Subject: Re: How do you organize your source code?
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Sat, 11 May 2002 01:01:59 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* 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:

  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

  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.