Subject: Re: Reply to Ousterhout's reply (was Re: Ousterhout and Tcl ...)
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1997/04/15
Newsgroups: comp.lang.scheme,comp.lang.scheme.scsh,comp.lang.lisp,comp.lang.tcl,comp.lang.functional,comp.lang.c++,comp.lang.perl.misc,comp.lang.python,comp.lang.eiffel
Message-ID: <>

* John Ousterhout
| Unfortunately, it isn't really possible to sustain a coherent debate on a
| hot topic via unmoderated newsgroups.  The discussion very quickly
| fragments into dozens of sub-topics that drift off the main thread of
| discussion.

it might be instructive to consider which measures are used in "real life"
to maintain coherent debates in a cacophony of protests and more or less
valid arguments.  in my experience, the primary measure is for those who
wish to maintain the coherent debates to focus _only_ on the best parts of
the discussion.  those who do not wish to maintain any coherent debates are
the first to complain that _others_ don't and that they, therefore, can't
reign in the crowds or just speak their minds without some authority figure
like a moderator.  if you complain about the noise, you _are_ the noise.

life in general _is_ noise.  intelligence is filtering out the information
from the plethora of irrelevancies that bombards us.  USENET is an amazing
experiment in how people choose to think when they have to _recreate_ the
opinions and arguments of others by _reading_ and _interpreting_ them in
their own minds.  some see only ad hominem arguments (and most of those who
do seem to be ignorant of what "argumentum ad hominem" actually means),
while others see technical debates with lots of emotions in the argumetns,
and focus on the technical issues.  e.g., if one writes "you'd have to an
idiot to argue that point", some will read this as "he called him an idiot"
while others will read it as "he's fed up with ignorant spluts who can't
even bother to do their homework", while yet others will read it as "in his
mind, that point is an absolute" and decide how to read his other points
based on whether it really is a settled issue or not.  there's an old adage
that goes something like this: "be careful of whom you allow to insult you".

of course, there are also liars and frauds on the Net, like everywhere
else.  I think this is a relevant character issue insofar as one points out
that people do not argue truthfully.  if someone has a hidden agenda, it
should be brought out in the open for others to see.  untruthfulness is not
an argumentum ad hominem if it is the _arguments_ that are untruthful.

| I'm too swamped to respond to each of the hundreds of arguments that have
| been made (many of which do have merit), and if I did, each of those
| responses would generate 30 more counter-responses that would be even
| harder to respond to.

no wonder you're swamped -- you choose to be!  most of us learn to deal
with noise-makers pretty fast and to ignore them.  if you don't, of course
you're going to run into all sorts of problems.  this is what focus and
concentration is all about.  barring, of course, the reduced cognitive
abilities of mild schizophrenia or attention deficit disorder, but there's
no reason to expect such in somebody who can focus long enough to get _any_
product out the door and complete a serious academic carreer.

I've seen you respond with ridicule to lots of arguments.  that would be OK
only if one was in a well-established position of superiority.  such has
_not_ been established by you.  ridiculing an opponent is a very dangerous
rhetorical technique -- if the opponent is proven right and ignores the
ridicule to continue to hammer down his points, he who has committed the
ridicule is left as the laughing stock.  right now, I'm having the distinct
impression that you have left yourself in a very unenviable position by
ridiculing only the most incoherent of your critics, ignoring lots of
coherent arguments, and then arguing that you're swamped!  by not answering
technical points and instead turning to rhetorical tricks, you have
yourself contributed to the voluminous flow of irrelevancy.

| Or, look at it this way: if I don't respond then you get the last word :-)

I wish you could be serious a little more than you seem to want to be.  if
you were as superior to your critics as you seem to think you are, it would
not have been a problem to debunk the serious arguments without smileys or
ridicule.  of course, it is possible to be superior to one's critics and
use smileys and ridicule, but then it would not behoove one to complain
that others aren't presenting serious technical arguments.

I'm no longer young enough to know everything.