Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Colleague Exhibits Bad Behavior

by Dietrich Schmitz

It's just another day on Linux Advocates.  Another story and another raft of comments ensue.  Their volume varies but, predictably, some stories elicit more comments than others.  I tend to be edgy in my writing style as you may have already figured out during the last month or so.

My purpose here at Linux Advocates is not to be a 'yes Man' or 'back slapper' who writes the party line.  No I live in search of finding what is hidden away, just under the surface exterior of things.

You get so you realize that instinctively things are not quite the way they seem.  You see, people only tell you what they want you to know and you see only what they want you to see.  Suffice it to say, I've been around the corner more than once and have a knack for seeing through the layers of facade that are presented to the uninitiated.

You can add your own adjectives for that--you know what it is when you see it--BS.

I decided to test one of my colleagues to see his reaction would be to my short comment.  It's an example of what is the worst kind of exchange one can have in written form.  Writing is one of those things that really requires practice to avoid clashing, conflicting exchanges of any kind, be it in Chat, Email, SMS Text, Forums, you are only one short comment away from finding another person's limits in polite exchange.  Then it get's personal in varying degrees and can quickly escalate to the point of downright mean-spiritedness.

My exchange is here.  You may draw your own conclusions from it.  I submit that this is an example of a mindset that is 'poisonous'.  A close Developer friend of mine wrote his opinion of it:

"I'm quite sick of these poisonous few making us all look like unapproachable nerds who live at the bottom of the gene pool."
The problem is that people build up around themselves complex layers of abstraction which artificially give them some level of comfort in justifying their personal belief system and also justifying their behavior.

It's human nature, but I think that it is demonstrative of an ongoing problem with written communication that takes place in various venues used by Developers and users alike.  It only results in a breakdown and loss of continuity exchanging differing points of view.  The cause may be accidental or intentional.  I have found often it was not accidental  and it happens moreso when one challenges another's core belief system.

So, when you are in a Forum or Chat or IRC channel and suddenly find yourself a target of someone else's venom, be mindful of who is targeting you and do not respond in kind; it won't help your cause.  If an attempt to smooth the conversation doesn't work, go an alternate route if possible to having your communication; using email might be a better option.  Ad hoc replies won't necessarily allow one to refine a thought before a flame war ignites.  It becomes practically impossible to quench the fire once begun.

My exchange wasn't so much a surprise to me.  I expected my colleague to react in one way or another.  Take my comment seriously and go postal or just laugh it off.  I had hoped for the latter.  Yet, it draws you the picture of what can happen when poisonous behavior taints a thread of communication of any kind.

Keep your powder dry.

-- Dietrich
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  1. Ouch.

    I actually quite enjoyed the conversation on that post, as I know that you realize how important it is to question ourselves and the F/OSS community status quo (as a user of free and proprietary software, I do it all the time).

    We need to be able to ask the tough questions, and have free thinking discussions, put aside politics and ideologies in order to grow.

    Carry on doing what you do sir.

  2. I commented more to the fact he wrote Ubuntu GNU/Linux. I just think that's silly.

  3. It's silly to put *Linux at the end of "Ubuntu" at all. It's just "Ubuntu". That's what Canonical calls their distro. Not "Ubuntu Linux" or "Ubuntu GNU/Linux". Just "Ubuntu". Similarly, we don't say "Android Linux" or "Fedora Linux" because they're simply "Android" and "Fedora".

    That said, as much as I take your side on this, isn't writing an entire article to bash a colleague taking it a bit too far? I mean, I know journalism's normally cut-throat and all, but still. Seems a bit excessive.

  4. What is excessive is the ongoing mentality that pervades the community with exalted reverence for GNU and all things Debian to the point where a colleague reflexively accuses you of hate.

    That is clouded thinking and judgment. Beware.

  5. Maybe an article covering this particular issue would be in order? A poll would be even better. Just my two cents.

  6. Agreed - Ubuntu is Ubuntu, most people just say "Linux", and if Debian wants to officially be Debian GNU/Linux, well... It's still Linux.

  7. GNU_Prometheus_LeagueApril 14, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    funny ha ha. Its not merely about being accurate about the contents (ie. truth in advertising or the required label on food to let you know what's inside) as your post might suggest. Rather its about putting the spotlight on the moral/ethical/political choice between Free v. Proprietary software.

  8. GNU_Prometheus_LeagueApril 14, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    Just because Ford doesn't say 'automobile' at the end of a particular model, doesn't make it "silly" to say its a (say for instance Mustang) automobile. Neither is it "silly" to point out that its Ubuntu GNU/Linux, no matter what Shuttleworth and Canonical's marketing folks label it. Its just a fact.

  9. GNU_Prometheus_LeagueApril 14, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    Still GNU/Linux you mean. :-)

  10. GNU_Prometheus_LeagueApril 14, 2013 at 1:12 AM

    You think its silly so you attacked him. And who is exhibiting bad behavior?

  11. GNU_Prometheus_LeagueApril 14, 2013 at 1:14 AM

    How about the point that you WERE exhibiting hate? Or is no one allowed to have their individual point of view except yourself. You attacked him, not the other way around.

  12. When one is implying "Ford Mustang automobile" to be the proper brand name of a product rather than what the manufacturer actually calls it ("Ford Mustang"), that strikes me as silly.

    Not that I really care either way. Call it whatever you want. So long as there are no demands for me to refer to Ford Mustangs as "Ford Mustang gasoline-powered automobile" in everyday speech as if I were an actor in some commercial, I'm quite content :)