Re: Guest Post - Steve Jobs and Apple

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With all my might, I'm resisting the suggestion that LB should review the book.

Well, crap.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:39 AM
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More substantively, I think that whether that judgment holds (the one from p. 566, not Shearer's) depends on what happens next. If Apple has another 5-10 years at its (rough) current level of success, then Jobs goes down as a giant*. I mean, 15 years ago the CW was that the company should be liquidated, and it's been the biggest or second biggest corporation (by capitalization) for over a year now.

Three likely outcomes (IMO):

1. Apple remains a powerhouse, and Jobs becomes just as renowned as Ford or Edison, the former for his obvious business acumen, the latter for his obvious device/design/innovation acumen

2. Apple flounders in the near future, and Jobs' star becomes more singular, as a sort of savant who failed to create a legacy

3. Apple declines slowly but surely over the next decade, sort of like MSFT, and with a similar result to what's happened to Gates - hailed as King Geek just a decade ago, now viewed as a rich guy who did something important once

I think only 3 leaves him as someone who isn't a well-known name in 100 years (say, like Howe or Frick or, maybe, Gould - mentioned in textbooks, but not part of the culture).

*in business, not just in computers; obviously, he'll go down in hi-sto-ree just for having founded Apple, let alone reviving it


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:47 AM
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I hope we find this description in the book somewhere:

"Jobs was a (mostly) Republican computer engineer who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in his garage."


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:11 PM
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This will all seem silly when the robot overlords destroy our World Wide Web and force us into breeding camps with no wifi.


Posted by: Mentioner | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:30 PM
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Speaking of robot overlords, I somehow ended up reading Crooked Timber and then the Noah Smith cyborg post and then the comment thread about it. How do these things happen? I know I don't want to read Crooked Timber comment threads.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:32 PM
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Jobs becomes just as renowned as Ford or Edison, the former for his obvious business acumen, the latter for his obvious device/design/innovation acumen

I'm no expert but IMO Jobs isn't in that class. Ford btw wasn't just a businessman. He was an engineer in an Edison company and started doing engine designs on the side as a hobby.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:33 PM
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5: heh. The same thing just happened to me. But in my case, a trusted friend sent me there. Regardless of how I got there, that thread is another shining moment for Yglesias!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:39 PM
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By contrast, I thought the Jacobin post's comment thread was worthwhile. And even the Smith thread led to this video, which is a fairly effective bit of dystopia/polemic packed into just a couple minutes.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:42 PM
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8: another trusted friend sending me to a CT thread? Okay, off I go!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:46 PM
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And now D^2 is bringing it in the Smith thread. Fun stuff!


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:47 PM
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I had a little argument with myself about whether that comment was really by Yglesias or was written by someone trying to malign him. But I guess it's real.

This is probably a fault of mine, not of Jacobin, but most of the stuff I've tried to read there is written in a kind of abstracted academese that I find impossible to follow for more than a paragraph or so.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:48 PM
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Try the new Positively Polemic! Now with more Dystopia!

(these statements not approved by the FDA)


Posted by: Mentioner | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:51 PM
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11: I have the same problem.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:52 PM
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I got lost in the cyborg thread at the claim that noninvasive interfaces only allow people to communicate one bit per second. I must type a lot slower than I think I do.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:52 PM
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Apple is a clever business, but no substantial technical innovation as far as I can see. Not obvious that there is more there than existed say at DEC.

IOS has some neat features-- HFS Plus with app-specific sandboxes is a clever solution to simultaneously block filesharing and limit security problems from ambitious or sloppy programs. And the whole process of device speciation is neat to see- people (me included) are perfectly happy with blackbox devices that they are basically powerless to interact with and which are mostly useless for generating data of any sort. But reading about how various devices actually work is definitely more interesting than reading a book about Apple.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:53 PM
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User interfaces never count as "technical innovation"?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:56 PM
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Much as I've always loved Apple's interfaces, I think they innovated iTunes right into unusability in the latest version.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:56 PM
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Speaking of interfaces, is this real?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:56 PM
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11.2: it doesn't read like exactly like academese to me, though that's a language I find difficult to take, so much as debating society rhetoric. Or at least that's how Corey Robin's stuff always reads to me: like he's putting an argument out there, designed explicitly to win points from judges. Still, I find many of his essays and posts thought-provoking and/or interesting, so I'm loath to criticize him too harshly.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 12:57 PM
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Oh, cute, I had missed the part of the Smith thread where Bertram disemvoweled DeLong for mocking him.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 1:08 PM
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13, 11: Me too

19: Obscurantist? No, not fair. But I do find Robin almost wholly uncongenial to read, even though I think our politics align.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 1:10 PM
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17: I've only just switched, and I can't tell how much of my dissatisfaction is pure stick-in-the-mudism.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 1:11 PM
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18.last: 99% certain it is. I read about it a few months ago, including the underlying tech.

Whether it's actually worthwhile is unclear.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 1:13 PM
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6: This is why I say the fate of Apple is tied to Jobs'. He said, and others have agreed, that Apple itself is his ultimate creation - that, more than clever/revolutionary* devices, he was working to create a company that itself would be able to create clever/revolutionary devices, regardless of his fate (or Jonny Ive's). Companies are famous for having one or two epochal successes, and then either coasting or collapsing (or sustaining through rent-seeking). If Jobs really succeeded in leaving behind a company that can continue to have iPod/iPhone/iPad-level successes, even in absence of his guiding hand, then he's done something extraordinary, totally aside from his personal responsibility from those 3 successes (and whatever other ones you want to give Jobs credit for; I'd argue that Apple's position in the laptop market is nearly as dominant, with them taking virtually all the profits in an entire segment).

I'd actually forgotten the Ford started (indirectly) under Edison, but I now have a clear memory of researching Ford in the Cutler Ridge branch of the Miami Public Library, ca. 1984.

*cleverlutionary?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 1:21 PM
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Further to 21.last: I find his writing so disagreeable that it literally makes me want to disagree with him even when I'm pretty sure I agree with his premise entirely. That's some trick.

"No, you fatuous prick, workers clearly don't deserve bargaining rights, and architects are uniformly stupid!"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 1:25 PM
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So far this thread is agreeable to me.

Jacobin has comment threads? That sort of rhetoric and discourse is honey for my eyes, but Jacobin is by no means the best. Kotsko's place gets fricking amazing.

Apple needs to do something astonishing with their cash, credit, and reputation to become world-historic.
Like borrow a trillion and buy fucking everything:Google + Amazon + Goldman-Sachs + Clippers + Singapore.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:05 PM
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Companies are famous for having one or two epochal successes, and then either coasting or collapsing (or sustaining through rent-seeking).

Jobs also positioned Apple extremely well to be sustained by rent-seeking, broadly defined--network effects, lock-in, patents, and so forth. The iOSification of OSX is a good example of this, with the Mac App Store, iCloud, and iTunes--a gilded cage, with Apple getting its cut of everything that comes in or goes out.

Both of my parents have been pondering system-wide (phone, computer, media-attached-to-TV-device) upgrades recently, and it's a little worrisome how hard it is to resist just falling into line: "well, I've already got the iPhone, I guess I might as well go with Apple for the Apple TV, &c." (I was also very frustrated by how hard it is to do something that seems technically very basic: get the media on this device I'm holding here, onto that device there, via a network both are connected to--if one of these devices is Apple and the other isn't.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:08 PM
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I see neb wrote a less polite version of my comment 14 directly in the CT thread. Yay, neb.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:14 PM
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they innovated iTunes right into unusability in the latest version

I was crazy frustrated with the latest iTunes until Bave reminded me to select "View Sidebar", which fixed most of my frustrations.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:20 PM
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I hate Apple for the foreseeable future. Several family members combined to get one family member an Ipad Mini on the basis that it would be just what he needs for his work traveling around and displaying stuff to people, which he too believed. Until we got down to the details and were holding the box in our hands (making sure not to open it), when it turns out to be largely useless for anything except entertainment. It has no USB connector, but never fear, its "Lightning" connector has a USB adaptor. Except that the USB adaptor is only for charging it. You can't connect it to a flash drive or external hard drive. Right there they're seemingly intentionally aggravating people. Or to do so you have to do some sort of "jailbreak" thing that is way above anybody's head but the engineers assume anyone with the barest interest in using the machine will figure out. This is one of several things it's unable to do that we just didn't consider a thing that looks like a computer would be unable to do. For the moment I feel embarrassed.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:28 PM
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29: Wow, thanks, that does help. (Not being able to drag things to playlists was annoying me.) My other main complaint is that if I type something (artist name, for instance) in the search bar, it used to bring up songs matching what I typed, but now I have to click "Show [...] in Music" to have the same effect.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:32 PM
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30: I think that you can manually upload files through iTunes, but I put everything I need onto my iPad mostly via Dropbox and the Dropbox app. Annoying that it has to work this way, but the Dropbox fix works quite well, at least (assuming wireless connectivity).


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:33 PM
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So should I get a droid tablet or a Kindle Fire or what?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:36 PM
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33: A pad of paper and a pencil.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:39 PM
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32: Yeah, Apple needs to buy Dropbox, but apparently the Dropbox guys aren't selling.

I haven't yet found any way to justify an iPad, although if I had one for free there are definitely ways that it would be work-useful.

27.1: I'm not sure any of those effects are really sustainable in the long run. I mean, I had Exxon in mind when I wrote that; I don't think the App Store is really comparable to the amount of political power Exxon (et al) have to shape public policy in their favor.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:40 PM
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I enjoy my current range of Apple products but find the hero worship of Jobs or its products bizarre. Incrementally improving good design is a pretty common feature in contemporary manufacturing; it's nice that Jobs and Apple applied this successfully to computers, and Apple's comeback story makes for a nice narrative, but otherwise so what? It's possible that there's some incredible technical innovation he made that I don't know about, but he doesn't strike me as a super-world historically important business figure, although obviously he was successful.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:41 PM
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|?

Current reading:Harry Harootunian, History's Disquiet

In this regard, modernity provided a framework of temporal imminence in which to locate all societies. This was a conception of modernity rarely, if ever, imagined by classic theorists like Durkheim, Weber, and Simmel. If modernity was driven by the desiring machine of capitalism, promising to install its regime of production and consumption everywhere, the everyday, serving as a minimal unification of the present and signaling the level of lived experience and reproduction would, in fact, negotiate the compelling demands of homogeneity through the mediations of a past that constantly stood in a tense, often antagonistic, relationship to the present of the new.

Jacobin rarely rises to this level. I don't Robin is capable of it.

Notes:I think he does indeed mean "imminence" rather than "immanence." Modernity takes you from the quotidian. And notice "desiring machine" (Guattari). The smart ones just allude.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:44 PM
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You haven't really seen a terrible comment thread until you've read the comments to this post of Ygle/sias'. He quotes a joke of Er/ik Loo/mis, and the comment thread consists of people trying to figure out what it means. The St/eve Sai/ler comment is extra-inexplicable.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:47 PM
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For me the main thing that Apple have done in the past decade that really matters to me, is make a Unix based desktop OS that doesn't totally suck. I need to use 'nix tools all day at work, and I hate Linux as a desktop OS.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:51 PM
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38: This comment was priceless.

Nice bit of racism on the part of Yglesias. I want to see if he will write a similar article if the fiscal cliff impacts the federal subsidies on chitlins and watermelons


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 2:52 PM
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The Nexus 7 is really very good. My father bought me one, and I like it a lot. If you're going to get one that isn't an N7, get the Nook HD, because its screen is ridiculous--1440x900 on 7 motherfucking inches. But the Nook has Barnes and Noble's stupid version of Android on it, and while you can root it and install the Google app store and other app launchers and so on, it sounds like a bother.

The N7 (or Nexus 10, if you want something bigger) certainly does't suffer from the problems listed in 30.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:03 PM
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36: iPod and iPad are, in some sense, incremental improvements on what came before (although I'd argue their success, compared to their predecessors, suggests a significant contribution; as we all know, Ford didn't invent the automobile), but the iPhone was radical. It was released to a world of keyboard phones and candy bar phones; five years later, even el cheapo phones from Cricket look pretty much like the original iPhone. Complete paradigm shift in one of the central technologies of the day (and my understanding is that Jobs was involved in the conception of it; he didn't just approve the nearly complete work of underlings); that sounds like a big deal.

But as I say, if that's all there is, then he just becomes part of a laundry list of innovators of the day; maybe he gets double points for Apple ][ + Mac and then the i-era, but I agree that if that's all there is, if Apple fades like IBM and HP and Dell before it, then he's clearly no Ford, in fact or in history.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:05 PM
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33: A pad of paper and a pencil.

If you buy a stylus, your tablet can emulate a pen and pencil!


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:06 PM
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43: Sure, but the pad of paper and pencil are still cheaper. And, you can chew the pencil.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:12 PM
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I dropped my pad and pen into the tub, and not only were they ruined, but also the tub water filled with ink.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:14 PM
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You can chew the paper also. Just not for as long.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:14 PM
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I'm just getting used to the Nook that someone gave me for Christmas. So far it's fine for my limited needs: reader, email, web browsing, Netflix an occasional movie. So far as I know I don't want/need a wide variety of apps, so the lack thereof doesn't bother me. Maybe it would if I knew what I was missing.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:19 PM
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. . . no substantial technical innovation . . .

Does that matter? As an engineer, I'd like for it to matter, but it seems relatively unimportant. Off the top of my head, the only companies I can think of that are sustained through technical prowess are Google and Intel, both of which have managed to use their technical edge to create an infrastructure that's unbeatable, plus hedge funds and prop traders, which use their technical edge to make money directly.

But, in general, when I see a company full of smart engineers go up against a company with smart business people, the company with the smart business folks is the one that's still standing a decade later. Even with Intel, you could make a case that it was the business side of things that really made them dominant until about the mid-90s.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:31 PM
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Microsoft under Ballmer has systematically given less power to engineers and more to business people than it did under Gates, with pretty poor results.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:39 PM
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Off the top of my head, the only companies I can think of that are sustained through technical prowess are Google and Intel

What about WalMart and Foxconn? Even aside from continual innovations in the manufacturing processes proper, isn't much of their success due to being better at logistics, at, well, central planning, than anybody else? It's hard to know quite what to think about this, because much of this is 'technical' in the original sense of cybernetics, people-as-systems; and treating people as components in your system has not necessarily been good for those people. I'm sure Knecht could say more here.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:50 PM
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50: Ikea also probably fits this.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 3:52 PM
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As my "central planning" bit gestures at, this sort of technical capacity is, when done at large scale, quintessentially *political*--inasmuch as the latter is concerned with "who gets what, when, and how."


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:05 PM
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49: That's interesting, because, from a purely technical standpoint, MS has products that are better than they've ever had. Not just because technology has improved, but in comparison to the competition.

Word succeeded because, unlike Word Perfect, it was WYSIWYG, and it was cheaper than all the other alternatives, and Windows was a piece of crap compared to *nix variants, and not as nice from a usability standpoint as Mac OS.

Now, MSR employs many of the top researchers in a lot of fields, and you can see the effect on Windows. From a security standpoint, Windows does more to protect you from stupid programmers than any other OS, and that's only one of many ways that it's technically sweet. And yet, Linux seems to keep stealing market share from Windows.

I agree with 50/51. I'm sure there are many industries that I know nothing about where companies have succeeded through technical innovation, but, ironically, with hardware and software, that rarely seems to be the case.

I was talking with someone at linkedin the other day, and he told me that the reason we're suddenly seeing a lot of changes is because, about a year ago, a small team refactored the codebase, because it was a complete mess that made it impossible to add features. Engineers had wanted to do it for a long time, but they couldn't get approval. Eventually, the embarrassment of watching facebook roll out releases daily while not being able to add features for years was enough to get the project approved by management. Sun was successful with the SPARC line for decades despite producing an expensive, slow, and unreliable processor. They've outlasted all of DEC's offerings, which was suggested upthread as an example of technical excellence. When I think about companies that are considered tech companies, it's much easier to come up with examples where good marketing beat good technology than visa versa.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:07 PM
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MS has products that are better than they've ever had

The last couple of iterations of Office have seen the most catastrophic fall in usefulness that I think I've ever seen. Terrible terrible terrible shit.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:10 PM
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I mostly only use Word and Excel these days, but the ribbon was definitely not a step forward.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:14 PM
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I thought the reason Word succeeded was the usual network advantage.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:15 PM
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Sun was successful with the SPARC line for decades despite producing an expensive, slow, and unreliable processor.

God, yes. Recently at work I took over an unused Sparc based Sun Fire system (8 Ultrasparc T1 cores), hoping to use it to do some image conversion that wasn't urgent. Comically slow [presumably because only a single FPU core], even allowing for the system being 4 or 5 years old.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:19 PM
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I thought WP was WYSIWYG?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:20 PM
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re: 55

The ribbon can drive me to break things. Literally. It's insane. Designed by a gibbering maniac.

'Sure, let's make stuff always be in a different place.'
'Users who know where things are? Fuck 'em'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:20 PM
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58 is my recollection as well. Word's distinguishing feature has always been the programs affinity for persistently making irreversible changes of its own volition.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:24 PM
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I just fired up Word for the first time on this computer, and immediately a third of my precious vertical pixels were claimed by menus, status bars, pointless gray space, and other chrome. This, in an age where almost everyone's now using widescreen monitors. What were they thinking?

Maybe each menu item was the responsibility of a separate team, so you had a typical N-person prisoners' dilemma--yes, we shouldn't have all this crap, but *my* item needs to be included, and I can't control what you fuckers are doing over there in the SmartArt team.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:27 PM
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53: Microsoft hired away DEC's OS team, which couldn't have helped.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:29 PM
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58: It was, but not until too late, IIRC. When I was a kid, my options were WP 5.1 (which I liked) and some version of Word (1? 2?). When WP switched to a WYSIWYG interface it killed backward compatibility with WP 5.1 keybindings, which made it nearly useless, for me.

The Ribbon in office seems to have a similar problem. It beats the old interface in usability studies with new users, but most old users don't like it. I don't really think of UI things as technical issues, but that probably just tells you that I'm a huge nerd.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:30 PM
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I thought WP was WYSIWYG?

Funny, that's how I remembered WP, too, but apparently it wasn't until version 6, in 1993; version 5 showed markup tags through different colors. I thought WP's downfall was that it didn't make a Windows version quick enough, and that even when they did make one, it had all sorts of conflicts.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:35 PM
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UI issues are everything. The ribbon is a broken UI, as far as I'm concerned. Not just poor (there's loads of those) but a constant obstacle to ever getting shit done.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:36 PM
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Thoroughly and completely pwned. Jesus, I'm useless.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:36 PM
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I definitely prefer the newer Office to 2003 and earlier, and to LibreOffice/OpenOffice but the lack of a real native command line in Windows has started to annoy me. I'm not quite ready to go to a Linux desktop and the various hardware interoperability issues, plus cost has so far kept me away from Apple.

(I really dislike iOS but OSX seems ok enough.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:37 PM
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What do you need from the command line that you can't get from a DOS shell? Or cygwin/mingw if you are that way inclined?

Genuinely curious.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:39 PM
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Not speaking for fa, but, the DOS shell is barely programmable. PowerShell is nice, but I already know how to use bash and tcsh, so why spend time learning another shell?

Cygwin is ok, but not completely compatibility. For instance, tmux doesn't work in cygwin, and I run every non-graphical application in tmux, which (and I pretty much don't use graphical apps -- I run emacs -nw and run pretty much every app as either an emacs buffer or a tmux buffer). I looked into fixing the problem with tmux, but it's a fairly major change, and I haven't had the time. For now, my windows box is pretty much just an ssh session into a linux box, although I do sometimes need use Office, and I tend to run my web browser natively.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:48 PM
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68: I still don't really do enough from the command line for it to be a serious annoyance, but it is kind of annoying to have to use different commands to do the same things (like dir vs ls). More recently, I've written some python scripts to help me sort files that only work from the DOS shell because in cygwin the paths are treated differently. I'm sure I could find around that, or I guess I could do everything in cygwin, but I don't like having another "home" folder to keep track of.

The native DOS shell also doesn't seem to allow you to copy and paste or save your history as easily as with bash but there's probably ways around that. A friend has recommended I install git rather than cygwin. I'm not sure if that's better for a shell but I should learn to use git anyway.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 4:58 PM
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New Office is essential for handling large files in Excrl, but that's really just a fix of a stupid limitation in 2003, not really innovation.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:00 PM
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I wrote almost all of my papers in college in wordperfect 5 using either DOS or Windows (3.1 or something). No mouse pointer, white text on a blue screen, only Courier fonts, and I can't remember how it showed text formatting. It did have a real reveal markup codes option, which is something I wish Word would do.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:05 PM
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I p0wn'd by 3. http://xperteaseny.com/2012/09/19/asa-akira-at-xpertease-live/

Interesting side stories about Pink, Taligent, Be should fit in an authoritative 500+ page book.

I was impressed at the time by _defying gravity_ , the Newton saga.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:30 PM
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Why exactly is there a link to a Gentlemen's Club in your comment, econolicious?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:37 PM
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50: yeah that's called "management". (Or operations research if you wanna be old fashioned.) It's what dsquared always bangs on about as being an actual thing that matters.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:37 PM
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75: They split the difference and call it "operations management" now.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:39 PM
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Right, I'm just saying that I'm not sure how clean the line is that separates that from "technical" prowess/innovation.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:41 PM
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I don't think there is a clear line, but good luck selling that to the management-is-not-a-thing-brigade, to steal from the Crooked Timber thread.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:47 PM
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(Which thread is hilarious. DeLong! Yglesias! Dsquared! Nosflow little bitches it up!)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 5:50 PM
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There's a pretty clear line. In business school, "management" and "operations management" are two distinct degrees. "Management" is Harvard case studies and "The Innovator's Dilemma." "Operations management" is linear programming and queuing theory.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:00 PM
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UI issues are everything.

Preach it, ttaM. (39 also gets it exactly right.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:05 PM
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I don't really think of UI things as technical issues

This attitude probably has something to do with why so much software sucks so much.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:07 PM
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Why's that? I never said it wasn't important, and, in fact, I claimed that non-technical stuff, like marketing and UI, is more important.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:16 PM
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73+74=Awesome.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:18 PM
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Why exactly is there a link to a Gentlemen's Club in your comment, econolicious?

And it's advertising a show that happened a week ago. How was she?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:22 PM
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'Sure, let's make stuff always be in a different place.'
'Users who know where things are? Fuck 'em'.

This.

I switch between 4 versions of Word and Excel on a regular basis (3 Windows and 1 Mac). The sheer level of contempt for the user's time that is exhibited by a) the constant changes in menu options, naming, and locations; and b) that asinine excuse for a "Help" file, is astounding.

I honestly cannot figure out why they can't just hire a few people who know anything about cross-referencing to at least put pointers in the damn Help file.

Contempt. Utter contempt for actual real-life usability.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:32 PM
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Let's all list our most bookmarked strip club pages.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:34 PM
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There's a pretty clear line. In business school, "management" and "operations management" are two distinct degrees. "Management" is Harvard case studies and "The Innovator's Dilemma." "Operations management" is linear programming and queuing theory.

But they're both b-school subjects, no? I mean, this is an area where my knowledge primarily comes from a couple of half-remembered books written in the mid-eighties, so you know, discount appropriately.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:34 PM
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Also what does good marketing beats good engineering mean? What does good mean here? Probably something going on there.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:38 PM
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Good marketing beats good engineering, and vice versa.


Posted by: OPINIONATED YOGI BERRA, MBA | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:42 PM
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Japanese automakers, headed by engineers, destroyed the American ones with their MBA CEOs.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:49 PM
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Wow, that CT thread is a trainwreck and a half. I occasionally have a terror I am going around making idiotic public statements and no one is telling me.

Mostly I comfort myself by thinking my friends are too blunt to allow that, but then I see a thread like that and I get chills all over again. Yeeeeech.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:51 PM
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My other main complaint is that if I type something (artist name, for instance) in the search bar, it used to bring up songs matching what I typed

You can just type whatever you're looking for and hit return.

Probably pwned, sure I am. Sure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:57 PM
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92: You're good.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 6:59 PM
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59 et sequelae: no fucking shit. That is unbelievably irritating. Also irritating was that in Excel, they took away the hatching effect for charts, but left the asinine textures. Who wants to have hatching when you could have a fossilized fish tiled across your figures?


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:01 PM
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I don't really think of UI things as technical issues

As has already been mentioned, this is deeply weird, even for a huge nerd.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:02 PM
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I claimed that non-technical stuff, like marketing and UI

This is also deeply weird. What do marketing and UI have to do with each other?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:05 PM
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96 & 97: Is it? UI seems intuitively non-technical to me. And I'd definitely group UI with (parts of) marketing before I'd group it with (parts of) computer engineering.

As far as 97.last goes, "people" seems a good bet.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:11 PM
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I'm writing this on a nexus 7 I got for Christmas and it seems just fine. Never did see the point of an Ipad when you can't type on it really and already have a laptop. But this with Swype, is small enough to carry big enough too read on, and has lots and lots of useful apps and books.
I should perhaps have rooted it.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:13 PM
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Swype is what keeps my happy with Android on the phone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:14 PM
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Is it?

That was my assertion, yes.

As far as 97.last goes, "people" seems a good bet.

I don't get it. Everything about computers has to do with people on some level.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:15 PM
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Swype is what keeps my happy with Android on the phone.

Admit it, this typo was intentional.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:21 PM
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101 -- everything has to do with people on some level, no? UI & marketing involve more thinking about the general public than most parts of engineering, I would suggest.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:23 PM
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102: I'm actually on the desktop now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:24 PM
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I just got back from Trader Joe's, and they'd rearranged the shelves again. I hate this so much, all the more so because I know precisely why they're doing it, and I'm sure I'm not immune to the "buying new things while I wander around trying to find where they put the stuff I came here for" impulse. But it was a great illustration of how this sort of technical expertise can be both welfare-enhancing and welfare-reducing. I'm sure it's the very same set of skills that let one optimize the store layout so as to minimize shoppers' time and effort, as it is to optimize for maximal shopper purchases, but one of them is good and the other is evil.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:26 PM
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And optimizing store layouts clearly has to do with people, and psychology, but it's also, I'm sure, operationalized as some sort of classic and computationally tractable optimization problem. There's no way Trader Joe's just leaves it up to the manager to be all, "oh, I think people will be cheered up if they see flowers at the front of the store" based on a personal hunch.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:28 PM
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101 -- everything has to do with people on some level, no?

No? I mean, most of the universe has very little to do with people. Or the deep sea, or whatever. Everything in engineering has to do with people, sure.

UI & marketing involve more thinking about the general public than most parts of engineering, I would suggest.

I still don't know what this means. Most of civil engineering is quite explicitly and totally concerned with the general public. And certainly nobody should ever program anything without thinking hard about who is going to use it, why, and how. (I mean, the answers to those questions can obviously be "me", "dunno" and "through a series of kludges that will be impenetrable to anybody but me" but nonetheless the questions should be asked.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:29 PM
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And optimizing store layouts clearly has to do with people, and psychology, but it's also, I'm sure, operationalized as some sort of classic and computationally tractable optimization problem.

I do not think the operationalization of behavior modification is a disjunct category from psychology.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:30 PM
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105 -- it's not maximal purchase though is it? It's maximal profit, which may not be maximal purchase.

Erm. Actually store set up is kinda funny, one of the people I know who does that for a multinational has 1/2 of a BFA in sculpture, so, you know.

The social sciences are sciences too, obviously, and perfectly capable as operating as inputs to an optimisation problem.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:33 PM
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On that level is there anything that people are involved in that doesn't have to do with people?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:34 PM
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110 to 101.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:35 PM
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If I can't find something pretty quickly I assume they don't carry it anymore since that's pretty common at TJ too, and if I really need it I just buy it somewhere else. So let them screw themselves.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:36 PM
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110 isn't stacking the deck with "that people are involved in", btw, that's just there to avoid deliberate point-missing as in "the universe".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:37 PM
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109 -- in fact if you look at an Apple Store, that's a store that's been designed in way that's got heaps in common with the UI of Apple devices and with the marketing strategies used. It doesn't have as much to do with BSD. And that's one reason to group them, I think.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:38 PM
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On topic, I have open multiple tabs (windows) on multiple browsers (safari, dolphin, chrome) on my iPhone. Looking up mma/hdnet venues in one place, and object orient consortia in other places, if I accidentally paste in something from the clipboard we are all in for a surprise. For Apostropher's amusement.

Why there isn't an accessible stack of shufflable clipboard entries puzzles any RPN veteran.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:39 PM
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113, 110: well, on one level that's right, sure. I think one could mildly restrict things (things that people are involved in which facilitate goal-directed action by people in some manner, maybe?) profitably, but sure I meant it pretty broadly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:42 PM
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114: the Apple store was designed to mimic in some fairly superficial ways the look and the design philosophy of (some parts of) Apple's UI. If I make a t-shirt with a picture of my face on it that doesn't mean my face and t-shirts should be grouped.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:44 PM
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117 no, the Apple Store was designed to reproduce on a deep level the Apple design philosophy. It is the Apple UI, after all.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:53 PM
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(deep / superficial beg the question, of course.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:55 PM
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I'm not really going to defend the newer Office because I also don't like the way the ribbon works - though I kind of like it existing - but I never was used to the older version so most of the stuff people miss I hadn't used. What I do like is how much is available from the right-click context menu vs. before.

On the menus eating the top of the screen being a problem in an era of widescreens, that's an issue with a lot of applications, including web applications that are supposedly meant for reading cough google books cough. It's probably the UI problem that drives me the craziest.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:55 PM
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118: I really don't understand what you mean.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:55 PM
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that doesn't mean my face and t-shirts should be grouped.

They're totally grouped in my sifuface and t-shirt drawer.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:56 PM
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I mean you could say that Apple has a series of principles about how people (should) interact with complex, dynamic systems that undergird design decisions in both their software and the their retail stores, but that no more makes a point about UI development than it does about architecture.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:59 PM
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121: Stuff like: walled garden (literally). Coherence. Unity. Perfectionism. Ruthless cutting away of stuff that doesn't fit. That kind of thing.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 7:59 PM
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123 --- doesn't it? Like, isn't the point that for Apple, all this shit is the same damn problem? And that's why Jobs kicked ass, arguably.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:02 PM
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120: yay, someone who shares my loathing! It angers me so much. My vertical pixels are precious. (It's also a problem with the new Android interface, I think. There's no need for those 3 buttons to always be there. I NEED THOSE PIXELS.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:04 PM
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It's one reason I wish OSX had implemented their new "full screen" thing better than they did. Sigh.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:05 PM
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And certainly nobody should ever program anything without thinking hard about who is going to use it, why, and how.

From your lips to God's ears.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:23 PM
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More recently, I've written some python scripts to help me sort files that only work from the DOS shell because in cygwin the paths are treated differently.

What sort of problems are you running into? As long as you use os.path, you shouldn't have any problems. (That said, I'd never ever ever use Python under Cygwin; the benefit of Python for me is that it allows me to ignore the shell.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:26 PM
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128: well I mean I didn't say that ever actually happens.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:33 PM
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Note: Some older third-party routers may not be compatible with all iOS devices, even after updating to the latest firmware. If your iOS devices can successfully connect to other Wi-Fi networks, contact your router's manufacturer to ensure your router is compatible with your iOS device.

Well that's helpful. Wish I had read that before fucking around with the router for 2 hours last week because the boss can't use her iPad with our office network. Sigh.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:46 PM
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129: Basically, the script uses subprocess to open each file in a folder in an application so I can view each file one at a time and then decide what to do with it. I use os.path to go through the files but I'm calling the application with an absolute path, and that's where cygwin appears to be having the problem. That's probably not the preferred way to do it, but it's something I just threw together from some brief googling/digging through documentation.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:47 PM
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Designing a user interface is really difficult, in my very limited experience (in database design): sure, I can set up a relational database system that totally works, for me, since I made it, but making it so that others who are coming at things from god knows what directions can also use it with minimal learning on their part is incredibly difficult, and not much like what I imagine marketing to involve.

The view seemingly expressed upthread that marketing and UI design are akin in being non-technical is just odd to me: on the contrary, good UI design calls for reworking the technicalities altogether. In my experience.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 8:53 PM
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69: I gave up tmux when I discovered "emacs --daemon" and "emacsclient -t".


Posted by: yawnoc | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 9:11 PM
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62: Microsoft hired away DEC's OS team,

Which in part surely led to the Windows NT ("New Technology" but also VMS->+1=>WNT) nomenclature. Some little bitches dispute this, similarly to how Arthur C. Clarke says HAL->IBM was a coincidence. But he most certainly was lying.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 9:39 PM
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Tmux is awesome, but running tmux in a terminal and sshing into a different box where you then run tmux attach is confusing.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 9:40 PM
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38

... The St/eve Sai/ler comment is extra-inexplicable

HBD is short for human biologic diversity which is what people you all would call scientific racists use to refer to genetic differences between ethnic groups. Sailer has the conceit that lots of important people agree with him but instead of saying so explicitly instead use coded language aka dog whistling. So Sailer is claiming that by acknowledging one relatively uncontroversial genetic difference (ability to digest lactose) between ethnic groups Yglesias is suggesting the possibility of other differences.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 9:59 PM
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I assume that all those Asian people just don't like cheese and invented lactose intolerance as an excuse the way rich white people invented the whole gluten-is-evil thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:06 PM
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Heebie's take: Mostly amused at the idea that a biography of Steve Jobs book isn't too impressive, because it's mostly only worth reading if you're interested in Jobs and Apple.

The point I was trying to make was if you are only moderately interested in Jobs and Apple this book may not be worth the time it takes to read it. If you could somehow assign the task of writing a Jobs biography to 100 professional writers I don't think this book would rank as one of the best.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:07 PM
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Authorial narrative diversity.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:12 PM
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48

But, in general, when I see a company full of smart engineers go up against a company with smart business people, ...

Not sure about this. If your company is based on obsolete technology (like Eastman Kodak and film cameras) you are generally in big trouble no matter how smart your business people are.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:13 PM
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Ha, posting in 140 apparently beat slowly loading remembered personal info.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:14 PM
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139: But if you were only moderately interested in Jobs and Apple, why would you want to read a biography of Jobs?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:14 PM
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If your business is based on obsolete technology, how smart are your business people? Maybe they should have been reading books about Jobs and Apple


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:18 PM
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I've never read anything by Isaacson that I thought rose even a half step above the pedestrian. And unlike Nick Lemann, who shares his commitment to relentless journalistic objectivity, he seems to lack any literary imagination. I wish I understood the origin of Isaacson's stellar reputation.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:19 PM
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141: Please try not to be too willfully obtuse, James. Or maybe at least do it with a discernible touch of humor.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:21 PM
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145: He has good business people.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:21 PM
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147: you mean good engineers.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:27 PM
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All lowercase is a million billion times more irritating than no quote marks in dialogue.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:30 PM
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wHAT ABOUT THIS WAY mR. sTORMCROW?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:32 PM
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I think one could mildly restrict things (things that people are involved in which facilitate goal-directed action by people in some manner, maybe?) profitably, but sure I meant it pretty broadly.

It seems to me, though, that it's broad enough to be pointless to the dispute in which it was introduced; even the mild restriction shares that quality. Everything about computers has to do with people on the level of facilitation of goal-directed action, as do cooking, the law, the operation of printing presses, sharpening knives, UI and UX design (why not?), wiping your ass after taking a shit, and just about every other action or practice you could care to name do. Someone who describes user interface design or marketing as more people-y than algorithm design is likely to find your observation to be at best a tangent, and rightly.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:32 PM
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You can just type whatever you're looking for and hit return.

Dude!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:33 PM
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150: NOT EVEN WORTH REPLYING TO!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 10:47 PM
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137: HBD is short for human biologic diversity which is what people you all would call scientific racists use to refer to genetic differences between ethnic groups.

Well, that's unsurprisingly stupid and deceptive. I don't know of anyone who would claim there is not biological diversity in humans; I would only call it a tool of scientific racists in the event that scientific racists attempted to twist it into support of their perverse and predetermined conclusions (which they always do).

Can someone remind me: why does Unfogged have front-page Shearer-posts again? There was a good reason, right? I'm just not remembering it?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:01 PM
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Like, maybe you all think it makes you look open-minded and "balanced" and stuff? Or, maybe you think there's a circumstance where he won't go there? Because it doesn't, and there isn't. That should be super-duper obvious by now, yes? What it really makes it look like is that your alt-text should be "people of colour, avoid this place." You know that, right?

I mean, I guess maybe I've pussy-footed around this too much in the past? Because in case I've left you in doubt, it's bad. It's really seriously fucking bad.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:22 PM
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This post is about Steve Jobs, LC. Why would that, more than anything else, lead into racism? And in fact, the comment you're responding to has nothing to do with the post.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:29 PM
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No, it's because guest posts are easy content and I didn't see anything wrong with the original post.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:30 PM
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Why would that, more than anything else, lead into racism?

I guess because just about everything with this fucking shitheel leads into racism, and we should all know that by now? How many years has it been? How many times have we seen this pattern repeat itself?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:34 PM
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Enough. Honestly. I'm going to bed. Just think about it.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:35 PM
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The view seemingly expressed upthread that marketing and UI design are akin in being non-technical is just odd to me: on the contrary, good UI design calls for reworking the technicalities altogether. In my experience.

The guys from marketing would say good marketing calls for reworking technicalities quite often, as well. (Using marketing in a broad sense.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:49 PM
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143

But if you were only moderately interested in Jobs and Apple, why would you want to read a biography of Jobs?

Presumeably there is some level of interest for which you might want to read an excellent biography but maybe not a mediocre one.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-28-12 11:54 PM
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I don't think I've spoken up before on this, and I feel I should have, but I've pretty much come to agree with LC on Shearer's racism - that is, that it's pervasive and could pop up at any time - but since I guess I'm not going to go so far as to advocate banning him or anything, I guess I don't really have anything more to say about it.

Anyway, I'd rather keep talking about the original post or other tangents so I'll leave it at that.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 12:49 AM
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Re UI: isn't it kinda revealing that architecture lives with the fine arts, broadly, and civil engineering lives with other bits of engineering?

(I ban myself, of course.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:19 AM
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Doesn't the whole "technical is different (within some contexts) from UI" question kind of line up with the distinction between web development and web design? They're not totally separate fields, of course, but they do seem to be treated differently in practice.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:26 AM
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I've pretty much come to agree with LC on Shearer's racism - that is, that it's pervasive and could pop up at any time

Absolutely. Lord C is right on this one.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:30 AM
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164 -- yeah. I kinda want to talk about the Bauhaus here.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:44 AM
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154: Walt, not Shearer, brought up the topic of race in 38.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 2:26 AM
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I did bring it up. But Sail/er's comment is inexplicable even if you know what HBD meant, which I did. I mean, I guess it's explicable once you keep in mind his Ahab-like obsession with race, but if you think Y/glesias was secretly dog-whistling his support for racism, you're a fucking moron. I linked to it as an example of a spectacular train wreck of a thread, rather than as anything to do with race. Since I should have known I was giving Shearer an opportunity to spout off, I regret posting it.

Anyway, my comment was a reply to essear's 5. Which makes essear the real racist.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:12 AM
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Why are you googleproofing the names of famous bloggers?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:16 AM
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F/un.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:29 AM
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Okay, famous bloggers and terrible bands.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:30 AM
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What do you mean? I never Google-proof Led Zeppelin.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:32 AM
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Toniiiiiiii/iiight w/e a/re yo/ung...


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:35 AM
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Huh, I never knew who that song was by.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:42 AM
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With FA and Ttam in agreeing with LC here. This line in particular seems worth thinking on:

What it really makes it look like is that your alt-text should be "people of colour, avoid this place." You know that, right?

I mean, I *didn't* really know that, before LC spoke up earlier, but that's because I'm clueless.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 4:07 AM
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I don't want a book about Steve Jobs, I want one about Tim Cook, the manufacturing and supply chain king. A huge story about Apple is how they went from being the designed-in-California company, to being a huge vertically integrated manufacturer that owns the machine tooling in all its factories and designs its own chips.

The first generation iPhones were very much built from proprietary components (IIRC, Qualcomm/ARM baseband, CSR WiFi and Bluetooth radios, Toshiba storage, Balda touchscreen from Germany), but by the third they'd started using their own A-series chips, which despite being fabbed by Samsung are fabbed in Austin, TX. The % of US content and Apple in-house content has gone up throughout the iPhone product line. They are now talking about bringing one of the Mac lines back to the US and there are rumours that they're buying a fab in New York state.

I don't think anyone in 2007 would have said "I know, the future is integrated hardware and software, running on our own chips, manufactured on our tooling! And we'll strip all the stuff out of our retail outlets....to make space for more employees!" It's as if they set out to do the exact opposite of everything in a standard MBA course and I kinda hope they did. People are now noticing that the other huge winner of the smartphone era, Samsung, is also a huge fuck-off industrial beast.

it turns out that patents here or there, bevelled corners will get copied. but copying production is hard.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 4:23 AM
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I don't even see HBD.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 5:46 AM
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136: I ssh from my local machine, which is a dumb terminal that doesn't have tmux, because tmux doesn't run under cygwin. Clearer?


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:46 AM
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134 appears to be awesome, but I have a vague recollection of being too lazy to make it work right. I'll try it again sometime.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:51 AM
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This is also deeply weird. What do marketing and UI have to do with each other?

Sorry, I'm having a hard time understanding which part you think is weird. Is it weird that there's a class of things such that things not in that class don't have much to do with each other, that things which don't have much to do with each other can be important, or something else?


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:54 AM
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151: well, I think my point would be that the burden of proof seems to be on the person claiming less people-relevance in the design of algorithms than in the design of UI to show why that is the case, given that basically all built works of humans are people oriented in such a way as I mentioned. Which I think is relevant as many bad UI decisions come from an engineering process where certain aspects of the software are considered to be unexposed to people and thus not subject to the kinds of design constraints that foster good usability. It is of course correct that usability is also if paramount concern when developing cooking, law, etc. for others, but (again) this does not mean that concerns over the usability of recipes (say) is not properly considered a subset of the larger technical problem of cooking. Notably, marketing is not primarily concerned with improving the usability of goal-facilitating technologies, and it therefore still totally baffles me that UI would be considered of a piece with it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:56 AM
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180: it is weird in that I could not understand what marketing an UI had to do with each other; this may in be in large part because I find the assertion that UI is not part of the technical challenge of designing software so strange, but even absent that you seem to me to be designating a class where the things within that class have no more to do with each other than they do with many or most things outside that class.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:59 AM
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And I think I'm dancing around my main point a little bit, which is that considering UI to be a separate, parallel or subsequent process to the "real" work of engineering software (akin to developing a marketing plan for that software) definitely is (as mentioned above) a way (maybe the best way) to create bad (that is, non-useful) software. Unless you're writing software for embedded control systems or something (and plausibly even then) nearly every design decision that gets made has an impact on user experience and is meaningfully thought of as a UI decision. The fact that there are people who draw wireframes of interaction flows in photoshop who are called "UI designers" and who don't necessarily know how to program does not bear on this question greatly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:10 AM
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But in 183 I was managing to not actually respond to anybody but the people in my own head, so it might be irrelevant.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:11 AM
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175: Castock said that the last time (I recall) that we had a discussion about this, specifically alameida's request that JBS stay out of her comment threads. I said this then too, but there are certainly threads where I won't comment solely because I don't want to have to read what I expect him to say in response or see if others will engage him on it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:19 AM
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Personally I think that thinking of marketing plans as not real work is basically how you end up making crappy software, and how you end up making crappy UI decisions, and so-on.

Again, look at Apple. The guy in charge of UI is an industrial designer. He's got more in common with Saville & the Bauhaus than with Knuth & MIT. The fact that there's some guys who know how to program working for him doesn't change that.

I dunno, it seems very weird to me to not group industrial design as a coherent whole.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:24 AM
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A large part of my weird definition is probably that I live in a world where I really don't do anything user facing, unless you define user or customer the way some business folks do, to mean anyone who consumes a thing you create, which would be the guy who writes the code that touches the code I write.

For example, when I write the translator for a microprocessor, I really don't pay attention to what people want. I think your 101 is true in some sense; I have an idea of what power, cost, and performance criteria are important for our market, as well as how much effort we need to spend on reliability features, and that ultimately comes from customers. But, if I worked anywhere but a tiny startup, I wouldn't have to think about people at all. Some marketing guy or technical director would give some target numbers that I'd try to hit and that would be it.

The same thing applies for pretty much all software I've written, outside of toy projects in my spare time.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:28 AM
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184 to 186.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:29 AM
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Comically slow [presumably because only a single FPU core]

Since I'm going through and responding to comments before (almost) anyone else is awake, I might as well say something about this.

How is it that people can keep having the clever idea of saving a tiny bit of money or power by sharing an FPU or running it at half speed or whatever? In every instance I can think of where this was done in a general purpose CPU, it was considered a huge mistake, and the next generation had a full speed non-shared FPU. Even before you run performance traces on code that your customers care about, it should be obvious that it's a bad idea because it's failed every time it's been tried, and, now that Lua exists, it's a worse idea than it's ever been.

I was recently talking to some people who wanted to take it a step further, and were raising angel funding for an FPU-less x86 server processor. Even if you only have 1% FP code, if you have to trap to a routine that's 1000x slower than hardware, you're going to run 10x slower than your competition. I actually hope they managed to get funding, because I want to see the end result.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:41 AM
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"Marketing" is itself a very slippery concept, since on the one hand if you have a commercial product the entire point of the product is to have it succeed in the market and on the other it has kind of taken on a connotation of "bullshitty sales stuff that bullshitters do."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:42 AM
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If your company is based on obsolete technology (like Eastman Kodak and film cameras)

This may be idiosyncratic, but I think of that sort of thing as a business decision.

If Intel was run the way Kodak is, they'd still be making DRAM. Most likely, they'd have gone bankrupt a long time ago, and, if they hadn't, they'd probably have bad years where they lose a billion dollars or more. But, they noticed when DRAM stopped being consistently profitable and concentrated on making SRAMs. Then, they realized that flash was significant and became the leading player in flash, and they also picked a good time to exit the SRAM industry and focus on microprocessors.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:47 AM
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The Kodak thing about being based on obsolete technology isn't true. Kodak were a major player in the development of digital camera sensors, and their patents in this area are worth a lot of money. It wasn't a failure to innovate that fucked them, it was terrible management and poor business decisions surrounding what to do with the innovation (and a lot of dumb profligacy). The 'obsolete' [film, etc] part of their business, is actually profitable.

It (film) probably won't remain profitable on quite the same scale as movie studios transition to all-digital workflows, but it's still a consistent albeit smaller earner. But it's not the case that it's losing them a ton of money right now, and they failed to spot the changes coming.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:03 AM
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With FA and Ttam and Trapnel in agreeing with LC here.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:09 AM
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Kodak (or now their spun off independent sensor arm) make a lot of the sensors used in other people's cameras [although less than they did at one time]. They still supply the 'film' for digital cameras.

http://www.truesenseimaging.com/


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:14 AM
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I've pretty much come to agree with LC on Shearer's racism - that is, that it's pervasive and could pop up at any time

Consequently, there's no reason not to post a link to a review, by him, of a book about Jobs and Apple, since that is no more, and no less, likely to lead into a racist line of commenting than anything else. LC's question, if he really thinks Shearer's racism is pervasive and could pop up at any time, should not be "why make innocuous guest posts from Shearer?" (because this post was innocuous), but rather "why have him around at all?".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:47 AM
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Unless you're writing software for embedded control systems or something (and plausibly even then) nearly every design decision that gets made has an impact on user experience and is meaningfully thought of as a UI decision.

That might support the claim that a software engineer should also care about UI design, and have competence in that field, but it doesn't establish that UI design is also a technical field.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:51 AM
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192

A note about Kodak's film sales which links these graphs . A news article about Kodak's bankruptcy filing.

Kodak's declining film business may have continued to cover its variable expenses (positive gross profit) but it wasn't sufficient to cover lots of fixed expenses and debt incurred in expectations of much larger sales. Which is a large part of why Kodak is now bankrupt. From the news article:

As it watched digital dissolve its high-margin film business, Kodak has shed 47,000 employees since 2003, closing 13 factories that produced film, paper and chemicals, along with 130 photo laboratories. The restructuring has already cost $3.4 billion, because it was done "in a socially responsible" way, said a spokesman, Christopher Veronda.

Kodak had a lot of specialized expertise in manufacturing and processing film which gave it a lot of market power and high margins. It would have been very difficult, no matter how talented management was, to establish a similiar dominant and profitable position in digital cameras (which market has itself been severely impacted by camera phones) and it is no big surprise that they failed to do so. Companies in Kodak's position rarely do well.

I believe Intel is a bit different in that expertise in designing, manufacturing and marketing one kind of chip did carry over to some extent to designing, manufacturing and marketing other kinds of chips.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:52 AM
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196: I believe that 184 addresses this.

More contentfully, I am in fact willing to concede that UI design as generally conceived is often not a terribly technical field; I would claim that it should be, and that a strong division between "UI design" and "software design" more broadly (in the sense of "computer programmers solving engineering challenges) leads (often) to bad software. I would further claim, I suppose, that thinking of UI as a non-technical field, especially given the relative status of technical and non-technical jobs in most high-tech firms, is likely to lead to not only a strong organizational division but also, often, a strong temporal division between the nominally technical work and the nominally non-technical UI work, with the latter often being somewhat of an afterthought.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:59 AM
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re: 197.last

Kodak had a lot of specialized expertise in manufacturing and processing film which gave it a lot of market power and high margins. It would have been very difficult, no matter how talented management was, to establish a similiar dominant and profitable position in digital cameras (which market has itself been severely impacted by camera phones) and it is no big surprise that they failed to do so. Companies in Kodak's position rarely do well.

Several companies made the transition quite freely. All of the big digital camera manufacturers are former film camera manufacturers, and in some cases they've also transitioned into being very successful sensor manufacturers. For a long time, though, Kodak was the market leader in sensor manufacture. The sensors in a lot of the highest end cameras were made by Kodak up until very recently. They (Kodak) cocked up. It might have been a very hard process to manage, but others have managed it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:59 AM
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I'm willing to agree with the gist of 198.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:05 AM
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I think of UI as a technical field, in which the computer algorithms are the easier parts. The difficult part is the techne of humans, possibly because we don't have its equivalent of mathematical and physical underpinnings of computing.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:57 AM
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199

Fujifilm is probably a better example but I don't know too much about it. According to wikipedia .

... While both film manufacturers recognized this fundamental change, Fuji Photo adapted to this shift much more successfully than Eastman Kodak (which filed for bankruptcy in January 2012). For instance, Fuji Photo CEO Shigetaka Komori managed to break longstanding Japanese corporate traditions, while Kodak was slow to change due to its executives' "mentality of perfect products, rather than the high-tech mindset of make it, launch it, fix it". Fuji Photo's diversification efforts also succeeded while Kodak's had failed; furthermore Kodak built up a large but barely profitable digital camera business that was undone quickly by smartphone cameras.[5]

I expect Kodak could have done better and perhaps salvaged something but it was in a difficult position because of factors out of its control. Polaroid also went bankrupt (twice).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:58 AM
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Frankly I prefer the mentality of fixing it before you launch it.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 11:05 AM
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re: 202

I don't think we really know how it's going to pan out for Fujifilm. Currently they are cutting back their film line outside of Japan -- there's still a big enough market in Japan that a lot of film products are increasingly Japan-only -- and until a year ago looked like they'd fallen off in the digital market. Their dSLRs had been surpassed by all the other manufacturers, and their early success in the compact market was fading. Now the X-trans sensor and accompanying line of cameras means there's a big buzz around them at the moment, but who knows how they'll be doing in a year or two. Ditto Sony, who a couple of years back seemed to have lost the plot, and now are increasingly looking very astute and ahead of the curve.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 11:25 AM
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Thorn: Castock said that the last time (I recall) that we had a discussion about this, specifically alameida's request that JBS stay out of her comment threads. I said this then too, but there are certainly threads where I won't comment solely because I don't want to have to read what I expect him to say in response or see if others will engage him on it.

Yeah, I should have said "last time" rather than "earlier," because that's what I had in mind.

Nosflow: LC's question, if he really thinks Shearer's racism is pervasive and could pop up at any time, should not be "why make innocuous guest posts from Shearer?" (because this post was innocuous), but rather "why have him around at all?".

I'm sure the latter question is there in the background, yeah, but this is a false dichotomy. There are different degrees to which people can be publicly acknowledged and privileged as members of a community, which in turn express different things to outsiders looking in.

Look, my life is whiter than an episode of "Girls"; I'm the sort of person that just reads right past all Shearer's racism and emotional tone-deafness with no more than a sour twist to my mouth. But precisely because of that, I'm outsourcing my judgment of how the Mineshaft's acceptance of Shearer looks and feels to those who are better at judging these things.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 11:44 AM
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This replies to too many comments to name numbers, but, for crying out loud:

Design isn't how it looks, it's how it works.

I mean, Steve Jobs said that, and every designer I know agrees. "Design" isn't applying a pretty skin to an underlying object/system; it's designing the object/system such that it works well which, in turn, usually leads us to consider it pretty.

Is the iconic Coke bottle nothing but marketing? Well, it works better as a bottle* than the more traditional cylinder+truncated cone design, and it's iconic. The two are, more often than not, inseparable.

The reference above to Bauhaus is especially egregious, since the whole principle of Bauhaus was getting down to how things worked, not applying some "Modern" style to objects that were otherwise indistinguishable from their predecessors.

* how many handles have no swelling? very few, because curvy handles fit our hands


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 12:06 PM
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205

... There are different degrees to which people can be publicly acknowledged and privileged as members of a community, ...

Heebie has said in the past that she will post anything that anyone sends her.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 12:10 PM
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And 190 makes a great point.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 12:16 PM
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Frankly I prefer the mentality of fixing it before you launch it.

The real pro's break it before launching it.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 12:39 PM
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Perhaps a more useful frame for considering this is problem solving.

For the (vast) majority of software (sral is clearly an outlier), the problem to be solved is how to develop a program that will enable a user (whether consumer or technician, if you see my distinction) to complete a task. In solving that problem, UI design and software engineering are no more separable than how to code the algorithm is from when to call the processor*.

Meanwhile, the problem to be solved by marketers is how to get people to buy the product. A good product doesn't actually sell itself, so there always needs to be a marketing plan. If you want to claim that a slick UI is more readily marketable, then there's a sense in which a slick UI atop clumsy (but functional) programming** is more marketable than clumsy UI over slick code, but the reason to have a good UI is not, primarily, to solve the marketers' problem. If your UI is so clumsy that even Don Draper can't sell it, then it seems unlikely that the program will be successful on any level.

As for the idea that Apple's stripped-down stores and UI are all marketing-driven, I think that's just ass-backwards. Apple, as defined by Jobs, believes that stripped-down is the correct approach at all levels. I mean, I have no idea how parsimonious their code is, but all of their decisionmaking is geared towards that mindset - programs and devices that do less, not more. That's not "marketing" any more than the decision to make Porches fast is "marketing".

*this is clumsily stated, but I'm pretty sure I'm getting at a real distinction in bits of a programmer's job

**e.g., code that uses the CPU more than it should, or that makes certain common activities efficient and others inefficient


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:01 PM
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I have more extensive thoughts about the broader tension between engineers and designers, and the mistrust many engineers have for the beautiful, but I don't think I can get into it here without saying things poorly and creating misunderstanding.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:08 PM
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You could say that making Porsches fast is "marketing", since you can't really drive them that fast without breaking the law. I mean, how far is that from the ads saying "Buy this truck to ferry your kids around, because you could also use it to pull a 65-foot I-beam out of the Grand Canyon".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:16 PM
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211: I'm interested in hearing what you think.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:29 PM
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From my POV, Unfogged is an exceptionally culturally white space that is also factually a white space, in that the vast majority of commenters are (ethnically white) European or Anglo/European-American.

While that doesn't automatically mean we're unwelcoming to people of color, the fact that we tolerate and engage with egregious racism is a big red flag.

Over the years I have veered back and forth between ignoring and arguing with Shearer. It's shameful to admit that one of the reasons I haven't made a bigger stink about deleting his racism is that I feel like I spend so much time dealing with that in the real world that I just want to relax here. That rather selfish perspective of mine ignores the fact that not everyone has the luxury of relaxing here.

Moreover, women have the ability to relax here now in a way that we didn't use to. Certainly I, and I suspect many other people, would never have commented on Unfogged had it retained the frat-house, borderline-misogynistic vibe it had in the early days.

For whatever value that we have added as commenters, I think it bears considering that there are likely a significant number of thoughtful, funny lurkers who have been driven away from this site because we tolerate stuff on race and ethnicity that we don't on gender.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:41 PM
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I'm a little unclear on what people are asking for here. Shearer's definitely a racist but it's not like people don't call him out for that immediately, just as they would to an aggressively sexist commenter. I guess H-G might not put up something from somebody affirmatively sexist on the front page, but IME Shearer more often gets harrassed and insulted than he gets engaged with, at least as soon as he heads off into racistland. Is the issue that people want him banned from commenting?

Generally, I'd imagine that the main thing that keeps the site mainly attractive to smug over educated SWPL types is that most people here are smug over educated SWPL types, and even the commenters who aren't W are smug over educated SWPL savvy. That's not a defense of old racist Shearer, or of anyone else, but I think it's the reality. Maybe I'm wrong and Shearer really is driving people away.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 1:58 PM
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I am unsure where you are getting the idea that I think design is just about stylistics; my position is that UI design is a non-technical* field of its own which is inherently and intrinsically important and hard and is best clustered with other design fields like industrial design and graphic design and architecture and so-on.

(Which is the point about the Bauhaus. That there's a sensible clustering of fields, that you can talk about a Bauhaus lamp and a Bauhaus chair and a Bauhaus building and so-on and it makes sense.)

* where non-technical means: not computer engineering/science.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 2:33 PM
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would never have commented on Unfogged had it retained the frat-house, borderline-misogynistic vibe it had in the early days.

Hey, you're interfering with my declension narrative.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 2:59 PM
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I basically agree with Sifu on how things should be.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:17 PM
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* where non-technical means: not computer engineering/science.

Well there's the problem. That's sort of a lame definition.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 3:45 PM
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Maybe I'm wrong and Shearer really is driving people away.

Like I said, I don't have any faith in my own perceptions here. But Witt and Thorn and Lord Castock all perceive the problem as real, and I think they're better epistemically positioned to judge than either of us.

I certainly don't have any suggestions, other than listening to those who do. I need to get off the damn internet for the day, but I should find that last thread where this came up and see what was said then.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 5:43 PM
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the mistrust many engineers have for the beautiful


Hrpmhp, this looks like a claim that some professions get to define beauty.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:03 PM
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221: you say that like it is a bad thing.

Also personally I dislike design-as-problem-solving, but that's reasonably far out of the mainstream of design thought I think.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:24 PM
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Maybe I'm wrong and Shearer really is driving people away.

Do people really not understand that Shearer's presence on the front page would give African Americans reason to feel unwelcome here? Because apart from what he's saying at this exact moment, he makes no secret of his beliefs, and who would want to hang out with people who are friends with him?
It's tiresome enough to have Shearer show up in comments, but it's understandable that there's a reluctance to police comments that aren't personally abusive, and people can challenge him, or write him off as a troll.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 6:30 PM
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again kholkhoz! why people so need to be all exactly the same thinking, it's easy to drive off people, it's not easy to influence them for the better, this all saying that some hypothetical/fictional minority people do not participate in your threads bc of JBS sounds like not that very well founded or just hypocritical, where are those people, what prohibits them to comment like me, i'm that very person and i surely was told many times i am not welcome here, they wouldnt get deleted i guess, that would be considered unwelcome, I at least think my "trolling" perhaps helped some people to start commenting not hiding their background, it's questionable for me for example who is more racist, Witt or JBS, he at least doesnt ignore me altogether, dont let them to drive you off, JBS, they just get into a mood of bullying someone i guess and voila, an easy target for all to start piling on on you
what if you influence JBS to that, less biased understanding of races, it's exactly bc Steve Jobs was a mixed race Syrian American that he became an extraordinary person and succeeded to lead Apple to so phenomenal success, maybe he wouldn't have been that standing out if he was a pure 100 % some or other nationality, who knows, the more diversity the more extraordinarily expressed traits it seems like


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:06 PM
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Shearer's guest-posting on the front page says that he's a friend of the blog. Shrug. There it is, that's what it says.

214L women have the ability to relax here now in a way that we didn't use to

True for the most part, though there's still the pressure to be nice. That will likely not go away for some time yet, in any forum, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:19 PM
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The Special AKA has something to say about racist friends. What a marvelous song.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 7:32 PM
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221: On the contrary, I'm referring to (many) engineers saying to me, in so many words, "Architects don't care about how something works, they only care that it's beautiful." IOW, beauty is, ipso facto, evidence that something doesn't work as well as it can.

Every architect I know thinks that some of the best architects of the last 150 years are engineers who've made beautiful, functional things, but hoi engineering polloi doesn't seem to see it that way.

I don't understand 222.2 at all. What do you think design is for, if not solving problems?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:31 PM
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IOW, beauty is, ipso facto, evidence that something doesn't work as well as it can.

That doesn't follow from what your engineers say.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:33 PM
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we tolerate stuff on race and ethnicity that we don't on gender

also disability.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 9:41 PM
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The front page posters do nothing in particular to rein in sexism. Commenters police each other more aggressively on that front.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:01 PM
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Also I'm having trouble believing that a lurker could read the comments and believe that as a community, we endorse Shearer's racism.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:04 PM
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However, there's a tension between Shearer's free speech and the chilling effect it might have on others, even though he has no community support on racism.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:08 PM
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We stand under no particular obligation to give Shearer a venue, though.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:10 PM
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There's a positive benefit to me when people send in guest posts, though.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:14 PM
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A small positive benefit, that is.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:15 PM
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The question boils down to: Does posting guest posts from shearer imply to readers that I appreciate/welcome/support his racist comments in comment threads? Or can readers discern that some of his content is okay and other parts are not?

If I get snide answers to this, I'll be irritated and pissy. It's not a topic that has an easy, pat answer.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:22 PM
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I'm operating under the assumption that all active commenters fall into the second group. They may be concerned that lurkers fall into the first group, but they don't actually believe I endorse racist comments myself.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 10:54 PM
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I might as well give my opinion as a lurker who only reads about 5% of the posts, and often goes months without checking unfogged.

For at least half a year, and perhaps a lot longer, I was baffled as to why there was so much hostility towards Shearer, and I found it a bit off-putting. And then I stumbled into one of the threads where he offends everyone.

I agree with 232, but I don't think that's what most people are concerned about. My reading of 185 and 214 is that people feel that Shearer's mere presence creates a hostile environment.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 12-29-12 11:24 PM
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What do you think design is for, if not solving problems?

Uh, design? I don't think design has to be goal-oriented to be design.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 1:50 AM
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I well aware it's a pretty heterodox position.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 1:58 AM
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The problem is that racism isn't just some occasionally expressed quirk of Shearer's, like savate for ttaM or the Peace Corps for LB. It is - or at any rate seems to be - the central obsession of his life. I would estimate that 80% of threads in which he participates end up receiving some unpleasantly racist comment. And he does it deliberately
- if every mention of savate was greeted with hostility or even just with expressions of boredom, pretty soon ttaM would stop mentioning savate, because he's a normal human being. But being publicly racist is so crucial to Shearer that no amount of criticism will stop him. He either. cant, or doesn't want to, stop himself.
I think it would be healthy for everyone, especially Shearer, to say: no more front page posts until you have shown you can go a month without posting a single offensively racist comment. Not a month long ban, just a probationary period.

Frankly I doubt he could manage a week.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 2:04 AM
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I doubt Shearer cares enough about getting front page posts for that to work, but it's certainly the best proposed solution I've seen.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 2:10 AM
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232: That's true, but that's not how a chilling climate works. (see bystander effect, etc.) It's not about what you or anyone personally believes, but by whether someone who holds an obnoxious view is tolerated or excluded. E.g., philosophers don't have to be personally hitting on me for them to be contributing to a rather sexist climate for women by continuing, e.g., to invite known harassers to talks/give them the best jobs, etc.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 4:59 AM
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Yes, I get that. See the very next comment.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 9:26 AM
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Guest posts by someone who says a lot of X imply strongly, to me, that we don't really mind X. If X threatens me more than other group members, I am very likely to deduce that threatening me is also OK with the group. I will leave these groups if there's an alternative.

FFS, we control the use of analogy, but racism gets a pass?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:02 AM
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The question boils down to: Does posting guest posts from shearer imply to readers that I appreciate/welcome/support his racist comments in comment threads? Or can readers discern that some of his content is okay and other parts are not?

FWIW, I do think posting submissions from Shearer does imply that you support him commenting, though it doesn't imply that you support all of his comments.

I feel conflicted because I'm generally a big tent person* when it comes to unfogged commenters. I've had interesting arguments with JBS.

But I've come around to ajay's position in 241, that JBS could clearly accommodate himself more than he does -- either by simply not talking about race here, or by explicitly acknowledging that his views on race are not merely out of step with this community but clearly margin views.

There are times when he's merely argumentative and times when he's actively sticking his thumb in the eye of the conversation here, and that's not a good dynamic.

But, I also don't have a clear action I would request.

* I did just respond to read, and I feel awkward for doing so, seeing where the exchange went after the comment that I was responding to. I don't have more to say about that either, but did want to acknowledge it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:21 AM
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Ajay is right: most of Shearer's participation in this blog is somehow related to his making offensive, racist comments. I hate reading those comments, and I'm white. Shearer derails many otherwise promising discussions with his disgusting innuendo, or at least makes threads less pleasant even when nearly everyone ignores him most of the time.

Ajay is also right that Shearer seems weirdly impervious to social cues about this. He doesn't stop with the racist comments, even though plenty of people have made it clear to him that they're not welcome.

245.last gets it right. Guest posts by Shearer imply, if only superficially, that Shearer's viewpoint is welcome here. Personally I'd like to see him banned, but I do get the light-on-the-banning-pedal ethos. At the very least, no guest posts and a script that appends ", racist" to his signature in comments.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:21 AM
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245: I don't think that people who have used analogies on unfogged are actually banned from the front page.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:23 AM
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I want to know who Keir thinks should get to determine what's beautiful.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:31 AM
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ME


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:41 AM
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Well, Keir probably doesn't think that. But he should.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:41 AM
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I looked at "ME" for several moments, thinking, "medical examiner?" "Microsoft Explorer?" "Maine?" before I realized what you meant. It might be time to take a break from the Vicodin or maybe the internet.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:44 AM
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I apologize for putting my internal dialogue in quotation marks. I'm bound by tradition.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:45 AM
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what does ME mean -- medical examiner -- microsoft explorer -- maybe I realize what he means now -- does he mean me -- is it the vicodin

CUT TO: butterfly alighting on leaf. Leaf moves slightly, reveals sun; lens flare.


Posted by: OPINIONATED TERENCE MALICK | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 10:47 AM
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No front-paging Shearer seems like a good compromise policy to me, short of an outright ban. I said above that I wasn't going to go so far as to advocate banning him mainly because that proposal never seems to go anywhere. Like other people, I'm less likely to comment in a thread where he's dropped one of his racist bombs and a lot of the air is sucked up by people responding to that. Yes, it's pretty clear that people aren't endorsing his views, but at the same time, he's said stuff that has me wondering, I guess rhetorically, is there anything he can't say?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 11:00 AM
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Heebie, for whatever it's worth, I assume none of the front-pagers in any way endorse or want to encourage Shearer's racism. I can see how feeling that you're giving him a chance to talk about non-racist things would be a good motivator for allowing his guest post. I know trying to figure out a way to deal with the racism but also the commubity aspects is extremely difficult and there have been plenty of other trollish distractions lately.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 11:00 AM
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236: Does posting guest posts from shearer imply to readers that I appreciate/welcome/support his racist comments in comment threads?

Not that you -- or the blog in general -- appreciate or endorse his racism, but that you tolerate it. The blog tolerates it.

It goes against the blog's ethos to expect the front pagers to ban him; it's generally up to the commentariat to freeze out an unwelcome commenter. It hasn't done that with Shearer.

The notion of zero tolerance makes some people skittish, and I sort of understand why, but I myself would have zero tolerance for someone who repeatedly argued that women, or gays, or Jews are defective, inferior beings -- I definitely wouldn't put up a guest post by that person -- and it's not really clear to me why there would be tolerance for Shearer making the same claim about blacks.

I now ban myself for making an analogy.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 11:27 AM
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"The notion of zero tolerance makes some people skittish, and I sort of understand why, but I myself would have zero tolerance for someone who repeatedly argued that women, or gays, or Jews are defective, inferior beings -- I definitely wouldn't put up a guest post by that person -- and it's not really clear to me why there would be tolerance for Shearer making the same claim about blacks."

For what it's worth, this seems to basically be an unsubstantiated slander of Shearer. While this is unscientific, I did a quick skim of comment threads involving shearer and race on google. While shearer has said plenty of offensive and probably incorrect things about race, I didn't find a single comment where he said anything close to "Blacks are defective, inferior beings." He definitely has something of a Captain Ahab thing going on WRT race, but it's unfair to misrepresent what he says.

Of course, this is totally open to falsification if someone can dig up a Shearer post where he does say something like that.


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 12:21 PM
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I got disgusted enough with James B. Shearer that I have simply been skipping his comments (and most replies to him too). Adapting the greasemonkey script should make the former even easier. But that also doesn't express anything to him. Killfiles are a way of filtering out pollution. They effectively accept the pollution and are an "oh well, nothing can be done" type of response.

Ajay's 241 pretty much sums it up for me.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 12:23 PM
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241 last seems sensible to me.

Is Lord Castock the only African-(North)American regular commenter?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 12:43 PM
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The link to the Microsoft Afterlife video at #22 makes the entire CT comment thread worthwhile all by itself...

And I must say I am intrigued about where CB is going to go next: his enemy-technologies list appears to include artificial knees, intercochlear bluetooth headsets, artificial eye-lenses, CDs, iPods, and clothing--but not literacy or stone tools...


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 12:52 PM
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#259 but until the Kingdom comes, I would be happy with the kill-file solution...


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 12:54 PM
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salacious: See this thread. He's said repeatedly, over many threads and years, that black people are dumb (properly, that black kids are dumb and it's no use trying to teach them much; this has to do with IQ tests and educational outcomes). My characterization was not a slander.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 12:58 PM
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Foolishmortals' contribution to that thread, at the end, is well worth the price of the click for anyone.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 1:08 PM
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his enemy-technologies list appears to include artificial knees

Osteoarthritis is like the weather. Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 1:11 PM
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262:Vendettas can be funny to those not personally engaged in them.

But I presume everyone has me in their killfile.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 1:50 PM
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I don't have you in my killfile, bob. Killfiling is a serious thing, man.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 2:01 PM
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242

I doubt Shearer cares enough about getting front page posts for that to work, but it's certainly the best proposed solution I've seen.

How about Heebie only posts one of my suggestions if she hasn't received say 5 guest posts from the rest of you that week.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 2:35 PM
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Shearer? There's not much useful you can say in this conversation other than "Would it help if I stopped talking about race entirely?" and I'm certainly not expecting you to say that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 2:44 PM
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Speaking of technology causing problems, I managed to forget to unplug the dryer before removing (once more) a dead thermal fuse. I felt the tingle, but nothing worse, thank God. That's 220 volts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:10 PM
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For the designers.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:13 PM
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but nothing worse, thank God. That's 220 volts.

Ooh, few years ago I had just replaced the heating coil on our dryer and like an idiot I turned the dryer on and reached over the back to see if I could feel them heating up before I put the back of the dryer back on. Touched the exposed connectors and felt the current go up my arm into my chest. Bad times.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:17 PM
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271: I have several stories, by way of contractor friends, about subs* who got seriously injured (or, in two cases, dead) by monkeying around with electricity. I'm now terribly afraid of taking toast out of the toaster. Do you think sourdough or whole wheat is a better conductor?

* Do your worst.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:19 PM
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I didn't get the tingle in my chest. Just the hand/arm. Second time I've done that and both times it took me a second to realize what was happening. At least this time, I wasn't on a roof.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:25 PM
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272: design is only the continuation of ??? by other means?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:26 PM
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Good design means that I don't keep my dryer on the roof.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:33 PM
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Office of Bad Moods. Should I get it?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:34 PM
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Exposed end of a spark plug wire. Touched it while the car was running. Damn. (I knew better too; so the thought of a stupid death was insult on top of injury.)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:36 PM
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278 Best summer type job I ever had was at Fire Island as a carpenter's helper. One thing we had to do was crawl underneath houses and nail these metal brackets to the posts and beams so they wouldn't blow off during a hurricane and then the engineer could certify them so the homeowner could get insurance. Once I drove a nail through one of the main electric lines feeding into the house and felt the current go right through me. It felt really weird and made my teeth chatter. I remember being sure I was going to die and thinking what a stupid fucking thing to do.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 3:45 PM
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277: I predict the link in 277 will be fixed by the time most people read this comment.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 4:06 PM
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Whoops.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 4:06 PM
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It was a link to a gentlemen's club, wasn't it? You can tell us.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 5:05 PM
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I'm no gentleman.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 5:10 PM
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Neb refuses to join any club that would have him as a member.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 5:17 PM
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Even if they will give him 13 albums for one penny?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 5:26 PM
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I don't think that beauty exists objectively, but inasmuch as there is a social construction called beauty I think that - descriptively - there are certain professions that do in fact have precedence in defining and establishing standards of beauty. (Not as much as in, say, 18th century France, but still.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:22 PM
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||

Wojciech Has Hourglass Sanatorium 1972 might be the most perplexing movie I have ever seen and I fucking wallow in obscurities.. It was the most expensive movie ever made in Poland. It is considered a Holocaust movie, though entirely by deep symbolism and metaphor.

The Three Wise Men just passed by Jozef son of Jakub, offended by his mentioning of credit. They only deal in cash.

Zodorovsky interprets I B Singer or something. A drugless trip.

Saragossa Manuscript was easier and more fun.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:26 PM
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And yet no one would listen to someone who attempted to correct him, saying, "No, that isn't beautiful—and I should know, I'm a [whatever], and we promulgate the standards.".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:28 PM
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s/b Jodorowsky. Or Lynch or Greenaway or Zulawski.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:28 PM
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288 -> 250.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:30 PM
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Weirdly, I just confused Peter Greenaway with Peter Weir. Oh, Picnic at Hanging Rock (I thought). The Last Wave. Love those.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:46 PM
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Peter Greenaway or Peter Weir or Peter Jackson?

Did anyone eat a book?
Yes: It's Peter Greenaway
No: Did something weird happen in Australia?
Yes: It's Peter Weir
No: Did hobbits walk around New Zealand?
Yes: It's Peter Jackson
No: Sorry, can't help you.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:50 PM
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Q: Why won't you ever bite into an apple and find half an FBI agent?
A: Because they always work in pairs.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:51 PM
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288 -- of course, but those, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct [aesthetician].


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 6:55 PM
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I think it's actually not terribly likely that some random's taste can actually be traced back to the influence of some particular one, or few, aesthetician (or whatnot). And if the gist of 286 is "at various times, various people have influenced what, in the main, was thought beautiful", then that is probably true, but not terribly interesting.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 7:09 PM
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295 --- really? I think it is terribly likely --- why, say, are Gothic churches popularly thought beautiful? Well, the theorists of the Gothic revival. No?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 7:21 PM
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||

Whatever this thread has become.

Joyce on Aquinas on Aesthetics Though this blogger makes the mistake of confusing Stephen Dedalus for Joyce. It is a beautifully written passage, very important for understanding Joyce's theory of epiphany. Part:

When you have apprehended that basket as one thing and have then analysed it according to its form and apprehended it as a thing you make the only synthesis which is logically and esthetically permissible. You see that it is that thing which it is and no other thing. The radiance of which he speaks is the scholastic quiditas, the whatness of a thing. This supreme quality is felt by the artist when the esthetic image is first conceived in his imagination.

Particularity and singularity. Apprehension not comprehension.

This is the best I found on Bruno Schulz Wojciech Has and Poland

(Fucking Polish gov't had another pogrom in 1968, driving the last 30,000 Jews from the country?Aw hell.)

Is there, perhaps, an insuperable barrier of history standing between The Hourglass Sanatorium and its would-be status as a masterpiece? (Smuggled out of Poland despite an official ban, the film won the Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.) When Schulz wrote his two books, it was possible to tell a story of Jewish life in Poland and to give at least a sense that life would go on. His prose vibrates with miracles about to be revealed - with glimpses of "the fiery beauty of the world". In the 35 years that led up to Has' film, the poetic innocence so essential to Schulz had been shattered for good. The film struggles and fails, perhaps, to get it back. Could it ever have succeeded? Was it right ethically to try?

The movie worked for me, the surrealism, if that is what it is, helped make the cultural specifics feel universal.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 8:07 PM
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I would put more emphasis on the "apprehension of singularity" and discount the experts, who are refuted, to be trite, by a sunset and a sunflower and a sudden smile.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-30-12 8:18 PM
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Another lurker (and minority) chiming in (a day late) about Shearer: I was surprised (in a bad way) to see a guest post from him. I've lurked long enough to know that he'll inevitably devolve into race trolling and seeing a guest post from him made me think that you were (perhaps inadvertently) inviting that behavior. I know you don't endorse his racism, so why have a thread about him and his opinions, written by him and guaranteed to have his participation in the comments--comments which will inevitably turn towards race?

I get that easy content is nice and all. But would you have posted the same content if it had been written by read instead? Or tos?

Prior to his guest posting, I'd assumed the attitude towards Shearer was one of "We'd like him to go away, but can't figure out a way to ban him that wouldn't also hurt the community here." or somesuch.

Seeing the guest post, I asked myself if I had it wrong and you generally stood with him and wanted him to stay around but just be less racist.


Posted by: wink ;) | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 1:10 AM
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Re (5): "Speaking of robot overlords, I somehow ended up reading Crooked Timber and then the Noah Smith cyborg post and then the comment thread about it. How do these things happen? I know I don't want to read Crooked Timber comment threads."

There's a cyborg modification app for that...

Brad DeLong


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 4:57 AM
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Thanks to the lurkers and others who posted in response to the Shearer thing. I do hate to get all meta and stuff but it's sometimes unavoidable.

257 has it mostly right, I think. Except that I don't think it goes against the blog's ethos to ban someone. This has effectively been done with people who were obnoxious enough -- despite occasional interesting contributions -- to warrant it. Like, as someone has already mentioned, read.

I also don't think it's just the job of the commentariat to freeze an unwelcome commenter out. That can be done, of course, but like it nor not, the front-page posters -- on any blog or any site -- play a significant role in shaping the culture of a site. If those people are sufficiently indifferent or inured to the issue of supremacist abuse to treat a gross and persistent offender as being just like any other poster, the site cannot then expect to be seen as a friendly environment for people of colour. That can't be done.

I'm partly to blame here, too, in that I've helped normalize this state of affairs to some extent. I myself have tried to engage Shearer as a normal person, have been wary of speaking up about it for a long time although it bothered me for a lot longer (the last time I brought it up here was, I think, if not the first time then pretty close to it). I've joked in the past about being the only black commenter, and made light of it... but actually, you know, it's not that funny anymore, and it's not necessary and it's not inevitable. Unfogged has a broad enough commenting base by now that it shouldn't be the case that not only is there basically a sole regular black commenter, but only a tiny handful of people of colour of any kind and even that dwindling.

It's possible and even likely that the Shearer stuff plays a bigger role in that than some people are willing to admit to themselves. Frankly, if I didn't have a fairly thick skin, it would have driven me away by now, which is why I feel pretty confident in guessing that there are probably people of colour whom the tacit tolerance for that openly-racist motherfucker have driven away. But I can't prove that.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 12:36 PM
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but only a tiny handful of people of colour of any kind and even that dwindling.

Is my impression, anyway. Apologies any POC's who I'm unaware of or forgetting.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 12:41 PM
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Except that I don't think it goes against the blog's ethos to ban someone. This has effectively been done with people who were obnoxious enough -- despite occasional interesting contributions -- to warrant it.

I will say that this is one of the reasons I have generally been anti-banning* -- the fact that if anyone, ever, is banned, then people will take that as establishing that the management is responsible for the views of every commenter. This used to be a blog where we could argue about torture, in the sense of engaging directly with people with differing beliefs about what the US was doing. Heck, Ogged had complicatedly fucked-up torture-related views. If the management is regarded as endorsing every evil belief espoused by a commenter, on the other hand, it's not going to be possible to have those sorts of conversations any more.

On the other hand, of course, it's not as though I've been talking politics here for ages, so I don't know that there's any actual loss.

_____
* I went along with banning read, as being out of ideas for another way of dealing with her persistent blog-eating conflicts with other commenters that I could offer as an alternative to banning her. I therefore can't claim to have principles in this regard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 1:35 PM
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Unfogged has a broad enough commenting base by now

This seems like a weird thing to say -- it sounds like you're saying that the group of active commenters is growing. That is certainly not my impression; we add a new active commenter rarely enough that people who've been here for years, who I know as well as I know anyone else online, are still filed in my head under 'new commenters'.

I'm not saying that you're wrong that Unfogged commenters are whiter than the population of the US, and whiter than in an ideal world they would be: that's certainly my impression, allowing for the fact that I don't actually know anyone's ethnicity who I haven't met. But it's not as if we're maintaining our regrettable ethnic lack-of-balance during a period of expansion: this is a couple of dozen dead-enders, not a growing community.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 1:42 PM
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New mouseover!


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 1:51 PM
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I don't think 303.1 is at all correct. Banning some people doesn't mean we endorse everyone's views. It might mean, with respect to the un-banned, that we don't think their views, or their conduct, or both together, are absolutely hateful.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:03 PM
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I don't think, for instance, that ogged's views on torture were expressed in nearly the same way (predictably/in bad faith/in order to get a rise out of people) that Shearer's on race are.

"If we ban someone, we're implicitly agreeing to everything else everyone else says" is ridonk. Maybe "if we ban someone, we're implicitly agreeing that we should engage in some level of moderation of the comments/community", but that doesn't seem all that far-fetched.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:05 PM
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306: I didn't say it was correct, I said that people will take it that way, as Lord Castock has.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:07 PM
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It is far from clear to me that LC thinks we endorse Shearer's racism.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:08 PM
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Well, I was thinking of "endorse" as in "stand behind". If you mean "endorse" as in "allow to continue", then LC would be correct to think we endorse it. But he would also be correct to think we endorse it if we never banned anyone, since, in that case, we would also be allowing it to continue. We don't get off the hook for caring about what goes on in the blog by a policy that attempts to be benevolent neglect; that just means we endorse, by default, whatever happens.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:10 PM
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||

Meta-blogging is so boring. Chobits! was so beautiful. I just finished and cried so hard after boy-meets-computer, boy-loses-computer, boy and computer get back together forever. But also...explicitly and overtly, very very close in meaning and sentiment, nearly word-for-word, this:

Mediating this relationship of individual and collectivity is the "thing," which occupies a singularly important position in any materialist conception of life, even though it has been imperfectly understood by most Marxists who have not been liberated from the bourgeois world of things. Here, Arvatov's conception of new understanding of the thing appeared as a replay of his critique of bourgeois artisanal art and its separation from life. Blinded by a view that insisted on dividing the technical from everyday things into distinct realms, the everyday failed to attract serious "scientific consideration" and was dismissed as a "static and secondary form." The consequences of this bourgeois blindness overlooked this world of things as both material process and forms that separate social consciousness and practice from the materiality of objects. Confident that the construction of a truly socialist culture organized by the working class would repair the "rupture" between things and people that persisted as a residue of an older bourgeois order, proletarian life would try to destroy this destructive dualism for a "single methodological" perspective that saw the world of things as an all-encompassing material entity that produced forms. Society had not yet reached this level of development. But recognizing the importance of relating things to people would, Arvatov believed, reveal the essentials of the emerging proletarian culture.

Harootunian on Boris Arvatov

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:11 PM
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I would like to think that banning is much more a matter of bad manners than of bad morals -- I can be interested in talking to someone who holds beliefs I think of as evil, whereas someone who's probably underneath it all not a bad person who's actively disruptive to the conversation is much harder to keep around. But I don't think it's perceived that way by the audience at large.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:12 PM
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I will say that this is one of the reasons I have generally been anti-banning* -- the fact that if anyone, ever, is banned, then people will take that as establishing that the management is responsible for the views of every commenter.

I see what you're saying, but this is a slippery slope where what's at the bottom isn't that awful, once it's restated slightly. What LC is saying, rightly, (with Spidey's Uncle Ben) is that with enhanced power and visibility comes enhanced responsibility, and denying that is just willful blindness. A bright-line rule against intervention is necessary only when deciding on the merits would otherwise lead to incessant and disruptive calls for this person or that to be banned, but whether that's so is a function of the community, and I simply don't see it happening here--as you say, this is a couple dozen dead-enders. I'll confess that a greater willingness to intervene might well see Bob banned, and I would consider that a real loss and a mistake, but otherwise I don't think there's much likelihood of people going ban-crazy. It's mostly a bunch of procedural liberals here, which is [a] part of why Bob clashes with folks so often, and more importantly [b] why Shearer is able to get away his racism, because he (usually) knows precisely how to toe the line so that any intervention would look like content-based suppression of speech, oh noes! (rather than forbidding personal insults, &c.) and we can't do that, now can we?

This is by now a long-running experiment, and we know the results: we as a community are way too tolerant of certain sorts of hateful things, if they're said with the right register. This has bad consequences.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:12 PM
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The maxim is "Qui tacet consentire": the maxim of the law is "Silence gives consent". If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.

Cromwell: Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?

Sir Thomas More: The world must construe according to its wits; this court must construe according to the law.

Unfogged is not a court, dispensing justice to LC


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:15 PM
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304: This seems like a weird thing to say -- it sounds like you're saying that the group of active commenters is growing.

I don't know the granular data on this. When I talk about a broader base of commenters, I mean the difference between Unfogged of the routine 700+-comments-a-thread era and Unfogged of the 50-comments-a-thread era when I first started lurking and then posting here. The later era has a much broader base of commenters. In the earlier era, which was still working out whether feminism ought to be allowed on the blog and whether it was cricket for Ogged to make jokes about Asian drivers, the lack of diversity was less surprising and didn't really trouble me as much.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:18 PM
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I think it's practically bad faith, in fact, to on the one hand be active participants in the comments and, on the other, as soon as it becomes clear that someone's behavior is affecting the place negatively, say, "actually we don't care at all about anything that happens here and therefore can't and won't do anything about it.".

I would like to think that banning is much more a matter of bad manners than of bad morals -- I can be interested in talking to someone who holds beliefs I think of as evil, whereas someone who's probably underneath it all not a bad person who's actively disruptive to the conversation is much harder to keep around.

I can't say I'm too impressed with the famous "but he said it so civilly!" defense. Also, Shearer's particular evil beliefs don't really touch on you (or, to be clear, me) very directly (likewise ogged's about torture, when he held them). LC is, I take it, pointing out that it's not really that interesting for him to discuss race with Shearer, even if, considered in the abstract, Shearer makes for a decent enough interlocutor in a way that read does not. (I don't think Shearer does, in fact, make for such a decent interlocutor, as past go-rounds with him would, I think, demonstrate. Baa would be a better example of someone who holds beliefs that diverge from what a lot of others here hold, but for all that I and others have argued with him a lot in education threads (e.g.), I don't think he's very much like Shearer otherwise.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:18 PM
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309 is correct BTW, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm talking about is normalizing racism, not endorsing it.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:19 PM
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(315 was me. And I quite agree with 316.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:20 PM
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When I talk about a broader base of commenters, I mean the difference between Unfogged of the routine 700+-comments-a-thread era and Unfogged of the 50-comments-a-thread era when I first started lurking and then posting here. The later era has a much broader base of commenters.

So, the transition to a broader base of commenters you're talking about is the transition that happened about seven or eight years ago? Because since that transition, while comment threads have stayed long, I'm pretty sure the number of distinct commenters has dropped quite a bit over the last three or four years.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:22 PM
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"actually we don't care at all about anything that happens here and therefore can't and won't do anything about it."

… which, I should have made clear, is the only way the benevolent neglect approach could be plausible.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:22 PM
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If the management is regarded as endorsing every evil belief espoused by a commenter, on the other hand, it's not going to be possible to have those sorts of conversations any more.

And this seems to me to reflect a deeply mistaken view of the relationship between conversations and communities--or rather, to ignore that the nature of the community always constrains and conditions the sorts of conversations that can take place--and vice-versa.

A forum where racist shit gets deleted is a forum where certain conversations can't take place, yes, but a forum where racist shit is treated as about the same as calls to nuke Japan, and both are put in a very different (and more protected) category than personal insults, is a forum where people of color are going to be scarce. A forum where John Y/oo is engaged with calmly and civilly is a forum where many people, particularly, say, folks with affective ties to people the US has tortured or regions where we've done it, are not going to be. There's a two-way feedback loop here, and there's no such thing, given actually existing people, as a ideal deliberative space where everything can be discussed with reasoned arguments, and everyone can feel entitled to participate as a equal and valued member of the community. Because some topics ask participants to entertain seriously, or play at doing so, claims that directly challenge their human dignity, and for most people that's not just a fun thought experiment.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:32 PM
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Unfogged is a group of acquaintances that has formed through an organic process based on shared interests -- social life being what it is, those kind of groups tend to include a lot of similar people and not to be 'representative' in any demographic sense. I think Unfogged is exclusionary and could be a turn-off to lurkers based on lots of reasons that are unrelated to racism or sexism. In appearing open to new people, I'm also not sure whether it is more helpful to show openness to differing views, even noxious/illegimate/borderline offensive ones, or to control ideological civility more carefully.

I am by nature a big-tent person, and I tend to think that the only reason someone should get kicked off is actively and deliberately sabotaging the conversation, and also that the bar should be adjusted based on whether the person also makes positive contributions at times. The kind of discomfort felt by people reading noxious views that we all know exist and are actively denounced and disagreed with by everyone else on the blog as soon as they appear seems to me to be easier to manage than the kind of discomfort that would be felt by everyone if we all had to wonder who would get kicked off next every time we had a high-intensity blog spat (which are not uncommon here). Of course, I'm not black and in that sense have a less personal relationship to it, so what do I know. And I don't disagree that you have to draw a line -- there's clearly a hate-speech line somewhere. I don't think Shearer crosses it, personally, although that is subjective.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:34 PM
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Basically pwned by little bitch Nosflow in 316. Sigh. But I was less clear, and wrote at greater length, so that's something.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:37 PM
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I am by nature a big-tent person

Laydeez.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:41 PM
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person who's actively disruptive to the conversation is much harder to keep around

LB, I get your point, but I think this may have less to with the behavior of the commenter and more to do with the behavior of the community. I strongly suspect that the only reason Shearer's comments don't generally "sabatoge" threads in a more-traditionally-bannable fashion is because the number of people who vocally take issue with his is limited. I.e., if more people complained more often, he'd be ruining more threads. His race-related comments usually produce a few comments of scolding and a lot of ignoring. I also suspect that more people don't complain more loudly at least partly because relatively few of us are black. (I certainly think he couldn't say the same sorts of things about women without generating much more active hostility, and therefore derailing more threads.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:43 PM
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Of course, I'm not black and in that sense have a less personal relationship to it, so what do I know.

I've said this before, but I'll repeat it, because I think it's important: that's right. Your intuitions, and mine, and LB's and Nosflow's, about what sorts of discomfort are easier to manage, are actually not reliable guides here, because the discomfort that's really at issue--perceiving a hostile or indifferent environment--is purely speculative for us. The epistemically responsible strategy is to mostly give up, or at least heavily downweight, introspection, and just listen to what people are saying, and trust them. And on this thread, we've heard from a number of people saying it is a real issue.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:51 PM
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316: I'm not attached to what happens with Shearer, one way or the other -- if he wanted to not piss people off, he's had years of warning as to how, and I've certainly argued about race with him enough for a lifetime.

That said, I think the statements that have been made in this thread about how egregious his comments about race are have been overstated. I don't think I've seen much from him that, in isolation, I would have regarded as exceptionable from someone whose good faith on the subject I believed in, if it had been said in a context that made the subject of race a reasonable one to raise. (And for anyone who's outraged by what I just said there, I'd appreciate a link to the worst thing you can find of his, read literally without consideration of the source. I could be wrong, but my strong impression is that it will be something like parsimon linked in 253, which was as far as I could tell an accurate statement about a difference in average measured scores on IQ tests between African American and white American populations as of 1995 or so. The kind of thing that there was in context no reason to bring up other than to obliquely make a racist point, but something that a non-racist could have said when discussing IQ tests.)

That doesn't make me think people are being importantly unjust to him -- I do, in fact, think the way he keeps on bringing up race and dancing right up to the line of what would be unambiguously racist establishes that whatever his actual factual beliefs are as to whether black people are genetically inferior, he's enthusiastic about giving the global impression that that's what he believes. And that enthusiasm is serious bad behavior, that is in itself racist and that I can certainly believe makes the blog less welcoming to people of color.

But the problem to me looks much more like "people on this blog are willing to engage with, or at least not to ban, someone who globally seems to be a racist" rather than "explicitly racist views are allowed to be expressed here."* And at that point, I'm not seeing all that much of a principled distinction between Shearer on race and baa on pre-emptive war or Ogged on torture, other than on personal lovability. The answer may be that race is different, because not-actively-shunning racists has the effect of creating an unwelcoming environment to people of color in a way that's not parallel to the expression of other evil views.
_________
* I don't really know what to say about the guest posts, as distinct from the not-banning-as-a-commenter. I wouldn't have put them up, but I hate to second-guess Heebie given that she's doing most of the work around here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:53 PM
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I certainly think he couldn't say the same sorts of things about women without generating much more active hostility, and therefore derailing more threads.

Well, the blog lived through a period where the same sorts of things were said about women on a regular basis, and it did generate a fair amount of active hostility, and was the subject matter of a fair number of threads. People who were likely to say those sorts of things have either wandered off or stopped saying them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:56 PM
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whatever his actual factual beliefs are as to whether black people are genetically inferior

I definitely don't think he's ever said "inferior", just of lower average intelligence.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:58 PM
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(I shouldn't keep calling Ogged a torture advocate. He wasn't generally -- I'm harking back to one set of threads where he was thinking that executing criminals by torturing them to death might be a good idea. But he did back off that eventually, and was emphatic that he saw that as completely distinct from torturing prisoners for information.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 2:58 PM
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I shouldn't keep calling Ogged a torture advocate.

Yeah--people have been banned for that.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:00 PM
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I definitely don't think he's ever said "inferior", just of lower average intelligence.

...and hinted strongly that this was for genetic reasons.

His Socratic style can simultaneously make him more enraging while giving him some deniability about his beliefs. But after a while it becomes clear what he really thinks, and I don't see why this overall picture should be excluded from discussion.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:07 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:08 PM
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The answer may be that race is different, because not-actively-shunning racists has the effect of creating an unwelcoming environment to people of color in a way that's not parallel to the expression of other evil views.

Yes, I think that is the answer.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:08 PM
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And for anyone who's outraged by what I just said there, I'd appreciate a link to the worst thing you can find of his, read literally without consideration of the source.

I continue to think you're approaching the problem from the wrong point of view. You're looking for bright-line rules of conduct that when applied blindly won't give results like 'ban Ogged', and you see it as a problem that the complaint is basically about Shearer's being a racist, but this is about community norm-setting rather than crafting constraints on the use of institutional authority. And so a lot of the reasons it's inappropriate in the latter case to use Mr. Q's being a good or bad person simply don't apply.

Take what you say in your next comment: People who were likely to say those sorts of things have either wandered off or stopped saying them. You don't think this was a bad thing, do you?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:08 PM
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332: ...and hinted strongly that this was for genetic reasons.

I wasn't disagreeing with that part. 329 was tongue-in-cheek.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:10 PM
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No, but I think it's very different that people who argued about gender weren't regarded as implicitly tolerating the most sexist commenters, and that civil conversation on other topics with people who said sexist things didn't seem to itself create a hostile environment for women.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:12 PM
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And yes to 334. (Though it's not that there are no parallels, period; frequent unchallenged expressions that American lives count for more than the lives of foreigners, for example, would probably create a climate unappealing to non-Americans.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:12 PM
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frequent unchallenged expressions that American lives count for more than the lives of foreigners, for example, would probably create a climate unappealing to non-Americans.

Unchallenged would. I don't think Shearer goes unchallenged on race much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:14 PM
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But after a while it becomes clear what he really thinks, and I don't see why this overall picture should be excluded from discussion.
Yes, this.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:18 PM
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I think urple had it right with His race-related comments usually produce a few comments of scolding and a lot of ignoring; in any case, neither your nor my perceptions of how the Shearer-threads look is really what's dispositive, is it?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:24 PM
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Here is an unavoidable complication: I do not read a lot of comments when things get dense and argumentative. Well over half of the greatest offensive hits by all our most obnoxious commenters have been things I never actually read myself, (eg nuke Japan!) and have just sort of gleaned from aftermath.

Any close monitoring, comment by comment, is just not going to happen from me. I don't have the time, patience, or stamina.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:27 PM
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341: I'm not claiming that there's no problem relating to Shearer creating an environment that's inhospitable to people of color -- as you say, my sense of the situation isn't dispositive. But whatever precisely the problem is, I'm pretty sure, and it's been said earlier in the thread, that it's not that the way people respond to him is such as to make it appear that anyone much here agrees with him about anything relating to race -- the scolding may be perfunctory, but there's reliably scolding.

To the extent that Shearer's existence creates a hostile environment for commenters of color, I think it's got to be just that he's someone who can be deduced to be a racist person who hasn't been banned.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:30 PM
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X.trapnel is right that this is about community norm setting, but bans are a particularly crude and extreme way to set those norms, one that (unlike counter-speech) narrows instead of broadening the conversation.

The answer may be that race is different, because not-actively-shunning racists has the effect of creating an unwelcoming environment to people of color in a way that's not parallel to the expression of other evil views.

Let's remember that Unfogged is and has always been a place where a significant number of direct commenter-to-commenter personal insults are tolerated as part of speech. Granted such personal insults do not plug into a history of oppression of an entire race, but there's no telling what they may plug into for a commenter. In that sense the willingness to tolerate insult and continue with the conversation is part of the background assumptions here.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:32 PM
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342: As I've been saying, I don't think close monitoring would clear this sort of thing up. I'm a 'can't see the forest for the trees' type myself -- I read all the comments, pretty much -- and for Shearer, my sense is that the problem is much more the forest than any particular tree.

I do agree with everyone complaining about Shearer that the forest is a seriously fucked up forest -- I am not arguing that the successful maintenance of consistent plausible deniability on every individual comment is any kind of moral defense of Shearer's expression of his beliefs on race. But getting rid of Shearer, or of anyone with comparably unpleasant views, would have to be a global evaluation of "You're a person who believes bad things" rather than "You're not allowed to say [quoted statement] here."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:36 PM
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(I didn't mean to say I'm sure banning is the answer. My intent in the thread has been mainly to amplify the volume on the diagnosis of there being a problem. And now I need to go and prepare for a NYE party.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:37 PM
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To pull together the two threads in 345 -- the way policing of community norms actually works on Unfogged is through collective speech, including the right to be directly insulting to other commenters without worrying about a ban. I.e. the effect of Shearer's speech on community norms gets policed by other people calling him a racist asshole (or by entire threads making that claim in more solemn terms, like this one). The move to policing speech content norms through more frequent banning would replace this with a more authoritarian, top-down method of policing that narrowed the bounds of acceptable speech rather than broadening them.

I agree with LB in 327 and 343. Basically, I think banning Shearer puts us on a slippery slope toward banning Republicans.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:44 PM
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I think one of the things that people have been saying is that a potential short-of-banning step would be to not have any more front-page posts from Shearer. That is, that it's one thing to have a racist jerk running around in the comments all the time, and it's another thing to have front page posts from him.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:54 PM
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348 has the added benefit of being extremely easy to implement.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:55 PM
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In a very quick Google, some greatest hits:

Claims black men are more violent (It's like he's never even read the Sentencing Project's reports.)

Natilo fights back.

Shearer says he believed black men have higher testosterone levels (?!?!).

Shearer states that it "would not surprise him" if "different cultural groups" have "different attitudes about insurance fraud."

Here he states that "most people" define a "good school" as one without "poor and/or minority kids".

Ugh. I don't feel like trawling for more evidence. I'll just leave it at this: In general I think the front-page posters here do an extraordinarily good job of staying in the mix (of comments) without getting in the way (of debate). Often they even facilitate it.

They also do a LOT of behind-the-scenes cleanup of stuff like TOS which allow the rest of us to continue enjoying our time here. I'm very grateful for that.

At the same time, there comes a point when tolerating someone who sucks up a lot of oxygen on one ugly issue starts looking like tolerating his beliefs. I think we're there now.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 3:59 PM
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have been things I never actually read myself, (eg nuke Japan!) and have just sort of gleaned from aftermath.

And you trust the reporting? Of course you do, it would be offensive to accuse a friend of distorting or exaggerating someone else's comment with malicious intent.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 4:11 PM
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350: This is not a defense of Shearer's beliefs, or behavior, generally.

But the first link you've got there (which is, I think, just about the worst thing I've seen Shearer say in isolation) is Shearer saying "Black men go to jail at a higher rate than white men for the the same reason white men go to jail at a higher rate than white women. They are more violent. Statistically black men are more dangerous." Which, if you take conviction rate as a proxy for the rate at which crimes are committed, which is questionable but not insane, isn't false -- it's in the category of things that could be said by a non-racist in the right context.

The testosterone link is Shearer correcting himself -- saying that he'd believed there was a difference in testosterone levels but turned out he was wrong. That's strong evidence that Shearer picks up racial beliefs in fucked up places, but "I believed something racist but I was wrong" is not in itself much of an offense.

And "Most people define a good school as one without poor or minority kids" is something that almost anyone here might say decrying the racism and classism of people in the US generally. What makes it look shitty from Shearer is the general impression that he doesn't think of racism or classism as a problem.

I've got the same sense of Shearer's racism overall that you, but none of that changes my sense of what I said in 327 and 345.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 4:16 PM
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I've got the same sense of Shearer's racism overall that you, but none of that changes my sense of what I said in 327 and 345.

I can't tell for sure, because I haven't followed this thread closely, but it seems like you're either taking lawyerly readings of comments to a new level or making no sense. Shearer, as you seem to be acknowledging, believes that people of African descent (or maybe just African Americans; I can't be bothered to check the fucking archives) are inherently less smart than whites, more prone (though perhaps not inherently) to criminal behavior, a bigger drain on the state, etc. He is, by any definition of the word, a stone racist. That's what people are saying, full stop. He's a racist and not afraid to say so.

Again, maybe I've misread you, or maybe I've missed the part of the thread where people have excused Shearer of being a Klansmen or otherwise in on the Emmett Till murder, but I don't think so.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 4:34 PM
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accused rather than excused, please


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 4:37 PM
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353: What I'm saying is that the pattern I see with Shearer is that when he brings race up, he says stuff that is generally defensible on a sentence-by-sentence basis if read with the sort of charity any other commenter would get. He doesn't get, and shouldn't get, and doesn't deserve, the sort of charity any other commenter would get because he brings race up all the time, and because the individually defensible things he says are almost always the sorts of things a racist would go for in support of the explicitly racist arguments that Shearer generally doesn't quite make. And so he gets (rightly) scolded as a racist on the basis of what he obviously meant rather than what he literally said.

I don't think he's being treated unjustly -- appealing to literal reading in the face of his body of work is nonsense. But a disciplinary reaction to him has to be on the basis of a global sense of the sorts of things he says all the time, rather than a reaction to any individual specific comment. I don't recall many comments from him at all that I'd think of as a problem from someone who hadn't built up his overall track record.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 4:49 PM
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Bob's "nuke Japan" comment was completely unlike anything Shearer said. Bob was suggesting that the US nuke the Fukushima reactor before it kills us all. While obviously a terrible idea, it was not motivated by any anti-Japanese prejudice.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:04 PM
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355: people, at least internet-savvy people, who use IQ statistics to suggest that African Americans aren't as smart as whites are racist. People, at least people who lived through the 70s and 80s, who use crime statistics, absent context, to suggest that African Americans are more prone to this or that kind of behavior are racist. People, at least people who know anything about education policy, who insist that when schools have a sufficient number (as above, I'm not going to check the fucking archives to see precisely what Shearer claimed in the past, so I allow that I might be wrong about this) of African Americans are unlikely to succeed by the standards of NCLB. Shearer, I believe -- again, I may be wrong on the particulars -- has made all of these arguments more than once. He is a racist. Or at least he plays one at unfogged. Which is to say, maybe it's just a performance. But if so, it's a very convincing performance.

All of that said, it really might be that we're talking past each other.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:05 PM
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And to the question of why that distinction should matter? Eh. I'm certainly not sure that it should. But there seems to me to be a real difference between Unfogged as a site where racist things are said unchallenged (which is, I think, generally not true), and a site where someone who is obviously a racist brings up race and pussyfoots around saying plausibly deniable things about race and gets scolded for them, and is sometimes addressed civilly when he's not talking about race (the guest post thing, I'd call an error of judgment, but again, heebie's doing all the work around here and I'm not.)

If the latter is enough to make this an unwelcome environment for people of color, we should do something about it. But it does seem to me to commit the front-pagers to a degree of responsibility for the good character of our commenters in a way that a rule saying that there are some acts of hate speech you can't commit without getting banned wouldn't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:05 PM
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Also, if you want to give Shearer credit for something, perhaps give him credit for, I think, no longer bullying vulnerable people, especially women. He really does seem to have stopped that. But again, I could be wrong. I'm not around all that much, and when I am, I'm drugged to the gills.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:07 PM
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358 suggests that we are, indeed, talking past each other.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:08 PM
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I don't think there's much difference between someone's being egregiously racist "globally" and their comments on racism being offensive. If someone's global patterns are egregious (and Shearer's are), any single instance of continuing those patterns is also egregious. (And in fact I don't think he sounds "generally defensible" that often. The pattern I'm most familiar with is repped in 350.3 -- this time out I just decided I'd had enough and skipped to the end.)

A great many quite vile racists skate by in Internet forums on seeming superficially reasonable in tone or halfway defensible if one bends over backwards to be charitable or doesn't examine their arguments too closely. This does not mean that their overall effect is any less noxious, or that countenancing their presence will come off as a neutral or itself defensible decision. That Shearer is a superficially reasonable-sounding supremacist -- which is what I take him to be, on the substance of his stated beliefs -- I do not gave very many fucks what particular shade of chiffon he's decided to decorate it with.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:10 PM
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358 crossed with 357. But maybe 358 makes the distinction I'm making clear. Sure, he is a racist -- from the shit he says overall, I'm as clear on that as anyone else. And he, rightly, gets called a racist here all the time.

I'm just a lot more comfortable taking responsibility for keeping particular unacceptable things from being said here, than I am taking responsibility for not letting people with bad character or beliefs comment here. And not much Shearer says is, in isolation, unacceptable -- I haven't seen anything linked of his that I think would be leading to calls for discipline from another source.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:12 PM
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I bet if Shearer had only made one isolated offensive comment, it wouldn't be a big deal. Why in the world is the standard what he says taken in isolation?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:18 PM
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And, in fact, no one is asking you (or us) to take responsibility for keeping people with bad character or bad beliefs from commenting here. It's possible that in his non-blogular life, JRoth is a foul villain. People are asking you (or us) to respond to people acting badly, consistently, on the blog.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:20 PM
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362: right, you've made it very clear through the years that who you ban and don't ban is your prerogative. I was objecting to your apparent assertion upthread that a close reading of Shearer's comments would yield any reaction other than, "wow, this person is very racist, albeit in a rather calculated fashion."


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:20 PM
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For the record, I do not believe that JRoth is a villain.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:21 PM
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that countenancing their presence will come off as a neutral or itself defensible decision.

LC, can you spell out explicitly what you mean by 'countenancing their presence'? That is, if you're saying that my failure and that of the other front-pagers to have banned Shearer on the basis of what I agree are his repugnant beliefs on race is not 'neutral' or 'defensible', then it looks like you're saying that we're indefensibly supporting him in his racism. Which is certainly worth thinking about, if that's what you mean.

If 'countenancing their presence' means something other than 'not banning', though, could you clarify it for me?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:22 PM
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Anyway, I think I'll bow out now. I still feel rather crappy about having helped to precipitate the last meta discussion about banning someone. I mean, I don't feel bad for having asked that that person be banned, but I do feel bad for having started the kind of meta discussion that everyone is supposed to hate (but truly loves).


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:23 PM
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I was objecting to your apparent assertion upthread that a close reading of Shearer's comments would yield any reaction other than, "wow, this person is very racist, albeit in a rather calculated fashion."

I don't think a fair reading of my comments would lead you to a belief that I was asserting that.

From my 327, the first comment in which I address Shearer's behavior: I do, in fact, think the way he keeps on bringing up race and dancing right up to the line of what would be unambiguously racist establishes that whatever his actual factual beliefs are as to whether black people are genetically inferior, he's enthusiastic about giving the global impression that that's what he believes. And that enthusiasm is serious bad behavior, that is in itself racist and that I can certainly believe makes the blog less welcoming to people of color.

From my 345: I do agree with everyone complaining about Shearer that the forest is a seriously fucked up forest -- I am not arguing that the successful maintenance of consistent plausible deniability on every individual comment is any kind of moral defense of Shearer's expression of his beliefs on race.

And so on. I've been very clear throughout that people calling him a racist aren't wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:28 PM
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I don't think a fair reading of my comments would lead you to a belief that I was asserting that.

Saying that any given assertion of Shearer's isn't precisely racist certainly gives that impression. At a certain point the content of any specific utterance becomes irrelevant next to the overall patten. So focusing on the individual statements is at the least confusing and at the worst makes it seem like you're trying to minimize Shearer's bad behavior.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:35 PM
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I really don't understand why, if you agree that the forest is "seriously fucked up", you always end up talking about how the twigs aren't so bad.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:37 PM
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Because I'm interested in whether I, individually, am responsible for policing what's said here on any individual occasion, or whether I'm responsible for deciding with respect to each commenter whether they're a bad enough person that I have to spend the next decade deleting their posts. (Presumably, nosflow, your responsibilities in this regard are equivalent to mine.)

Shearer's a fucking racist. I've said it repeatedly. He reliably gets admonished (including by me!) when he says stuff that leads one to the conclusion that he holds racist beliefs. If he were saying different stuff -- epithets, forthright statements of his belief of the inferiority of any particular racial group, we'd be deleting and banning. For what he actually does say, we haven't, relying on the community admonishment to make it clear that his beliefs aren't shared. (Which really is how it did work on gender issues -- if anyone was ever the subject of administrative action on the basis of sexism, I don't remember it.)

If anyone wants to call for him to be banned, I'm not going to oppose it in his particular case. But I'm troubled by the idea that Unfogged can be a no-people-who-clearly-hold-evil-beliefs zone; probably not a practical problem, given that we don't have many commenters and they're all mostly nice, and there's no reason for anyone new to start commenting at this point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:54 PM
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367: LC, can you spell out explicitly what you mean by 'countenancing their presence'?

I'm not really sure how to make this clearer. If you treat an unacceptable behaviour as unworthy of any extraordinary censure, as being just one-of-those-things, then whether or not you profess to disagree with it, you are countenancing its presence. You are making a decision that it's not worth upsetting the normal flow of things in order to censure that behaviour. I should have thought that if anything would be harder to pin down, it would be what 'normalizing' means, not what 'countenancing' means.

Moreover, 371 is right.

And now I'm going out. Happy New Years, everyone.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 5:57 PM
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372.1: Jesus fucking Christ. Being asked to take a stance on one super-obvious racist is being "responsible for deciding with respect to each commenter whether they're a bad enough person that I have to spend the next decade deleting their posts"?

Come on.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:01 PM
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I'm not really sure how to make this clearer.

Use of the word 'banning', to say either that you are or you aren't calling for Shearer to be banned, or specificity as to what you meant by 'extraordinary censure', in your comment would have been helpful. But given that you've left the thread, I won't hold my breath waiting for clarification.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:01 PM
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I'm … not sure what's troubling about excluding the holders of clearly evil beliefs, to be frank.

Because I'm interested in whether I, individually, am responsible for policing what's said here on any individual occasion, or whether I'm responsible for deciding with respect to each commenter whether they're a bad enough person that I have to spend the next decade deleting their posts.

Objection, your honor! Spending the next decade deleting their posts is immaterial, since if someone did say something bad enough on one occasion to warrant a ban, or whatever (and if a ban isn't possible even in that case then I'm not sure what the point of the contrast is) that person too could spend the next decade persistently making comments that had to be deleted, provided no other means—also available in the other case—were available for enforcement. So really the choice is between deciding whether a tree is awful or a forest is awful.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:03 PM
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See what I said in 353, LB. And as neb seems to be suggesting, that there might be ways to read some of Shearer's posts on race without arriving at the conclusion that he's a dyed-in-the-wool racist seems entirely beside the point to me.

You could just as easily read some of Josiah Nott's or Samuel Cartwright's medical articles and conclude that they weren't as horribly racist as some people -- Shearer would say liberals -- now contend. But you'd be wrong to make that argument.

And while I'm not accusing of you of defending Shearer, because I trust you when you say you're not doing that, I think you're missing the forest for the trees: leaving aside the issue of banning, Shearer is about as racist a person as one is likely to meet this side of Klan rallies. That he couches his racism in bullshit science actually makes matters worse rather than better.

Actually, if you're not defending him, I'm really not sure what you're doing. Like I said above, maybe using a lawyerly lens for a super-close reading of his comments?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:03 PM
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(And as for "banning," I personally would settle for just not having to see the guy's name guest-posting on the front page is all. That's what I said at the beginning. Personally I think there is no rational reason not to have a zero-tolerance policy for a racism generally and to ban people according as they violate it... but I'd be happy to see the small steps happen at least.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:03 PM
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I'm ... not sure what's troubling about excluding the holders of clearly evil beliefs, to be frank

Well, it would have made interacting with Ogged (maybe we should torture convicted criminals to death?) problematic. Likewise baa (pre-emptive war is peachy!). Likewise plenty of the participants in all the arguments we had here about gender. Mostly, it means that the first six or seven of the years the blog was in operation were a mistake.

Objection, your honor!

This, on the other hand, is a good point. And one that I think I have an answer for, but it's not coming to me immediately.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:07 PM
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How about a compromise. What if we only delete three fifths of his comments?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:08 PM
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Before I head out for my second shopping expedition (which will be more of a NYE shopping nightmare, Target or Trader Joe's? Let's find out!), I want to reiterate that it seems almost like LB is looking for a rule that could be applied by other, unknown, disinterested magistrates in a neutral way that would generate the right outcomes. Which is the right standard for, say, government or corporate procedures. But it's way more rule-of-law than is appropriate here. The relevant decision-makers aren't bureaucrats, they're us: the FPPs and the collective judgment of the Mineshaft, as expressed in metathreads like this. Rules are for when the decision-making body is known to be unreliable about judging on the merits; that's just not the case here, or if it is, it's in the direction of being too tolerant of racism.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:10 PM
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There's an easy solution here. No more front page posts for Shearer, that clearly crossed a line. And more aggressive, assholish policing behavior in the comments when his racist nonsense comes up. "Justice through dickishness" should be our watchword.

It is a fucking disgrace that Castock is the only regular black commenter, if in fact that's true. I doubt Shearer's exclusively to blame for that, but still, likely a big part of the problem.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:13 PM
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Ban people by random lot, obviously.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:16 PM
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I agree with the general tenor of 381—we don't need to formulate a rule that could be applied from without.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:16 PM
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No more front page posts for Shearer, that clearly crossed a line.
I think that's fair, although he has guest-posted in the past without eliciting this reaction, so Heebie can't really be considered at fault.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:16 PM
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Actually, if you're not defending him, I'm really not sure what you're doing.

Mostly, it's bothering me that arguing with someone is being read as tolerating them -- that if someone espouses revolting ideas, that engaging with them at all, even with consistent, strong disagreement, is support. I like getting into arguments, about issues I think of as important. Which means that people I disagree with on those issues are often going to be people I think are morally bad people because they believe things that are not just mistaken, but morally wrong. I don't like the implication that any reaction to someone saying evil things other than withdrawing the hem of my garment from them has the effect of supporting their position.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:17 PM
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Rules are for when the decision-making body is known to be unreliable about judging on the merits; that's just not the case here,

It's enough to make a cat laugh.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:19 PM
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Allow me to also express my confusion over why exactly individual unambiguously racist comments would warrant a different, and more stern, response than a collection of comments that individually may or may not be unambiguously racist but that we all agree clearly add up to an unambiguously racist whole. Either way you have a commenter that we all agree is racist leaving what we all agree are (collectively) racist comments. I can understand uncertainty about the best way to deal with racist comments--I'm not really sure what the best approach is--but I don't understand why the level of offensiveness of each comment measured in isolation is a consideration at all, or why you're stressing it so much.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:19 PM
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387: that's one of the reasons I only said I agreed with the tenor of 381.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:20 PM
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I can understand uncertainty about the best way to deal with racist comments--I'm not really sure what the best approach is--but I don't understand why the level of offensiveness of each comment measured in isolation is a consideration at all, or why you're stressing it so much.

This is a good question -- that it, it's obvious to me, but I'm having trouble getting it across. I'll think about it as I head home, and maybe have an answer for you in a while.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:26 PM
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Mostly, it's bothering me that arguing with someone is being read as tolerating them

It clearly is tolerating them when they keep coming back and you keep having the same argument and you have other options.

I don't like the implication that any reaction to someone saying evil things other than withdrawing the hem of my garment from them has the effect of supporting their position.

No one is saying you're supporting his position. If you're arguing with him, you are clearly not supporting his position. But you are, also, tolerating him (one might say: supporting him). One can famously combine remonstrance with a person's position with support and toleration for the person (and even also toleration for the position).

Now it might further be argued that not withdrawing the hem of your garment lends respectability to the person from whom you haven't withdrawn the hem. This principle is familiar to us from people who, for instance, decry links to McMegan's blather. If someone makes that charge, though, you should consider its justice before arguing against it just because you dislike it, and if you argue against it, you should argue against it by saying that engagement with Shearer does not in fact lend him a respectability as an interlocutor that he hasn't earned or, if he had once earned it (or had it charitably advanced on credit), he has now spent.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:26 PM
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386 is a dodge--no one is arguing with Shearer about this. There's no discourse. He's not debating anyone, and no one is learning. (This also makes it different from the gender wars, which were largely conversations with good faith engagement on both sides.)

I used gender as an analogy in 325, but to choose a closer analogue: I don't think repeated antisemitic comments of the nature of Shearer's comments would be tolerated. Someone would have told him clearly to please either can it or to stop commenting.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:27 PM
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And people say procedural liberalism has never been tried!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:29 PM
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-no one is arguing with Shearer about this.

People certainly have in the past -- I have, as have other people. I haven't noticed him saying racist things that didn't get argument -- have I missed threads?

This also makes it different from the gender wars, which were largely conversations with good faith engagement on both sides.

Sterling good faith at all times. Or, in case the sarcasm is less than obvious, didn't always look that way from over here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:32 PM
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Fair enough.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:35 PM
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386: like I said, we're talking past each other. I was responding to:

That said, I think the statements that have been made in this thread about how egregious his comments about race are have been overstated. I don't think I've seen much from him that, in isolation, I would have regarded as exceptionable from someone whose good faith on the subject I believed in, if it had been said in a context that made the subject of race a reasonable one to raise.

My point, leaving aside the issue of banning or your culpability in his behavior, is that he's absolutely 100% racist* -- as distinct from saying racist things -- every bit as racist as people here claim. Suggesting otherwise is mystifying to me. Yes, he uses scientistic language and dog whistles, but as I suggested above, anyone even a bit familiar with the discourse on race recognizes the source of his rhetoric.

The other issue -- about countenancing or tolerating or ratifying his behavior -- isn't something I want to weigh in on any more. I mean, I used to believe that when the majority of people here sat by while bob wrote horrible things about me or about other people**, that meant they agreed with, even if only tacitly, what he was saying. I've since come to realize, based on comments that you and neb and others have left, that the Crazy Uncle exemption was being applied. So maybe that's the case with Shearer. Regardless, for me that's a very different thing than the quoted text above, which reads like a defense.

* Or he just puts on a really fantastic act. I don't really care.

** Years ago, fine. And yes, bob has been much better behaved for a long time now. And yes, he links to things. Honestly, I don't want to re-litigate any of this bullshit now or in the future.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:41 PM
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I was serious about the "justice through dickishness" point. If the problem is that engagement with the argument as serious (even if wrong) lends it an air of respectability, then the right answer is to ridicule and deride. Surely we can all do that.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:41 PM
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Sitting around drunk and discussing who is too racist is kind of a Thanksgiving thing in my family.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:47 PM
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And I do think it's worth some reflection on the fact that we wouldn't even be having this discussion if Castock (again, our lone black commenter) hadn't brought it up. Clearly, whatever the banning rules (the issue of which seems like a distraction to me) we all haven't been collectively dickish enough to Shearer, probably because he isn't insulting enough of us personally.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:47 PM
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So maybe that's the case with Shearer.
I think it's more that people are tired of responding to his racist derails. It's hard to be interesting while repeatedly denouncing someone.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:49 PM
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Maybe if he mixed in some misogyny and anti-semitism people would have more to work with. As tiresome as his racism is, I do find him occasionally interesting. It's not often one gets to examine a living specimen of Homo economicus.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:54 PM
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we all haven't been collectively dickish enough to Shearer

I think the sense of the blog community has been pretty clear. Which is partially what I'm getting bent out of shape, and bringing up banning, over -- given the fairly clear community reaction to Shearer's views, I'm not sure what more should be done other than banning. (I am certainly willing to commit to not putting up any guest posts from him myself, not that I recall doing so in the past.)

I will cop to interacting civilly with him on issues unrelated to race. This never seemed wrong to me for people with ghastly views on gender (or torture, or pre-emptive war), but may be an argument to be made that racism is just different in that regard, and should require complete ostracism in a way that other evil views don't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:55 PM
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400 is certainly true of me. After the last time I called him a racist, a misogynist, and a bully, I decided to ignore him. But that was a decision that was made, in large measure, based on my sense that people are more tolerant of the crazy uncles than they are of the people who call them crazy.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:56 PM
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401: he used to be reliably misogynistic. He just didn't couch it in data. He has, though, mostly abandoned that act.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 6:57 PM
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He just didn't couch it in data.

Sure he did. You want to know ratios of male and female high achievers on whatever math test? It's all in the archives somewhere.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 7:03 PM
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I vaguely remember that!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 7:07 PM
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Sorry, that's true. I was thinking of the relentless bullying rather than the ostensibly rational discussion.


Posted by: vw | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 7:08 PM
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You've got him on the ropes now, LB! He's abbreviated his username and it's lowercase!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 7:08 PM
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That may not have been Von Wafer, but an entirely different compact German car.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 7:09 PM
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Setting down her topaz saucer heaped with nectarine jelly
Emptying her blood-red mouth set in her ice-white face
Teenaged Athena jumped up and shrieked:
    "Kill! Kill for me!
Better to die than to live without killing!"


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 7:10 PM
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Von Wafer isn't any kind of car.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-31-12 7:10 PM
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Were you just reading and posting violent poetry all night, neb?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 7:13 AM
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I haven't kept up with this thread since heading out for New Year's eve last night. Is the conclusion that LizardBreath is banned?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 8:14 AM
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RTFA -- I've been banned since ought five.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 8:46 AM
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Aught.
I ban you again.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 8:56 AM
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Thus I refute you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:12 AM
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On the question of why I was drawing a distinction between individual things Shearer says (some perfectly innocuous, like the content of this guest post, the rest largely defensible if removed from the context of someone with a consistent racist agenda) and Shearer's revealed character and agenda from his consistent habit of bringing up race in a manner that insinuates a belief in racial inferiority (which clearly demonstrates that at the rock bottom minimum of what you can fairly blame him for, he's enthusiastic about working to create a racially hostile environment, which makes him racist. If you're not bending over backwards in his favor, it demonstrates that he's pretty clearly racist by any definition you like), it's because I'm interested in community responsibility, and specifically in the responsibility of each individual within a community, and I think that distinction is important if you want to have a useful discussion about what everyone's responsibility is here. I was getting wound up yesterday because I was getting the global impression from the thread that people were thinking the blog had failed with respect to Shearer, and that we should do better in the future, without any clarity about what 'better' meant in terms of what individuals should be doing. And I think that sort of unfocused bad feeling on important issues is really unhealthy, because it encourages pushing things under the rug and not thinking about them rather than dealing with them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:20 AM
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That's how civilizations end.

On the JBS issue, it seems clear enough that running a guest post connotes the good standing of membership in a community in a much stronger way than arguing substance and/or tone with (or ignoring, which is the standard practice of most of us most of the time) comments. I presume that HG has already made an unannounced policy change on that front


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:21 AM
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418.1 to 416!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:22 AM
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417: I don't think the blog failed, because in the end, the blog can only be failed.

Really, though, this is why I was pretty sure we were talking past each other. I wasn't trying to suggest policy prescriptions, or that you or heebie or anyone else had elevated Shearer (I'm pretty sure that heebie was just trying to keep the blog fed, and Shearer sent her some blog food). Honestly, I was just responding to the narrow point of whether or not Shearer is or is not as racist as people think.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:34 AM
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Also, happy whatever year. I managed not to fall asleep until close to 3 am and then woke up at 6:30 to find that my take-home pay had fallen by $800 from last month. But at least the fiscal cliff was averted. It's like President Obama didn't see Thelma and Louise.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:38 AM
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Here Shearer implies that acquaintance rape is less serious than stranger rape (see comments 20 and 23 for context). This is the single comment of his that has most angered me, maybe b/c there was no collective response to his claim of relative seriousness.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:41 AM
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'Cause of the new pension rules?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:49 AM
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420: I don't want to shut down the discussion of whether there was a failure of responsibility -- if there was, I'm probably more culpable than most, because I am fond of arguing, and argument requires disagreeable people around to argue with: I'm predisposed to tolerate that sort of bad behavior more than most, and very likely more than I should.

I just really don't want a vague global sense of failure without some clarity as to what the failure was.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 9:54 AM
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423: that's only a very small amount of it. The rest seems to be a huge increase in Social Security withholding (which tax either did or did not increase, but either way, the payroll people surely weren't up as late last night as I as, so the increase was baked into the cake) and the cost of health care.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:01 AM
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424: I'm not trying to shut it down (nor was I yesterday). I just don't (and didn't) want to participate in such a discussion, as I don't (and didn't) have anything to add that I haven't already said in the past.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:03 AM
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Shearer has sent me like thirty goddamn posts since this weekend, so clearly I am exercising god-like moderation skills.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:04 AM
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Ask yourself, heebie, What would ogged do? Wait, don't do that.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:09 AM
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417: I was getting the global impression from the thread that people were thinking the blog had failed with respect to Shearer

I may have given that impression in 257; maybe others have as well. I'd have to think about whether to elaborate.

I've been curious about this at 328, though: the blog lived through a period where the same sorts of things were said about women on a regular basis

Is this true? I know the blog used to, er, enjoy a (men's) locker-room feel, with the objectification of women and such, but I didn't know claims were being made as to the inherent inferiority of women. The "Sexist!!" wars here were mostly before my time.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:18 AM
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In the spirit of comity, everyone could go over to this thread and mock the economists.

It's hard to think of a profession that better deserves to be kicked when it's down.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:28 AM
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Were you just reading and posting violent poetry all night, neb?

No.

The poem I posted elsewhere isn't violent.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:40 AM
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416: Thus I refute your refutation.*

*Sort of. Quotes added to the search--your lack of same was your major error. Not done in googlefight which did something weird with the quotes and blows in general. For all of that "ought" still was slightly ahead** (32k to 28.5k). But the Google search helpfully led with Did you mean: "aught five" for the "ought five" search.

**Interesting patterns as you progress up through the numbers. "[A]ught" progressively gains then wins for the larger numbers*** as you get rid of "ought one [blah blah blah]?" (or other small x) type questions.

***With the exception of "six" where the "thirty ought six" seems to be the preferred designation of the firearm when spelled out.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:42 AM
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Shorter 432: LB was wrong on the blog.

(But not about moderation issues--I find her approach to be perfectly cromulent. Not that anybody asked.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:45 AM
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But I'm troubled by the idea that Unfogged can be a no-people-who-clearly-hold-evil-beliefs zone; probably not a practical problem, given that we don't have many commenters and they're all mostly nice, and there's no reason for anyone new to start commenting at this point.

This is the odd thing about the "big tent" arguments. It's like the cartoon of a bunch of scuzzy white guys sitting around in a ditch with a broken-down car and haphazard campfire, with the caption "How can we attract more women and minorities to our program?" If this is just an internal quarrel among existing commenters, then it can be adjudicated as above-- if there's no consideration of how other lurkers & future commenters might participate or not. Most internet communities have self-selecting populations, and over time many of them tend towards policies that accommodate existing members even at the cost of new members. But I take LC's objection to be that there is something amiss with this community's particular accommodation of Shearer (and, indirectly, some of the FPPs), at the expense of pretty much any person of color who wanders by. I'm sympathetic to this objection, as are others, but I don't know that it makes any difference in practice if this ditch can't even draw flies anymore. But if that is true, and taken to be a reason for inaction, then agonizing over accommodations of diverse viewpoints has to be pointless too-- except that that particular fantasy gets people off in a way that "more sensitive and culturally inclusive community" does not. So fine: we get the procedural porn we deserve.*

I don't think good behavior really mitigates bad behavior, if over a reasonable amount of time it is clear that the good impulses just aren't threatening the bad impulses at all. Yes, Shearer is a cordial guy much of the time, and he seems to relish being a token (anti-liberal?). He's also a racist, has bullied people over the couple of years that I've been reading, and his contributions to education threads in particular make them tedious to read. I'm sure he's not the kind of troll who won't go away unless deleted; if you decided you wanted him to leave, I imagine that you'd just have to ask. And if you did this, and he left -- would you lose sleep over having caved in to some form of groupthink, having reduced the ideological diversity of the place, having weakened us all fatally against the next attack of scientific racists? It's impossible to predict with, you know, Shearer-style precision what kind of commenters you might attract or estrange -- but clearly a lot of lurkers read the site, and the community norms have an effect on whether they post or not. (Whatever is being projected now hasn't made the site terribly attractive to additional racists or torture apologists, anyway, so if you're intent on courting those to argue with, that is failing.)

* I saw a billboard in SF, apparently hawking milk, that said "Haute Cloture." I stared long enough to be sure that I wasn't tripping.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:51 AM
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p.s. let me also commend everyone on the moderation and general policies here, which benefit me without my lifting a finger in return.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:53 AM
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The poem I posted elsewhere isn't violent.

The one with this stanza?

Death thrust hard. My sons
by hawk's beak, by stones,
trusting weak wings
by cat and weasel, die.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 10:58 AM
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It's like the cartoon of a bunch of scuzzy white guys sitting around in a ditch with a broken-down car and haphazard campfire, with the caption "How can we attract more women and minorities to our program?"

I'm afraid this made me laugh and laugh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 11:03 AM
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...a bunch of scuzzy white guys sitting around in a ditch with a broken-down car and haphazard campfire

Is that really what unfogged meetups are like?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 11:06 AM
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I hear there's gossip, and artisanal cocktails.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 11:08 AM
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It's a nature poem, rob.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 11:18 AM
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I saw a billboard in SF, apparently hawking milk, that said "Haute Cloture." I stared long enough to be sure that I wasn't tripping.

There's a billboard near the town square that I keep meaning to photograph, that shows a young girl getting blitzed at the bar, and the PSA says something like "Sure, you were over the break-up three drinks ago..."

I can't quite make out all the writing below from the intersection where I see it, but it seems so weird and paternalistic.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 11:24 AM
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And this seems to me to reflect a deeply mistaken view of the relationship between conversations and communities--or rather, to ignore that the nature of the community always constrains and conditions the sorts of conversations that can take place--and vice-versa.

The epistemically responsible strategy is to mostly give up, or at least heavily downweight, introspection, and just listen to what people are saying, and trust them.

I read the conversation yesterday, but wasn't inclined to participate, but I think x.trapnel is making an important point.

Part of what makes this conversation tricky is that we really are talking about a new standard for censure. If the current standard is, "does this person annoy the front page posters enough for them to do something about it?" JBS has stayed below that threshold. So the claim, in the case, is that the FPP should take action, not just on their own initiative, but in response to community request.

We don't have any standards for what constitutes either legitimate or sufficient community request, and everybody knows that it would be really difficult to define those.*

Mostly I would just agree that it's a conversation worth taking seriously, as long as it feels at least modestly productive, even though it's unpleasant. The only way to reach anything like consensus is a combination of being willing to talk, and being willing to stop talking before reaching a conclusion -- because nothing's going to be permanently decided on today, but talking and thinking do help clarify the issues.


* I think occasionally about Julian Dibbell's very dated but interesting article, A Rape In Cyberspace, in which he talks about the difficulty of creating satisfying rules for governance within an open-ended online community (with the obvious caveat that the offenses described in the article are far, far worse than what anybody has done here, and would be clear and immediate cause for banning):

Faced with the task of inventing its own self-governance from scratch, the LambdaMOO population had so far done what any other loose, amorphous agglomeration of individuals would have done: they'd let it slide. But now the task took on new urgency. Since getting the wizards to toad Mr. Bungle (or to toad the likes of him in the future) required a convincing case that the cry for his head came from the community at large, then the community itself would have to be defined; and if the community was to be convincingly defined, then some form of social organization, no matter how rudimentary, would have to be settled on. And thus, as if against its will, the question of what to do about Mr. Bungle began to shape itself into a sort of referendum on the political future of the MOO. Arguments broke out on *social and elsewhere that had only superficially to do with Bungle (since everyone seemed to agree he was a cad) and everything to do with where the participants stood on LambdaMOO's crazy-quilty political map. Parliamentarian legalist types argued that unfortunately Bungle could not legitimately be toaded at all, since there were no explicit MOO rules against rape, or against just about anything else -- and the sooner such rules were established, they added, and maybe even a full-blown judiciary system complete with elected officials and prisons to enforce those rules, the better. Others, with a royalist streak in them, seemed to feel that Bungle's as-yet-unpunished outrage only proved this New Direction silliness had gone on long enough, and that it was high time the wizardocracy returned to the position of swift and decisive leadership their player class was born to.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 11:41 AM
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422: In context (a debate about how much of rape is explained by a few monsters vs. rape culture), I read "relatively minor offenders" as referring to frequency, not qualitative differences. If others read it the same way, that might explain why they didn't object to that particular comment.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 2:06 PM
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439: What would a non-artisanal cocktail be?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 2:08 PM
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I should add that one of the lessons I take from 442.last is that a certain amount of explicitly acknowledged arbitrariness in terms of rules and enforcement can be a good thing -- because the strain created within the community by things being occasionally unfair and/or inconsistent is less than the strain that would be required to come to a collective agreement on what "fair" would mean.

I realize that puts more pressure on the FPPs (who, obviously, do a lot already), because it asks them to be willing to take action without requiring a clear consensus, but I also don't see a practical alternative to occasionally just deferring to the judgement of benevolent overlords.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 2:31 PM
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410: ♥


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01- 1-13 6:12 PM
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