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[P]
Hacker mentality as reflected in language

By tpck in News
Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 08:30:52 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Eric S. Raymond responds to a vicious New York Times article entitled When Geeks Get Snide. The Times article rants at length about the anti-social language of "Cyberland", a mythical plane of existence where greedy, selfish, elitist cybertopians plot the destruction of meatspace. ESR's response cuts them down a bit. But who's right?


Language certainly has an effect on culture, but, honestly, when was the last time you used the term "meat-jail", meaning real world or "client/server action", refering to sex? Do you respect people who constantly throw around terms like "blamestorming" and "sheeple", or do you get the feeling they are marketroids trying to impress someone with their second-hand impressions of "hip geek counterculture"?

When we use terms like "bit flipped", "high bandwidth", or "open source" to refer to people, is it because we can only understand humans in those terms? It is because we can't relate to to people that we try to describe them in terms we are familiar with? Or is it just that we have a sense of humour?

I just can't believe that someone could take the existence of words like "wetware" and "meatbots" to mean that geeks are "cyberutopians" bent on eliminating all forms of carbon based life in favour of uploading themselves to a perfect silicon plane of existence.

Someone has been reading too many cheesy cyberpunk novels.

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Display: Sort:
Hacker mentality as reflected in language | 58 comments (45 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
Should this be taken so seriously? (1.00 / 1) (#11)
by squigly on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 07:25:01 AM EST

I get the feeling that the nytimes article was not a criticism of us, so much as a commentary on changing language, and although it was somewhat insulting towards geek culture, this was to explain the the non techy people where the terms came from.

--
People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
Re: Should this be taken so seriously? (1.00 / 1) (#15)
by eann on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 09:26:55 AM EST

Nah. The author probably got called a "luser" by some NYTimes BOFH, and this was a good way to retaliate. :)

Really, though, if this is supposed to be funny, it's a long way from channeling Andy Rooney. And I don't even particularly like him, but at least he comes across as sarcastically insincere.

I don't see it as derogatory (what's so bad about the word "meatspace" anyway?), but I also don't think it's written as well as it could have been to stay neutral.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
Ah, just ignore it. (1.50 / 2) (#17)
by Alhazred on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 10:05:51 AM EST

The essence of hackish culture was always the subtle, often obtuse, use of language. Most people with IQ's in the double digits simply miss the point entirely.

Remember, half the human race id dummer than average. If 2% of the people you meet understand the pea soup joke your lucky ;o)
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
When did this become about intelligence? (none / 0) (#25)
by extrasolar on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:04:14 PM EST

When did this become about intelligence? I think you need to step back and think about what you just said. It has some vast consequences.

Something you need to know is that intelligence has little to do with our humanity. It only means that some of us are better at certain things than others---if they tried.

And what is this pea soup joke?

Best Regards

[ Parent ]
Re: When did this become about intelligence? (none / 0) (#32)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 03:25:41 PM EST

I think he is refering to a joke (rather, a pun) which draws on the LISPer convention of adding "P" (for "predicate") to the end of a boolean variable. Some hackers were sitting in a Chinese restraunt and one said to the others "Split-p soup?"

It's in this Jargon File entry:
http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/The--P-convention.html

Off the topic of this, am I the only one concerned that someone so biased and outspoken as Raymond is in control of the Jargon File? That really annoys me. Read the entry for Python
(http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/entry/Python.html) for an example of what I mean.

Luke Francl

[ Parent ]
Re: When did this become about intelligence? (none / 0) (#45)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 07:20:59 PM EST

Hmm. I just read that and, though I don't know Python from beans and I use Perl a lot, I don't see anything wrong with it. Heck, I think Perl's a bit grubby myself. Where's the bias? Is ESR into Python?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
The New Eric's Dictionary (none / 0) (#50)
by Paul Dunne on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 09:34:12 AM EST

Yes, it's a shame that as the version number creeps upward, "The New Hacker's Dictionary" aka jargon file becomes more and more another vehicle for Eric Raymond's opinions. My God, he has so many! And he doesn't know when to stop. Sometimes opinion is appropriate; sometimes it isn't. In a dictionary, unless you're of the calibre of Dr. Johnson or Ambrose Bierce, it's a no-no.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: When did this become about intelligence? (none / 0) (#34)
by shadowspar on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 03:26:07 PM EST

I don't think of this as about intelligence so much as misunderstanding of a subculture that one's not involved in. I noticed the same thing when I was in the army, a different kind of subculture. I'm sure that some people would find terms like "bumping" an enemy unit (ie, attacking and killing a whole bunch of people) patently offensive, or some such; whereas it wasn't really designed to be so. Someone who's not part of the geek illuminati likewise isn't going to know that "Person Of No Account" isn't supposed to be pejorative. (Apparently, they also may not be sufficiently clueful to deduce the irony involved.)

One of the posters on HNN (I can't remember who) once said something to the effect of "$media_outlet posted an article about $foo yesterday. We were immediately suspicious, as we are any time someone in the mainstream media claims to have a clue about the ways of the internet..."
-- Drink Canada Dry! You might not succeed, but you'll have fun trying.
[ Parent ]

Re: Ah, just ignore it. (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 03:11:17 PM EST

> Remember, half the human race id dummer than average.

First:
s/id/is/ ;)

Second:

The tremendous size of the sample space that can be used for computing an "average" IQ (depending on your definition of IQ) suggests that there is a probability P(n), where n == number of decimal places, that there exists a person whose intellect equals the "average" intellect to n decimal places (assuming that that average can be explained as a decimal number).

As n grows, P(n) shrinks, until P(n) * #people < 1, however it remains to be seen whether there is any real meaning to any difference, as n grows exceedingly large.

And don't forget the rounding problem that can exist when you multiply a very large number times a very small number (especially on an x86 machine :) ).

JTBAPITA :)



[ Parent ]
they are both right and both wrong (4.40 / 5) (#18)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 10:26:29 AM EST

Part of the problem is that both ESR and MK are assuming that geeks are a homogeneous social network when we aren't. In the states, you've got the geeks raised on the bbs scene, the geeks raised on the internet scene, geeks raised in the phreaking scene, geeks raised in the ham radio scene, geeks that never had the benefit of any scene. Sure, some geeks had the advantage of overlapping multilple scenes, but not many. And I'm sure that geeks in other countries also have their own uniques casts of geeks.

MK errs in When Geeks Get Snide chiefly (but not solely) by mixing jargon from a multitude of different types of geeks. ESR errs in his response by assuming that the article was completely targeted at his particular tribe of geeks. Though, I did enjoy parts of his rebuttal where he pretty concretely demonstrated that large portions of jargon pre-date the information revolution. (Evidently MK doesn't grok that.)

I have known people so caught up in technology that would have been well described by the image that MK portrayed. No all that long ago, here in Cincinnati, a woman was arrested for child neglect when police found her glued to her CRT while here children (aged four and under) played in a house knee-deep in garbage and with human exrement smeared on the wall. Some people do get sucked in and begin to lose their individuality.

This does not mean that all techno-philes exhibit this behavior, some few do, just as some few of any social group will be deviant to the point of being harmful to oneself or society at large.



Re: they are both right and both wrong (none / 0) (#19)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 10:36:36 AM EST

I don't think ESR was wrong to highlight things that MK left out of her portrait. Was he one sided? Yes - but that was the point, he wanted to balance out her dystopian vision of computer geeks as predators to be feared.

In fact, he also pointed out that: "The truth is that my friends exhibit, in their geeky and introverted and smarter-than-average ways, all the virtues and vices of other kinds of human beings." - which is certainly more than MK did.



People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]
well said. (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 01:32:12 PM EST

I don't think ESR was wrong to highlight things that MK left out of her portrait. Was he one sided? Yes - but that was the point, he wanted to balance out her dystopian vision of computer geeks as predators to be feared.

I am in complete agreement with you here. My contention is not that ESR was wrong to repond, only that he didn't get to the roots of MK's argument. ESR did well to use concrete examples to point out the humanity of his tribe of geeks and he also did well to use philology to show that some of MK's assertion were just plain wrong. But I do think he erred in that he did not address the core problem with MK's article.

The core of the problem with MK's article is that it is built on the assumption that all geeks are all part of a homogeneous social group. This premis of MK's is fatally flawed and using it as the basis for the discussion of geek culture is what leads to such absurd conclusions.



[ Parent ]
Re: they are both right and both wrong (none / 0) (#41)
by tommasz on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:44:17 PM EST

It's always difficult to talk about a group of people without using some type of stereotyping. When you do that, of course, you end up not accurately describing any member. In this particular case, both ESR and MK use this approach to come to different conclusions about the same (diverse) group. Journalists and pundits have done the same thing to (over the years) beatniks, hippies, yuppies, Gen-Xers, slackers, you name it. In just about every case, there have been the loud voices of protest, claiming that "not all of the (fill in the blank) are like that". Well, that's right, but protesting seldom does anything to change the minds of the masses. Over time, most, if not all, of the aforementioned groups have either disappeared or been assimilated to the point that the behavior they supposedly exhibited is now considered "normal". My advice to ESR is simply to wait, and we'll see who has the last laugh.

[ Parent ]
Though each was partly in the right - And all were (none / 0) (#51)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 12:49:19 PM EST


The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee:
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"


[ Parent ]
Geek-slang is humanising (3.60 / 5) (#20)
by avdi on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 10:50:39 AM EST

I think the geek slang I hear in software engineering circles does a great job of humanizing an otherwise cold, technical field. Geek slang usually conveys the general meaning of a term through common cultural references, even if the listener doesn't know much about the specific system being discussed. Compare two engineers debating design approaches, and two marketroids treading buzzwords, and tell me which is the more understandable, human, and approachable. Words like "evil" and "deep-magic" allow us to talk about commonly understood concepts at a higher level of abstraction, and keep us from resorting to clouding up our converstaions with sterile, obscure, exclusive acronyms.

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir

Re: Geek-slang is humanising (none / 0) (#27)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:30:57 PM EST

Actually, that's a really interesting point. That sort of generalized slang does prevent acronym/jargon madness. I'd never thought of that.

_This_ is why I read K5. Just try to find an interesting or insightful post like this in a welter of First Post and such.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Re: Geek-slang is humanising (none / 0) (#58)
by ronfar on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 08:31:40 AM EST

Actually, I think the whole Tech-as-Magic thing was originated by Arthur C. Clark when he said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," and has proved to be a recurring theme in science-fiction (one example is the technomages in Babylon 5).

I think geeks identify with wizards because in stories, wizards were powerful, misunderstood and suceed by using their brains and not their fists or a broadsword (well, most of the time... depends on the wizard, of course).

I can't help but think back to the text-gam "Beyond Zork," which had a creature called an Ur-Grue which was supposed to be the spirit of a fallen implementer or a recent User Friendly series in which Redmond was "the land where shadows lie" and the Nazgul was a coder "forced to bow to the forces of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt."

[ Parent ]

Oh dear Lord (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 10:58:35 AM EST

Confucious, he say: when marketroids squabble, best place for mortals is elsewhere. I can't say which article is worse: Raymond's self-righteous, self-important "don't mess with my tribe" rant, or Kakutani's ill-informed ramblings. What they have in common is a form of English that is high on rhetoric and low on content: a type of language more often found in marketing brochures. Kakutani is misguided and pretty clueless; but Raymond's defense boils down to no more than ascribing to the "hacker culture" and "geeks" in general his own peculiar brand of adolescent Heinleinism, then valiantly defending this straw man. I guess that Kakutani has at least the excuse that she churns out this stuff to pay the rent.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/

Very well, very well (2.80 / 4) (#22)
by kafka on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 12:54:20 PM EST

Long ago, a girl delivered a baby out of wedlock. The villagers were furious when they heard of this. They demanded of her the identity of the father. Fearing for her lovers life, she pointed to the Zen master who lived just outside the village.

The villages confronted the Zen master and hurled accusations at him. He said, "very well, very well". He took the girl under his wing. He asked the old woman residing next door to take care of the mother and child, at his expense.

Time passed and the girl gained courage to approach the villagers. She then invited the villagers and her lover and explained the situation. The villagers were ashamed at what they had done.

They decided that the couple should live as man and wife. They then approached the Zen master and explained the whole situation. He said, "very well, very well". And went his way.

The Zen master lived in his own world. Neither the villagers, nor anything for that matter, could remotely disturb the deep peace that he held.

This is how we must strive to be. We must pursue knowledge and not be troubled by trivialities such as the said article. And neither must we respond to them in any manner. "Very well, very well" is the path to follow.

We must feel neither jubilation on achieving recognition, nor desolation on acquiring disrepute.

Paulina Borsook and Michiko Kakutani can write reams on geek culture for all I care. Their commentaries are insignificant and inconsequential.

My advice to Eric S. Raymond is to conserve his intellect for other, better adversaries and issues.

I must commence my journey now for there is much to be learned. -K

Re: Very well, very well (1.00 / 1) (#26)
by emjay on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:28:32 PM EST

teenage mutant ninja turtles, heros in a half shell.. TURTLE POWER.
-------------------------
We can't stop here, this is bat country!
[ Parent ]
Re: Very well, very well (none / 0) (#35)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 03:26:58 PM EST

He hasn't seen them yet!
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Wow, more FUD (none / 0) (#23)
by Paradox on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 12:59:40 PM EST

People are afraid of Geeks. I don't get it. Just because
I'm a little anti-social and I happen to like coding
more than playing a sport means that I am a cold, inhuman bastard who wants to transcend humanity for the sake of personal glorification.

Riiiight. Let's face it, these kind of silly attacks should be ignored. Not because we're cold inhuman bastards, but rather because it's silly. Most of those terms weren't real slang if you ask me.

I have NEVER heard of anyone calling sex c/s action or a bio-break. Maybe I'm just not 'leet enough. What gets the the most is PONA. That is a pun, and deliberatly invective to make the joke funny. It's an example of how little this writer really knew about the subject matter.


ESR made a mistake in responding. Don't get me wrong, I like ESR. He has taken the dirty job of being a public figure for a generally misunderstood group of people, a group which tends to dislike self-appointed figureheads. He has some good takes on The Way Geeks Are and the state of the OS model.

He didn't RESPOND to the argument other than to repeat what he's said in the past and act indignant that his own work was used against his tribe. It didn't make ESR, or geeks in general, look good.

Maybe we can get some email going to NYT with some more convincing arguments, if anyone cares to. I for one don't care if scared little people write scared little articles.

Hah. PONA. Damn I never get tired of that :)
Dave "Paradox" Fayram

print print join q( ), split(q,q,,reverse qq;#qsti
qq)\;qlre;.q.pqevolqiqdog.);#1 reason to grin at Perl
print "\n";
Re: Wow, more FUD (none / 0) (#28)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:35:25 PM EST

OK, I'll admit I didn't read the NYT article. I hate their mandatory demographic survey. Perhaps folks who post links to NYT or other sites like that could post a pre-registered user account? It's not like we're going to give them real data if we were to register anyway.

So can you explain the PONA reference for me?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
the server frmrly known as "partners"... (none / 0) (#31)
by rusty on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 03:20:33 PM EST

NYT seems to be getting hip to the widespread knowlege that people are easily circumventing their silly little account signup. What used to be the free "partners" link is now "www10". So go to: http://www10.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/06/biztech/articles/27note.html and read to your little heart's content.

BTW: looks like they've disabled the 'cypherpunks' account again too. Anyone wanna volunteer to re-register that? :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: the server frmrly known as "partners" (none / 0) (#33)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 03:26:03 PM EST

> they've disabled the 'cypherpunks' account again too.
Huh? It worked for me earlier today. cypherpunks or cypherpunk or something like that, anyway.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: the server frmrly known as "partners" (none / 0) (#36)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:16:40 PM EST

I use cyberphunks (pass/log). It seems to work all right...

[ Parent ]
Re: the server frmrly known as "partners" (none / 0) (#37)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:17:08 PM EST

Thanks.

So, just by changing "www" to "www10" you can bypass the whole login bit, eh? Can I ask the K5 community to do that for NYT links in the future?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
DAMN, that's bad! (none / 0) (#40)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:27:43 PM EST

Sorry there Rusty, I just had to emote that. I know we're a "fun for the whole family" leetle community here, so I'll try not to let it happen again. ;-)

The PONA acronym I can deal with. Her dramatic misinterpretaion of the connotation of "FUD", her complete misunderstanding of the sardonic tone of terms like "meatspace" and "dead tree edition" but especially her amazing conflation of Wired/hipster term-mongering with real slang is truly astounding. I haven't felt this misunderstood since I was 13, and that was mostly just hormones.

Sheesh.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Re: DAMN, that's bad! (none / 0) (#46)
by rusty on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 12:32:46 AM EST

"Damn"? Is that what you're apologizing for? Shit, beeyatch, you go ahead on and be your motherfuckin' self right here! :-)

I have no language prejudice. If people only knew the derivation of words they use every day ("bloody"?) they wouldn't be so uptight about language either.

Remember, words don't kill people, guns do! Oh crap, I didn't say that, did I? ;-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: DAMN, that's bad! (none / 0) (#49)
by Paul Dunne on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 09:26:45 AM EST

"God's blood and wounds"?
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: DAMN, that's bad! (none / 0) (#54)
by rusty on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 07:11:49 PM EST

Worse, as far as I know. It was originally a menstruation reference, I believe.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: DAMN, that's bad! (none / 0) (#56)
by Paul Dunne on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 04:56:13 AM EST

Well, I went and looked it up, and it seems we're both wrong -- or equally right. Skeat doesn't demean himself even considering such a dreadful word, but Hugh Rawson's A Dictionary of Invective gives both our derivations, but says they are apocryphal. "No-one knows" is the gist of his account.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Wow, more FUD (none / 0) (#42)
by Paradox on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:52:29 PM EST

Don't feel bad. I was taking abreak from work so I let it sit there and chug. It's annoying.

PONA or "People of no account" meaning people who aren't online or can't get online.

I think that is hilarious, but I love little puns like that so I'm odd that way.


Dave "Paradox" Fayram

print print join q( ), split(q,q,,reverse qq;#qsti
qq)\;qlre;.q.pqevolqiqdog.);#1 reason to grin at Perl
print "\n";
[ Parent ]
Re: Wow, more FUD (none / 0) (#48)
by dhartung on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 06:25:21 AM EST

OK, I'll admit I didn't read the NYT article. I hate their mandatory demographic survey. Perhaps folks who post links to NYT or other sites like that could post a pre-registered user account? It's not like we're going to give them real data if we were to register anyway. As for me, I live in abject fear that the New York Times will find out what stories of theirs I read. No! No! They will know of my passion for Anna Quindlen! It must not be!
-- Before the Harper's Index: the Harper's Hash Table
[ Parent ]
This is pretty wide (none / 0) (#29)
by gelfling on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:40:12 PM EST

some of these terms come from unique companies or organizations. If you didn't work there you would have no idea about. So in the end this is no more arrogant or antisocial than any other closed group like say...medicine or the army.

Vilification of geeks (none / 0) (#38)
by Pinball Wizard on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:17:11 PM EST

ESR hits the nail on the head when he states that fear of losing their status because the world is changing is the primary reason non geeks, especially those in positions threatened by the digital revolution such as newspapers, tend to vilify geek culture.

But what I wish he would have said is this: In the old world economy, being popular and being able to schmooze reigned supreme. Most glamorous and powerful positions did not require great intellectual ability, but rather you succeded by your political ability, your popularity, etc.

Now, we live in a world where actual TALENT means something in most workplaces. So the backslapper from the rich family and the great looking bimbo all of a sudden are less important than those with actual skills. And when you get down to it, thats what they fear. Its this change in the social order that is distressing to those people who always put popularity before developing knowledge and skills.

I thank God for the change, because I'm a smart person, but a terrible politician. I think that this change in society is a very good thing, similar to other vast changes in society such as eliminating slavery or giving women the right to vote.

Re: Vilification of geeks (none / 0) (#39)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:25:28 PM EST

I'm sorry, but... this is drivel, isn't it? Insofar as there is a "new world economy", it has nothing to do with "geeks", and everything to do with old-fashioned capitalists, operating in an old-fashioned capitalist way.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Not much geekspeak (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 05:02:30 PM EST

Most of the cyberculture-speak that she quoted was all stuff that I hear more of the biz people in the dot com industry using than any geeks I know.

In fact, pretty much the whole cyberculture/digiratti scene seems to be composed of non-technical people trying to sound technical through the use of such invented slang.

generally I think this was a pretty fluff piece that doesn't deserve the attention really.

except of course, the next time someone in a suit trying to convince me he's cool and internet aware uses the phrase 'hot client/server action'...

m.64k




Re: Not much geekspeak (none / 0) (#57)
by ronfar on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 08:20:45 AM EST

This article in Salon, makes the same types of errors. It basically seems to make computer geeks into greedy, money obsessed creatures driven by an IPO.

In my opinion, this is a ridiculous assumption, some of the greatest geeks in history (Nolan Bushnell, Gary Gygax) were ruined by greedy, non-geeky venture capitalists who grabbed their companies (... and proceeded to ruin the companies by destroying everything good about them.)

I don't care about IPO's and I'm not obsessed with money or material possessions. Everyone in my family thinks I'm insane when I tell them, "Don't buy DVDs, stop the IP tyrants!!"

I love technology though, that's what's important to me. Of course, part of the problem with this country is that greedy, materialistic people can claim to be altruistic children of the 60's without having anyone say, "Hypocrit, didn't I see you driving a Lexus?" even as they bash others.

[ Parent ]

huh?! (3.50 / 2) (#44)
by nastard on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 05:30:57 PM EST

Who talks like that? Meatspace? God, I hate these people. I really hate to be stereotyped, and this has to be the most insulting thing I have ever read. I'm not a lonely pathetic freak. I have a girlfriend, I go out, I occasionally go to parties. I have never, EVER used the term "domainist". You want my geek credentials? I have a three foot tall stuffed TuX.

Is this going to be the hip new thing, geek bashing? It seems to me that most of these terms are made up.

If this clueless wench wants to pick a finght with the geek community, I hope she knows she will lose.

Language as play and exploration. (2.00 / 1) (#47)
by driptray on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 01:43:30 AM EST

Kakutani is missing the subtle way in which geeks use terms like "wetware". Its not meant as disparaging to all that is soft and human and showing a preference instead for all that is hard, shiny and digital. Instead theres a sense of playfulness in the use of these terms, and a self-deprecatory sensibility in the realisation that people can be thought of that way.

This type of language is really an exploration of certain types of logic. One type of logic is "everything can be digitised, including people". People don't necessarily have to agree with this logic to find it a worthy notion of exploring. Personally I'm completely undecided about this particular issue, but using terms that presuppose the existence of that logic helps me in a small way to explore the issue and come to terms with it.

Another logic that is explored is that of the capitalist market. Terms like PONA, and all the phrases for winning and losing explore the individualist, dog-eat-dog, no sympathy for the losers type of world that is implicit in the logic of market capitalism. Once again you don't have to think that this world is good to explore its ramifications using language. And Kakutani is clearly confused by the relationship between the world of geeks, and the world of suits. It may be that the suits are the ones who really think in these terms (PONA) etc, but that the geeks are the ones to actually use the terms, perhaps as a form of parodying the suits they often have to deal with.

For example, I think that PONA is pretty funny, but when I laugh at it I'm not laughing at the people who are not on-line. I'm laughing at the awfulness of the notion that people who are not online are considered by some to be "of no account".

As for Raymond, he's too busy attempting to defend his own libertarian viewpoint from what he sees as left liberal attacks that he can't see where Kakutani is getting it wrong.

Language is a tricky thing, and Kakutani seems to be taking it at face value.


--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
Hello Kitty? (none / 0) (#52)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 02:45:17 PM EST

what i want to know is, how did Kakutani get Hello Kitty from :-) ?

Inferences are not truth. (none / 0) (#53)
by Noel on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 04:32:44 PM EST

I'm getting quite tired of people claiming that they can understand the nuances of communication simply through outside observation, without any direct experience with either the person talking or the societal and cultural context of the communication. This seems to be a common problem today -- how many times have you heard people with the attitude, "I heard you say this, but I know that you really meant that."

Kakutani's claim that when someone uses "wetware" they mean "a fragile, inefficient alternative to the shiny hardware of their computers" is just as silly and offensive as a claim that all whites who use the word "colored" really mean "dirty and corrupted" (don't laugh, I've heard this exact claim). I'm sorry, but there is no way that anything I say should be interpreted in any other context than that in which I say it. Every person is a unique individual in a unique culture, and there is no way that anyone else can have an exact understanding of what a person is saying unless they know both the person and the context.

In other words:

`When _I_ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.'

Unfortunately, it takes much less effort to assume we know exactly what someone means than to spend the time getting to know the person and finding out what they really meant. It's easier to say, "he's a geek, so he meant this...she's a lawyer, so she meant this..."

Interestingly enough, it's been my experience that "geeks" are usually more likely to spend the effort to figure out what the other person really means, rather than relying on prejudice or preconcieved notions.

Re: Inferences are not truth. (none / 0) (#55)
by Paul Dunne on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 02:52:48 AM EST

But this is not true. Language is a social construct, and words, pace Humpty Dumpty, do *not* mean just what we want them to mean. "Coloured" is a bad example; a better one would be "nigger". Are you going to say that it is acceptable for you to use the "n-word" because *you* don't mean anything offensive by it? I don't think you would. "Nigger" is offensive, period.

If we all made up our own meanings for words, communication would be impossible.

And, wetware *is in the New Hacker's Dictionary, so it has the Eric S Raymond Seal Of Approval(TM). Mind you, he doesn't make it sound as jaundiced as the version you quote from the article.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

A response (none / 0) (#59)
by Paul Dunne on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 11:28:41 AM EST

Pualine Barsook puts Eric straight on a few things.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/

Hacker mentality as reflected in language | 58 comments (45 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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