Subject: Re: Who needs another Lisp _standard_? (Was: Re: islisp) From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: 1998/09/02 Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * Kent M Pitman <email@example.com> | That you two can see negatives does not surprise me and does not | disappoint me. The negatives are there to be seen. That you fail to | understand that some did see positives doesn't surprise me either, but | does make me sad. I appreciate your point of view, Kent, but sometimes, whether something gets classified as "negative purpose" or "positive purpose" depends a little bit on one's political point of view. for one person, stopping an enemy or competitor is perceived as a positive purpose and a value. for others, it is a negative purpose despite any positive consequences. fighting an enemy is always cost-only, although it can be cost-effective compared to caving in, and it thus can (and should) be defended, but that doesn't make it a _positive_ purpose per se. as I have a few years of ISO work under my belt mysefl, I'll relate a story from ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 18 when ISO 8879 SGML was fighting ISO 8613 ODA for dominance in features and who could satisfy the most users and/or needs. (since they satisfy completely different markets, this is really silly, but most wars aren't over reasonable points of disagreement.) at one point, the ODA feature to represent both a formatted and a logical structure in the same document annoyed the SGML people enough to invent a feature they called CONCUR, for concurrent document types. it's a real kludge, it's dramatically under-specified and introduces a huge number of problems in processing a document that was not intended to be processed with CONCUR (quite unlike the ODA feature, which was truly orthogonal). knowing the people who were attending the dinner over which this feature was born, I know for a fact that it _had_ no positive purposes. it was a political move intended only to reduce the perceived "lead" that ODA had in the European Community at the time, but it had no other use, and has, to my knowledge, never even been _attempted_ implemented anywhere. when I implemented my own SGML system, I was also actively discouraged from implementing it by the same people who got it in there to begin with. (various misguided users proclaim a "need" for an implementation every now and then, failing to understand what it could and could not do, and abandon their request as soon as they do.) "I value X" is not sufficient to know whether somebody is constructive or destructive. sometimes, it has "to the exclusion of all competition" tacked onto it, and is thus a destructive attitude, one which creates enemies and factions that _have_ to fight each other. (I think I see that you also argue against this attitude, but not in the context of statement of what people value, only in how they react to others' values, real of purported. I think it pertains to the values, and not primarily to other people's reactions to them.) sometimes, such "values" _are_ needed, especially when stupid people do stupid things that really hurt other people. (I cling to the belief that smart people who do stupid things will eventually stop doing them, and will not keep doing them just to keep from losing face or prestige or somesuch.) some people will make choices based not on what they _really_ want, only on what they don't want. getting just _one_ such person into a standards committee is enough to undermine the whole standards process. some companies (or countries) put people like that on standards committees on purpose just to keep from losing their position in the market. ideally, such petty wars should not occur at the working group level in ISO, only at the subcommittee (SC) or technical committee (TC) level, such that wars are fought over complete standards with technical merit, but those who want to fight dirty seldom respect others enough to keep this separation clean. | In my upcoming book ``Everything I need to know in life I learned by | working on the design of Common Lisp'', I discuss the fact that the very | essence of all civilized behavior in any domain is about learning not to | debate the statement "I find value in x." and to simply accept it. apart from having learned a _lot_ from working within ISO working groups for a few years that I hope never to get any use out of, I think there's a difference between positive and negative values of X. "I find value in X being dead" is still debatable in my probably naive political view, yet I seem to see such "values" a lot in the political landscapes. | Usually, I find, the failure of well-placed, powerful, or comfortable | people to acknowledge and respect the fact that others are often not as | well-placed, powerful, or comfortable leads to the second set of people | being a perpetual underclass because those who are most in the position | to do something that is merely "kind" don't see the point, since they are | in need of no kindness themselves. my view is that some people who perceive themselves to be members of the underclass grow bitter well before their time and seek no other values but to replace whoever they believe are in power with a view to being in position to run over _their_ enemies, and if they are doing technical work in ISO, they are probably very smart folks to begin with, so won't necessarily make their real purposes overt. not being overly political (at least not at the time), I saw right through these folks, but also learned that countering them openly could not work. to fight a covert agenda takes _better_ covert agendas. occasionally, a good and useful International Standard rises from this despicable mess. the really good and useful International Standards, however, come from committees where nobody sees themselves as members of any underclass. that usually comes about when nobody in the committee has to fight anybody else, because all the folks have real values, not ersatz values and hidden agenda. I have a problem respecting people who know that their "values" are not going to be approved, so they fight for apparently reasonable ersatz values that they can tail-coat their real values on before anybody wises up to their game. I think the question "what do you want?" is legitimate of people who say "I value X", and if they cannot answer (honestly), then there's no need to believe them. the diplomatic thing do with people who lie to your face is to ignore their lies in such a way as to expose them. however, this probably takes solid experience with getting away with lies on your own before you can succeed. somehow, I didn't value this part of the work in ISO. I'm sure some committees are less permeated by this political climate than others, though, and I'm allowing for optimism to be true, cautious though I may be. something makes me feel like a disillusioned lawyer. ick. #:Erik -- http://www.naggum.no/spam.html is about my spam protection scheme and how to guarantee that you reach me. in brief: if you reply to a news article of mine, be sure to include an In-Reply-To or References header with the message-ID of that message in it. otherwise, you need to read that page.