Shakespeare and Open Source

Posted 4 Apr 2000 at 18:51 UTC by phk Share This

Romeo & Juliet revisited or "Something funny happened on the way to Malmo"

Denmark is as most countries are with respect to Open Source: we have a FreeBSD camp and a Linux camp for instance. FreeBSD gets a special billing in Denmark in that we are two core team members here, until Monaco or the Vatican gets a core team member we surely sport the highest core per capita ratio. I'm one of those two core members.

Recently I gave a talk in our Unix users group (DKUUG), and that gave me the first real chance to meet the Linux crowd in person, I've been busy all sorts of things for a couple of years and only recently have I started finding time for some outgoing activities, so while they were well entrenched as such, this was my first-hand impression of them.

They made overall a good impression. Sure enough, they had a couple of narrow-minded hooligans, but hey, which OS project doesn't sport a few of those ? This particular bloke transpired as being on the board of the local Linux UG, but what impressed me was that the rest of the board gave him a good roasting for wasting peoples time, "people had come to listen to me talk about FreeBSD, not to hear him argue with me". That made a very positive impression on me.

One of the board members were this girl, which I would be lying if I didn't admit I found rather attractive, but the prospect seemed a little scary. We met each other again at the Nordu2000 conference in Malmo, and despite the fact that she compared me to Richard Stallman, something which would be an insult to most normal people like me, we had a good chat. Absolutely a nice girl. Then came the LinuxForum2000 one-day conference here in Copenhagen, were the local *BSD UG had a holdout in a corner and of course I was there as well. As were the girl. I decided to throw caution to the wind, and offered her a bit of gentle massage for a sore neck at the end of the day, just giving a helping hand you know...

We started to exchange emails the next day and before I knew what had happened we were dating.

We have obviously both had some fears about the Romeo/Juliet aspect of this relationship. Will I get lynched next time I go to a conference where the other crowd is present ? Will I get expelled by my own crowd for sleeping with the enemy ? etc etc.

Well, I'm happy to report that at least over here the Open Source community is all for close relationships across projects: we have not seen one single raised eye-brow yet.

MORALE: There are other things in life than Open Source, but if possible, try to combine the pleasant with the practical :-)

Poul-Henning "Romeo" Kamp

Something aside from code..., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 19:46 UTC by asmodai » (Journeyer)

This shows at least an aspect not heard often about in OSS circles and I am happy that such relationships lasts even though either party is heavily involved with another system than their partner.

Cute. =)

Pity the number of ``dimwit'' rankings went up, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:19 UTC by rwatson » (Master)

Sadly, it looks like one response to this article has been an increase in the number of ``dimwit'' rankings for phk. I had hoped that the certification mechanism would rest on technical prowess...

Dimwitting, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:26 UTC by willy » (Master)

This article is pure `look at me, i got a girlfriend aren't i wonderful' fluff. There's no point to it and it's not a technical article. My reaction to reading it was `ugh, idiot'. So I expressed my opinion of the person who wrote it. It's not because he's FreeBSD and I'm a Linux person, as he claims. I have a pad of FreeBSD stickers in my laptop bag; I had a long and interesting conversation with a couple of the FreeBSD people at NYLWE. I think FreeBSD's existance is good for everyone. It's because I think he's a dork for posting that article.

I note that he turned round and ranked everyone as Dimwit who ranked him as one. You may draw your own conclusions.

As if., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:27 UTC by winter » (Master)

Like anything related to Linux has rested on purely technical merits.

(I guess this will be my 'trolling for dimwits' post since any negative feedback I get will be due to a stated opinion rather than a technical 'merit')

Many happy returns..., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:31 UTC by phk » (Master)

This article was certainly not an attempt to anger all the geeks who don't have sufficient social skils to aquire a girlfriend. It was meant to point out that mature people are much more tolerant of cross-project interest than is commonly assumed.

Maybe I was wrong and it is only over here people are so tolerant, sure looks like it :-)

Obviously, persons ranking me a "dimwit" based on only this article deserve the same ranking much more than I do, since they obviously have not even bothered checking anything else about my person.

Once they grow up I'll change my ranking of them accordingly.


Well, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:35 UTC by Radagast » (Journeyer)

It's probably inevitable that the certification is based on what sides the person displays to Advogato. Since his only contribution so far has been a highly non-technical article, there's a certain increased risk of being judged on non-technical criteria.

Personally, I found the article amusing, if not terribly relevant, but there might be others that have stronger feelings about what Advogato's content should be, and so chose to vote with certifications. At some point in the future, I expect it'll be possible to filter articles and whatnot based on the certification of the author, so this does have some relevance. Myself, I'm not familiar enough with the BSDs to feel competent to certify BSD people in either direction.

There is, of course, the general feeling that a lot of BSD people post more or less inflammatory stuff in public forums whenever they have the chance. I occasionally share that feeling (mostly when I read something by tchrist or eivind), but I didn't feel that this article falls into that category. We Stallmanites should be able to handle our fair share of teasing, and it's usually easy to separate the whimsical from the more heartfelt.

Here we go again..., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:36 UTC by mkp » (Master)


S/N ratio, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:37 UTC by chbm » (Journeyer)

One thing Advogato excells at (and I suppose it's one of its' objectives) is signal to noise ratio. This article, in my opinion, is pure noise. Thus the dimwit rating. This 'article' belongs on the diary part.

On a personal note, more people here have {girl,boy}friends than you think. And the way you rate me really doesn't bother me a bit, as oposed to the contrary aparently.

Yes, but..., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:46 UTC by prw » (Journeyer)

is your girlfriend/boyfriend a Linux or FreeBSD developer? I think not! Otherwise you might have a story on your hands!

Polarization ?, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:54 UTC by phk » (Master)

radagast certainly is on the right track here: there is significant polarization, and my article was even trying to address that very subject and got slammed.

I will happily confess to the BSD camp having some rather menacing trolls, just like any other project has their gargoyles.

I have been trying to bridge the gap to Linux from FreeBSD as best I could, and although my most recent efforts were not a result of that, some positive side effects are expected. In the light of that effort, I still find it a deep disappointment that people are as polarized as they seem.

How will anybody here else explain the people who sign up here just to rate me dimwit ? Or are somebody afraid to show their identity so they create a new account just to hit me on the head with ?

Remember guys, Linux is UNIX, *BSD is UNIX, even AIX is UNIX. Use your munition in the direction of the Windows trench, not against your own side.

And no, my rating here has nothing but amusement value for me.

astounding, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 20:59 UTC by dria » (Master)

I simply find it remarkable that someone would actually think that anyone in either community would care what operating system one's girl/boyfriend uses. "Shallow" doesn't even begin to describe it.

You could have fooled me..., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:05 UTC by phk » (Master)

Dria, you could have fooled me, but as this little experiement of mine shows, some people like Maltranar clearly do.

"Sad" doesn't even start to describe it.

First Post!, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:08 UTC by flaggz » (Journeyer)

First Post Baby! 'nuff said.

phk, face the facts:, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:08 UTC by prw » (Journeyer)

We all know how Romeo and Juliet really ends...

If only the first Tuesday in November was this organized, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:09 UTC by jlbec » (Master)

I read this article before it had any comments, so I missed the fun until someone pointed it out to me. My personal opinion was that it was a pleasant bit of fluff that probably belonged in the diaries, not the main page. phk's furthur response seems to indicate he was leading towards a "can't we all get along" point, and maybe it would have been nicer if that had been stated more directly in the main article.

It amazed me that people started changing certifications based on a simple choice of "diary" vs "main page". I thought the certifications were for deeper things. Of course, this certainly falls with the point of Advogato, to see where these interrelationships lead, so I won't say whether it is "right" or "wrong" to connect a main page post to a cert level. It certainly makes for interesting thinking.

Remember, though, that /. hasn't cornered the market on stupidity.

Hm (dawn of the meaningless reply titles), posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:13 UTC by Radagast » (Journeyer)

I can't see anyone signing up on Advogato just to certify you as Dimwit. Actually, browsing the list of certifications, and checking out the people who certified you as dimwit, I see a considerable amount of oldish Advogato users, several of which are rated highly, and are also central people in large projects. If you think they signed up just to certify you as Dimwit, you have some delusions or some paranoia going, I think.

That being said, I don't think there's necessarily a problem with the occasional lighthearted article, but it seems the Advogato crowd is pretty interested in keeping this site fairly technical and to the point. No doubt, this is the result of what happened to Slashdot after it went mainstream. Look to Mathieu's article from a while back to see the reactions to a similar article which not very many people found funny, this time from a person very much in the GNU/Linux/GNOME camp. "Dimwit" didn't exist as a certification level at that time, but I suspect that if it did, several people would have wielded it.

In other words, perhaps you should consider that the certification and the feedback you're getting is not because you're a BSD person, but because people didn't like your article.

check you facts radagast..., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:17 UTC by phk » (Master)

At least two of the people who rated me dimwit signed up after me and as their first action, before rating anybody else, rated me dimwit.

Certified Insane, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:18 UTC by Ankh » (Master)

Despite being in one half of a same-sex marriage, I agree with those who felt that this article belonged in a diary. There's the makings of an article in there, though, and there are no clear guidelines I have seen about where to post in which category, so perhaps the right reaction is to say that Advogato's documentation needs to be improved, particularly as more members join whose first language is not English, or who do not come from a culture that distinguishes articles and journals.

I have no intention of rating the poster's technical ability or open source involvement based on this posting, though.

The ratings systems here seem to have several orthogonal axes conflated: technical prowess; whether one is working full-time on open source projects; whether one is popular amongst linux or gnome hackers; whether one writes well.

I know I was surprised to be ranked as Apprentice by people I'd never heard of when I arrived; the people who knew me ranked me as Master (thanks?) even though I am not working full-time on open source projects, and one person ranked me as Master because of my books. The people who ranked me as a journer seem to have done so based on my diary entries, although I cannot be certain.

If I post a poorly written or incoherent article, my coding ability does not change, but people's perception of my abilities might change.

Raph's sketch of a proof that the certification system is robust against massive attacks does not admit the possibility of a crumbling from within as people use it in petty and personal ways.

Trust is not about how good you are at coding. It is not about your job. It is not even about whether you wear shoes. It is about personal integrity. That's difficult to measure, even when you know someone, so perhaps coding ability and employment status make more sense; I'm not sure. I am that if you certify people based on whether you like them, or whether you like their writing, you subvert the system. But perhaps that's part of the experiment: will it stand up to subversion from within?

quality control, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:27 UTC by dria » (Master)

I think the "dimwit" cert is currently being wielded as a method of encouraging a certain level of quality in advogato articles. While this posting contains the seeds of what could be an article, it hasn't been developed enough. And it shouldn't focus on the importance of operating systems in one's personal romantic relationships. If there is a rift between the Linux and BSD communities (I've never encountered it, in spite of having talked to and been friends with lots of people who use the BSDs), that would be the basis for a good article.

There aren't any other methods (other than just commenting harshly in followups) for trying to maintain a certain level of quality. Perhaps one is needed (?).

FTR: I'm removing my "dimwit" certification. I think the point has been made.

Politics..., posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:33 UTC by phk » (Master)


The weakness I see in the current rating here, is the use of an absolute scale.

People will never be able to agree on a linear ranking of people, read any article about "10 best soccer players of the year" aloud in a train and see what happens.

I think the rating system should rate people relative to each other instead of on a single absolute scale, that would make much more sense if you think about it.

If I were presented with peoples rank relative to me, I would see all my FreeBSD buddies but not too many of the linux, gnome or whatever people.

In a similar way, you would probably be protected from my kind by your filter, while remaining close to the people you prefer.

While this would reduce cross-pollination of ideas somewhat, it would instead make the site cater for more than one dominant sub-group, which I think is the main thing failing both here and on /.

Of course, such a scheme would degenerate to a traveling salesperson task on each reference, so a practical implementation would have to find the major "knots" in the web, and calculate the rating to display as the shortest path from the person viewing via one of the knots to the target person. I belive that would be practical to do on the fly, expecting the number of knots to be relatively low.

I belive this would also remove the need for the "magic seed" persons, instead the knots would take this role.

Article was offtopic, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 21:46 UTC by Maltranar » (Journeyer)

The reason I rated you dimwit was because I felt the post was off topic. Hopefully this forum can remain focused. If I want to read slashdot, I can go read that site.

As for how a post like that affects your coding skills? It doesn't. But as Ankh pointed out, there is more to open source than just coding skill. Your post was more like a:

I've got a girlfriend.

ObTopic: She's in the Linux camp, I'm in the FreeBSD camp.

I think your post undermines the goals of this site and I rated you according to the only open project I've seen you active on. This one.

On relative trust metrics, and general comments, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 22:04 UTC by Radagast » (Journeyer)

Actually, I think relative trust metrics would defeat the whole purpose of Advogato. You know what people you like and trust. The idea is that the sum of the trust of the users is the absolute trust for a person on the site. It's a beautiful idea, and it works rather well. Also, if you look at how the trust metric works, the seeds fade into the background as time passes. Just looking over the recent diary entries, I see several BSD developers with Master certification. They should be capable enough of certifying the rest of the BSD population to sufficient levels.

I think relative certification would totally ruin cross-pollination of ideas. It's like solving racial differences with a segregation policy, in the end, it's fruitless (ok, so this is an extreme comparison, but I think it's valid).

In particular, this is true since Advogato could be one of the serious forums where people from different camps could discuss their differences in a sane manner. For instance, Eivind wrote something about planning an article about his objections to the GPL. As a devout believer in the GPL is probably the best license out there, I'm very interested in his viewpoints (we've clashed over this before, but he always says he needs to make a more proper writeup of his points, and I agree, a carefully argued paper would be much more useful than loosely sprinkled references to the GPL's problems in miscellaneous fora).

I still think you're exaggerating the number of people who signed up just to give you a bad cert. Yes, I also noticed about two people who did. The rest of your 10 or so Dimwit certs, however, were largely from old-time Advogato users (relatively speaking, this isn't exactly an old community) with high certifications, earned, no doubt, from their contributions (there was a disproportionally high number of masters who certed you Dimwit, actually).

So, to round it off, a plea to Raph. Advogato needs more docs. Docs on what to post to the front page (personally, I send off a mail to Raph asking if he thinks the article is a good idea before I even start writing, but others might entertain a more spontaneous method of working), docs on who to certify how (I think more flexibility in certification standards should probably be allowed), etc. Advogato would also benefit from a rating system for front page stories and the like, that's something I've heard is in the works, and it will probably make it easier for people to let their opinion be heard about the things that get posted.

This is a sorry article, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 22:22 UTC by mjs » (Master)

Sorry, but this article just sounds like boasting that you have a girlfriend. i.e. kind of sorry.

I'm not going to go rate you Dimwit though because I think having insulting ratings is kind of lame.

But let's try to avoid this kind of stuff.

This is a sorry metric, posted 4 Apr 2000 at 22:57 UTC by softweyr » (Master)

A friend pointed me here last night, so I ran around creating an account, looking for people I know, thinking about their skills and contributions. I come back today to find that the "skills rating" here is really a high schoolish popularity contest, and you have to be careful not to piss off the old guard elite or they'll rate you a DimWit. That's real professional.

In conversing with another BSD developer on IRC, I opined that the rating scheme suffers one big drawback; it fails to differentiate between skill levels and contribution levels. I know of a number of very talented, skilled, professional programmers who occasionally contribute to open source projects due to their jobs and families, as well as a number of young programmers and writers who contribute countless hours but are not yet Masters.

I failed to notice there is one even more fatal flaw in this rating scheme: childish participants who cannot separate their own pique over a triviality from the valid and legitimate skills of a valued contributor. You children should be ashamed of yourselves.

And what about those who write?, posted 5 Apr 2000 at 00:26 UTC by jennv » (Journeyer)

Someone said:
> if you certify people based on whether you like them, or whether you like their writing, you subvert the system.

Is Advogato certification only for programmers? What about documenters, list'mums', project organisers, teachers....?

I feel that 'whether you like their writing' (or more precisely, whether their public-forum writing is useful, well-crafted and appropriately targetted) is a valid ground for certification.

Of course, I also count Advogato as at least somewhat private-forum, so I wouldn't necessarily cert someone based on Advogato information only.

Jenn V.

Advocacy war musings, posted 5 Apr 2000 at 00:33 UTC by mkp » (Master)

Most Linux people, including myself, don't have a problem with *BSD at all. Just like we don't have problems with Windows, Solaris, HP/UX, and whatnot users either. This is not comp.sys.amiga.advocacy.

Every operating system serves its purpose. Windows proves useful for a lot of users. Linux currently solves an orthogonal set of problems, as does FreeBSD. Sure, there's some functionality overlap here and there. And on some features one OS surpasses the other and vice versa. In the end it's up to the user to choose which operating system and which applications that solve his/her problems. I don't like Windows, but I don't walk around stuffing Linux, BSD or whatever down other peoples' throat. If they are happy and feel like paying MS tax -- Fine by me. I couldn't care less.

Ok. Now for the real purpose of this post. My turn to rant.

phk posts a somewhat uninteresting, non-technical article causing people certify him accordingly. That's how things work around here. Please note that the certification is not only based on a person's technical capabilities but also greatly relies on social and political skills.

Boom. Suddenly the FreeBSD team assembles and strikes back at the evil Linux empire. Accusations of being Linux-biased, childish, intolerant, lacking social skills, unable to acquire a girl-/boyfriend, etc., etc.

What's this? We started out with a wow-I-got-a-girlfriend posting, 10 minutes later we have FreeBSD vs. the rest of the world.

Now, this is what really p*sses me off. Why is it that any kind of criticism directed towards a FreeBSD person/capability is interpreted as trolling?

From where I am standing, the FreeBSD vs. Linux segregation is primary caused by a small group of FreeBSD people using every given opportunity to turn a technical discussion into silly Amigaish advocacy war.

Now spot the individuals who are being childish here...

PS. Apologies to the friendly and tolerant FreeBSD developers I know.

PS/2. I've actually met Poul-Henning on several occasions. He is technically savvy indeed, but I happen to disagree with most of his viewpoints. Hence my certification. We can't all agree on everything. *shrug*

World War ]I[, posted 5 Apr 2000 at 02:38 UTC by jmg » (Master)

I decided to reread the articles to see where exactly OS's came into this whole discussion. Hopefully the articles still retain their original order as posted, maybe time of day is needed on a post.

Admitadly, winter was the first to post a troll, but he labled it as such, then Radagast went out to state that it was his opinion "that a lot of BSD people post more or less inflammatory stuff in public forums whenever they have the chance." That's judging the *BSD groups on the appearance of a few people.

Maltranar talks about he read the article as a, "I've got a girlfriend." article. I read it as a, phk wasn't looking and got hit over the head with a girlfriend that happens to run Linux. He realized that it's petty to worry about what OS they are running and just went for it. There needs to be more cross polination between the groups.

I agree with Radagast's plee for better documentation. What exactly is a dimwit? Is that suppose to be someone you trust, but doesn't have a clue about free software? Is it a certification of social ineptness? I view the ratings as a way to classify trust, not necessarily coding skill. I have explicately refrained from certifing other people in the FreeBSD group because I don't know them well enough to even rank them apprentice.

I think mkp is over exagerating the whole thing. Of course it seems to be a FreeBSD vs. the world thing because most of the FreeBSD people happen to know phk a heck of a lot better then the rest of the free software community. If someone starts to slander your brother, you will try to defend him because he is your brother. Again mpk says: "the FreeBSD vs. Linux segregation is primary caused by a small group of FreeBSD people using every given opportunity to turn a technical discussion into silly Amigaish advocacy war." At least he gets the numbers correct. Only four other FreeBSD folk posted a reply to the article (besdies phk and now myself), and there are 23 people listed under the FreeBSD project now. Not one of the people posted multiple times except for phk, and phk was trying to move the discussion twords what he was trying to achevie with the post.

After reading the comments of phk, it appears that he was using Advogato to discuss the politics of OSS and get the whole group to participate. I see that this has turned up a lot of comments. Most of them completely missing the point, and instead of trying to clarify the statement, they go and say, that was a pointless article.

Of course, everyone has probably stopped reading and no one will post any more comments. I will admit that I'm biased twords the FreeBSD group as I have been working with FreeBSD for around six years now.

Hmm.., posted 5 Apr 2000 at 09:38 UTC by plundis » (Journeyer)

A little late, but I found the article quite amusing. I don't really know why - maybe because I live in the same part of Europe, or maybe because it did put a non-technical point of view to focus. Come on people, not *everything* has to be about software. We are not that narrow. I think it's okay as long as the majority of articles is about Free Software.

(And just for the record; I'm using both Windows NT, Linux and FreeBSD regularly, and also hacking on a new kernel. My last girl friend was a Windows user. ;)

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