November 15th, 2006


Shyness and Electronic Friends

One of the things I've always found frustrating with social networking cites is that they end, emergently, to create social pressure towards a very trivial, easy notion of the word "friend" that is irritatingly trivial to me. For sites where being someone's "friend" is more functional, like LiveJournal, this doesn't bother me so much, as everyone (presumably) understands that friends there are largely equivalent to subscribing to someone's feed - it's saying "I find what you have to say interesting" or "I'll let you read some things I write that most people can't" and often nothing more. There are some people whose stuff I don't want to read, and I still might consider them a friend, and vice versa. Sites without that disambiguator leave what friendship means on that service up to individuals and still-more-emergent logic, leading to murkiness and potential for misunderstanding. I tend to go on the very conservative side of reaching out to people on such sites, marking them as friends, given that I don't really know what they think about me, and my definitions might differ greatly from theirs. I tend to accept incoming requests when I see them as a potential-friend.

To reiterate my framework of friendships:Collapse )

I recently have been thinking a lot about order and chaos, or perhaps legalism versus spiritism, or logic versus intuition/emotion. Each difference is part of the greater division -- how we order our understanding of the world, both in the present and in the ideal. I might stereotype, saying that some people care more about being consistent than in being accurate, and some vice versa. When I was younger, I was a creature of logic - I placed great stock in the idea that being able to better argue things made them more likely to be true (or made them true). Although I abandoned absolutism early, my relativism was initially quite shallow, and my values were not very .. humane or sentimental. I've become a kind of chaos-from-order person over the many changes I've undergone over the last 14 years. I notice this makes me distinct from people who are order-centric (by epistemology or by other parts of their Weltanschauung), or those who are chaos-centric in that my past, far from being baggage, adds a lot of content to who I am today - I reflexively use logic I don't trust to prepare incoming ideas for examination (possibly deconstruction). This complication makes it hard for me to relate to people.

A few interesting human motifs (or caricatures) to meditate on these distinctions:Collapse )

A few other possibly interesting things:

  • Today's Dinosaur Comics touches, accidentally or not, on ideas of Intellectual Property, in particular the recent protests by some vendors caused by someone making a tool to copy content in Second Life. This is primarily interesting in that second life has "protections" for objects that people can make, causing clients not to allow the free copying (or modification) of stuff (otherwise permitted). Some people spend a lot of time making certain things, and a few of them manage to supplement or supply their real-life income by selling stuff online. As always, I'm on the side against intellectual property. This does lead to my next topic..
  • I think that the GPL probably hurts, in a sense, the software market. This does *not* mean that I oppose it in any way -- I am committed to that damage, but I recognise the perspective that leads to the (valid) perception. One of the things that strikes me as interesting about some old economic philosophy is the stress on efficiency of labour. From one old perspective, the primary good of capitalism as a system (discarding the capitalism-as-liberty perspective) is that it permits careful (weighted by consequence) exploration of means to increase the efficiency of the transaction between human labour and material goods for humans. I like this perspective - making each hour of human labour produce more stuff for society, through improved technology and training, is the basis of capital investment. If this is aimed in the right direction and doesn't conflict with other important values, it is easily determined to be good for society. If, for example, we might at one point need to have farmers working 12 hours a day to collect a certain amount of food from the field, and at a later point, due to giving them tractors and training on their use, they might need to work 6 hours to make the same amount of food, we can either give them more leisure or get more food (either is a societal good). If we can do this across the board, we may eventually become efficient enough that nobody would need to work more than 4 hours a day (If I remember correctly, the old cartoon, the Jetsons, showed this idea with the father only working a few hours a day), and they'd have plenty of stuff, presumably with room for a good amount of comprimise with environmental concerns too. The existence of a good amount of GPL software, including Linux but also including a number of other tools, is a good example of such enabling technology - with open source, people are not reinventing the wheel so much -- there are a number of highly available wheels (probably a gnome-wheel, KWheel, etcetc) that people can use in their workplace (for internal development, at least). Does this take away jobs? In one sense, yes -- the waste labour needed to redevelop software does not occur as much (although systems integration, as a skill, becomes much more valuable). Is this a loss of labour we should mourn? Only if we exclusively think of ourselves as exploiters - looking at "the big picture", greater efficiency benefits society, provided society is willing to be social and take care of people, retraining them as needed. It would help to continue paring down the workday (perhaps down to 7 hours?) as our productivity (theoretically) increases.
  • Watching a long argument on C coding standards on a project I help out with, I can't help wonder why coding style is such an issue at this time. We have a wonderful piece of software called GNU Indent - if things really become contentious, one can set it as a check-in hook in version control, and indent it to one's preferred style the other way for incoming code. There are some areas where people might have creative formatting that is mangled by indent (this is especially true of other, more traditionally visually creative languages like Perl), but for C, especially given the people having the discussion, indent is the right thing. Hopefully they'll take my suggestion.

Failed Umbrellas

Sometimes when something's portrayed as a watershed moment, it's more of a disaster than a delight. Miguel de Icaza, turncoat of the Open Source Community, is using his (unfortunate) position to try to point people towards disaster.


  • Miguel started Ximian, a group that pushed certain interesting improvements to GNOME, as part of a special GNOME distro for many Linux distributions
  • Ximian decided to reimplement Microsoft's C# language for Linux and FreeBSD, calling its project (surprisingly honestly) Mono
  • Ximian was bought by Novell, which after the whole Caldera mess, decided it wanted to be involved in Linux again


The problem with Mono is that it wades into the patent minefield that Microsoft has laid, that it's a reimplementation of a bad clone of Java, and that it reinforces Microsoft's position. The good thing about Mono is that it might make it easier to migrate away from Microsoft. Recently, Novell and Microsoft entered into an agreement whereby it agreed that it would not enforce its Mono patents against individual and non-commercial developers. Novell (as a company) further cross-licenses all its patents with Microsoft, they'll have some obligations, and .. Microsoft gave Novell a pretty good chunk of cash (around 350 million). This is a bad thing, and it hurts the community - notice that the patent license to the community is only a promise to individual and noncommercial developers - it leaves as vulnerable all commercial distributions apart from Novell - while the Apache Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation, and Novell may be "saved", any other distribution that is also a business, such as RedHat, is left vulnerable to Microsoft. Miguel acknowledges that there may be patent concerns -- I reference his blog for this quote:

So today we have secured a peace of mind for Novell customers that might have been worried about possible patent infringements open source deployments. This matters in particular for Mono, because for a long time its been the favorite conversation starter for folks that find dates on Slashdot.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one who reads the fine print...