1.  

    I’m confused and disappointed by the reactionary, defensive comments here. Who’s ranting or yelling? Is the author accusing someone of stupidity if they cannot understand complex comparison expressions?

    I’m not ashamed to admit we enforce this rule at work. It yields consistency and simplicity that is important for us to cut out unnecessary mental overhead during code review. Across dozens of contributors and hundreds of repositories, it makes a difference. And happily, not one person of our team has rejected the rule out of arrogance that they are “smart enough” to eschew it.

    I think of it this way: if someone has written a complex boolean expression that is deeply nested and mixes the and/or/not operations arbitrarily, I suggest they apply De Morgan’s laws and simplify the expression into a normal form. It isn’t that I cannot understand a complex, non-normalized expression—I don’t want to have to!

    That’s all this rule is, a normal form for comparisons.

    1.  

      The linked post contains the sentence

      This is such a nice way to express numbers I wonder why programming languages allow for the greater than sign ( > ) at all.

      If this isn’t indicative of a piece that’s more akin to a rant than a reasoned discussion, I don’t know what is.

      I fully support coding conventions that encourage consistent usage of range operators, but to go from there to actually removing a character from the ASCII set to address what is, in the grand scheme of things, a rather minor issue is pretty extreme.

      1.  

        I don’t see it as lengthy, impassioned, or angry. It meets exactly none of the criteria I would use to qualify ranting. It’s merely controversial.

    1. 3

      I used APL to write my solvers last year, but I didn’t complete the whole set. I’ve already gotten more than 25 coworkers to join my private leaderboard this year. We all use Clojure so that’s what I’ll be writing my solvers in this year (but I might solve them twice so I get a chance to code in APL again! 🤓)

      1. 6

        Trying to learn the basics of Clojure so that I can face the Advent of Code this year to use it! So far so good, one of the smoothest languages I have ever dived in.

        1. 3

          Nice! I’ll be doing AoC in Clojure this year as well. I’m pretty comfortably with it since we’ve been using it as one of our main application languages for the past 5 years or so. Newer members of the team don’t have that much experience with it yet, so I’m encouraging as many of them as I can to play along with me.

          1. 2

            Me too! We use Riemann at work and I rarely touch it, but whenever I do I come away thinking I need to get to know Clojure better.

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            Ethics are inseparable from technology, since technology enables and inhibits actions, which are subject to ethical consideration; ergo, the creation of technology is an set of actions subject to ethical judgements.

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              I’d go even further than that, attempting to exclude “ethics”, broadly construed, has helped to enable a social environment within technology circles that has legitimated a great deal of what people are now rightly reacting to, the surveillance, the effects the brain of using gambling machines as a design template for websites, the unwillingness of corporations to take any responsibility whatsoever for the effects that their products have on society at large, Uber (all of it), and on and on.

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                I agree with both of you. On the other hand, I also kinda see the point of wanting a space that’s focused in technical aspects, and understand OP’s fear of ethical/political discourse dominating this forum. And in the other other hand, I also feel that not speaking about the ethics of technologies, and actively discouraging this kind of discussion, is, in and of itself, a way of speaking about it, agreeing with it.

                So, yeah, that’s hard. I got no solutions.

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                  Regarding the “fear of ethical/political discourse dominating this forum”—I understand, but we wouldn’t have to have all of these discussions if people would just stop being unethical :-) The more discussions we have now on this topic, the fewer we’ll need to have in the future. But if we don’t talk about it then, as you point out, things are only going to get worse.

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                    I think there’s a bit of a difference between discussing the ethics of a company and aggressively attacking a person.

                    The main top comment raises some points and actually encourages discussion, which admittedly doesn’t really happen in that thread. A large portion of the top upvoted comments are people chiming in and (essentially) saying “me too”. The top comment responding to a maintainer is incredibly aggressive towards the maintainer who stepped forward, only tangentially relates to the parent comment, is arguably a personal attack against that person and discourages discussion through the tone. Yet it’s more upvoted than the technical comments below.

                    In addition. it’s easy to forget that there are people on the other side of these usernames. It reminds me quite a bit of This is Phil Fish, a case study on how people can associate people with something larger, sometimes in damaging ways. It’s not quite the same, but I see similar parallels in how the community tends to treat employees of certain companies (yes, like Palantir… but Google also comes to mind).

                    I’d like to see more comments that encourage discussion, like the most upvoted top-level comment, and less comments saying “me too”, “I agree with this”, or borderline attacking the poster, like the most upvoted response to the maintainer.

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                      The more discussions we have now on this topic, the fewer we’ll need to have in the future. But if we don’t talk about it then, as you point out, things are only going to get worse.

                      That’s an interesting theory. I haven’t seen any evidence to support it on any of the other discussion forums I’ve used, but I suppose it might be true somewhere. I think friendlysock’s take is more accurate: by encouraging (tolerating? normalizing?) aggressive and reflexive positions on non-technical issues, we will get more of them here, not less. And eventually, the “bad money” will drive out the good, just like it does everywhere.

                      1. 6

                        Indeed - I think we have a plethora of examples of politics taking over, and few (none?) of political discussion settling debate so that everyone can move on.

                      2. 8

                        The more discussions we have no on this topic, the fewer we’ll need to have in the future.

                        I disagree with this in so many ways. We cannot possibly come to some end resolution where everyone agrees on a certain set of ethics, and even if that magically happened, we cannot all agree on the best way to act upon those ethics. Political conversation already permeates way too much of society. I don’t need to see it in a forum for technical discussion. If we’re going to try to think of ways for technology to be abused, we’re not going to produce anything. Further, I think we’re totally dismissing all the great things that same technology has done and can continue to do because it can be abused. If someone wants feedback on their submission, I don’t personally want to see politically-oriented discussion around it in this particular forum.

                        If the broader group of folks here wants this to become a political-friendly abyss, I’m fine with stepping away. But I don’t get that feeling right now.

                      3. 3

                        This is basically my opinion, too.

                        (I haven’t posted more in this an the other meta threads this week because I’ve been very busy starting a new job, but as I’m catching up today I’ve really appreciated all the thoughtful discussion exploring these questions that don’t have easy answers.)

                    2. 36

                      I think you have a point here that is both truth and lacking utility, but may be getting upvotes because hey, who wouldn’t upvote ethics in technology?

                      Here are some of the practical issues with supporting debates about “ethics”.

                      First, what do we mean by “ethics”?

                      Are we just wanting to talk about right and wrong? That’s often a matter of aesthetics. When I was born, it was pretty commonly held that homosexual acts were Evil, that psychoactive drug usage was Corrupt, and that democracy was unquestionably Good. None of those things are unerringly true anymore.

                      You might say “But friendlysock, those are matters of morals, as opposed to organized systems of beliefs that are analyzed in the context of practicing agents!”, and I would agree. That being the case, what is the point of having discussions that end up going basically:

                      • “You’re immoral!”
                      • “No, you’re immoral!”
                      • “You both act in clear hypocrisy of your professed morals!”

                      That discussion leaves everybody angry, takes up a lot of space, and doesn’t teach anybody anything. Worse, it breaks the operating regime of the site, because people will inevitably just blindly upvote the folks whose aesthetic matches theirs, and downvote or flag those that don’t–or worse, devolve into namecalling.

                      Okay, well, what about big-E Ethics?

                      So, we skip out on thinly-veiled callout threads and we’re just gonna limit ourselves to talking about big-E Ethics. Academic/philosopher stuff like meta-ethics and normative ethics and subtopics like utilitarianism and virtue ethics and state consequentialism and so forth.

                      And those are really fun topics. We have problems with those as the basis for subthreads though:

                      • Hardcore philosophy (despite our having a tag by that name, since that usage is looser) is off-topic.
                      • Most users (myself included!) are completely underskilled to talk big-E Ethics without a lot of clarifying back-and-forth and education in threads. Even assuming we have the skill to do all of that in a subthread (we don’t) and that we avoid falling back into moralizing (we won’t), such conversations suck all of the air out of the room for the technical discussion. That Palantir thread had us scrolling to the very bottom to get anything involving code or tech.
                      • We’re gonna end up having the same discussions over and over again, as the big-E Ethics questions are, rather famously, undecidable.

                      Okay, fine, what about professional ethics?

                      Sure! If people want to talk about how a given thing violates professional ethics, then I think that is healthy. Here is the ACM Code of Ethics. Use that as a starting point in a subthread.

                      Note though that we still don’t have professional organizations in the sense of, say, Professional Engineers. Our profession isn’t organized enough for that. So, talking about “professional” ethics is kinda hard.

                      ~

                      Overall, I just don’t think that the “ethics” discussions are what people are actually after here. I think people want to callout and shit on other folks, and that they want to show to their friends solidarity in an aesthetic. This damages one of the only good venues for safe technical discussion on the ’net today.

                      And I won’t stand for that.

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                        I would, gently, point out that adjucating morals to aesthetics (the study of beauty, and of which the current post-Romantic admits a separate aesthetic for each individual) is not a stance that is particularly admirable.

                        Simply keeping “Lobsters about tech” is a big E ethics decision, with ramifications that ripple out.

                        If you want to demand that people treat other people well, that is a stable ethical choice that is supportable and relatively decidable.

                        ~

                        But to be clear, working for Palantir - or other major enabler of violence & repression that generates widespread sideeye, is both a technical and an ethical choice; pointing this out and pushing back against consuming technical material from such an enabler seems perfectly reasonable.

                        We can debate whether working for Palantir is ethical - it probably also enables benefits to LEOs working complex cases and addressing real social harm. Many times on other social media sites, employees of ethically tangled companies will comment and discuss the complexity and reality of working in these environments. There is a very real debate, it’s not an open and shut thing where some group of activists come in and screams.

                        I reiterate: technology and ethics are intertwingled. While some contexts are more neutral than others, very few are pure neutral.

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                          @pnathan I didn’t want to wade into this muck, but you seem genuine. In my mind is not whether debates about ethics is good or bad, but rather what is lobste.rs for? There are PLENTY of places on this big internet to get on a soapbox and yell about whatever gets your goat. I want a quiet corner where I can just read about technical things. Code, decisions behind code, some PLT, some math and the occasional bit of humor. Perhaps the people here saying, well Kaushik, its time to go away somewhere else because that’s not what lobste.rs is for any more, and I will join the stragglers as we exit out of yet another refuge inundated by the loud and obnoxious soap box crowd.

                          1. 10

                            I’m 100% with you here. I see way too much soap boxing and bickering pretty much everywhere else on the internet. This was a safe haven for technical discussion without the political theater. If it’s going to become that, I’ll be happy to leave and try to form yet another community where we are trying to avoid this kind of stuff.

                            1. -2

                              leave and try to form yet another community where we are trying to avoid this kind of stuff

                              I’ll wager that ethical questions will inevitably follow you there, as they are inextricably part of the human experience, whether or not the primary topic is tech.

                              1. 4

                                I’m not trying to avoid them entirely, I just want a forum for technical discussion. Not everything has to be polluted with other topics and agendas

                                1. 1

                                  You might find the more focused discussion you seek in a special-interest forum. General-interest fora will attract general topics of conversation.

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                                    Lobsters has been that forum for me until recently.

                                    1. 0

                                      That’s interesting. I hear many voices in this thread expressing the same. I never saw this website as something like that, I just saw it as a place where some relatively niche computing topics are aggregated.

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                                        You’re also relatively new here compared to some of us, so that probably feeds into it. The site has grown quite a bit since I joined.

                                        1. 1

                                          I was reading this website for a long while before I got an invitation, but it is fair to say my account history is relatively new. When I started reading, most posts seemed to get an average of 1 or 2 comments. It’s hard for me to reconcile this—some folks are lamenting that recent discussions are not in keeping with the historical tone of the site, but the site has been historically silent on most topics.

                                          1. 5

                                            Try looking at it from a different perspective. Perhaps the absolute level of good quality comments hasn’t moved too much, but perhaps the absolute level of low quality comments has increased. If that’s true, it increases the signal-to-noise ratio and can lead to the “we used to have more good quality content here” observation.

                                            1. 2

                                              I was being very generous with the comment count. Even today, when I posted that comment, half of the front page articles had zero comments. Perhaps the signal level is just too low to begin with. Maybe there’s no consensus on what the signal is.

                            2. 4

                              you seem genuine

                              That’s one of the nicest things someone not my wife has said to me for some time. :) Thank you.

                              My basic thought is that I also want a corner where we can seriously talk about highly technical things, but we should be aware and also talk about the broader ramifications of our work, because we have the technical background to get the implications of our work and be correct about how it works, and to talk about the ethical implications of how a specific capability works/doesn’t work (whereas I have deep suspicions of an arbitrary op-ed columnist whinging about tech and begging for regulation).

                              To ask for a soapbox free zone seems completely ok - to ask for an ethics-free zone is an ethical choice that selects for specific social choices (as non-obvious as that may seem). To be specific: I’m not sure discussing the ethics of a new compiler gets us anywhere, but if its produced by Dr. Evilheart Murder Enterprises, maybe we need to discuss if using it supports D.E.M.E., and if we can redeem the technology from its production in the context of D,E.M.E. I don’t think that this is some lefty social justice agenda I’m asking for…. Maybe I’m wrong.

                            3. 12

                              I acknowledge the intertwingling, abstractly. But it seems you’re not addressing friendlysock’s actual concern. Is an announcement thread by a new user who happens to be the maintainer of an open source project an appropriate place to have the “very real debate” about whether working for that person’s employer is an ethical choice? When a commenter on that post engages in a blatant personal attack and is rewarded with upvotes aplenty, is the “very real debate” being furthered?

                              1. 10

                                I would say so: it’s an opportunity for the software developers of Palatir to make a case that they are acting in an ethical fashion, that the world is complex and they are producing a net good. When I worked for a Famously Bad Reputation company, we were encouraged to defend the company. This would have definitely been a place where the maintainer could have defended themselves - if company policy allowed, of course.

                                One of the interesting bits of social psych is conformity matters. If the general community shuns X group, to the point where its a permanent black mark on the record generating firings/no-hirings and it’s not something anyone is comfortable around at church, marrying family members, etc, then the X group diminishes into the fringe. Whether you are conservative or liberal, you wind up having a conformity and a social order. I’m not personally sure where to draw that line and place the mark, but Palantir is a popular target for placing that mark.

                              2. 8

                                I would, gently, point out that adjucating morals to aesthetics (the study of beauty, and of which the current post-Romantic admits a separate aesthetic for each individual) is not a stance that is particularly admirable.

                                Why not? There’s a huge variation in morality within our own culture, let alone looking across cultures. You can find people that believe that it’s immoral for two people with the same groin-endianness to get married, and others who think that it’s immoral for to accumulate a large amount of money. You have people who think that allowing dictators to abuse their people is immoral, and others who think that intervention is a bigger evil. You have people who think that it’s important to protect the freedom of users with copyleft licenses, and people who think that copyleft immorally restricts commercial use of software. You have fights between which supposedly divinely inspired book written thousands of years ago by uneducated sheep herders/traders/warriors/… is the primary authority on how to live your life. The list goes on, and all of them have people who believe one thing or the other.

                                The shifting scene of prevailing ethical thought really does make it more like aesthetics than people are often comfortable admitting. Yes, it has longer term effects on people’s lives, and yes, it’s got some underlying principles, but it’s certainly not some sort of fixed beacon of truth.

                                Why do you think that there is a universal set of ethics that people subscribe to? And if you don’t, do you really want this site to be either the battleground for deciding this, or a community of yes-men who boringly signal that yes, they are indeed a part of the in-group?

                                There are lots of valid and interesting discussions to have on these topics, but to me, they detract from lobste.rs.

                              3. 2

                                The book that revived virtue ethics as a viable project, MacIntyre’s After Virtue, points out how (and explains why) contemporary ethical debates have a peculiarly shrill and interminable character.

                                1. 2

                                  This is a weird use of “aesthetics”. I don’t really know what you’re trying to say.

                                  1. 2

                                    I read “aesthetics” as, roughly, “something that a group of people has decided to call ‘basic human decency’, with the various external trappings this entails”.

                                2. 21

                                  Yet I somehow suspect if I ask “What are the ethical implications of creating a webassembly backend for ocaml?” that I won’t receive quite as many upvotes.

                                  1. 6

                                    If the answer to the question “What is it built for?” is “for missile guidance systems”, we are in a different territory pretty quickly, though! Nothing technology lives without context.

                                    To turn this into something more tangible: when DARPA invested around 10 million for https://c2rust.com/, it definitely raised some eyebrows and sparked a couple of discussions.

                                    1. 9

                                      ARPA/military were behind the Internet, GPS, Tor, and (via defense contractors) majority of contributions to Linux kernel. Yet, most people discuss them without warnings or ethical debates in threads.

                                      It’s just specific things that are also talking points in liberal media.

                                      1. 2

                                        You are making it seem like these things have not been discussed, which is definitely not the case. Also, we’re not liberal media, we’re a community.

                                        1. 2

                                          Most of the statements read like they were pulled out of the liberal media. Pop-culture politics. People that actually care about popular politics here, say inclusion of under-represented groups, would have people from those groups, esp women, in the main teams (eg Rust compiler/libraries), be submitting work from such underrepresented people here to Lobsters instead of white/asian males, linking to write-ups by the same in the comments, and so on. There’s just one or two people doing that consistently off the top of my head.

                                          Inclusive politics here mainly equals writing comments and language policing to such people, not actually highlighting work by or bringing in underrepresented. Aka what they’d do if it really mattered. Same with employers, eco-friendliness, etc where someone could call out an OP in the majority of threads every day about the ethical ramifications of what they’re submitting. They only do on specific, popular, talking points, though.

                                          I make an exception for you since your community work probably does a lot of good in inclusion. A lot of good period. On Lobsters, though, most people voting for prioritizing politics for social justice certainly aren’t boosting minorities or even ethical suppliers. So, I call BS on it really mattering to them past ego value from social signaling, virtue and shaming.

                                      2. 9

                                        So if somebody builds a webassembly backend for missile guidance and puts it on github, is it ethical to use it for protein folding research? Or is it forever tainted?

                                        1. 1

                                          That’s a different question, and yes, it’s an interesting one. It’s also not like things on Github are just there. They still have a maintainer, a hosting organisation, and a leadership.

                                      3. 2

                                        Thats a cute non-sequitur, given that no one is inserting ethical implications into things like that. Seeing as this thread was sparked by the discussion around the ethical implications of software labor being used to further the work of a surveillance contractor, its not just a worthless message-board retort, its actively muddying the waters around issues that are inseparable from ethical questions.

                                      4. 18

                                        You’ve got to go about asking these questions in a way that actually enables the OP to respond. Instead, we got a massively passive-aggressive jab at the OP’s company:

                                        I guess it may be possible to work at a seedy company and still do good stuff […] Regardless, thanks for releasing this as free software.

                                        After which, the top commenter is hailed as a hero, and, to no one’s surprise, the OP didn’t respond.

                                        A reword that might have actually elicited a response might have started with “Thanks for releasing this as free software!” rather than the “yeah, your company sucks, but thanks anyway” angle.

                                        1. 9

                                          the creation of technology is an set of actions subject to ethical judgements

                                          Assuming that it is true - is it possible to have a small place (e.g. lobste.rs) which is for discussing technology without ethical implications and all the rest of the net for discussing whatever you want (also ethical aspects of technology)? Is this something you can imagine being possible or do you think that such place can’t exist? (this is a serious question)

                                          1. 32

                                            That’s certainly an important question.

                                            I think that it’s certainly possible to mention technology without explicitly mentioning ethics. I also think that engaging in that way is an ethical position. You can separate them at the surface level of discussion, but not in the substance.

                                            That said, I can certainly imagine a community in which technology is discussed but ethics is never explicitly mentioned. I would not want to be part of such a community; I would find it deeply unsettling. I do think that some people might like it, and there are a variety of reasons for that and I wouldn’t want to make assumptions about any particular person’s reasons.

                                            1. 7

                                              I think the problem with ethical discussions on a technical forum is that there’s not really a shared basis for those discussions. We might have a bunch of members from various religions and cultures who subscribe to widely different ideological frameworks and ethical principles. These different backgrounds are likely to be incommensurate, incompatible, and irresolvable.

                                              In that way it’s similar to discussions like “Are static types good or evil?” or the famous editor wars—so called “religious flame wars” which are known to ruin communities if left to fester.

                                              So indeed it is a kind of ethical decision about the norms of the community—whether ethical claims and disagreements ought to be encouraged in comment threads. There are pretty good reasons against.

                                              Let’s say I’m a committed socialist or communist or anarchist. There are many such people who are programmers. Now I have very good reason to enter threads about commercial activity and ask the involved people to justify their clearly immoral participation in the tyrannical, plutocratic, deeply unjust system of capitalism. I would of course encounter a bunch of dirty capitalist apologists trying to argue against my ethical position… and we could go on for a long time… almost certainly to the detriment of the community.

                                              1. 5

                                                “I think the problem with ethical discussions on a technical forum is that there’s not really a shared basis for those discussions. We might have a bunch of members from various religions and cultures who subscribe to widely different ideological frameworks and ethical principles. These different backgrounds are likely to be incommensurate, incompatible, and irresolvable.”

                                                You nailed it. That isn’t hypothetical: it happens in every political thread. The ending, minus rare exceptions, is everyone ends up believing what they already believed with some shunning their opponents in some way. Lobsters doesn’t work for political discussion that’s about actually changing people’s mind.

                                                Of course, many of you are starting with the foundation that people wanting politics want a political discussion. They mostly don’t as evidenced by their comments in such threads. If you’re curious, I just described here the evolution of politics and behavioral patterns on this site from when I first came to where we’re at now. Given the same environment, political discussion is and will continue to be impossible because the dominant group intends for it to be. They want compliance and conversion, not discussion.

                                                1. 3

                                                  I don’t necessarily know that changing people’s minds should be the goal, but I also don’t know that it’s impossible. I think you’re describing what happens when everyone reacts defensively. It’s indeed not possible to change someone’s mind if they aren’t willing to open up and have a real conversation, so I wish the world in general would be more open to interacting in ways that aren’t so resistant to real dialogue.

                                                  I’m an optimist, and I believe that when people try, they can engage with the goal of at least leaving each other with something to think about.

                                            2. 6

                                              I’ll suggest this (mainly tongue-in-cheek) but it might be a good solution: for every submission provide another link next to ‘reply’ called ‘ethics-reply.’ The links go to two separate discussion areas. That way, people can dip into the tech or ethics discussions as they like.

                                              1. 6

                                                If such a place did exist, I think you’d have trouble finding a lot of people who would want to hang out there. I’ll just jump immediately to the most extreme possible example: if someone posted an article about the technology used by the Nazis to organize the Holocaust, but discussing the attendant ethics was strictly forbidden, would you be happy participating in that discussion? Would you want to spend a lot of time talking to other people who would be happy participating in that discussion?

                                                1. 14

                                                  if someone posted an article about the technology used by the Nazis to organize the Holocaust, but discussing the attendant ethics was strictly forbidden, would you be happy participating in that discussion?

                                                  I am a jew who was raised by holocaust survivors. My answer is yes. In fact, I think it’s the only way that one could have a discussion about the technology used by the Nazis that wasn’t immediately dragged off topic.

                                                  And, honestly, an ethical discussion would either be abhorrent or boring, since a vibrant discussion implies a difference of opinion, and anyone who has significant differences in belief with me on the ethics of systematic mass murder is someone that I don’t expect to have a productive discussion with.

                                                  1. 12

                                                    Yes to both, to be honest. I did a bit of research for a point the other day, and something occurred to me.

                                                    Technology, especially computing, is all about solving problems at scale and efficiently. For the most part of the 19th and 20th centuries, the domains that actually had the scale to justify theoretical work and practical development tended overwhelmingly towards things like military applications (standing armies tending to be some of the largest organized groups around) and demographics/census/taxcollecting work.

                                                    For better or worse, note that IBM was really good at tabulating census data, something that the Nazis took advantage of. I personally would be happy talking about techniques for tabulating that data and managing it, in hopes that it could be applied to more positive uses. Similarly, I’d be happy to learn about rocketry from von Braun, even though most of what he learned he learned by dropping explosives on British civilians.

                                                    1. 5

                                                      Let’s take the specifics. Is Palantir stuff that remarkable to be worth the inevitable fallout in the comments and personal ethical compromises? Is it really that seminal and groundbreaking?

                                                      It is a dilemma when we talk about say an SS officer who also happened to run the US Moon programme. But Palantir is adtech’s meaner sibling, what is there that makes it worth picking the turd pile?

                                                      1. 9

                                                        The drop in the level of technical discussion is the issue, not the company being discussed. I’d prefer to let posts on unethical companies die in silence, rather than make this site a worse place to discuss technology.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          Another reason is highlighting the bad gives you less time to create the good. Most people that care can look up a company to see if there’s anything messed up. The bad or at least going with the flow are also the majority. If we’re talking companies, I’d rather people put more effort into highlighting ethical ones with useful tech or products. Basically, anything that can be a fit here on technical grounds with them also mentioning in a comment that the person, company, product, etc is good/beneficial for (reasons here). Maybe they mention some bad examples with it if trying to shame companies. Just optimize to promote more tech and examples of public benefit over just calling out bad companies who are the perpetual default.

                                                          Easy example: Prgmr.com over Digital Ocean, AWS, Google, or Azure if fits use case due to ‘straight-forward offerings, great service, some nice people, and freely hosting an excellent site for deep, technical discussion.” The submission might even be about something else entirely that’s merely hosted on the ethical product/service. Then, they add a quick note about it that barely distracts from the focus on technical content. Just all flows together for the reader.

                                                        2. 8

                                                          the inevitable fallout in the comments

                                                          The fallout is not “inevitable” - it is not a force majeure. Actual, specific, individuals CHOOSE to make it about the “ethics”. You’re asking people to appease these individuals.

                                                        3. 2

                                                          Would you be also ok to discuss methods of performing deadly medical experiments on people with Nazi concentration camps staff? Would you be ok to advise them how to improve the scale and speed? Would you still want to keep such discussions ethics-free? How about diacussing effectiveness of guns with the Zodiac Killer? Or advising Ted Kaczynski on bombs?

                                                          edit: Please note my intention here is not to seed outrage; I’m sincerely interested in your answer, as I find it hard to imagine setting really no ethics limits, so I’m curious to gauge where would you actually set them? Or would you really want no limits?

                                                          1. 6

                                                            I’ll pick on your first example, because I don’t see benefit in addressing the others (I read you as making the same category of point, with those added for emphasis).

                                                            Would you be also ok to discuss methods of performing deadly medical experiments on people with Nazi concentration camps staff? Would you be ok to advise them how to improve the scale and speed?

                                                            Let me turn that around on you:

                                                            Would you prefer they do them inefficiently, if you knew they were going to do them regardless? Would you prefer that the innocent lives lost in the nominal science of these experiments be done in vain because somebody screwed up their data collection? Would you prefer that, for the same data, they use extra prisoners because they suck at statistical power analysis?

                                                            I don’t support immoral behavior, such as mass murder and torture. I do recognize that whether such things are legally or ethically permissible (again, not morally) is something that transcends individual opinion, and that where those acts fall is a function of the zeitgeist of the times. Sloppy engineering, science, and math will always be sloppy, aesthetics of the time be damned.

                                                            We can’t get to identifying and fixing/discouraging/pillorying that sloppy behavior if we can’t engage with it. We can’t even get close enough to try and reclaim those lost souls if we can’t engage with them on (nominally objective) material civilly.

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                                                              Thanks for the interesting reply! So, I think in shortest words I could express what I think about this the following way: I would indeed prefer for them to do this ineffectively - I’d say that is the principle behind sabotage. As far as I know, sabotage works. And that’s indeed what I’d hope to be able to say I’m doing against actions I believe to be significantly unethical. (Though trying to keep my own integrity in means employed to that end.)

                                                              1. 9

                                                                I’m not sure sabotage always works the way one hopes. When you destroy the results of human experimentation, the data is recreated by repeating the experiments on a new set of humans. That seems like a bad outcome for those involved.

                                                                I think the problem is we too often define success as hurting the bad people, and yes sabotage hurts them, but we too should consider the collateral damage of our actions.

                                                                1. 6

                                                                  It’s not about hurting bad people. It’s about making their evil work harder and less efficient at actually hurting good people, while also trying to convince evildoers to not do the evil in the first place, and preferably do good instead and thus become good people. If doing evil is easy for them, it won’t make them do less of it, but rather more of it. They will always invent new experiments to do on a new set of humans anyway. Appeasement policy did not work on the onset of WW2. A bully must be stopped, not let continue the bullying. A child doing bad things must be reprimanded and informed/educated about bad consequences of their deeds, not spoiled.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    Well put.

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                                                            if someone posted an article about the technology used by the Nazis to organize the Holocaust, but discussing the attendant ethics was strictly forbidden, would you be happy participating in that discussion?

                                                            Interesting example - you are asking if I would be interested in (discussing) e.g. technological aspects of IBM products around Second World War. Yes, this might be very interesting. I can also imagine other Nazi tech related topics that I wouldn’t find interesting (but see no reason for others not to be interested in) and in such cases I would use the hide button. Hopefully such place wouldn’t be all war tech from Nazi Germany or modern day USA ;)

                                                            1. 4

                                                              I would absolutely be hanging out there. That was kind of how this place has been for the most part.

                                                              As to your question about Nazis, yes I would want to discuss the technology, and I’d be happy to discuss it with people in those threads. If it were completely neutral politically, there is the potential to have great technical discussion.

                                                              1. 3

                                                                I think you’d have trouble finding a lot of people who would want to hang out there

                                                                I agree, but that’s not a bad thing, is it? This is not some sort of mass movement.

                                                              2. 0

                                                                s it possible to have a small place (e.g. lobste.rs) which is for discussing technology without ethical implications and all the rest of the net for discussing whatever you want

                                                                No. Even if it were, this would not be it.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  Even if it were, this would not be it.

                                                                  How do you know this?

                                                                  1. 0

                                                                    Because this site is full of intelligent people.

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                                                                      Ah. You’re implying that “discussing technology without ethical implications” is exclusive to stupid people. Do I understand you correctly?

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        I’m chewing on my keyboard right now!

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          Discussing technology without coming up against ethical issues is impossible. I don’t think intelligent people would just skirt around them when they come up.

                                                                2. 5

                                                                  Do you have an example of an action that would not be subject to ethical judgements? In trying to understand your claim, but I don’t sufficiently understand the definitions you’re using to determine whether you’ve made a falsifiable statement or not. Will you spend a little time describing the limits of your statement or what empirical observations support it?

                                                                  1. 6

                                                                    I would argue that there is a class of actions, e.g., selecting one knife over another in the kitchen for cooking, that has neither inherent ethic or no ethical consequence. Now, the ethic selected for consideration will affect whether you consider something to be of consequence. If, e.g., there is an ethical judgment on the Proper Utensils To Use, then that becomes of ethical consequence. Generally, societies consider actions such as killing adult humans to have inherent ethics.

                                                                    Suppose we choose gcc or clang - then you are supporting, ever so mildly, one development philosophy & license over another. Those licenses are widely considered to have ethical entailments. The FSF has very strong ethical stances about licensing.

                                                                    Now, with respect to empirical observations, I suggest weapons systems: they are an obvious technology which carries ethical implications. Other technology might be: AirBNB (affects housing), Uber (affects taxi operators), factory robots (replaces factory workers). Each of those affects jobs and thus the ability of many members of society to be fed and housed, a clear ethical question.

                                                                    I hope those presents samples that adequately points towards the answer you are looking for.

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                                                                      I would argue that there is a class of actions, e.g., selecting one knife over another in the kitchen for cooking, that has neither inherent ethic or no ethical consequence.

                                                                      Interesting. Why do you believe that the methods that knife companies use to exploit their workers and the labor conditions of their employees would not be something to discuss? Do you believe that the environmental implications of importing knives from China rather than buying them locally has no ethical impact? What about the historical implications of Western expansion and influence in Japan, and the resulting western style Gyuto knives supplanting Sujihiki style kitchen knives? In fact, not only are there ethical implications, there are deep historical forces involved in your selection of kitchen knives.

                                                                      Of course there are ethical considerations in picking kitchen knives. But you might not want someone to bring them up every time you try to discuss paring potatoes, because they may be considered to be off topic by some.

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                                                                        Ah, this is the problem with language: I was contemplating grabbing one knife out of my kitchen bin versus another. “Selection” is a polymorphic verb over multiple objects dispatching… and yes, actual purchasing of knives exercises an ethical choice regarding the supply chain and who gets my infinitesimally small dollar choice.

                                                                        It’s a bit tiring, as a friend said to me once, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism(even if you disagree with my Lefty friend there, you can get the spirit of the statement) - sometimes you do just need to get the Thing done. One has to care the appropriate amount, and respond in the proportional manner.

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                                                                          there is no ethical consumption under capitalism

                                                                          I’d go one step further: There’s no such thing as an unquestionably ethical action. The economic model doesn’t matter – everything is an ethical trade off. With that realization, it becomes clear that ethical debates can be shoehorned in anywhere, which is why a space where discussions on ethics are deemed off topic can be valuable.

                                                                          (Edit) High quality discussion on ethics would be interesting, but quality is subjective, and discussions are prone to turn into flame wars and shaming, especially in today’s internet climate, so I’d rather have them declared off topic, at least in this little corner.

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                                                                            If politics is encouraged in every applicable thread (it is now) and I wanted to join that practice (I don’t), I could be calling folks out in many (sometimes most) threads here each day on ethics around employers, code maintenance, energy use, disposable products causing environmental harm, using tech that’s non-inclusive cuz few understand it or CPU/RAM requirements price out the poor, and so on. It would be ridiculous even when true since it distracts so much from the kinds of technical submissions that brought many people to Lobsters in the first place. Especially those actually building interesting stuff vs just submitting.

                                                                            It’s why I was for either ban on politics or a tag so it would be in specific threads folks could filter. Both got shot down. Here we are.

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                                                                    You’re absolutely correct.

                                                                    Hell, Portland State University’s CS program even has a requirement class “CS 305 Social, Ethical, and Legal Implications of Computing”[0]. I suspect this is not an anomoly..

                                                                    1. https://www.pdx.edu/computer-science/cs305
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                                                                    Disclaimer: I’m one of the newest users here, so if my ideas about what’s on-topic don’t line up with the community’s, I understand that that indicates that I should move on, not that the community should change to suit me :-)

                                                                    How do you think the person who submitted this neat project feels when only a tiny fraction of the replies to their submission even talk about it?

                                                                    That person probably feels pretty bummed out about the lack of technical discussion. I understand and empathize with their disappointment. But I’m surprised that a discussion of the broader context around the submission would be considered off-topic. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

                                                                    We’ve seen throughout history that people who are willing to act unethically have an advantage over those who aren’t. Pragmatically, the main things preventing companies from behaving unethically or immorally are the threat of legal repercussions, the consciences of their employees, and the criticism of the general public. You could summarize the latter two as “shame,” and if our venue prohibits that mechanism then we’re effectively siding with the companies that are willing to get ahead at any cost.

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                                                                      Allowing moral policing in comments creates an environment where technical posts and discussion (the lifeblood and differentiator of lobste.rs) will suffer. Two ways this happens include:

                                                                      1. It discourages people from submitting interesting technical projects due to potential backlash. I wouldn’t want to miss out on good technical discussion.

                                                                      2. It discourages comments and discussion about the project. If the top comment has 95 upvotes and takes up 10 pages of scrolling, it will make it harder to justify commenting on the project technically. If I post, will anyone see it anyway?

                                                                      A deterioration in the quality of technical discussion will lead to users who care only about the technical content leaving, and thus further deterioration of content.

                                                                      Whatever your personal views are, I encourage everyone to take a moral nihilistic stance when it comes to making comments here. There are plenty of places to discuss morals, ethics, and politics on the internet, and turning Lobsters into yet another one of these rather than the best place to find and discuss technical articles on the internet would be a loss.

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                                                                        Moreover, articles on HN/reddit are usually a super set of what’s here. If an article appears here that you would like to make a political comment on, finding the same article on one of the other sites and joining in the discussion should not be too onerous.

                                                                        Of course, that robs those with a strong desire to proselytize of a potential audience so is unlikely to be welcomed.

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                                                                        But I’m surprised that a discussion of the broader context around the submission would be considered off-topic. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

                                                                        The “broader context” discussion starts with tangents and gets only worse from there. That’s why the SNR on HN is so low, and that’s why I barely read HN.

                                                                        When I joined lobsters, the unwritten rule was that the focus is (almost) exclusively on technical content. Maybe I imagined that rule? The way it was enforced was with relevant technical tags (and a bit of activism, not unlike what sock is doing here), but once you get broad enough tags (culture, practices, …) it’s bound to get out of hand. Worse yet, comments aren’t tagged like submissions so there was never a mechanism for enforcing on-topic technical discourse. So that’s getting out of hand too, as more people engage tangents. And now I’m seeing more and more people who think that anything they upvote or anything they find interesting belongs on the site. IDK what to think.

                                                                        1. 13

                                                                          When I joined lobsters, the unwritten rule was that the focus is (almost) exclusively on technical content.

                                                                          Even if that’s no longer the case now - I’d certainly like that to become a rule (written or not).

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            I’d prefer not. Pure technical content is sterile and boring. Read a textbook or subscribe to a journal if that’s your bag.

                                                                            Technology is only interesting and valuable to humanity where it impacts and has interactions with the humanities.

                                                                        2. 1

                                                                          Although I understand the fact, that its difficult to judge something without context, I also wish I knew where to draw the line of how broad or narrow the context can be discussed. I don’t think that it is even really possible when it comes to convictions and beliefs that are mostly subjective.

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                                                                          I’d recommend those considering this proposal to study the history of metafilter.com. Initially open for anyone to register, the site owners experienced problems scaling community management and temporarily suspended creation of any new accounts. When registrations resumed, new accounts costed a $5 signup fee. Site “meta” discussions were moved to a dedicated subsite. Most significantly, they employed a staff of paid moderators.

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                                                                            And MetaFilter is one of the best damn sites on the net, after all these years. I would pay $5 dollars for a Lobsters account. What we don’t want is to end up like slashdot. holy hell.

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              I agree, but I don’t think this site is in danger of falling that low. Slashdot enables the problem by allowing anonymous posts. They were able to handle it with a dedicated moderator community, but it seems as if no one is at the helm now.

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                                                                            I’m sorry to bring this up, and it’s probably considered off-topic here on Lobsters, so feel free to flag this.

                                                                            I know that OpenBSD and SQLite and lots of great pieces of software have been funded by the US military, and computing and military have a long and complicated relationship, but where do we as developers draw the line as to whom we are willing to accept contributions from?

                                                                            This is from Palantir, the company providing the technology for Trump’s deportation machine. I don’t think that this is a black/white issue, and I guess it may be possible to work at a seedy company and still do good stuff. But the docs include a FlightSearch example; is that really appropriate given the context?

                                                                            Regardless, thanks for releasing this as free software.

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                                                                              Thank you very much for saying it. I think making sure these ethical topics aren’t ignored is the very least we all have a responsibility to do. It’s also entirely possible that there are people here who didn’t know about it, so it’s always worth saying.

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                                                                                Thank you for saying this. I’m troubled by the cavalier attitude of techies toward ethics lately, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

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                                                                                  I don’t think a forum where this response is off-topic is worth participating in. The tech industry spends too little time thinking about the ethical implications of it’s products.

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                                                                                    Even today, we debate the ethics of using the data gathered from unethical experiments in WW2.

                                                                                    I agree that there is a massive ethical issue working for Palatir - and I am not sure it’s ethical to use the work they have produced. Particularly if it’s a Swagger-like clone not yielding substantive value to humanity.

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                                                                                      While we’re at it, you probably typed that on a machine made by highly-exploited workers in a corrupt country that does far worse, added to the lake in the process, probably paid a surveillance-enabling company in a police state to send it over the network, and possibly wearing clothes made by kids in a sweatshop. And you did all this to get online suggesting moral folks maybe shouldn’t contribute to a HTTP/JSON thing that’s open source since a bad company might misuse [more] open source. Seems hypocritical to me.

                                                                                      Where to we draw the line on how our consumption and contribution harms or helps others? And do you regularly do that for every product and service you buy? Most of them? Have you been active in government on laws, treaties, court cases, etc? The stuff that stops things like you describe. Or just some quick, social signaling on Lobsters getting feel-good points? If you care, I encourage you to put time into legal reform or bootstrapping alternatives to each of the things I mentioned. Maybe make for better opportunities for immigrants in whatever your country is, too. Maybe host some coding bootcamps or something for those in the slums. What you’re doing here is adding to the noise but not helping Trump’s victims or your country’s immigrants in any way.

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                                                                                        I feel like this is a great example of whataboutism.

                                                                                        I think that if this approach was applied to tech, we’d never fix a bug because “what about the other bugs that could crash the app, this is just virtue signaling because physical compromise means game over”. Why fix a bug when you can say “What about the terrible state of security education in general, why fix a security bug when developers are just adding more?”

                                                                                        It’s ok to make a judgement call and improve one thing in this messy world. It’s ok to try and reduce your footprint/total harm while hypocritically still participating in the system that feeds you. In fact that’s sort of core to improving those systems in a democracy.

                                                                                        Sorry if I misinterpreted your statement, I greatly enjoy your comments across the internet.

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                                                                                          Whataboutism is a common reply on HN or Lobsters when a popular group decries their outgroup’s activities, third party points out their actions are contrary to their own beliefs, adds that the biases indicate they’re scoring political points rather than really care, and someone pops in to say third party is whataboutism to silence those views. Thing is, whatever 3rd party brings up is almost never on these forums, getting crowd support, or whatever. Always absent. Rather than likely-intended purpose, the whataboutism claim just reinforces specific types of people supporting/rejecting specific activities by silencing dissenters. I mean, if commenter really cares about Trump’s horrors or not contributing to evil organizations, why the hell are they funding evil, slaving companies to buy toys to spend so much time on the programming projects? So, they probably don’t care or are acting like it now. Then, I do to them as they do to others.

                                                                                          Far as what I’m doing, I’ll tell you straight up. There’s been an increase over time of political comments that are about shaming people into behaving certain ways for a perceived, social good. Almost all of them are coming from hypocrits and/or slactivists. I mean, they’re talking on a forum no politician reads with low views. It’s not going to change Palantir’s or Trump’s practices. They know they avoiding stuff that can get results to spend time on Internet forums. So, they’re just getting an emotional high off attacking their opponents, looking like they’re responsible, or getting meaningless votes from people that agree with them. They also tie up our threads with that shit. So, as a real activist doing real-world work, I just call out their selfish, hypocritical bullshit to (a) deter more comments like that here and/or (b) encourage them to actually work on the causes they claim to work on.

                                                                                          Disclaimer: In fairness, people could (and do) call me out for not putting more time into actually building and deploying secure goods rather than high-level designs posted online. Although I defended my choice, I’m probably guilty of screwing up on a reasonable ratio between the two. Anything above zero code might be better. I plan to work on that more next year after I change circumstances.

                                                                                          Disclaimer 2: I say “almost all” cuz a few people here are legit activists or doing things at a loss to address the causes they’re talking about. I respect them a lot.

                                                                                          “It’s ok to make a judgement call and improve one thing in this messy world. It’s ok to try and reduce your footprint/total harm while hypocritically still participating in the system that feeds you. “

                                                                                          I totally agree with you. That’s not what the person was doing, though. It won’t stop Palantir’s contracts, it won’t stop the government’s activities, and proliferation of HTTP/JSON libraries will continue. The latter will even be FOSS so anyone, including Palantir, can use them. Maybe person complaining should start an alternative to Palantir that’s more ethical, organize boycotts of their products, get in a HR office poaching all their smartest talent (or delivering idiots), make enough money to pay off politicians to change government policies, and so on. Stuff that actually affects Palantir or Trump’s agencies.

                                                                                          “I greatly enjoy your comments across the internet.”

                                                                                          Thanks and same to you. :)

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                                                                                            Maybe person complaining should start an alternative to Palantir that’s more ethical, organize boycotts of their products, get in a HR office poaching all their smartest talent (or delivering idiots), make enough money to pay off politicians to change government policies, and so on.

                                                                                            This objection is absurd on its face. You can’t ethically compete in a market for unethical services. An ethical alternative to Palantir is an oxymoron, because Palantir’s ethical issues are fundamental to the things that Palantir sells. You also can’t “organize a boycott” of a defense contractor. Your final two points are literally “just have enough money to fix the problem”.

                                                                                            How does starting a company which sells the same thing as Palantir to the same customers Palantir sells to, hires the same people as Palantir, has the same wealth as Palantir, and bribes politicians the way Palantir does, stop the problem of companies that behave like Palantir? You’re objecting to someone criticizing the status quo by telling them they should instead… further reinforce the status quo?

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                                                                                              I think you misapprehend what is going on here. This is a forum for highly technical people; by raising the serious ethical space Palantir exists in, it directly bears on creating difficulty in recruiting, along with decreasing retention.

                                                                                              You, of all people, should understand the power of words on an internet screen to influence readers: you’ve been writing long & grammatically correct essays on security across multiple major internet fora for years. I’ve seen you on Schnier and HN, :) Communication, persuasion, and discussion are an essential activist activity. (And for my money, it is substantially more effective than picketing and marching 95% of the time…)

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                                                                                                (I suspect this was meant as a reply to the person I replied to.)

                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                  “by raising the serious ethical space Palantir exists in, it directly bears on creating difficulty in recruiting, along with decreasing retention.”

                                                                                                  I agree with you. I actively do that in real life every day for customers and coworkers wanting something better in a lot of areas. I have plenty of results to show for it. That’s because I put the time in where it gets results and consistently do it rather than one-off’s we sometimes see here. Companies like Palantir use recruiting practices that cast a wide net. Anyone wanting to disrupt their recruiting should be posting such comments on sites with massive numbers of page views that are mostly developers. Big, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Hacker News. LinkedIn, too, if you can do it that way but I haven’t been on in long time. That’s why I encourage them to put political efforts in front of literally millions of developers instead of a hundred or less participating here if aiming for a big wave of change.

                                                                                                  “You, of all people, should understand the power of words on an internet screen to influence readers: you’ve been writing long & grammatically correct essays on security across multiple major internet fora for years. I’ve seen you on Schnier and HN, :) “

                                                                                                  You said long and grammatically correct. You gotta be messing with me on second half lmao. I agree with the power of words and persuasion as stated above. Hell, you had to have seen me do it there, esp to “Skeptical” (troll or near-perfect DOD apologist) before I left. That’s why I tell them to use that power where it gets results instead of Lobsters. Then, we keep Lobsters focused on deep, technical stuff with low noise. Anyone wanting to achieve political action can ping Lobsters, via dedicated threads or private messages, to go where the action is to get actual, Palantir-scale results.

                                                                                                  ““It is what it is”, which is what your comment & Nick’s comment promote, simply promotes apathy; history provides many examples of change taking place. I encourage people to shake off the belief that things will always stay the same.”

                                                                                                  That’s not true at all. I’ve just followed something like several lifetimes worth of history on the U.S. military and government under both left- and right-leaning leaders finding the military-industrial-complex just got more powerful over time. The politicians of both sides support it. The right supports companies like Palantir overtly. The left’s politicians will support the defense contractors for both payouts and to bring jobs to their districts. So, to change the situation voronoipotato describes, you have to get millions of people to vote out scumbags that take money to improve chances of elections to combat defense industry or get an anti-war, pro-immigration President in office with Congress willing to roll-back legislation.

                                                                                                  The last election surprised most lefter-than-I liberals that were trying to make people say the correct things on forums, etc in ways we see in some threads here. I doubt they’re capable of achieving that 180 directly if keeping same practices that failed before so hard they didn’t even see what was coming. Fingers crossed that we just get lucky that Trump does so much damage and embarrassment that a reversal happens in swing states after the Democrats get on top of their shit this time. Or we centrists get a President. Fat chance on that one since few listen to moderates. ;)

                                                                                                2. 5

                                                                                                  The person you’re talking to likely doesn’t even think that Defense Contracting is unethical. Being said palantir is going to keep existing, boycotting doesn’t mean anything here because we don’t even buy their products. Even under a proper organized effort if we got a different defense contractor absolutely nothing would be different. The only tactics I’m aware we can do are mitigation tactics of not giving our labor to defense contractors, but this drives up the wages to the point where someone would. You can if you work there do a labor slowdown, but your ability to act in that way is limited, and useless if it’s not a group effort.

                                                                                                  Palantir is a bad thing but our ability to affect it is extremely limited. Electoral politics is mostly useless here. Their lobbying power affects both parties pretty evenly. IMHO it’s better to put energy into mitigation tactics into problems where it’s easier to have traction. One group has been for example paying for bail bonds for refugees.

                                                                                                  Defense contractor spending isn’t a symptom of capitalism but rather attached to the heart, a swollen vestigial organ from mercantilism and much like the appendix may kill you if you remove it unskillfully.

                                                                                                  I think it’s natural to see the biggest problem and try and lock horns with it, but sometimes a smaller problem you can solve is genuinely better than a larger problem you can’t. Obviously don’t work for them, there’s plenty of other places that pay you well and you won’t even have to think about all the bodies when you go to sleep.

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                                                                                                    The person you’re talking to likely doesn’t even think that Defense Contracting is unethical.

                                                                                                    Yes, but the person they’re suggesting this in response to does, which was the context of nickpsecurity’s original suggestion to compete with Palantir.

                                                                                                    The only tactics I’m aware we can do are mitigation tactics of not giving our labor to defense contractors, but this drives up the wages to the point where someone would.

                                                                                                    I don’t know what your point is. Driving up wage costs for unethical corporations is the point of organizing an effort to boycott employment at specific corporations. The goal is making things like human rights violations untenable to corporations by making them unprofitable. Yes, this is a half measure - but it’s not nothing, either.

                                                                                                    Defense contractor spending isn’t a symptom of capitalism but rather attached to the heart, a swollen vestigial organ from mercantilism and much like the appendix may kill you if you remove it unskillfully.

                                                                                                    So your point is, we should leave it alone?

                                                                                                    I think it’s natural to see the biggest problem and try and lock horns with it, but sometimes a smaller problem you can solve is genuinely better than a larger problem you can’t.

                                                                                                    On the contrary - refusing to work for companies like Palantir and encouraging my fellow tech workers to do the same is one of my most fruitful opportunities to fight against systemic injustices at the moment. Each of us in the tech industry have far more influence on an our industry’s actions than on the actions of things like the federal government - there are less than four million programmers in the entire US, as opposed to the vastly higher number of voters. We should be adamant about using our privileged place as one of the few labor pools left with real negotiating power to prevent our industry from committing acts of evil, not conveniently defeatist whenever someone dares to suggest the small personal sacrifice of choosing not to directly build the tools of human misery.

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                                                                                                      Fundamental changes are achieved by many people choosing to not accept what is, and coming together to push towards a major change in the status quo.

                                                                                                      “It is what it is”, which is what your comment & Nick’s comment promote, simply promotes apathy; history provides many examples of change taking place. I encourage people to shake off the belief that things will always stay the same.

                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                        You said it even better than me.

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                                                                                                      Whataboutism is a common reply on HN or Lobsters when a popular group decries their outgroup’s activities, third party points out their actions are contrary to their own beliefs, adds that the biases indicate they’re scoring political points rather than really care, and someone pops in to say third party is whataboutism to silence those views. Thing is, whatever 3rd party brings up is almost never on these forums, getting crowd support, or whatever.

                                                                                                      No it’s a common reply when you distract from the discussion at hand to go ‘oh but what about these other unrelated issues?’ Your response is literally at the level of ‘capitalism made your iPhone you’re using to have this conversation so checkmate’ in a discussion about economic systems.

                                                                                                      There is no ‘popular group’ here, there’s no ‘outgroup’, nobody is decrying anyone’s activities. You haven’t ‘pointed out’ any actions that are contrary to anyone’s beliefs or exposed any biases or virtue signalling. All you’ve done is responded to a post pointing out that Palantir might be an unethical company, accusing them of virtue signalling! They didn’t even say ‘Palantir is bad’. They suggested that it might be, and that it was worth thinking about and discussion. Did you then discuss it? Did you think about it? No, you just launched into an attack, said that their post was social signalling and accused them of hypocrisy.

                                                                                                      Imagine for a moment the discussion was oil companies, and the person you were responding to had said ‘I think oil companies often act unethically and I think we should consider whether we want to be working with them and contributing to their open source software’. Your response was the equivalent of ‘you don’t have an electric car so you’re not allowed to discuss this’. I hope you can see that that is nonsense.

                                                                                                      I totally agree with you. That’s not what the person was doing, though. It won’t stop Palantir’s contracts, it won’t stop the government’s activities, and proliferation of HTTP/JSON libraries will continue. The latter will even be FOSS so anyone, including Palantir, can use them. Maybe person complaining should start an alternative to Palantir that’s more ethical, organize boycotts of their products, get in a HR office poaching all their smartest talent (or delivering idiots), make enough money to pay off politicians to change government policies, and so on. Stuff that actually affects Palantir or Trump’s agencies.

                                                                                                      When someone says ‘where do we as developers draw the line as to whom we are willing to accept contributions from?’ they are opening up a discussion. Maybe the result of that discussion would have been ‘anyone actually’. Suggesting that the first thing you should do is start boycotting companies before the issue has even been discussed is ridiculous. Discussions are fine. Discussions are not slacktivism. Posting ‘#stoppalantir #metoo #stoptrump’ at the end of your tweets and doing nothing else in your life is virtue signalling. Discussing issues is not.

                                                                                                      1. 10

                                                                                                        There is no ‘popular group’ here, there’s no ‘outgroup’, nobody is decrying anyone’s activities.

                                                                                                        A person submitted a HTTP/JSON toolchain that they were open-sourcing. A versatile, general-purpose tool that can be used for good if someone wants to. The comment I replied to ignored the software submission entirely to tell them they’re unethical for working at Palantir since other parts of the company uses its tech to serve an unethical customer. That’s decrying activities. Such reasoning also applies to companies like Google (or other surveillance companies), Apple/Foxconn, VC-funded companies aiming for lock-in, and so on since buying their stuff or contributing to their FOSS might support all kinds of evil. Some people supporting the decrying comment even work at such companies despite other jobs being available for people with that kind of talent. Strange.

                                                                                                        The fact that this accusation and suggestion to quit their job got 60 votes vs 7 about the submission… on Lobsters with lower numbers of votes to begin with… definitely says it’s popular. The marked difference between the people who support or question that tangent supports the existence of an outgroup relationship. I can’t say as much about what it means here since the outgroup receives more support on a lot of political divides. Lots of folks here hate companies like Palantir regardless of other beliefs. That’s what I’m leaning toward.

                                                                                                        It’s been an interesting thread to observe, though.

                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                          Wholeheartedly agree, there! I suspect I drew different conclusions than you, though.

                                                                                                      2. 3

                                                                                                        People can disagree with you without being part of a conspiracy to silence or shame you. Maybe a less emotional response would be more informative.

                                                                                                      3. 0

                                                                                                        One of nick’s pastimes seems to be railing against liberal “hypocrisy” on this website, mostly by deflecting into muddy tangential arguments just like so.

                                                                                                        1. 13

                                                                                                          Please don’t post ad-hominem attacks here. If you disagree with the argument, pick it apart politely.

                                                                                                          Lord knows you should have enough practice by now to do so.

                                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                                            If you disagree with the argument, pick it apart politely.

                                                                                                            That only works if both sides are arguing in good faith though which definitely doesn’t appear to be the case with some commenters on here.

                                                                                                            1. 4

                                                                                                              If that’s the case, then arguing further with somebody in bad faith is just going to create noise and antagonize other lobsters. Best just to ignore the posts then.

                                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                                I do but it ruins the lobsters experience for me to see people arguing in bad faith without any censure. Some of them even seem to be encouraged as a kind of clickbait/outrage generator. It’s disheartening.

                                                                                                            2. 4

                                                                                                              Lord knows you should have enough practice by now to do so.

                                                                                                              This is an ad-hominem, friendly.

                                                                                                        2. 19

                                                                                                          Leaving whataboutism aside, I think you cannot conflate the (delusional) idea of ethical consumption with active usage and contribution of open source software.

                                                                                                          Ethical consumption doesn’t work for the structure of the market, where the contribution of the individual gives no perceivable feedback to the system.

                                                                                                          The Open Source world and software engineering are a much smaller world. It is a realistic goal to radicalize enough software engineers inside and outside of Palantir in order to halt their production. Your target audience has contract leverage, money and is highly connected and easily reachable.

                                                                                                          This is a much easier and realistic goal than convince the management of some big corporation to reduce their exploitation just because a small minority of consumers is unhappy. When they realize this, instead of reducing exploitation, they invest in more marketing to wash their brand, or they simply start a new one. Much cheaper.

                                                                                                          Don’t conflate your power as a consumer with your power as a producer, because they very different.

                                                                                                          1. 11

                                                                                                            I used to work for Nokia. They did everything in their power to ethically source all their materials. It was the only phone company that did that. Other companies don’t do that because nobody demands it from them. While there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, there is slightly less terrible consumption. So where do we draw the line? As deep into their pocket books as it can go.

                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                              I didn’t know that about Nokia. That’s awesome! Thanks for the tip.

                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                Now, keep in mind the new Nokia phones are made by a different company that just licenses the brand. I’m not sure if care as much.

                                                                                                            2. 10

                                                                                                              […] the lake […]

                                                                                                              That is horrible.

                                                                                                              Seems hypocritical to me.

                                                                                                              Ok.

                                                                                                              Where would you draw the line personally? Do I understand your opinion correctly as suggesting that if you use a computer, then you shouldn’t be discussing unethical behaviour, e.g. racism? It is not my intention to judge here; just genuinely curious.

                                                                                                              Maybe make for better opportunities for immigrants in whatever your country is, too.

                                                                                                              I agree with this very much, and this is something that I aspire to do. Additionally I do have friends that have been deported, and worry a bit about my own not so distant post-Brexit situation in the UK.

                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                Im glad you’re doing real work on this issue. I commend that.

                                                                                                                Writing it here likely isn’t is the thrust of my point. Instead, it’s just adding noise to the forum plus sending a jab at one of only folks we know in Palantir doing something possibly beneficial (eg open-sourcing software for data analysis). The people here that would agree with your position already dont work for Palantir, use their services, or vote for folks that support horrible policies on immigration.

                                                                                                                Those that do these thing are (a) mostly not on Lobsters where your comments bave about lowest ROI you can get and (b) usually disagree with you with no intent to change their mind based on your comment that states the obvious. So, you’re not reaching them. Goes for similar comments aiming for political impact on government-level stuff in non-political, Lobsters threads. So, I push for people not to introduce them.

                                                                                                                Im at work now so responses might be delayed.

                                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                                  mostly not on Lobsters where your comments bave about lowest ROI you can get

                                                                                                                  Yes, you are probably correct in that observation.

                                                                                                                  I wasn’t really sharing my thoughts here expecting any impact, but rather because I’m interested in hearing what other people think. And you are right that I’m being hypocritical here, because I doubt I’d react the same to an IBM project even though they have a shameful past; and even worse, I used to work on this phone app promoting some agrochem from DOW. At first I just kept my eyes on the code, but I couldn’t justify it to myself after reading about their role in the Vietnam War and the Bhopal Disaster and all that.

                                                                                                                  So, it was intended more of an open question about where people here draw the line.

                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                    Well, you seem to be speaking out of the heart on things you’ve been close to personally. I respect that. I still say low-ROI with better results elsewhere. You were bringing it up for good reasons, though. The community response also strongly favored your comment in a way consistent with prior threads on politics showing a shift in what Lobsters wants as a community. I’ll write on that in the future.

                                                                                                                    And it’s still cool you’re another person reusing older computers with the LiveCD tests and such. Off-topic a bit, but I was wondering if the hardware vulnerabilities they probably won’t patch on 5-10 year old machines have you considering new stuff? I always knew they were there. Now, they’re coming quickly with many eyeballs on them. Might be best reason I ever heard to get the latest and greatest from Purism, Raptor, or whoever. And then most have backdoors for (insert group) but fewer hardware 0-days for (more groups). Wait, I thought this tangent-tangent could lighten things up with easier choices… Looks just as hard… ;)

                                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                                      Off-topic a bit, but I was wondering if the hardware vulnerabilities they probably won’t patch on 5-10 year old machines have you considering new stuff?

                                                                                                                      I don’t know enough about this; what hardware vulns are we talking about here, and how easy are they to exploit? Although it’s not really about hardware, there’s that whole Intel Management Engine issue that is avoided by using somewhat old WinXP-era 32-bit laptops, so newer is not always more secure.

                                                                                                                      And it’s still cool you’re another person reusing older computers with the LiveCD tests and such.

                                                                                                                      Oh yes that thread! At least it’s a bit less harmful if we can use computers for longer. A friend of mine has a Mac that can’t get more OS X updates now, so she’s stuck with insecure versions of Firefox and all that. Gonna put Debian on it later this week, hopefully!

                                                                                                                      Do you know of any somewhat more ethical laptop producers?

                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                        re hardware attacks.

                                                                                                                        Essentially, the hardware has always been secure with only elite pro’s focusing on it. Now, due to Meltdown/Spectre, hardware attacks have gone really mainstream with all kinds of university research, private research, folks describing stuff on blogs, and so on. All the CPU’s that were highly optimized (esp Intel/AMD) are vulnerable to them needing patches. They’re doing the attacks over the network now. Older systems used to be safer but now they’re not since attacks will get more numerous and effective over time.

                                                                                                                        About the only things that are immune were simpler, embedded CPU’s. They’re not designed for security, though, with far less attention by defenders. So, that could reduce the hardware risk adding to the software risk. Simpler boards that can run modern, security-updated OS’s might help. I’m not sure. At lot of stuff is piling in.

                                                                                                                        re put Debian on it.

                                                                                                                        Ok, you’re already using that strategy. Good thinking and being helpful! :)

                                                                                                                        re ethical producers

                                                                                                                        I can’t remember since I was buying used ones like you. The one I see in media most with good things going for it is Purism. They try to disable the ME with software changes, too. Some folks pushing high freedom were using MiniFree to get ME-less, FOSS-firmware laptops. It had downsides. My own Core Duo 2 still handles stuff nicely outside games, highest-def content, and worst of web apps. Here’s a Guardian article I just found with some recommendations. Another said iFixit can help keep things going.

                                                                                                                        So, not a lot of options for new hardware minimizing harm to self and others. There are options in both reuse and new categories that help us reduce harm. We can at least do that. I stay dedicating slices of my research to solving this problem. Tracking whatever can help for whoever can do it. Maybe something will shake out eventually.

                                                                                                                2. 0

                                                                                                                  Additionally I do have friends that have been deported

                                                                                                                  Sorry but are we now living in a world where the ‘standard’ left-wing political view in the Anglosphere is that any kind of deportation is bad? Because that’s how I’m reading this comment.

                                                                                                                  Immigration policy exists for very good reasons. The American political dichotomy that either there should be zero immigration or completely unchecked immigration is, for lack of a better word, moronic.

                                                                                                                  1. 3

                                                                                                                    I think it’s fair to assume that the poster could be criticising the particular immigration policy that led to these deportations, instead of all immigration policy.

                                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                                      It could be fair, if the poster denounced similar and almost identical policies under the previous President. As it stands, the poster is mostly just criticizing immigration policies that seemed totally reasonable and main stream just eight short years ago.

                                                                                                                3. 5

                                                                                                                  You can’t make perfect the enemy of good. Your argument essentially seems to be that if you can’t live perfectly you shouldn’t try living better at all.

                                                                                                                  It’s virtually impossible to operate in the modern world without using the internet, without having and using a computer. If it were possible to, for a reasonable price that I can afford but knowing I’d have to pay somewhat of a premium, buy a computer that I knew wasn’t made using exploitation of those in the third world, then of course I would buy one. But I don’t know that it is. And there are other competing priorities too, like getting a computer that is free of binary blobs and proprietary software.

                                                                                                                  I certainly don’t pay a ‘surveillance-enabling company in a police state’ to send anything over the internet. I pay an ISP for internet access, but I don’t live in a police state and as far as I know my ISP doesn’t enable surveillance.

                                                                                                                  In the same way that I think it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to say ‘I can’t afford to be vegan’ even though being vegan is morally important, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to say ‘I can’t afford to buy ethically produced clothes’. Plus there’s significant evidence that manufacturing things in third world countries has improving their living standards and wages considerably.

                                                                                                                  Where to we draw the line on how our consumption and contribution harms or helps others? And do you regularly do that for every product and service you buy? Most of them?

                                                                                                                  I like to have an idea, at least, of what goes into the things I buy, yes. It’s hard to do it with absolutely everything though, because there’s just so much different stuff.

                                                                                                                  Have you been active in government on laws, treaties, court cases, etc? The stuff that stops things like you describe.

                                                                                                                  That’s absolutely ridiculous. You do not have to be a member of government to have a political view. You do not have to negotiate an international treaty to have a political view. You do not have to sue someone to have a political view. Your standards are ridiculous.

                                                                                                                  Or just some quick, social signaling on Lobsters getting feel-good points?

                                                                                                                  Discussing important issues is not ‘virtue signalling’.

                                                                                                                  If you care, I encourage you to put time into legal reform or bootstrapping alternatives to each of the things I mentioned. Maybe make for better opportunities for immigrants in whatever your country is, too. Maybe host some coding bootcamps or something for those in the slums. What you’re doing here is adding to the noise but not helping Trump’s victims or your country’s immigrants in any way.

                                                                                                                  This has nothing to do with immigrants and everything to do with Palantir being a company that operates in an unethical manner. It’s a surveillance company. There’s absolutely nothing problematic about a company producing software on contract for a government that has immigration policies. The issue is that Trump’s policies are violating human rights in how they’re enforcing those laws.

                                                                                                                  You don’t solve this problem by creating ‘coding bootcamps’ for immigrants LOL.

                                                                                                                4. 4

                                                                                                                  I guess it may be possible to work at a seedy company and still do good stuff.

                                                                                                                  Regardless, thanks for releasing this as free software.

                                                                                                                  Every field of endeavor is welcome here. Every field of endeavor is welcome here for technical discussion, free of (without expectation of) moralizing, guilt, or shame.

                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                    I personally already draw the line at technology coming from uber for ethical reasons, so I will not touch palantir things at all. Thanks for bringing that up!

                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                      Didn’t read the article beyond the headline, huh?

                                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                                      My most significant Emacs productivity customization is to remap the left and right arrow keys for window navigation. I tend to work in a frame split into 3 or more buffer windows, so the typical C-x o to switch between them gets tiring. My keymap includes:

                                                                                                                              …
                                                                                                                              (, (kbd "<right>") . other-window)
                                                                                                                              (, (kbd "<left>") . my-negative-other-window)
                                                                                                                              …
                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                      Where my-negative-other-window is defined as:

                                                                                                                      (defun my-negative-other-window ()
                                                                                                                        "Selects the previous window."
                                                                                                                        (interactive)
                                                                                                                        (other-window -1))
                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                        I thought for sure this was going to be about org-mode, but these are pretty good, too.

                                                                                                                        A couple of these are definitely personal preferences (like mapping Caps-lock to Ctrl, removing the UI, etc,) but most are generally good advice, IMO.

                                                                                                                        There are a few things I would add, first for #6 about buffers. Get familiar with ibuffer (M-x ibuffer). It’s really convenient for seeing what files are open, what temp buffers are around, which processes are running, etc. and it can manipulate multiple buffers at a time (save and close multiple buffers, find/replace in multiple buffers, etc.).

                                                                                                                        And for section #8, I’d point out the “C-h” shortcuts. For example, “C-h k” is a shortcut for “M-x describe-key”, “C-h f” is “M-x describe-function”, etc. “C-h ?” brings up a buffer showing all of the other context sensitive help functions available.

                                                                                                                        For more advanced users, I’d suggest getting familiar with the “customize-*” functions instead of manually adding configuration settings to .emacs.

                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                          For more advanced users, I’d suggest getting familiar with the “customize-*” functions instead of manually adding configuration settings to .emacs.

                                                                                                                          That’s funny, my impression is usually the opposite. The Easy Customization Interface is used either when one doesn’t know too much about Elisp or want’s to get a first look at what some package has to offer in terms of changing it’s behavior. Whenever I decide to permanently (more or less) add something to my “official” (ie. public) configuration, I take it out of my custom.el file and add it to my literate conf – it seems more natural and I have more control over what’s going on. So why would you advise (advanced) users to instead use “customize”?

                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                            Maybe “intermediate” would have been better than “advanced,” but I prefer customizing that way because the interface shows the documentation along with the input fields, and the input widgets ensure the correct types are input and usually makes sure that only acceptable values are input.

                                                                                                                            For example, customizing the variable “org-agenda-custom-commands” might look like this in elisp, and it’s not clear what each value represents:

                                                                                                                            (add-to-list 'org-agenda-custom-commands 
                                                                                                                                  '("w" "@work" tags-todo "@work"
                                                                                                                                     ((org-agenda-overriding-header "Work"))))
                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                            But the customize interface has individual input fields for each value there (“w”, “@work”, …) with descriptive names, so I know “w” is the access key, the first “@work” is a description, etc.

                                                                                                                            That said, I also often copy the elisp from customize to another file or tweak it by hand in my .emacs.

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              I consider myself a moderately-advanced Emacs user, and I prefer using customize for any setting that it supports. I only have a few custom functions and keybindings set up in my .emacs file and everything else is set in customize.

                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                            Does anyone know of some nice (modern) language allowing various stages of gradual typing in the same codebase, with a binary-generating compiler (thus not TypeScript/Flow.js, neither Racket IIUC, nor Typed Lua)? (I didn’t see any concrete mentions in the slides, though I only glanced through them, so could totally overlook something.)

                                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                                              Perl6, maybe?

                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                Interesting, didn’t know that Perl 6 has some kind of gradual typing. However, AFAIU, it doesn’t have a binary-generating compiler — from the FAQ:

                                                                                                                                Can I compile my script to a standalone executable?

                                                                                                                                Tools like App::InstallerMaker::WiX allow you to create an installer that will package the compiler and your script. However, the currently available compilers do not support creating a standalone executable yet.

                                                                                                                                If you wish to help out, the Rakudo compiler on MoarVM backend has https://github.com/MoarVM/MoarVM/issues/875 Issue opened as a place to discuss this problem.

                                                                                                                                where the MoarVM issue currently has a comment from June this year:

                                                                                                                                The most likely path to something like [this] in the medium term [would be] building a tool that builds an executable with a static MoarVM linked in to it, and all the precompilations of modules embedded, plus a custom module loader that can locate these. […] That’s still not really AOT, but it does give a “one executable to distribute” solution.

                                                                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                                                                Doesn’t gradual typing only make sense with dynamic languages?

                                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                                  I think it would be useful in program synthesis, even in a statically typed language, where the program is a fragment at various stages during synthesis but you want it to always be well-typed.

                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                    Hmmmm… somehow I never thought of this. Is it really so? It’s true I can’t think of a counterexample now. Though maybe some kind of a hybrid approach could be possible? Where as long as one didn’t use some explicitly listed features, the whole thing could be compiled ahead of time, but if one did, linking of an interpreter into the binary would be triggered?

                                                                                                                                1. 23

                                                                                                                                  I absolutely do not want to be seen as being in the same camp as the low-life scum on the internet that think it’s OK to be a white nationalist Nazi, and have some truly nasty misogynistic, homophobic or transphobic behaviour. […] And those people were […] making [me] look bad.

                                                                                                                                  Makes sense.

                                                                                                                                  I’m anti-CoC in principle but pro-CoC in practice. Why? Because of those “truly nasty” folks. I’m pro-meritocracy–in principle! But, the word is just a dog whistle now. I am truly tired of randos on the street trying to explain to me why the internet is terrible. Is this famous person publicly distancing himself from them going to help?

                                                                                                                                  1. 17

                                                                                                                                    I’m pro-meritocracy in principle too, but I think the belief that an organization is meritocratic can and is used to justify a lot of ugly behaviors. Better to have meritocracy as an ideal and work towards it than ever claim to actually be, because it leaves room cognitively to recognize and correct when it’s not true.

                                                                                                                                    1. 19

                                                                                                                                      Meritocracy is not a fucking dogwhistle. I know I’ll get down voted for saying ‘fuck’ but it’s worth it. The emphasis is worth it. What you said is complete and utter nonsense.

                                                                                                                                      Meritocracy is a great thing. The people calling it a dog whistle are the sort of people that get funded by outreach programmes to add ‘const’ to a hundred lines of code in the linux kernel and call themselves kernel developers then get offended when people suggest that’s not very good use of money. The people calling it a dog whistle are incompetent people and people that listen to incompetent people.

                                                                                                                                      A ‘meritocratic’ country inevitably results in a country that lets poor people die on the street. But a free software project is not a country. The free software community is not responsible for providing a social safety net. Meritocracy - the idea that the people that run things and make decisions should be those with technical merit - is the only way free software works.

                                                                                                                                      I’ve been part of open source projects run by non-technical people that picked and chose leaders and decision makers based on how much they were liked and how long they had been around and how active they were on IRC. It’s a broken model. If you’re interested in free and open source software projects in the sense that you want to actually see them develop the software ever, meritocracy is code for ‘get on with writing code and leave the politics for the voting booth’.

                                                                                                                                      1. 14

                                                                                                                                        Wikipedia’s Criticism of meritocracy section is a good overview of why a true meritocracy is difficult or impossible—but I don’t think you’re actually arguing for meritocracy here. It seems like your main point is that (at least in volunteer efforts like Free Software projects) work should be allocated to the people best able to perform that work, otherwise nothing will get done. That seems like a reasonable approach, and I’ve sometimes heard this described as a do-ocracy, where things get done by the people with the skill, motive and opportunity to do them.

                                                                                                                                        I don’t think it’s strictly-speaking a meritocracy, though, since getting something done requires motive and opportunity as well as skill. Maybe the person with the most skill doesn’t have the opportunity, or they’re just interested in other things at the moment and don’t have the motive. Maybe a particular achievement requires a variety of skills, and the person who gets something done has many weak skills, even though there are many people who are much stronger in any individual skill. I’d be willing to believe that in Free Software projects, the people who get the most done are not the most technically skilled, making them the opposite of a meritocracy.

                                                                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                                                                          That wikipedia articles goes through multiple definitions of meritocracy – but the first one you come into contact with reads

                                                                                                                                          … should be vested in individuals on the basis of talent, effort, and achievement, rather than factors such as sexuality, race, gender, or wealth.

                                                                                                                                          Talent, effort, AND achievement, which is what I think most people resonate with when they see the word meritocracy. Achievement is the doing of tasks, it takes effort and talent. I never considered a meritocracy to be based solely on skill.

                                                                                                                                          I’ve sometimes heard this described as a do-ocracy, where things get done by the people with the skill, motive and opportunity to do them

                                                                                                                                          Whom, I would think in the context of the project would be those who merit praise and control? I guess it is a question of order to some degree – do you get assigned something due to your merit, or do you get merit based on what you have done? I suspect many people think in terms of the latter not the former.

                                                                                                                                          Maybe the person with the most skill doesn’t have the opportunity, …

                                                                                                                                          Is this going with the definition that merit is only skill (talent) and ignoring effort and achievement? Akin to the referenced “1956 A. Fox in Socialist Comm. May 13/1 The ‘meritocracy’; the society in which the gifted, the smart, the energetic, the ambitious and the ruthless are carefully sifted out and helped towards their destined positions of dominance.”?

                                                                                                                                          I think in open-source, merit in terms of control tends to follow activity, not the reverse. Additionally, if anyone is trying to help people towards their destined positions of dominance – wouldn’t that be people trying to promote certain classes of people?

                                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                                            I guess it is a question of order to some degree – do you get assigned something due to your merit, or do you get merit based on what you have done? I suspect many people think in terms of the latter not the former.

                                                                                                                                            In a system where you don’t get authority due to your merit, that’s not really a “merit-ocracy”, is it? The name for “you get merit based on what you have done” is just “remuneration”.

                                                                                                                                            A better model would be a cycle: you attempt a small thing, you earn merit (by your demonstrated effort and achievement) and you get to attempt a bigger thing to earn more merit. But everybody (by definition) starts out with zero demonstrated effort and zero achievement, so a meritocracy needs to be bootstrapped with some other principle.

                                                                                                                                            Since (in a meritocracy) you need merit to earn merit, merit is an inflationary cycle, and a small initial advantage can become a huge long-term advantage. Whatever principle is used to bootstrap the meritocracy can therefore have a greater effect on society than the meritocratic principle, even over the long term. And if “merit” isn’t the most relevant attribute, it seems misleading to describe the result as “meritocracy”.

                                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                                              “But everybody (by definition) starts out with zero demonstrated effort and zero achievement, so a meritocracy needs to be bootstrapped with some other principle.”

                                                                                                                                              I don’t think that’s true with code. You get merit when you write useful code in a meritocratic system. You did it here, there, wherever, and you’re a coder now. The more output or impressive designs, the more merit.

                                                                                                                                              I don’t think a bootstrapping phase is needed if it’s really a meritocracy. It might be if it’s not. ;)

                                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                                My point is, you can’t have a true meritocracy where great merit is built on lesser merit, like great turtles stacked on lesser turtles, because eventually the turtles have to be stacked on something. You seem to be saying that one project can start stacking its turtles on some other project’s turtle stack, which while true, doesn’t invalidate my point.

                                                                                                                                                Once you get to the point that you’re comfortable writing code and putting it online for the world to see, congratulations, you’ve gotten past the bootstrap principle and hopefully you can operate by the meritocratic principle from then on. But that doesn’t mean that the bootstrap principle doesn’t exist, or that it has anything to do with merit.

                                                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                                                  That makes sense.

                                                                                                                                          2. 3

                                                                                                                                            This resonates with me a lot. I suggest reading the Walkaway from Cory Doctorow to anyone interested as it elaborates on the difference between just doing and a meritocracy in one of the earlier chapters.

                                                                                                                                            I believe that empowering as many people as possible to contribute in a useful way is better than making it possible for a few competent ones to order the rest around. And by empowering I mean providing processes, tools and communications accessible to anyone willing to volunteer their time.

                                                                                                                                          3. 9

                                                                                                                                            people that get funded by outreach programmes to add ‘const’ to a hundred lines of code in the linux kernel and call themselves kernel developers then get offended when people suggest that’s not very good use of money

                                                                                                                                            Did that actually happen?

                                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                                              X, age 22, of India, has had more than 340 patches accepted into the Linux kernel – an accomplishment that contributed in no small part to her receiving one of two Linux Kernel Guru scholarships from The Linux Foundation.

                                                                                                                                              X served as an Outreachy intern earlier this year, focused on the Linux kernel, where she worked on securing the kernel from surface attacks by making the kernel structures read-only.

                                                                                                                                              Name changed to avoid any suggestion I’m trying to publicly shame her or anything like that. But yes, it did actually happen.

                                                                                                                                              1. 4

                                                                                                                                                served as an Outreachy intern earlier this year, focused on the Linux kernel, where she worked on securing the kernel from surface attacks by making the kernel structures read-only.

                                                                                                                                                I looked at the kernel change log. That’s not a trivial project at all. The modifications are simple, but it required reading a lot of kernel code to see what could be done and it looks entirely useful. Pretty good for an intern project.

                                                                                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                                                                                To me, it’s much more common to see libertarian theorists who glomm on to others work, hustle funding from not too sharp corporate programs, and portray themselves as superheros.

                                                                                                                                                1. 0

                                                                                                                                                  Of course not. It’s a routine strategy of CoC opponents to invent fantasy grievances and use slippery slope arguments in order to excuse, ignore, or detract from the real challenges a CoC is trying to address.

                                                                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                                                                    I really wish they’d knock that off if they’re doing it. It’s much easier to link to the real actions of the person, Ehmke, who wrote Contributor Covenant and pushed for CoC’s. She wrote it specifically to do things like that. In there, she’s slamming a maintainer and project pushing them to reinforce her beliefs and practices about how the project should be run… because that’s what the CoC is designed to do. Not just make people be nice, not total assholes, or whatever. In that example, they did the following:

                                                                                                                                                    1. Show their belief that a person expressing different, political views in any medium is to be ejected from all mediums these people wield influence on, including their own software project.

                                                                                                                                                    2. They demand a key contributor of the project that its survival might depend on be ejected with nothing in return. They expect everyone they target like this to comply regardless of the cost. The maintainer challenges them to pick up their slack contributing to the project. They show no intent to give anything in return for what they demand.

                                                                                                                                                    3. They hit it hard all at once as a crowd ganging up on their targets, relentless, and increasing aggression as time goes on. Imagine a crowd showing up at your door unannounced yelling insults at you telling you all the changes you’ll make in your social circle or hobbies to comply with their beliefs. They want you to tolerate and comply with that situation. Depending on the location, such people would get told to get lost, be arrested, or get shot by homeowner. These people writing and pushing the CoC think it’s mandatory to do it and other accept it.

                                                                                                                                                    4. The CoC pushers show true colors when insinuating the maintainer supports child rapists. Started with a poisoned question followed by some shaming. When I saw that, I dismissed them now and forever if they stay on same path since that’s so low it’s sickening to watch. Not to mention trivializes horrible thing. Even most sophist debaters won’t connect opponents to child rapists. These people are both ideological and “win at all costs” in a way worth stopping fast.

                                                                                                                                                    5. Toward the end, they get into the insults and stuff showing they don’t care about offense, inclusion, etc so long as opponents have different political philosophy. They talk of burning bridges but to who.

                                                                                                                                                    They’re usually a lot sneakier so that people can say what you just said. In that case, they went full on thinking so many people were like them and they were so much better that their plan would work with no problems. Maintainer was expecting an attempt like this, stayed in constant No mode without fighting them, and that strategy outed them better than any other. This behavior, not being transgender or trying to make peaceful communities, is why Ehmke takes so much shit from people on the net, in Github, etc. It’s also why a tool designed for such political attacks and subversion, the Contributor Covenenant CoC, should never be adopted by diverse projects if there’s even a chance such people will be enforcing it or have significant sway. I added diverse since their beliefs seem uncommon to both majority and (in my area) minority members. Latter may or may not be true in other locales, but these people don’t care.

                                                                                                                                                    People should know their goal is to silence and eject everyone that disagrees with them even on their own Twitter account speaking personal opinion. They say they do this to prevent offense and be inclusive. Yet, they’re willing to maximize offense and exclusiveness to anyone that disagrees with them saying the end justifies the means. Even minority members disagreeing are suppressed as deluded by people with such politics. So, going with them is supporting a radical version of leftist politics willing to censor everyone from liberals to conservatives that don’t agree with them, even if otherwise civil. That’s unacceptable for an inclusive, democratic, and/or meritocratic project.

                                                                                                                                                    And to people that think it’s inherently necessary: we disprove the theory of people like Ehmke here on Lobsters regularly with better moderation. There’s rarely bans. The group-oriented censorship that exists is mostly collapsed comments that still allows exploration of unpopular views. The moderators that disagree tolerate it if the person is still civil. The people that disagree a lot sometimes still are helpful to each other. So surprising if the theory is we can’t have a diverse, productive, and enjoyable community without CoC’s and moderators strictly enforcing radical, leftist politics.

                                                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                                                      I was actually about to respond to your points, when I realized how deftly you had deflected away from mine, first by pretending to agree, then by denying [“if they’re doing it”—as if it hadn’t been right there in the grandparent post], and finally pivoting to another topic altogether. Specifically, no one claimed that CoC proponents have never acted in bad faith.

                                                                                                                                                      So I won’t engage with that. Nice try though!

                                                                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                                                                        I said the main CoC author and proponent designed it based on her group’s faith, used it to enforce that in many cases, forced others to adopt it with vicious tactics, and continues lie in various articles about its purpose and where the resistance is coming from.

                                                                                                                                                        There’s no try from me so much as showing the CoC inventor using the CoC to do what it’s designed to do with her scheming more visible. Especially that it’s quite different goals and results versus what she tells many projects and companies about when pushing its adoption. That difference is important.

                                                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                                                          Great! Go tell it on the mountain! Or the moon for all I care.

                                                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                                                            “We are concerned about racist/sexist/immoral behavior in your project/company.”

                                                                                                                                                            “Great! Go tell it on the mountain! Or the moon for all I care.”

                                                                                                                                                            Still accomplishes same thing. Would you want you’re political opposites running projects to stick to those kind of replies?

                                                                                                                                                        2. 3

                                                                                                                                                          Refusing to engage with someone because they didn’t either completely disagree with you or completely agree with you is arguing in bad faith. I have downvoted you and marked you as a troll. I think it’s bad form to downvote without giving an explanation so that’s why I’m giving you one.

                                                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                                                            Hi, I upvoted you because who gives a shit and I’m still not going to engage with nick

                                                                                                                                                        3. 1

                                                                                                                                                          All human projects are rift by politics, ambition, honest and dishonest differences of opinion, mistakes, anger, and all those other messy human qualities. Get used to it.

                                                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                                                            In another comment, you expressed skepticism about some conspiracy by people to push their agenda with CoC’s. You talked like they’re a neutral tool designed just to get rid of bad behavior we’d all agree on. Many of you either buy into that disinformation or spread it. So, I linked to example of author using her work to do exactly the things people worried about that you dismissed as hypothetical.

                                                                                                                                                            Oh I know people have political differences and it gets messy. Im one of a few people defending our right to on the forum. Then, there’s sneaky, political activists that tell a pile of lies about their goals, try to force their politics on others, and (surprise) pretend they are victims and/or werent doing anything at all when people resist that. Im shining the light on those scheming, lying pricks.

                                                                                                                                                            In case you didnt know, exposing the lies of political aggressors is part of accepting and operating in a world of politics, their ambitions, and their dishonest differences of opinion.

                                                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                                                              I have never suggested or argued that human beings are free of bad motives or agendas. But I’m trying to point out that these CoC’s are not being applied to previously angelic communities of disinterested technical enthusiasts - but rather to standard human groups that are already political, influenced by money, full of people who are prejudiced and motivated by all sorts of not necessarily great ideas. I was an early participant in Linux. I heard open racism and sexism plus a lot of corporate bullshit and worse. It was not shocking

                                                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                That’s a fair point. I’d still oppose them without modification but they would have new form. Trading one type of politics and risk for another which may be better.

                                                                                                                                                        4. 2

                                                                                                                                                          Of course not.

                                                                                                                                                          Well it did actually literally happen. Would you like to apologise to calling me a liar?

                                                                                                                                                          I’d suggest that if anyone is ‘inventing fantasy grievances’ it’s the people that come up with policies like Netflix’s new ‘you may not look at any coworker for more than 5 seconds at a time’ policy. The ‘real challenges’ a code of conduct is trying to address don’t exist. Having rules is one thing. Online communities have always had rules. Nobody has a problem with having rules. What people have a problem with is codes of conduct, because ‘code of conduct’ means ‘Americanised overly-political unnecessary rules’.

                                                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                                                            “Her goal is to become a full time kernel engineer after completing this current project.” [emphasis added]

                                                                                                                                                            Now did you accurately represent that part in your comment? Or did you willfully omit or misrepresent that part?

                                                                                                                                                      2. 8

                                                                                                                                                        I think you had already in mind what you wanted to say before reading what @sebboh wrote and went ahead.

                                                                                                                                                        He is not against any of those just how the words are just thrown around.

                                                                                                                                                        It’s like one being clearly against being a douche to others but still not liking how certain pro-CoC people are behaving.

                                                                                                                                                        1. 7

                                                                                                                                                          “It’s like one being clearly against being a douche to others but still not liking how certain pro-CoC people are behaving.”

                                                                                                                                                          Describes me pretty well. Keep it civil but tolerate differences.

                                                                                                                                                        2. 12

                                                                                                                                                          What part of “I’m anti-CoC and pro-meritocracy” did you miss, milesrout?

                                                                                                                                                          I presume you’re mad at someone else and you’ve simply misidentified me as them. I forgive this. It’s been a long and maddening war; we’re all stressed.

                                                                                                                                                          Now please sit out while somebody answers my question. Will this instance of a famous ubergeek publicly distancing himself from those truly hateful folks do anything to help end the war? Can we yet move beyond Red vs. Blue? If not, what will it take?

                                                                                                                                                          UPDATE: Sorry, I hit ‘post’ too soon. I meant to also say that the word meritocracy is being used as a dog whistle “now”. As in, ever since this current Linus news item and the response. “Used as”. I didn’t start it, I’m just reporting what I see.

                                                                                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                                                                                            I don’t think meritocracy is used as a dog whistle by anyone though. That’s kind of my point.

                                                                                                                                                            Sorry that my post was a bit aggressive. This whole CoC stuff just aggravates the crap out of me.

                                                                                                                                                            1. 8

                                                                                                                                                              This whole CoC stuff just aggravates the crap out of me.

                                                                                                                                                              In all seriousness: why?

                                                                                                                                                              1. 12

                                                                                                                                                                Of course it is used as a dogwhistle. People have been using meritocracy or similar to justify privilege since the first cavepeople started killing each other. It’s super common for people who have unearned privileges, often unjust privileges, to angrily insist that they got what they have through hard work, God’s will, superior morals or intellect, better heredity, racial superiority (or inferiority of the unfortunate other people) or anything at all. It doesn’t matter whether you are justifying the English ruling class in 1100AD, or google programmers last week, or Tsutsis or Serbians or whaever - it’s all a shoddy bullshit effort to justify the unjustifiable.

                                                                                                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                  In your definition of meritocracy is it about innate ability, or is it about demonstrated skill/value?

                                                                                                                                                                  My point being, someone of privilege might have the ability to spend all their time learning, lets say polo. They become the worlds best polo player. Another human, who through the genetic and birthplace lottery is the theoretical best polo player ever but due to circumstances of birth never even sees a horse.

                                                                                                                                                                  The privileged person is the demonstrated in real life best polo player, they have actually done it. The other person while having more raw ability through the genetic lottery did not accomplish anything (in terms of polo). Is this a failure of a meritocracy, should it somehow have found the person with the most potential? Is this person who gets praise as being “the best polo player” unjustified?

                                                                                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                                                                                    You can have merit (e.g. acquired through skill and work) and also have unearned privilege. This is not a binary. However, if you are a really excellent, meritorious, polo player thanks to some combination of your skills and your parent’s wealth, you should try not to whine about how you are being discriminated against if the polo league invests in adding training opportunities for less well to do people.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                      The implication from your response is that you think the merit is based on accomplishment, not potential. I don’t intend to misrepresent you, is that correct? Because if you believe it is accomplishments that create merit, then wouldn’t it follow that regardless of privilege those who accomplish the most merit the most acclaim, money, etc?

                                                                                                                                                                      You could say most athletes at the top level are genetically privileged, they have a natural top level that exceeds that average person due to simple physics. They would likely claim they came to the top of their sport via a meritocracy, they were simply better than others, would you disagree with them?

                                                                                                                                                                      You could easily extend this to wealth, a person with the best coaches and training might have an advantage beyond their genetics over another human being in terms of sport $X. They demonstrated the ability to win, they did so against other competitors – did they rise through a meritocracy?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                        You’re oversimplifying to avoid the mess. If law/custom prevents women from becoming mathematicians, and you are a man who is one of the top mathematicians of your era, your accomplishments are a mixture of work/ability and privilege. You can’t claim to have risen to the top of the field on your own hard work/smarts, when half the population is prevented from competing. Your field cannot be fairly called a meritocracy. When orchestras started doing blind auditions, they discovered that they had not been, as they presumed, promoting on merit alone.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                          I am not oversimplifying to avoid the mess, I am trying to reach understanding. We generally try to reach understanding via simplification down to root principals.

                                                                                                                                                                          So by your definition of meritocracy – a field can only be a meritocracy if it has 100% of the population able to participate? Basically 100% EoO (Equality of Opportunity). It would follow then that you believe meritocracies do not exist – as that has never occurred, nor do I think it is likely to ever occur.

                                                                                                                                                                          It seems to me that your point is more forceful and clear if you simply start from “meritocracies don’t exist” – they aren’t a dog-whistle, they are a straight up lie. Anyone referencing them is lying to further their own interests, or defend their status.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                            I’d generally agree with the claim that “meritocracy cannot exist”; messy real-world issues mean that it can only be approximated.

                                                                                                                                                                            I’d go further, and say that calling something a meritocracy is an attempt to pretend that those messy real-world issues are not at play.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                              And I would say that is both clear and fairly compelling. I think calling it a dog-whistle is a disservice to that argument.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                I remember back in the late ’90s when Ira Katznelson, an eminent political scientist at Columbia, came to deliver a guest lecture to an economic philosophy class I was taking. It was a great lecture, made more so by the fact that the class was only about ten or twelve students and we got got ask all kinds of questions and got a lot of great, provocative answers. Anyhow, Prof. Katznelson described a lunch he had with Irving Kristol back either during the first Bush administration. The talk turned to William Kristol, then Dan Quayle’s chief of staff, and how he got his start in politics. Irving recalled how he talked to his friend Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, who secured William a place there as both an undergrad and graduate student; how he talked to Pat Moynihan, then Nixon’s domestic policy adviser, and got William an internship at The White House; how he talked to friends at the RNC and secured a job for William after he got his Harvard Ph.D.; and how he arranged with still more friends for William to teach at UPenn and the Kennedy School of Government. With that, Prof. Katznelson recalled, he then asked Irving what he thought of affirmative action. “I oppose it”, Irving replied. “It subverts meritocracy.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Attributed to Harry Hopkins.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                You can say it can only be approximated about the goals of common alternatives to meritocracy as well. They’re all models we might strive for which will have failures or exceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                The model did have successes, though, like we saw with blind auditions. That’s a performance-focused technique that ignores people’s differences entirely. That’s what got more women promoted in Navy. Gapjumpers also claimed success with that model.

                                                                                                                                                                                So, meritocracy seems like it can work if it’s blind to our differences. It’s the conscious/unconscious biases that seem to screw everything up.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree that creating (or moving towards) a blind meritocracy is generally going to lead to better outcomes. It’s the claim that a group has already arrived there which I object to.

                                                                                                                                                                                  The pro-affirmative-action crowd argue that its not possible to get blind enough, so we need active counter-steering. That’s where I think principled debate is possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                    Another great counterpoint. :)

                                                                                                                                                                  2. 3

                                                                                                                                                                    Me too and me too. Gah. I was still thinking about this thread after I signed out and I quickly realized that ‘dog whistle’ is certainly not a good term to describe what I observed… Sorry about that!

                                                                                                                                                                    A dog whistle is, for example, when somebody is speaking to a group of people and they use a phrase that carries extra meaning for a subset of the group and the speaker does it deliberately to “get away with” saying something they aren’t willing to say outright.

                                                                                                                                                                    What I see happening with the Linus-takes-a-break conversation is: folks picking up the thread and twisting it around so that it looks as if the pro-CoC crowd has committed some heinous manipulation. But that is not what Linus said happened. In fact, he said “I absolutely do not want to be seen as being in the same camp as the low-life scum […]”. Oh, ‘spin’?

                                                                                                                                                                    Ok, so I should have said: I’m pro-meritocracy–in principle! But, the idea is being subjected to PR-style ‘spin’ now, as if to force good people to choose between adopting a CoC and opposing meritocracy. Damn the heathens who have constructed this probably false dichotomy!

                                                                                                                                                                2. 11

                                                                                                                                                                  Meritocracy is not a fucking dogwhistle.

                                                                                                                                                                  It may interest you to know that the term “meritocracy” was invented to be precisely that: a signal that the speaker falsely believes their position of power to be justly earned, as opposed to the product of social stratification: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

                                                                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                    To be fair – words once unleashed are defined by society and not the original authors. I am not sure the average person thinks of meritocracy in terms of what it was coined to mean. Lump it in with hacker, awful, literally, girl, and tons of other words that have completely changed meaning over the years.

                                                                                                                                                                    Possibly “meritocracy” is a poor word to be used if two people will sincerely read it exceptionally differently.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                      The original definition of racism was a practice done to Native Americans that most minority members have never experienced. Do you think they similarly should stop redefining the word when saying they were victims of racism? Or are terms allowed to evolve?

                                                                                                                                                                    2. 5

                                                                                                                                                                      I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to drop f-bombs on Lobsters.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. 22

                                                                                                                                                                        You’re also allowed to say fuck.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. 8

                                                                                                                                                                        The word “dogwhistle” is a dogwhistle. It’s the magical sauce you sprinkle on somebody else’s words when you want to pretend they mean the most awful thing you can imagine, rather than what they actually said.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                          People who are making really vile arguments often try to disguise them and then they and others will argue that as long as you don’t openly advocate something terrible, you are not.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                            Now that you mention it, the radical Leftists do the same thing. Their real, vile argument is all people should be forced to conform to their narrow views by any means necessary and in perpetuity. Then, they try to disguise it when pushing CoC’s by talking about goals and offenses nobody would disagree with.

                                                                                                                                                                            The bad folks in very different groups are a lot alike as usual.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                      This is well-written and comprehensive. I especially liked the section on progressive complexity and the final points about deliberately improving the internship program by asking the intern for feedback. These are good advice for interviewing and recruiting full-time employees too. Thanks for sharing!

                                                                                                                                                                      I did have a negative reaction to this part though: “usually the answers are in Slack.” Slack is a chat room. You need a knowledge base.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. 14

                                                                                                                                                                        This is a great article, and I thoroughly agree with the substance. One thing that bothered me was that in a few cases, the article uses male pronouns to talk about hypothetical candidates. E.g.:

                                                                                                                                                                        if I see that a person lights-up when he’s talking about programming (e.g. some cool stuff he has built over the summer/weekend) - he’s probably going to be a good developer in 2-3 years.

                                                                                                                                                                        (emphasis mine)

                                                                                                                                                                        @bndr, this is not to shame you or call you out specifically. In fact, I think this demonstrates how hard it can be to undo cultural norms: you use a non-gendered term (“a person”) in the same sentence. Another example from later on:

                                                                                                                                                                        they may end up liking that domain even more than they do their current one. This is self-explanatory, as the intern doesn’t have many experiences, he may suddenly find a passion for something different.

                                                                                                                                                                        (again, emphasis mine)

                                                                                                                                                                        1. 7

                                                                                                                                                                          Hey @mpcsh! Thanks for mentioning this, I do write “he” most of the times subconsciously , I will try to improve on this in the future!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                            Good on you. I was worried about posting this given all the hostility and divisiveness in the world. Thank you for being open and honest :)

                                                                                                                                                                          2. 0

                                                                                                                                                                            Why does this bother you?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                              Because I think language is important, and being inclusive is the right thing to do. Why do you ask?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for the explanation. If varyibg sets of pronouns are used, would that fulfill your inclusivity objective?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                  What do you mean by “varying sets”? All that needs to be done is to change each occurrence of he/him/his to they/them/theirs.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                    Well, I’ve often seen people just just multiple personas when giving examples. “When the programmer tries her method” mixed in with “When a developer publishes his library”, and so on. Provided both show up, that should be agreeable too no?

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                      They / them are the most appropriate pronouns for addressing a subject whose identity is undetermined, such as a hypothetical intern. Handily, these same words are perfectly good to use for any specific individual too.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 0

                                                                                                                                                                                        Meh. That seems like more effort on the part of the author, and while at best it’s the same as using neutral pronouns everywhere, it excludes people who don’t use he/him/his or she/her/hers. Using they/them/theirs is about as all-inclusive as English can afford, and people are already used to using they/them/theirs when talking about people in the abstract or hypothetical.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. 0

                                                                                                                                                                              They mention support for emoji in the README. I use the canonical “Emacs for Mac OS X” build and find it very annoying when I try to paste in text and then have to clean up the mess of missing emoji. Apparently this was intentionally crippled because RMS doesn’t want people to be encouraged to use Emacs on Apple’s OS. 1

                                                                                                                                                                              Does anyone have a solution for getting emoji support on macOS without building Emacs myself? (Please don’t suggest using homebrew.)

                                                                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                Aside from overpromise/underdeliver, I think an easy answer is advertising and lock-in to ad-driven sites became the norm. There’s too much money coming in to switch to something that might cut into it. Described well in this article. Ironically, it has an auto-playing, video ad pop up as I tried to skim it to make sure it was correct article.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                                                                                                                  Yeah, the rise of Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Yelp / Redfin walled-gardens of information definitely created barriers to a shared semantic web. It was also very labor-intensive to create and maintain metadata of any value. Ontology is hard! At the time it was proposed, the semantic web was a cart without a horse. The advocates wanted content producers to annotate everything with rich metadata, but where were the killer semantic apps?

                                                                                                                                                                                  Of course, in the mean time Google was creating innovative new ways to collect and search data without relying on hand-crafted semantics. Who wants to write RDF when machine learning algorithms can infer “good enough” semantics from the content itself?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                  In case anyone is unaware, Salvatore rejected any terminology change in response to an issue raised 2+ years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                  https://github.com/antirez/redis/issues/3185

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 6

                                                                                                                                                                                    Jenkins really is a love / hate piece of devops kit for me. My users love the ease of creating simple, ad-hoc form UIs for parameterized jobs. The fact that all the configs are stored on the filesystem instead of a proper database makes it really difficult to host in a cloud environment. I know Jenkins was designed for CI / CD but it works really well as a cron-plus for arbitrary batch jobs. I desperately wish for it to be better for admins like me.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                      I know Jenkins was designed for CI / CD but it works really well as a cron-plus for arbitrary batch jobs.

                                                                                                                                                                                      You might laugh, but this is exactly how a developer evangelist of Jenkins has once introduced it at a talk at our local Ruby users group.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                        I’m not surprised in the least. This has been our main usecase for over 6 years. Prior to adopting Jenkins the whole team had to coordinate with a single crontab and had to jump through all sorts of hoops to avoid scheduling conflicts and to implement multi-stage jobs.

                                                                                                                                                                                        What I find funny is that Jenkins’ main competitors seem to be in the CI / CD market and no one I’m aware of is targeting the need for a devops command & control center. Apache Airflow and Rundeck might be potential alternatives, but neither of them are really well suited for cloud deployments either.

                                                                                                                                                                                        What are other folks here using for this?

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                        Fixing the storage issue is something KK has been working on for a while, and a bit part of “Jolt” as I understand it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                        I appreciate the simple presentation and the interactive implementation. But… APL is good for vector/matrix manipulation. What else is new? An implementation of a algorithm with greater functionality has existed on Rosetta Code since May of 2011. You’ve implemented an important algorithm, and the implementation is rather elegant—I don’t claim it to be trivial enough for me to implement—but I fail to see how this makes the case for ML development with APL on the whole. Nothing personal, just trying to be a good skeptic & cut things down to size.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          A previous article about APL attracted a comment complaining that too often we see the same “game of life” program being analyzed when talking about APL:

                                                                                                                                                                                          https://lobste.rs/s/ghbrnt/apl_at_its_core#c_fchgdi

                                                                                                                                                                                          I’ve only been learning the language for about a year. This algorithm and implementation came from last year’s Dyalog competition. An acquaintance, who introduced me to APL, mentioned on twitter they were implementing k-means in C other day, so I thought it would be fun to show off my APL version.

                                                                                                                                                                                          It’s difficult to strike a balance when writing about APL for a general audience. There are few people fluent in the language, so most contemporary treatments start with the introductory fundamentals. However, even though this isn’t a state-of-the-art version of k-means, I feel like I succeeded in presenting a solution to a real-world problem while keeping it accessible to the uninitiated. Do you agree?

                                                                                                                                                                                          Thank you for the feedback. What would you like to see written about APL?

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Probably my favorite article about APL, which I couldn’t find upon searching, was a criticism of its discoverability, i.e., the path by which one learns new features of the language is rough & unclear. I think we need to face these less “pretty” sides of the language if we want to start talking about it as a generally applicable tool, and perhaps develop some useful solutions/workarounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I really like what you’ve done here, my criticism is mainly of the title I suppose. I would be really happy to see APL’s theoretical capabilities being applied to actual ML problems. It will probably always be weaker on the side of readability & friendly development environment, but I hope these can either be mitigated in the language / its descendants as they exist, or else addressed in a suitable successor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          This goes to an empty page. What is this?

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Looks like it got deleted, I archived it here: https://hastebin.com/boniyocefe.apl

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Uh oh, i thought that dpaste was supposed to keep it for a year… sorry!

                                                                                                                                                                                              The “cached” link above has a copy https://archive.is/http%3A%2F%2Fdpaste.com%2F3Z4K4B0

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  archive.is is not reliable. Best way to share code snippets like this is to use gitlab/github snippets feature. Or even something like txti.es (which has been around for a long time and they don’t delete pages AFAIK)