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[P]
Who was Black Hornet?

By streetlawyer in Culture
Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 03:37:30 PM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

This is an extract from a longer work-in-progress. It's a piece of analysis of Eric Raymond's claim to be an "anthropologist", made on his website and repeated seemingly without question by journalists and others across the web. Since Raymond himself is famously picky about who is and isn't allowed to call themself a "hacker", some investigation into this claim might be in order ...... read on .....

For those who can't bear to wait, my conclusion is likely to be that Raymond is an anthropologist of a sort (more accurately, an ethnographer), but that there are some pretty severe problems with his anthropology which mean he's likely to be more use to the field as an object of study than a contributor. But the Tale of Black Hornet is weird .......


So who is Black Hornet? Well, he's the star of a little anecdote recounted by ESR to Linux Weekly News in response to an interview question about his "anthropologist" schtick. The exchange runs:
CL: When I first read your "Homesteading the Noosphere", I was impressed by your tone of analysis, because you yourself were a hacker and your analysis was very objective.

ESR: In anthropology, this is called "observer-participant anthropology" [sic - actually "ethnography" -JSM]. There's a tradition of anthropologists who are actually part of the culture they described. It's considered difficult thing to do, but it is considered possible. There was a famous case early in this century, in which anthropologist in Africa who was studying African Shamanism, African religious forms. One of his informants was a witch doctor named Black Hornet. Now Black Hornet was an intelligent man, he wasn't scientifically educated, but at least he was an intelligent man. And after a while he started to catch on to what the anthropologist was trying to do, he started to get the basic idea of describing the culture scientifically in such way that other people can understand them. And Black Hornet, the witch doctor became sufficiently fascinated by this. And sufficiently well versed in anthropological technique that he actually collaborated with this anthropologist on several other papers, studying different tribe's systems of doctrine. So that Black Hornet was operating as an observer participant anthropologist within the culture he was part of. So this sometimes happens even with people from relatively primitive civilizations.

He learned that viewpoint from observing the another anthropologist at work. Well, I did the same thing. Not directly, but I read a lot of books about anthropology and about anthropological field work. After a while, I began to see the patterns and began to understand the method they were pursuing.

So, then, this is ESR's justification for practicing ethnography without a licence. And among anthropologists of my acquaintance, it's not prima facie ridiculous -- though the more usual model is for an already trained ethnographer to join a community he's studying. And the idea of "Hackers" as a tribe in any meaningful sense struck most of them as prima facie unlikely.

None of them, however, had heard of "Black Hornet", the Noble Savage Eric Raymond-figure.

Nor has Google. In fact, neither Google, nor Altavista, nor alltheweb, index any pages mentioning "Black Hornet" as an African Shaman other than mirrors of the LWN interview. There is a mystery novel and a band called Black Hornet, but if the guy existed, he did so in such a way as to make no impression whatever on the Internet; neither Amazon nor Advanced Books Exchange indexed any of his work.

So what's the deal? I refuse to believe that Raymond would have invented a person out of whole cloth in order to back up his story. There was a Black Elk, who was a shaman. However, he was an Oglala Sioux, not an African. He did write a book, which has a certain degree of fame among ethnographers. However, he did so with the assistance of conventional anthropologists who acted as his editors (this is also true of all his other books). And the books are descriptive, without any theory of why the Oglala did what they did. Black Elk certainly didn't pick up a typewriter, start writing about what he thought was going on, and expect to be an anthropologist, and he certainly doesn't make as useful a character in Raymond's anecdote as the, sadly almost certaintly fictional, Mr Hornet.

So my question is this. Who is best placed to explain the "hacker"/"geek" culture? Does it need explaining at all? Is there any culture to explain? And, most importantly, is there any role for "observer/participants", other than in simply describing without theorising?

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Display: Sort:
Who was Black Hornet? | 79 comments (42 topical, 37 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hacker/Geek culture does exist (4.22 / 9) (#5)
by FeersumAsura on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 11:10:27 AM EST

I'm convinced the hacker geek culture/tribe does exist. I think K5 ./ and geeknews all prove this. Also things like Linuxbierwanderung promote a tribal sense. In agreement with ESR the hacker culture has it's own slang, style and shared history.
As a tribe we're hard to define. Geeks (we must include M$ users) would be the worlds most fragmented, argumentative, pedantic and most dangerous tribe.
If we were a primitve society wars would break out over whether the cooking pot should have legs or be suspended. Long discusions would be held over the advantages of open source rocks and closed source spears.
Of course there wouldn't be many fights. There would just be long cermonial slanging matches and occasioanl DoS attacks on your neighbours mud hut.
How many other cultures are there were somebody can say Foo and most people think variable. Or that have people writing poetry in Perl. Geeks are unique, exist everywhere and cause most buisnesses ehadaches. Not because we disliek buisinesses but because we are so fragmented that it is hard to sell to.

I'm so pre-emptive I'd nuke America to save time.
probably did make it up (2.28 / 7) (#6)
by rebelcool on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 11:12:03 AM EST

His ego gets stroked enough undeservedly. Next thing you know he'll claim Black Hornet causes the downfall of Microsoft "within the next 6 months".

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

I thought the Black Hornet was from Fat Albert (3.83 / 6) (#8)
by Ummon on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 11:12:46 AM EST

You know that meta sci-fi show the characters would occasionally watch?

Hah (none / 0) (#76)
by antizeus on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 02:35:37 AM EST

I had the same thought. I suppose you already know that it was the Brown Hornet. I kind of miss that show, although I'm sure if I saw it again I'd think that it was stupid.
-- $SIGNATURE
[ Parent ]
The Black Hornet probably is the Black Elk (4.00 / 8) (#13)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 11:34:34 AM EST

Its probably just a case of somebody not get their facts right. We've all done it. Somebody down the pub tells a funny story, and it reminds you of something you read in an email that day, so you re tell it, but being deprived of a perfect digital memory, you get some of the minor details wrong.

I expect that ESR had heard the Black Elk story, but couldn't recall it correctly, and filled in the gaps. After all, its an interview in Linux Weekly News, not Anthropologist Monthly.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

hmmm.. (3.00 / 5) (#21)
by dr3 on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 12:54:30 PM EST

i dislike him and his whole notion that he can decide what a hacker is and how hackers dress. Granted you can stereo type something but in my mind that goes against the purest form of hacker ethic. I had a huge rant ready to post full of anger but to be honest he aint worth it. He is simply off base in my opinion on his ethical views of "who is a hacker". o and BTW his article series on how to pick up chicks is ass, wonder if he got that info from a bunch of mail order catalogs.
As Confused as a toddler in a topless bar.
this is shallow... (1.00 / 1) (#28)
by rebelcool on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 01:47:36 PM EST

but if you've ever seen ESR, I think its fairly safe to say he probably doesnt get the chance to try out his "chick tactics" very often. Although he might get the gold diggers and those women who seem to go for guys who like talking about themselves alot.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

you know he's married, right? (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by sayke on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 10:19:35 PM EST

i'd hope you do.


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Criticism in kind (4.25 / 12) (#22)
by Signal 11 on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 12:59:58 PM EST

It's wonderful that you're questioning ESR, but why did you feel it was necessary to come to Kuro5hin instead of take the issue up with him first? Perhaps there is a perfectly valid explanation - a collision of his mental hash tables maybe? Either way, it's poor style to attack someone publicly without first trying to resolve the matter privately unless, of course, it's a public debate which both sides agreed to!

In addition, whether Mr. Raymond is qualified to practice ethnography or not, whatever his qualifications may or may not be, we should judge the work itself and not the messenger. Raymond may be a charlatan pushing his own hidden agenda while standing behind the defense that he's "just" observing. It's abundantly obvious he's done more than observe - he's written several critical papers which later grabbed the international business community's interest and allowed him to become a multi-millionare almost overnight. The case can certainly be made that Raymond has gone beyond mere ethnography and there are also certainly ethical questions which could be raised... but they should have been raised with Mr. Raymond first instead of being dragged out like this. I think it's a cheap shot, even if the questions themselves are valid and worthy of investigation. :\

I hope ESR will drop in on Kuro5hin and provide some explanation now, but I disagree with this ambush you've sprung on him and if he declines to speak out here I certainly wouldn't blame him...


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Naaah, its fair game! (none / 0) (#25)
by pallex on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 01:09:32 PM EST

"In addition, whether Mr. Raymond is qualified to practice ethnography or not, whatever his qualifications may or may not be, we should judge the work itself and not the messenger. "

I dunno... otherwise we`d have no criteria for voting for people etc. There are loads of situations where you take into account what a person is, rather than what he does.

Though i have to say i havent the faintest idea who Mr Raymond is!

[ Parent ]
Doesn't make it right. (5.00 / 4) (#26)
by Signal 11 on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 01:31:20 PM EST

There are loads of situations where you take into account what a person is, rather than what he does.

It's a fallacy of logic to attack the person instead of the idea. That'd be like saying that you couldn't comment on social security reform because you were a republican, and hence biased. Or that you weren't a computer programmer so you can't comment on web usability issues. The moment we cross the line and begin questioning people instead of ideas, we've locked ourselves into a downward spiral of frustration and stagnation.

It's bad etiquette to attack someone (as opposed to their work) publicly without talking to them in private and seeing if they have a good explanation for that. Slashdot a long time ago was running eMusic advertisements on their page at the same time they were running a story about eMusic's unfair copyright/patent actions being taken against someone. This was brought up to them and Slashdot author Roblimo noted that it was true, but he then provided a good explanation for it that a) prevented any hard feelings were I to, say, post it to Kuro5hin as an article and b) prevented me from being embarassed by jumping the gun.

It's good etiquette, and good sense, to talk to someone you have an issue with before dragging other people in to wage war.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

exactly (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by alprazolam on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 02:25:49 PM EST

after you've looked at what esr has said about the hacker culture, especially vis-a-vis some of the other geek leaders ideas of geek culture, then you can examine what it is about esr that makes him believe certain things. but just attacking him because you disagree kind of brings you down a level, as opposed to stepping back and examining the issue.

[ Parent ]
Opinon. (none / 0) (#59)
by pallex on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 05:04:03 AM EST

"It's a fallacy of logic to attack" &
"It's bad etiquette to attack someone"

It`s a good album.

You`re entitled to your opinion. I`m just saying that you can look at more than just the issue you are dealing with, you can step back and think `why is this person saying this?`. Sometimes people dont always tell the truth, and by looking at possible motives for saying/doing something, you can tell a lot more than just listening to what they have to say on the matter. Sort of like the difference between reading a biography and an autobiography.

And i dont understand the Slashdot thing you mentioned - surely theres no problem in running negative stories about your advertisers - if it were the other way around people would say (rightly so) that it could be seen as being biased.

[ Parent ]
Ahem.... (none / 0) (#67)
by Signal 11 on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 11:43:45 AM EST

If you're going to quote me, please oh please quote the entire sentence rather than just the pieces that look good for you, ok?


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]
ok! (none / 0) (#70)
by pallex on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:46:46 PM EST

"It's a fallacy of logic to attack the person instead of the idea. That'd be like saying that you couldn't comment on social security reform because you were a republican, and hence biased."

If someone seems to spend their whole life saying that homosexuals are bad, adulturers will burn in hell, contraception for teens is immoral etc, its perhaps more efficient to rule that person out of any future conversation/dinner party invites on the grounds that they are humourless Christians, than to bother to argue with them about each individual point as and when it comes up.

"It's bad etiquette to attack someone (as opposed to their work) publicly without talking to them in private and seeing if they have a good explanation for that. "

This isnt out of context either! I stand by my belief that its a matter of opinion. I dont go along with this idea that you should just go along with other peoples ideas of right and wrong.

Perhaps its `nicer` to talk to them first, but perhaps you dont feel like being nice to them? Suppose they are an idiot who you dont agree with, want to get an article up, and dont want to have to wait while they stall you for a response.

I agree with you that you should generally look at what someones work, other than `who they are`, but i dont agree that its a hard and fast rule and that its wrong to break it, thats all.


[ Parent ]
Black Hornet unmasked (4.63 / 11) (#27)
by Biff Cool on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 01:42:29 PM EST

I found some references to Muchona the Hornet, Interpreter of Religion on google. It looks like that was who ESR was talking about, but I haven't found a good enough description of Muchona to be positive.

My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler


I think you might be right (5.00 / 4) (#35)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 02:30:57 PM EST

From Learning A Culture The Way Informants Do: Observing, Imitating, and Participating:
Then he [Victor Turner] ran into Muchona, a wandering, marginal man who loved to talk about ritual and about his own activities as a healer. Muchona's interpretations of ritual symbols were uniquely detailed, clear, consistent, and cogent. Turner was enthralled by these elaborate exegetical discourses, paying Muchona handsomely for them and using them as the basis for most of his analysis of Ndembu ritual.
From Bilingual Assistants and 'Tribal' Bodies in Colonial Tanganyika:
Victor Turner's work with the specialist Muchona illustrates this. After abandoning one assistant, who openly disdained the specialist,[8] Turner hired another assistant named Windson, a senior teacher at a mission school.[9] Turner wrote that Windson "spanned the cultural distance between Muchona and myself, transforming the little doctor's jargon and salty village argot into a prose I could better grasp."[10]

[8] Kasonda was "worldly, and a shade spiteful," and he "took a rancorous zest in the struggles for headmanship, prestige, and money that were the bane of village life." Turner saw the difference between them as that between "the true philosopher [and] the politician." Victor Turner, "Muchona the Hornet, Interpreter of Religion," in Joseph B. Casagrande, ed., In the Company of Man: Twenty Portraits of Anthropological Informants, New York, 1960, 334-335.

[9] Windson Kahinakaji's father had been a "famous councillor in the court of a former sub-chief, and from him as well as from the Mission School, Windson had acquired a flair for elucidating knotty questions." Turner, "Muchona the Hornet," 337.

[10] Turner, "Muchona the Hornet," 339.

I suspect that the person wanting to know more would next look up Turner's Forest of Symbols or Casagrande's In the Company of Man.

[ Parent ]

Confusion (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by Marquis on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 08:05:38 PM EST

I read the article and I kept asking myself "But what about the Black Hornet's sidekick Stinger? And I don't remember him being an African shaman. He was a superhero!". Then I realized that I was thinking about "The Brown Hornet" from the old Fat Albert cartoon show. It happens all the time.
Sin is what is disliked by those who control education. -Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
Very interesting (4.00 / 2) (#57)
by streetlawyer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:28:00 AM EST

Although the links seem to make it quite clear that Muchona the Hornet didn't write his own books and didn't carry out original works of ethnography, much less anthropology. In fact, the whole point of "Biligual Assistants" (linked above) is that "Representations of African bodies in colonial texts are hybrid productions that involve cultural translations by positioned actors." Even the Biligual assistants were not "Participant/Observers" in the technical sense -- they were typically clerks in imperial functions. The theorists, on the other hand, were universally outsiders.

It seems like the "Black Hornet" is probably a hybrid of Black Elk, Muchona the Hornet (quite probably also the Brown Hornet from Fat Albert), plus a certain amount of self-mythologisation.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

No arguments here (none / 0) (#71)
by Biff Cool on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:44:35 PM EST

Especially not about ESR being confused.

For clarity, what is an ethnographer (as opposed to an anthropologist)?

My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler


[ Parent ]
ethnographers & anthropologists (3.00 / 1) (#75)
by streetlawyer on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 02:01:27 AM EST

I wouldn't claim to be sure on this, but the participants on the mailing list I asked seemed to think it was important. AFAICT, ethnography is a subset of anthropology, and carries a connotation of observation and reporting rather than theorising. Although the distinction between reporting and theorising is in a pretty bad way these days.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
geekiness -- proof (3.80 / 5) (#32)
by Seumas on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 02:10:22 PM EST

For the last two months, I have been conducting an expiriment to provide undeniable proof as to who is the ultimate geek between ESR and RMS. While not directly linked to the topic at hand, it may provide some valuable scientific insight into ESR.

RMS (geek: 8.1 - geek percentile 93.9% - research pool: 912)
ESR (geek: 7.2 - geek percentile 88.7% - research pool: 911)
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

Bias! (none / 0) (#34)
by Garnier on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 02:26:31 PM EST

You could have chosen more representative pictures of the two: while the picture of RMS is portraying a Real Hacker, ESR just looks like a twat.
Errr.... what was my point again?

(hmm, while typing this I had the funniest deja-vu. Have I posted this before anywhere or is the acid slowly taking over?)

[ Parent ]
no! (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Seumas on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 05:38:43 PM EST

I just used whatever pictures they themselves provide on their site for "the press". It isn't my fault Raymond didn't place any pictures of himself standing in front of a VAX or something on his site!

Besides, both of them actually scored fairly high and not that far off from each other. If I had the time, I'd like to morph them both into a single ESR/RMS breed and post the photo and see how well that does. ;)

On the other hand, it's probably too frightening to imagine!
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

I hesitate to say it but (none / 0) (#61)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 08:08:36 AM EST

ESR looks like a down syndrome adult in some of those photos.

In fact, he looks a lot like a specific down syndrome adult at the home I did volunteer work for. Its weird. Really.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

OT: Who is RMS? (none / 0) (#52)
by Mabb on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 11:46:09 PM EST

Not being an officionado, I have no idea who RMS is. I know who ESR is because of this and other stories on him, using the initials in context...

QuiltBlog: WIP, SEX, WOW, MQ, LQS, HST...

[ Parent ]
Richard Stallman (none / 0) (#53)
by Philipp on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:53:07 AM EST

The man behind FSF and GNU. Author of Emacs etc.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
Fair game (and funny too, if you'll lighten up). (4.00 / 9) (#41)
by elenchos on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 03:57:05 PM EST

ESR has made himself a public figure, with the goal of pushing a specific social and political agenda. He even explicitly uses himself as an exemplar of his goals and ideals. Hence, ESR himself is subject to our approval or disapproval.

Compounding that, he frequently reminds everyone that he is on the board of VA Linux, with the obvious goal of using his celebrity to boost their business credibility and stock price. This is money in his pocket, and all the more reason why we have a right to scrutinize Raymond personally. And actually streetlawyer is digging at him professionally, although the effect is to make him look like a foolish person. Whatever. ESR wants you to to buy into idea X, product Y and brand Z because it is ESR saying it. That makes him fair game.

I think there are some people who want to be in an ESR personality cult, and the sooner we torpedo that nutty idea, the better. I do agree that streetlawyer should have sent him an email with some questions about this, because ESR and his ego would have been unable to resist digging himself even deeper and so his reply would have made the story even funnier.

Adequacy.org

not everything is on the Web!! (4.87 / 8) (#46)
by danny on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 07:51:51 PM EST

Of the vast collection of ethnographic monographs produced over the last century, I doubt more than 1 in a 1000 is online. So your failure to find any references to a "Black Hornet" using Google is no indication of anything. And you can't really expect ESR to provide footnotes in an interview - did you consider mailing him and asking for details?

Certainly ESR's anthropology is not that professional - but the term "anthropologist" is not like "engineer", there's no certification process. OTOH, the same is true about "hacker", so you've got a point about him being somewhat inconsistent...

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

catalogues? (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by streetlawyer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:15:31 AM EST

Of the vast collection of ethnographic monographs produced over the last century, I doubt more than 1 in a 1000 is online.

This is a semi-attached figure -- of course very few of them are online. However, for every monograph which is actually available online, many more are mentioned online. For example, we can say that not only is none of BH's work indexed by google (unsurprising), but also, no work which cites any work by BH is indexed by google (rather more surprising). Citations ought to increase the number of potential hits by a factor of at least twenty. Furthermore, the Oxford University library index hasn't heard of him, and nor has the Library of Congress. And nor have the members of two sociology mailing lists who I asked. My evidence is really much stronger than you imply.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Black Hornet wasn't the author! (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by danny on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 08:08:59 AM EST

From ESR's comment, Black Hornet was an informant - a local who provides information for an anthropologist - not an anthropologist. So "Black Hornet" almost certainly published nothing and will feature in no catalogues or citation indices.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

yes he was, in ESR's version (none / 0) (#63)
by streetlawyer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 09:03:49 AM EST

From the quote excerpted above:
And Black Hornet, the witch doctor became sufficiently fascinated by this. And sufficiently well versed in anthropological technique that he actually collaborated with this anthropologist on several other papers, studying different tribe's systems of doctrine.
That suggests an authorship credit to me. Note that Raymond's version of history has (Black | Muchona The) (Elk | Hornet) helping the anthropologist on other tribes and moving beyond being a participant-observer to being a jobbing ethnographer. In context, there would be no point to the anecdote if BH was just a subject of study for someone else.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Hmmmmm... (none / 0) (#73)
by danny on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 08:08:38 PM EST

Anthropologists haven't always been good at giving authorship credit to their informants. Often "authorship" is determined more by access to institutional power rather by who did the actual work (it's not just indigenous informants, graduate students and research assistants often lose out to more powerful academics).

I still think you're trying to hang way too much off a passing comment in an interview, anyway - if ESR had put it in a paper, then we could reasonably expect a reference.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Black Hornet's identity is irrelevant (4.00 / 8) (#50)
by Mabb on Wed Mar 14, 2001 at 10:27:21 PM EST

Participant Oberservation stands as a valid sociological research method, although it's always best to provide some triangulation with a more empirical method to strenthen causal analysis and to catch possible bias in conclusions.

Regardless of whether Black Hornet is the correct name for the shaman (and whether ESR or the writer got it wrong), the point ESR was making, that participant observation is a valid ethnological research method, is correct.

The side issue of the shaman's name is irrelevant to any discussion on ESR's credibility as an anthropologist/ethnologist.

What IS relevant is how he uses the results of his data collection methods, how he avoids the inevitable bias associated with all observation methods (both direct and participant) and how he analyses the data and reaches conclusions.



QuiltBlog: WIP, SEX, WOW, MQ, LQS, HST...

well yes (5.00 / 2) (#56)
by streetlawyer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:23:58 AM EST

But participant observation doesn't mean what Raymond claims it means, and in fact, only about 50% of his oeuvre can be considered to be participant observation. Most of his most famous work is participant theorising, which is a whole nother ball game and on much less solid ground. And the answers to your three (very sensible) "what is relevant" points are, AFAICS, he doesn't.

Furthermore, I disagree that not getting the name right is meaningless. At the very leasy, it seems to suggest that the anecdote was picked for its convenience rather than its relevance.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

OK, geniuses (4.77 / 9) (#60)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 06:42:12 AM EST

Pro-active, ja? I've mailed good ol' ESR, in the same amount of time others argued that someone else do it. Email below:
Hello ESR,

I am curious on finding a reference to the "Black Hornet" you mentioned in an interview to LWN. There are a number of people on Kuro5hin.org who are discussing it, some as an attempt to flame you on the front page. If you have some information on Black Hornet we could look up or research, that would be very good. EVEN if the source is non-traditional.

FYI, the interview is at: http://lwn.net/2000/features/ESR/

Yours,
(like I'd put my fake real name up)
Blend, shake, wait two weeks for the response. Now, if ESR is dishonest in the slightest bit, he might not respond since he wouldn't want to give information that could hang himself. But if he does give information or concedes a mistake, then he is likely a hell of a lot better than those idiots in academia with more books than brains.

thanks (3.50 / 2) (#64)
by streetlawyer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 09:08:56 AM EST

Frankly, I'm not too happy that you characterised my story as an attempt to flame Raymond; that was the other story, about his sex tips. I would also not characterise lack of response on his part as evidence of anything; I doubt that this is a high priority for him. It's quite clear that he got confused between Black Elk, Mochuna the Hornet, and other picturesque objects of ethnography. What I found interesting was the shift in his mind which turned these guys from subjects of ethnography into "anthropologists".

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Hmm.. (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 11:51:06 AM EST

Frankly, I'm not too happy that you characterised my story as an attempt to flame Raymond; that was the other story, about his sex tips.
I believe you're right, except that this being Eric Raymond Week, it may be more fair to not remove this article from its context. The article at least has the subliminal message that ESR is fallible, and some may start thinking of him as a doofus who can't get his damn facts straight.

And plus, I couldn't begin to explain the Eric Raymond Week thing in a short email...

[ Parent ]
fair enough :) (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by streetlawyer on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:00:15 PM EST

It's not like I'm pretending to like the guy or anything. But I thought that yesterday's one used the scalpel as opposed to the half-brick of "Sex Tips".

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
If it isn't on the web, it doesn't exist? Huh? (4.33 / 3) (#72)
by TuxNugget on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 04:24:51 PM EST

I have to admit, the Black Hornet reference does seem like pretty obscure stuff. But just because it is not in Google doesn't mean it is a fabrication. And even if it is fabricated, so what. Is that a big deal? It is not like ESR was involved with wrongdoing. It was more of a personal matter, not about his job at VA Linux.

In fact, I can imagine people saying things like this at interviews because the corp wants the good press from the interview but doesn't want their people saying too much about exactly what they are working on. So the interview turns to fluff. How many biz interviews seem like this? Most of them?

If he is out there, maybe Black Hornet is sticking to magik that actually works, rather than this web bullshit. I mean, how many real shaman's are going to have home pages and email? We're talking about real shamans living in Africa, not people who tell your fortune for $2.99/minute. Ok, if it is in a research paper, google might have something -- but google indexes web sites, not academic journals. Those academic papers that make it onto google are often works-in-progress on professor's web sites, or summaries and class notes. Not the entire text of research articles or textbooks. Information may 'want to be free', but it isn't, and free google can't find all the non-free stuff.

Suppose the 'worst' is true. If ESR wants to practice some PR mind games, why is this such a bad thing? Everyone has their fishing stories.

ESR's reponse (5.00 / 8) (#77)
by slaytanic killer on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 06:10:51 AM EST

I heard the story from my professor in anthropology class in college, about 1977. I don't have a written source for it.
-- Eric S. Raymond
Without leaving this quote bare, I would point out that his memory of this class spans more time than my life. And I'm sure that many people have heard some story that sticks with them, while their minds strip out the parts that were not so important to them.

Edifying. Apocryphal.

Maybe... (none / 0) (#79)
by Hernan Laffitte on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 09:17:57 PM EST

...he was thinking of the Green Hornet?

Who was Black Hornet? | 79 comments (42 topical, 37 editorial, 0 hidden)
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