Subject: Re: How do you organize your source code? From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: Sat, 11 May 2002 01:01:59 GMT Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * ozan s yigit | if the claim is not explained in a way that indicates expertise in the | field, one would have to ask for references. Asking for references is an expression of passive-aggressive hostility. Asking for help to understand something, indicates that you are willing to trust the person you are talking to to be able to explain things to you, instead of telling him that you do not trust him at all. If the person you are talking to is honest, he will run out of explanations if you ask decent, honest, reasonably intelligent questions (i.e., not the kind that a certain nutcase keeps asking over and over), and defer you to other sources, but if you start off with such a request, you have given very specific reason for the person you ask to believe that you do, in fact, not trust him to be able to answer your questions, so you do would not even bother to try. Also note that the nutcase who keeps asking for references never looks them up -- his later questions betray that he has expended no effort at all trying to grasp anything on his own. This is quite common on USENET. The reason these people ask for references is that it is, precisely, a hostile move on their part, but those who are not particularly bright, believe it is some useful academic ritual, the failure to comply to which is some sort of technical defeat, and so the requestor scores a point with the leering dumb guys in the audience. Why this is valuable to these people, I have yet to understand. "All these stupid people agree (or laugh) with me, so I must be right"; to coin a term for this, let me call it dumbocracy. To go off on a tanget, the combination of mass agreement and stupidity is probably the most dangerous element in popular Western culture, and such things as the American electorate actually going and electing George W. Bush president have already made it harder for those with better than average intelligence to be heard. Incidentally, the last line of my signature is from a CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/04/30/science.understanding.ap So why do people ask for references? They obviously think it works well to humiliate someone despite strong evidence to the contrary. One may speculate that have come up short in their own research or have found some references that turned out to be completely bogus and have been hurt by it. Instead of providing their own references to debunk something they do not believe to be true, they find it much more rewarding to pretend that others fail to prove their point if they can ask for and then mock their references. All in all, a hostile request for references is a pretty indecent and dishonest way of derailing the open information exchange: Instead of letting people think aloud freely, the likes of our resident nutcase will jump up and ask for references for anything at all, but randomly. Such hostility has a much stronger effect on how people feel about posting and contributing than a strong, directed response to particular issues. It is a systematic attack on those who have independent ideas, and only those who are so much in the mainstream as not to be worth listening to, go free of such passive-aggressive attacks. Given an unexpected, but correct answer to a question, the reference-requestor will ask for references, but not for the expected, but incorrect answer. It matters more to people who know the correct answer to document it than it does to people who post incorrect answers -- the result of not caring much about anything to begin with. It usually takes much more time to look things up than to answer from memory, but this confidence and trust is shot to pieces by the reference-requestor cum nutcase, who prefers that people who do not have correct answers post their random guesswork. In my view, the motivation for asking for references is to make it easier in the long run for the nutcase to spread dis- and misinformation and not be opposed -- also notice how the resident nutcase requests references only when he wants the opposite position to be true, but does nothing to show that. The same issue that I discussed about people who ask for proof all the time applies to references. Very little of what we know to be true can be _economically_ proven to be so. That is, even if you could prove it, it is not in the interest of an open information exchange to raise the cost of posting to that which requires proof. What we do is let people post various things they believe to be true, and then debunk it if it is not, with real facts and references. So little is provably true, but so much of what people believe is provably false, that it is far more productive to let people think freely and meet resistance than it is to force people to subject their opinions to resistance before the fact, which is what providing an iron-clad proof essentially is. The key is not to repeat known falsehoods. People who do that, however, do have a tendency to demand proof and references from those who debunk them. Our resident nutcase has done this several times, and things have just died or turned ugly because people tire of explaining the same things to the same guy over and over. Through the persistence of unchecked stupidity, it would appear in google searches and the like that the nutcase wins by number of matches, unchallenged claims, and the like. This is a fairly sinister way of attacking the base of a community's common trust in what it knows to be true. Then again, the nutcase lost his faith in Lisp and did not follow up by moving to another community, such as Python's, so one has some reason to suspect sinister, long-term destructiveness just there. So if you want references, provide references for your own views. Look things up to debunk what other people have posted. If you ask others for references, but do not actually document your need for them, and do not thank the person for providing them, etc, it is only hostile. -- in a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none. In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief. 70 percent of American adults do not understand the scientific process.