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    I want to apologize to Matthew Butterick for poor writing on my part.

    After I made my earlier comment, I was in hospital getting tested prior to cancer surgery (nothing life threatening), when it was pointed out to me that I had inadvertently lumped Felleisen, Butterick and Stallman in the same category. That was not my intent at all. I only wanted to say that I had respect for the accomplishments each has made in their lifetimes. They are different people.

    I have known RMS for 36 years. Believe it or not, I have mostly good memories, especially from the early years, less so in recent times. I have seen him verbally abuse people, but I have also seen him patch things up with people. That used to happen. I wish he could still do that. There is some mutual hate going on.

    I have known Matthias Felleisen from 20 years of attending conferences, talks and short schools. Most of the memories are positive and involve a great deal of learning. I have seen him help many people. I have also seen him be verbally rough with people, but not at the personal level. I believe Matthew Butterick that Matthew Felleisen took it to a personal level; I did not witness it.

    I have known Matthew Butterick from his support of the Racket project in the last decade, his talks at conferences, short schools, and a few meals. I buy his fonts, I read his books, all of his work is excellent. I have had nothing but positive interactions with Matthew Butterick.

    What I would like to see is Matthias acknowledge and apologize to Matthew, then work on the issues Matthew has raised. Both are great contributors to the community.

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      Matthias Felleisen just posted this https://felleisen.org/matthias/Thoughts/Apology.html

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      I know Matthias F. I know Matthew B. I know RMS. And other people. I respect their accomplishments. I also know that people can be very difficult. As one friend puts it, some people have a user interface that is broken. I also know that the greater one’s distance from a person, the more likely the depiction of a person can be distorted, showing for example one dimension but not others. As with everything in society these days, I yearn for a way for people to work things out. I don’t want anyone to be ostracized. I don’t want anyone to not feel welcome. This is a very difficult problem, but we must work on it. It is good to talk about these issues, but I want the discussion to be fair. I’m all for inclusiveness, but not at the cost of exclusion.

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        This is a classic response to someone calling out people that misbehave. “Bob is not that bad, once you get to know him”. But that’s beside the point!

        If Bob is pushing other people down through his behavior, it is right to criticize his behavior, and maybe also remove responsibility from Bob, no matter how nice he “really” is.

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          This is a classic response to someone calling out people that misbehave

          Not to mention that “I’m all for inclusiveness, but not at the cost of exclusion” is an impossible situation to begin with: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

          That shit just does not work, as proven time and time again. People looking the other way and making excuses for abusive behavior is how we got to this situation of people being driven out in the first place.

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            1000% agreed. This is part and parcel of the technology community having gone mainstream a while ago. The fallacies we used to indulge in to excuse bad behavior are showing themselves to be more and more ugly as we bring them into the light.

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              Diversity tends to shine light where it needs it the most.

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            I am ranting a bit, and I hope it does not come across as directed at you. I do not mean it that way. I’m a couple of levels down in this thread and it seems like somehow we’ve gone off the rails regarding what the topic is.

            I don’t care if Bob is a good person or not. I care if we’re all being invited to judge him publicly and decide whether he’s good or not. I don’t participate in these activities and I don’t tolerate others that do. Of course, other people are free to do whatever they’d like. My point is that the one unyielding rule I’ve found regardless of context is that productive teams cannot carry on this way with the public story-telling back-and-forth. It’s corrosive. That observation is completely orthogonal to what kinds of behavior I’d tolerate in a team, which, frankly, is nobody’s business but mine and the teams I join. (They also tend to change from situation-to-situation. People aren’t statues, and standards aren’t the Ten Commandments. Situation matters.)

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              You speak as though Butterick’s comments are taking place in a vacuum, or worse, are arising unprompted. But please remember that the only reason he feels it necessary to write this piece is that his life has been disrupted, he has suffered poor behavior, and now he has had to withdraw from a community that he had dedicated significant resources to.

              I know you haven’t raised the specter of ‘cancel culture’, but phrasing like ‘we are all being invited to judge him publicly’ speak to a similar enough view of the proceedings; and the fallacy operating with both this critique as well as larger complaints about ‘cancel culture’ is this: you and I come to this post from a null position. This is understandable; we, and the vast majority of readers, are not members of this particular community and have no experience with its members. And from our position of no experience, it seems we are being invited to judge someone we don’t know. That feels icky and unnecessary.

              But Butterick is not asking us to judge someone. I don’t think he cares particularly that we, who have no stake in this, walk away with a solid negative judgment of the personal qualities of another person. What he cares is to provide an account of his experience, because: in light of a widespread taboo against airing dirty laundry, if you didn’t know about his experience, his conduct is confusing and probably not very flattering. Here’s someone who dedicated themselves to a language and a community: wrote code, wrote books about it. And ‘suddenly’ (to an observer), he drops off the map. This represents a loss of social capital, probably a loss of real livelihood, and raises questions about him and his fitness to this kind of work.

              In light of that experience (again, one that is centered around Matthew Butterick and his desire to manage his own reputation and professional prospects, as opposed to a desire to manage your view of a third party), you can hopefully understand why he feels the need to give an account of what he has actually been experiencing, even though that includes the unpleasant work of publicizing the shittiness of another person.

              I will wager with you that, oh, 95 out of 100 of those folks who have publicized the toxicity of leaders, bosses and executives over the last little while have been motivated similarly. In other words, I wager that they too definitely would have preferred to conduct themselves exactly as you prefer: to keep their personal experience private, to settle things through private channels, and to negotiate via their existing personal relationships. Unfortunately, toxic people (abusers, whatever you want to call them) are usually toxic because they have a position, personality, and skill set that neutralizes exactly that approach.

              In conclusion: I invite you to reread that article from the perspective of its author. From the perspective of the uninitiated reader, it would seem to be about some other figure who we don’t know from Adam. But I don’t think it is.

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                I don’t care if Bob is a good person or not.

                If he’s in your team, you should. The whole problem here exists because people are going out of their way to ‘not participate’ in judging a bad person as bad. If you don’t root out assholes, you’re complicit to their behaviour.

                Come on, there’s a few witness statements in this thread, in this small corner of the internet, that corroborate the story. People are being warned against his antics. No one that goes “I’m surprised and have only had positive experiences with him”. Even the positive ones are hedging. That’s damning evidence.

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                  I want to add here that we’re talking about good/bad along some specific axis. People have many traits and can be good in many ways, while bad in others. The context here is that someone is e.g. bad for the community.

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                  If this had been a team in an organization or business, I would agree with you. Airing private laundry publicly is not constructive.

                  But this is an open source project, where transparency and being public are important factors.

                  If someone is pushing other people down through their behavior, repeatedly, it’s balanced that they also receive criticism and possibly removal of responsibility, publicly, IMO.

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                    Perhaps I’m wrong when it comes to FOSS. I don’t know. I’ve been wrong many times before :)

                    I know that open source is much more like running a charity or a minimum-wage restaurant: each person’s spirit and morale have to be very high for them to stay dedicated over any length of time.

                    I’m happy to see various open source teams publicly announce their team norms. Folks can then either select in or out depending on how those standards make them feel.

                    But trying to take interpersonal human communication, an emergent behavior involving perhaps millions of years of evolution, and digitizing it? That doesn’t sound workable to me.

                    As a personal example, I’ve been online since the net came up. I try as hard as I can to be a nice person online and understand other people’s viewpoints. But I don’t doubt for a moment that either through chance encounters or cherry-picking I could be made out to be a horrible monster. People change, and little slices here and there of printed text can tell us but very little.

                    This doesn’t work for me, even in an open source environment. Even with clear and written boundaries, too much here is random, subjective, and prone to personality conflicts. For some people, their personalities just don’t mesh with one another. I’m trying, but I just can’t see this as a useful thing for people who actually care about writing good code that helps others. I’m trying, and I’m open to being wrong, but so far I’m not getting anywhere near changing my mind on this. Apologies.

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                      But I don’t doubt for a moment that either through chance encounters or cherry-picking I could be made out to be a horrible monster.

                      Read thru this whole thread. Of the five people (so far) recounting first-hand experience with this person, 100% of them say that their experience is consistent with the story in the post. I have a hard time to believe that’s due to cherry-picking.

                      1. 3

                        Read thru this whole thread. Of the five people (so far) recounting first-hand experience with this person, 100% of them say that their experience is consistent with the story in the post.

                        Also read through the HN thread which contains first-hand reports (neilv, rebelshrug, …) saying otherwise.

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                          Toxic people aren’t toxic to everybody all the time.

                          1. 16

                            My childhood bully wasn’t a bully to everyone, either. He had great friends who supported him, and his behavior. There is literally an example of this, right now, in US Politics; but the example is as old as humanity.

                            This doesn’t make the bullying behavior right, and it doesn’t make the person speaking up about the bullying wrong. The bully, however, is almost always in the wrong.

                            1. 1

                              With childhood bullies (which by the way no one in education cares to fully address), there is generally no ambiguity as to the harmfulness of the aggressor’s intent. Thus, that analogy breaks down here, where it is not clear as to where exactly lies this anecdotal accusation in the spectrum from it being a subjective taking-offense to being an intended harm (giving-offense). Some people, for instance, would interpret the below stern behavior (and it is possible to be stern without being offensive), as reviewed by someone from ratemyprofessors.com, to be “bullying”,

                              I hated [Matthias’s] guts while in his class, but in retrospect he’s almost certainly the best teacher I’ve ever had. As somebody said above, this guy is absolutely brilliant. He will kick your butt, but it’s all for your own good in the end. He seems to really care about teaching, and it shows.

                              (Have you ever seen a victim describe their childhood bully this way?)

                              Besides, bullying behaviour is not uncommon among people who are not normally characterized as ‘bullies’ - inasmuch as they are covert. Example here. I used to work for a company (based on San Francisco, incidentally) where this sort of behaviour was not uncommon.

                              The Racket core team, and people who closely work with Matthias, would be in a better position than us passerby’s (who know nothing but a few anecdotes) to fairly assess the facts of the matter.

                              1. 8

                                The Racket core team, and people who closely work with Matthias, would be in a better position than us passerby’s (who know nothing but a few anecdotes) to fairly assess the facts of the matter.

                                What facts are you disputing, exactly? In nearly every case of human-to-human problem it boils down to a proverbial “he-said, she-said” type argument. The “facts” here are, for sure, a one sided account of how Matthias’ actions made people feel. I’m certainly not in a position to assess this. But, I can acknowledge that there are many people who feel this way after interactions with Matthias and decide for myself whether or not I want to risk seeing this behavior first hand, or avoid it. (FWIW, I stopped contributing to Racket. Not because of Matthias directly, but there is definitely something in the air in that community, that I’ve never been able to articulate)

                                Butterick did not write a hit piece. People are, and will interpret it as that. His piece answered the question “Why did I leave the Racket Community?” and I think he fairly presented his side of things. I also trust him based on previous knowledge of him from years past. Matthias, if he feels so inclined, or other members of the Racket community should certainly present their side of the “argument” here, but that should never discount Butterick’s feelings, or reasoning for this. Butterick feels he was wronged, presented reasons for why he feels that way, and took actions he deemed necessary, resulting in him no longer contributing to the community (a great loss, honestly). Any interpretation beyond that, or other anecdotes are your responsibility to consider if you feel like it, or ignore if you don’t.

                                As a community, I hope that the discussion being had here is a wake up call. People are actively being discouraged from collaborating on the Racket project as a result of behavior stemming from it (I don’t think it’s only Matthias’ fault, fwiw). My guess is that nothing will change, and Racket will never ever meet its full potential outside of academia. This has never seemed to be a goal anyway, though, there has been mention of it, and it is certainly the case that members of the community would like this to change.

                                1. 0

                                  Matthias, if he feels so inclined, or other members of the Racket community should certainly present their side of the “argument” here, but that should never discount Butterick’s feelings, or reasoning for this. Butterick feels he was wronged, presented reasons for why he feels that way, and took actions he deemed necessary, resulting in him no longer contributing to the community (a great loss, honestly). Any interpretation beyond that, or other anecdotes are your responsibility to consider if you feel like it, or ignore if you don’t.

                                  Exactly my point. Butterick feels he was wronged; this much we know as facts of the matter (and there is no need to put the word in scare-quotes; I’m using it in its dictionary definition sense). What we don’t know, as facts, is whether Matthias is a ‘bully’ (your word) or, whether how Butterick feels is a result of “Matthias’ fault” (also, your words). The feelings of Butterick, you or me alone do not automatically establish Matthias to be ‘bully’ (as opposed to merely being stern, for instance). You are entitled to your opinion, of course … but whether that is in line with the facts of the matter or not (so as to use as a basis to make any genuinely positive changes in the Racket community) is a different thing entirely.

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                                    Matthias is a ‘bully’ (your word) or, whether how Butterick feels is a result of “Matthias’ fault” (also, your words).

                                    The actions of Matthias, and the inactions of the Racket Core Team (“Everyone just shrugged and moved on. I was encour­aged to do the same.”) are literally the reasons cited for Butterick’s moving on.

                                    The feelings of Butterick, you or me alone do not automatically establish Matthias to be ‘bully’ (as opposed to merely being stern, for instance).

                                    Right. But, the collective feelings of others, can certainly establish a pattern that we can look at. An Elementary school administrator might look past one isolated incident, of kid A pushing around kid B as almost hearsay. But, if kid B, kid C, kid D, kid E, kid F, and then a number of anonymous comment cards talk about being pushed around by kid A, it’s a bit harder to ignore, don’t you think? Even if that kid is top in his class, and in retrospect, “great at helping their fellow students succeed” – is the behavior somehow more excusable?

                                    Anyway, as kid Z in this fictional Elementary school, if I hear of all of these accounts, I’m going to be cautious about interacting with kid A.

                                    Incidentally, this is why a prosecution in a court system attempts to establish “patterns” of abuse in crimes against other humans. It’s a lot easier for a jury to believe an accuser’s side of the events when there’s a pattern of the same / similar behavior.

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                                      The feelings of Butterick, you or me alone do not automatically establish Matthias to be ‘bully’ (as opposed to merely being stern, for instance). You are entitled to your opinion, of course … but whether that is in line with the facts of the matter or not

                                      Felleisen has published an apology where he basically admitted to the bullying (as much as bullies ever do, anyway), so the facts aren’t in dispute.

                                  2. 2

                                    (Have you ever seen a victim describe their childhood bully this way?)

                                    I didn’t address this before, but have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

                                    1. 2

                                      I didn’t address this before, but have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

                                      At that link

                                      1. 2

                                        There’s no consensus on what “Stockholm Syndrome” is, but I bet you knew exactly what I was referring to when I wrote it…

                                      2. 2

                                        Your own link immediately notes that the research on Stockholm syndrome existing is severely lacking— and that the situation for which it is named does not match up with the purported effects.

                                        I know of several educators that made me react similarly to the reviewer: I honestly believe compassion is a better way to teach 100% of the time, but the ‘tough on students’ facade is effective for them too, so what do I know.

                                        1. 3

                                          No. Stockholm Syndrome does not directly apply to the situation, in so much as students are not being held captive by their teachers (under most circumstances!). The reason for bringing this up is that it is a related phenomenon (victim is apologetic / empathetic after trauma), however dubious it actually is.

                                          Relatedly: do you dismiss the cycle of domestic abuse, too?

                                          1. 3

                                            I don’t think it’s even a related phenomenon. I think the simplest solution is most likely. The student didn’t like his teaching style at the time, but when he looked back he saw that it was effective for him. There’s no trauma or brainwashing involved. This has happened to me many times before in many different contexts, some interpersonal, some personal.

                                            I’m not dismissing the existence of trauma bonding and PTSD, which I think is what you might have meant by Stockholm Syndrome. These are both serious, real things. I just thought that Stockholm Syndrome was a poor choice of armchair diagnosis, considering its dubious origins.

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                                              Keep in mind that the original discussion was about bullying, and that the answer to @srid’s direct question of “have you seen a victim describe their childhood bully this way?” Is what I was replying to, directly.

                                              The answer, is yes. Yes I have. Childhood bullies are great examples of situations in which there is often an eventual “the bully toughened me up,” in retrospect, and “I respect them, have empathy, etc, etc, etc.”

                                              This entire pattern of having empathy for abusers, and reminded me of “Stockholm Syndrome,” in which a similar pattern is purported.

                                              1. 1

                                                Oh I see, sorry. I thought you were saying the student was displaying signs of Stockholm syndrome. I haven’t really heard that line about bullies in real life ever, although I have seen it a lot in media (there was a whole anti-bullying craze, which might be where some of the ‘have empathy for bullies!’ rhetoric comes from). It’s a hazy line between ‘tough but wants the best out of you’ and ‘just an inconsiderate asshole’ that I think a lot of people cross without knowing. It’s probably better to not do the whole ‘tough but fair’ thing in the first place.

                                        2. 1

                                          This was exactly what leapt into my head when I read that paragraph.

                            2. 7

                              This is a very prominent figure in a public community. I just don’t want when people meet one of the authors of the Little Schemer to find a gigantic asshole. It makes the community look bad, and Matthias is more than capable of acting better. The other author, Dan Friedman, I should stress is one of the kindest, sweetest, thoughtful researchers I have ever met.

                              1. 7

                                This is a very prominent figure in a public community. I just don’t want when people meet one of the authors of the Little Schemer to find a gigantic asshole.

                                I’m not really a Scheme person; I played around with it for a bit several years ago and found it fun in insightful, but ultimate also found it hard to build actual actual programs in, so not really practical for me.

                                The Little Schemer, however, is easily my favourite programming book. It’s just fun, almost cheerful, and also quite good at actually teaching Scheme. A lot of books that try to be “fun” usually aren’t very good at actually teaching stuff, and books that are good at teaching stuff are usually a bit of a dry affair. Combing both effectively (and in such an unique way) is rare.

                                Programming books are not the best way to gauge the author’s personality, but it’s just so contrary to the impression I got from the book that I had to triple-check that this was really the same Matthias Felleisen and wasn’t somehow a confusing two people with similar names.

                                People are complex I guess 🤷

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                                  I think the style of presentation of the Little books is Friedman’s, as he’s written several other books in the series with other people like The Little Prover, The Reasoned Schemer and The Little Typer.

                                2. 4

                                  The other author, Dan Friedman, I should stress is one of the kindest, sweetest, thoughtful researchers I have ever met.

                                  I never met him personally, but he must be quite the guy. They held a conference in honor of him on his sixtieth birthday. Fun fact: the conference was colloquially known as DanFest.