allusion to another title, and @bitemyapp does not consider that title condescending so an allusion to it should not be either.

                          Is your statement that the original paper it condescending as well and thus this paper title is condescending? Or that just this paper title is condescending regardless of its context?

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                  Yeah, kf really bit back hard at bitemyapp. There are cases where functional programmers are condescending, just like everyone else, or unintentionally come off as condescending, just like everyone else. This wasn’t one at all.

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                  reminds me of verity stob’s beautiful line about how “lisp is still #1 for key algorithmic techniques such as recursion and condescension”. [http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/01/11/exception_handling/]. i miss verity stob; wish she would write more :(