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Re: [OT] Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: Re: community spirit

From: Thomas Lord
Subject: Re: [OT] Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: Re: community spirit
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 12:18:59 -0800 (PST)

    > From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden>

    >     Thomas> Are you saying:

    >     Thomas>       Moral judgement are applicable to actions, behavior,
    >     Thomas> and attitudes -- not to individual people.  Thus, you are
    >     Thomas> wrong to place ignorant execs within your moral calculus.

    > I wouldn't phrase it that way.  In particular, I'd probably delete
    > both "attitudes" from the things to be judged and surely "ignorant"
    > from the description of execs.

In the preppy culture I experienced, "attitude" is a class of
(intentional) behaviors which is usually distinguished from "behavior"
in general.  "Attitude" is kind of the specific behavior of how you
try to process new information and "behavior", as a broad category,
for some (possibly illogical) reason doesn't include the behaviors
known as "attitude".  It's kind of a right of passage for "problem
kids" (like me! :-) -- when you realize that "attitude" (in this
sense) is something you have some degree of conscious control over.
"Adjusting your attitude", /properly/ imposed, is how kids learn to
bring their perspectives to the grown-up's table without having to
arbitrarily submit to a process that would suppress those ideas.  Part
of my critique of that American subculture is that they have (in my
experience) a tragically misguided notition of how to /properly/
impose that right of passage and therefore wind up suppressing plenty
of perfectly reasonable ideas.

Re: "ignorant execs" --- i thought it was a fair term since it was a
willful ignorance that I was referring to: "management by people
skills" contrasted with "managment by sustained study of the
engineering field".  Consider my shorthands like that to be of a
comparable spirit to recursive acronyms: "ignorant execs" is a
convenient short-hand; a good mnemonic; a technacolor choice of

The guy who runs the convenience store on my corner is not an
"ignorant exec" (though he uses plenty of people skills).  He's
"lucky" in the sense that his business has a surplus of objective
facts on the basis of which to make investment decisions.  Execs of
broad-market computing systems companies (as contrasted with execs of
firms and divisions serving a pleasingly well-defined niche) suffer
from a lot of "unknowability" (as rumsfeld put it: "There are things
we know / there are things we things we don't know / there are things
we know we know / and things we don't know that we don't know....").
Some important decisions they make are actually very difficult
technical problems --- to which they throw up their arms and make a
"people skills" decision.

It's unsurprising that, this early in the history of the field, these
broad-market computing system execs would flounder more than a little
bit and go off in crazy directions, even for years at a time.  Part of
my (informal) job is to help defeat the craziness and preserve the
good parts of what they do.   And I have the scars to show for that.

My concern (partially selfish, I admit) is the question of how those
exec's should make decisions that impact the deployment of innovative
engineering effort.  I think they do very, very poorly in this area
(as you know).  They want "the next product opportunity".   Engineers
should want simply labor justice and ethical accountability.   My
experience in reconciling these demands?: Not so good.

I would think my opinion that they do poorly /would/ be a matter of
personal opinion, only, /but for the fact/ that I have seen so many
actively supressed opportunities and so many actively persued wastes
of time.  It weakens my case, when spoken at /this/ level of
abstraction, that I have personally been too often at the receiving
end of such "supression" --- but over a few, quiet, face-to-face with
paper-and-pen-and-web-browser hours, I think I could make my case much
more strongly.  And as evidence that those few hours would be worth
it, two of many things I can point to are the utter dependence of
'larch' upon 'rx' and 'tla' upon 'hackerlab'.  In other words, at
every stage, arch has built upon (and had little choice /but/ to build
upon) certain foundations that I laid against all conventional wisdom
in the several years proceeding.  I laid those foundations on first
principles, not in anticipation of arch.  Yet, for whatever criticism
arch may receive, it has had considerable impact (and is likely to
have more) -- and it would not have been possible under the highly
constrained circumstances but for "lucky" accident of my earlier
personal investment.  Evidently, there is some evidence that my
ranting about software aesthetics and approaches to innovation are not
entirely full of hot air (even if that's how I'm treated by /some/
firms in this world).  And really, once you dig into my opinions and
get over whatever prejudices you have against my word choices: my
opinions about the directions to innovate?  /Mostly/ (not entirely :-)
cribbed from well-known geniuses -- and fairly transparently so, I

And, as I said: the one-sidedness of this little (multi-year)
flame-war is finally getting tiresome, even to me.   If there's one
thing missing in my flames, it's a big thing: conveying the joy and
excitement at the tantelizing prospects of what more rational R&D
investment can deliver.  /That/ is what the
i'd-like-to-get-them-in-a-room and a-few-quiet-hours-could-fix-this
stuff is about:  those guys are just in danger of missing the party
boat, that's all.


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