Beefy Boxes and Bandwidth Generously Provided by pair Networks
We don't bite newbies here... much
 
PerlMonks  

Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.

by dragonchild (Archbishop)
on Feb 20, 2008 at 18:16 UTC ( #669062=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

(This is in response to Moderation of Open Source projects.)

A lot of people coming into the Perl community (or the wider OSS one) are a little taken aback at how the people who write the software and "run the show" (if that is even possible) behave. Our social mores, on the surface, are odd and weird. You probably get rubbed the wrong way about something. Someone is probably extremely rude to you. Here's one explanation as to why.

  1. Most of us are geeks because, for the most part, we never fit into the "in crowd." In other words, most of us don't have easy social graces to begin with.
  2. Most of us, particularly those who write seriously good software, are geniuses. Literally, have the IQ to be rated "genius" (which, for those who care, is generally about 145-150, depending on the test). Those people know they are smarter than 99% of the world and, frankly, often have little patience for people who just "don't get it." This also goes for interactions with people they acknowledge to be on par with them.
  3. Given 1. and 2., if you're talking with one of these people and (from their perspective) you're being a git about something, you're going to receive the cluebat upside the head. Usually, it's going to be gently. Sometimes, it's not.
And, please please remember this - OSS developers aren't in it for the fame. We're in it cause we are freaks who have to create. 100 years ago, we were the guys inventing ham radios. 200 years ago, we were Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. We aren't like everyone else.

My criteria for good software:
  1. Does it work?
  2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
  • Comment on Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by brian_d_foy (Abbot) on Feb 20, 2008 at 22:30 UTC

    I understand what you are saying, but I think you get it wrong. Geeks are just like everyone else. They may be smarter with logic and puzzles and technology, but that's only one dimension of a person. I don't buy the automatic assumption that geeks are better people, or that a standard disclaimer should be applied. I've met plenty of geeks who have great social skills, and I've met plenty of cretins who aren't geeks.

    1. Geeks have an in-crowd. They select on different factors than cheerleaders, hipsters, or jocks, but there is definitely an in crowd. There are even in-crowds among in-crowds, each trying to destroy the other (think Rails people versus Perl people, for instance).
    2. Maybe the whole world doesn't want to be geeks, but geeks certainly know who they think is cool and make fun of people they think are uncool. That's not different from any other group.
    3. Most people lack social graces. The difference is other people's tolerance to lacking social graces. Geeks don't care that they lack social graces, so people are less tolerant about geeks not having them. It's usually not how you mess up, but your attitude toward it.
    4. Some OSS developers are in it for the fame. People are people, and OSS developers just like everyone else have different motivations and desires. I don't think OSS automatically makes anyone noble or selfless.
    5. As people, geeks are just as guilty about everything they complain about from other people. Sure, the manager probably doesn't understand technology, but geeks probably don't understand the manager's world of legal compliance and marketing. Both groups tend to treat the other poorly, and for the same basic reasons.

    People are people. Evaluate individuals, not groups. :)

    --
    brian d foy <brian@stonehenge.com>
    Subscribe to The Perl Review
      My point is that there seems to be a culture of forthrightness among FOSS developers and less concern for the social niceties. Of course, there are people who have a greater set of social skills than others. Those also tend to be the older developers, such as you and Randal and Larry. People who have had a reason to actually learn those social skills because they don't have the luxury of only interacting with the FOSS community.

      Basically, I've noticed that people with a propensity for those skills that FOSS developers tend to have don't have a corresponding tendency for social skills. Both can be learned, but I don't think the intersection between the groups who natively learn one or the other is a large one. IME, of course.


      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Feb 20, 2008 at 21:49 UTC

    I am very reluctant to typecast anyone, let alone big- and easily-defined groups of people like “all OSS developers.”

    Some developers are social butterflies; others are social caterpillars. Many of these folks are geniuses, but some are just persistent and meticulous.

    Let us also not forget the people who finish the HOWTO's that otherwise end abruptly about two-thirds of the way through, where the “genius” lost interest in what s/he was doing. Let's not forget the testers, automated and otherwise. All those “pedantic people,” maybe-genius (probably!) but maybe-not. We could not do without them either. It takes all kinds, each one dedicated to their chosen task. After all, a lot of the task of “writing great software” is a crashing bore.

    Within the large open-source projects, such as the Apache Foundation, you will actually find an extensive management-structure and very strict rules for how the group conducts itself. The Linux kernel-development group is similarly tightly-structured. There's solid reasoning for that. When you look at OSS, it's actually a big and diverse group: it's not all iconoclasts and social-muffins.

    Giggle all you want to about “pointy-haired bosses,” but the best OSS projects have very strong project management. You need look no farther than the OSS project nearest and dearest to us: Perl itself.

Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by amarquis (Curate) on Feb 20, 2008 at 21:19 UTC

    I'm not sure "We're smart and socially inept" would fly as an excuse even were it true.

    I think the problems seen in OSS projects are the same seen in any collaborative project. People settle into their "territory" of a project and get their backs up when somebody encroaches on that, and communication via the internet is several grades more difficult than face to face (e-mail, newsgroups, whatever you use, they all lend themselves towards "Person A states X, Person B misinterprets it to mean Y and makes a giant post/mail about Y, everybody argues about Y" and other annoying miscommunications). There are a million pitfalls when a large group works on a project.

    The general attitude of programmers might not be helping, but I don't think it is the root of the evil.

Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by Muggins (Pilgrim) on Feb 21, 2008 at 14:24 UTC

    I can't agree with this. For 2 reasons.

    A) "On a par with them"? "Geniuses"? "smarter than 99% of the world*"?

    Yeah, I used to think stuff like that about myself. Too much. It's wonderful to let go of all that nonsense and learn some humility.

    There's any number of very clever people in the world. A lot of them have egos to match. Show me someone truly bright with the imagination to be very modest as well. Now THAT is something special - when it happens.

    B) It seems perverse to be lacking in social graces and do nothing about it. Interpersonal skills get you jobs, they help you do well in a job once you're in it. If you haven't got any, probably best for you to work on it, not celebrate the fact too much...

    There are enough "nice" people on eg: Perlmonks to make rudeness unnecessary. If we work on an OSS project together do we really *have* to accept behaviour that in the real world would just get people down? who does that help?

    oh and C) I don't get great pleasure from the silly stereotypes we get labelled with. :)

    *That still makes 5 million or so people smarter than you, think of all those people!!

    UPDATE: Yes I was amusingly forthright here wasn't I, considering the subject matter?

      I agree that it is good to exercise humility. Even smart people can make mistakes and it is much better to be humble of your own volition than to have it forced upon you by others. I always try to be humble, though sometimes it can become an obstacle, like being too conservative of your abilities when on an interview. It is a balancing act with parameters set by the context of the situation. Being humble does not mean you cannot also be smart. In fact, it is much better when the one tooting your horn is not you, but someone else. :)

      This reminds me of a term from psychology, overcompensation. If you act unsure and feel the need to prove it, maybe you're not. Also, don't tell me. Show me. Part of being smart is knowing the value of humility.

      I, too, like those referred to in the last paragraph of section 'A' in your comment. It is good to be around those who are smart. It is made better when they do not feel the need to prove it. This combination is certainly rare. My wife would probably say I fit into this category. I certainly don't claim to. I let others choose their own labels for me.

      Before I went to university, I was very proud of my intellect and various talents. I used to brag on myself a lot. And I got smacked down. So, in college, I downplayed my capabilities. I made it seem like anyone could do what I can do. I was really humble.

      I have since realized in the decade since university that, frankly, I am smarter. It's not an elitism thing. It's not a holier-than-thou thing. It's a frank acceptance of the reality that my mental muscles are bigger than most people. They're not the biggest in the world, just bigger than most around me. It's like my next-door neighbor who works out a lot. He is really big. He's not the biggest guy in the world, just on our block. There's a 100 people on our block, which makes him bigger than 99% of the world (roughly).

      Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris. Those aren't tongue-in-cheek virtues; those are actual real virtues to be embraced. False humility is worse than hubris.


      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
        Those aren't tongue-in-cheek virtues; those are actual real virtues to be embraced.

        Right, but those are programmers virtues. Social virtues as I was taught them are the opposite:

        programmer <-> social -------------------------- laziness <-> diligence impatience <-> patience hubris <-> humility
        Each computer is an oscillating amalgam of thoughts of thousands of programmers, and in that realm, there's real darwinism: the thoughts that best fit survive.

        The roles don't mix; it is ok to be a bastard towards programs (and thus towards thoughts of somebody), call them a pile of sh1t and mercilessly incriminate the slightest fault; but it's not ok to be a BOFH to your users; it is not ok to deal out personal attacks against programmers 1) - much like it's not ok for the biggest guy on the block to punch you out of his way because he can.

        So it is all about what real world it is at each time. The computing world isn't less real than the so-called real world - someone did it, then it's there. They are just different. People who get pissed off if they're called a dumbhead in programming context are mixing oil and water. Hubris isn't a social virtue, at all.

        1) I think there's the reason why Abigail-II left

        --shmem

        _($_=" "x(1<<5)."?\n".q·/)Oo.  G°\        /
                                      /\_¯/(q    /
        ----------------------------  \__(m.====·.(_("always off the crowd"))."·
        ");sub _{s./.($e="'Itrs `mnsgdq Gdbj O`qkdq")=~y/"-y/#-z/;$e.e && print}
        Speaking as one who’s abilities lie in the of middle of the Bell Curve
        I can forgive to some extent the lack of social graces and arrogance that some intellectual heavyweights display (even though they should know better) but only if they can deliver.
        Many pseudo-intellectuals think that they are in the genius category
        But “when push comes to shove” are unable to deliver the goods and us lesser mortals are left to pick up the pieces.
Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by moritz (Cardinal) on Feb 21, 2008 at 14:46 UTC
    Back in school there were some people who thought it was normal to be bad at math, and even boast with it. I never liked them, and I don't think many geeks like these people.

    I think we should apply the same standards to social skills: it's nothing to be proud of if you're bad at, and it's not god given (you can learn socials skills, yes).

    BTW developers mostly write their software for users, so they should accept users as important, even seemingly stupid users.

      I think we should apply the same standards to social skills: it's nothing to be proud of if you're bad at, and it's not god given (you can learn socials skills, yes).

      Yes, social graces are important. The difference is that the developers I care to work with don't make it #1. It's more like #4 or #5, unlike most other people.

      BTW developers mostly write their software for users, so they should accept users as important, even seemingly stupid users.

      I don't. I write software cause it's fun. That people are helped out is a neat side-benefit.


      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
        I write software cause it's fun. That people are helped out is a neat side-benefit.
        And what fun means for you? For differnt people it means different things - but some would find helping others as fun. I think it is a very important question - because really big part of Open Source software is produced because it is fun for the developers. I have just started reading 'The Theory of Fun' - I'll add here something when I finish it.
Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by tilly (Archbishop) on Feb 20, 2008 at 21:56 UTC
    Another factor is that people who are highly active online develop a factual writing style that can be misunderstood.

    Most people get unhappy if you respond, "Your mistake is ___." However online I might respond that way, and furthermore I appreciate it if other people respond the same way to me. This can and does lead to hurt feelings from time to time.

    But that said, http://xkcd.com/386/ looks highly relevant and speaks to the dynamics you see online...

Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by FatherJoe (Beadle) on Feb 22, 2008 at 23:24 UTC

    I'm sure you didn't mean it this way, but your post could be read as a defense of the rudeness and harshness frequently seen in the geek community: "I don't have great social skills and I'm way smarter than you, so don't complain if I'm rude." I've heard people make this exact sort of justification for their own behavior.

    That may be fine in "geek culture," but it isn't going to fly anywhere else. Rudeness is rudeness. In business settings it may be tolerated for a while, but only until management can find someone who can do the job just as well AND with more civility. In customer relation settings, rudeness is rarely tolerated at all.

    Social skills are learned, not inborn. Anyone can learn to speak diplomatically, to shut up and listen to someone who might just know more, to consider the thoughts and needs of others before blasting them, to start a comment with "I'm sure you didn't mean it this way". A little study and some practice are all it takes. Having a "high IQ" is no excuse for not trying: there are plenty of "high IQ" people and geniuses in the non-geek world, and they manage just fine. Nor do they "make [social graces] #1"--unless they're in high school.

    A little civility, a bit of social skill can go a long way. The geeks who matter--at least to me--are the ones who have not only skills and the brains, but also the humility, the ability and the willingness to interact with the rest of the world. Or to put it another way, maybe we should get into the habit of asking ourselves, "What would Larry do?" ;)

      I believe I pointed out the very same thing in my original post - that social skills are learned, just like programming skills. But, some people learn some skills more easily than others. In my experience, the predisposition to those skills that we find excellent for FOSS developers tends to be found without the predisposition to more social skills. Of course, brian_d_foy is absolutely correct that there are FOSS devs who are very social. I personally find that those people are usually the older devs with more experience in business. In other words, they have had reason to devote time to learning social skills. They usually weren't that way at 25, when they were most productive in terms of FOSS development.

      And, as for what Larry would do, I suspect that he was socially inept at 25-30, too. Most people at the JPL then and now tend to be so.


      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by Erez (Priest) on Feb 20, 2008 at 19:34 UTC

    A nice example of the idea expressed here is this quote from a recent interview with Linus:

    What do you think is going to be the next big controversy ... that everyone is going to fight about ... ?

    (...) There is always the bigger thing, usually something that has been simmering for a while, and it just simmers long enough that when something happens it just releases the floodgates and there is a big flame-fest (...)
    I'm also not very polite, I actually like arguing with people, and there's a lot of people who like arguing in general in the kernel community. Some people don't like doing anything but arguing (...)

    Software speaks in tongues of man.
    Stop saying 'script'. Stop saying 'line-noise'.
    We have nothing to lose but our metaphores.

Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by Withigo (Friar) on Feb 23, 2008 at 17:18 UTC
    I think it's important to look at the bigger social picture and notice that the demographic for "geeks" will be dominated in large part by single, childless, north American, educated white males between the ages of 18-35. I think having that group in the majority is what fixes the constraints that produce most of these so-called geek traits.

    So geeks, as you've described them, are arrogant towards people who are slightly different than themselves, possess an inflated sense of self-importance, and a sense of outrage due to this importance not being recognized by others, take an unnuanced, black and white view of the world and of many matters in which they've had no direct personal experience, and indulge themselves on a narrow range of personal interests and hobbies.

    Did I miss anything?
    What you seem to be describing is the average teenage male. :)

    So this recent phenomenon of "geek" subculture might be better understood as being due to a large segment of the male population remaining immature well into adulthood, which has been acknowledged by a few sociologists and reported in the media.
Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by dwm042 (Priest) on Feb 22, 2008 at 17:45 UTC
    I hate to carp on one element of this, but being smart isn't entirely the same thing as being a genius (though the people who sell IQ tests would like you to think it is true). Genius is about creativity and innovation. Being smart is about, well, being smart. The two are often related but it isn't absolute. Thomas Edison is often invoked in this regard. A smart man and a genius, but hardly a John Stuart Mill.

    The other is handwaving at an IQ number is just that. It is meaningless outside the context of a well known IQ test (such as the Stanford-Benet and the Terman) and without knowing what the mean of the test is and the standard deviation you really don't know anything.

    Finally, genius or not, you can goof up. I recall a meeting of the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania, open to the public. I attended. There were three Nobel Prize winners there: Gerald Edelman, James Watson, of DNA fame, and Baruch Blumberg. It was supposed to be a "nature versus nurture" debate. Professor Edelman took it seriously, but Jim Watson did not. You could tell he had too much to drink. He was slurring his words. He was very clever and his jokes were good, but the science he could invoke off the cuff wasn't of the caliber of Edelman's (who showed up with impressive color slides). To which I'd say: being a genius isn't an excuse for not being prepared.

Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by zby (Vicar) on Feb 22, 2008 at 16:36 UTC
    Cooperation beats individual excellence. The culture that you describe here, with the prise for individual geniuses and disregard for social rules, sounds like some Wild West culture for 'real men' and I'll bet it will go away in much similar way as we conquer the new frontier of cyberspace.
      All new frontiers are initially conquered by those who are considered the outsiders by the mainstream culture. Just look at who came over to the US first, who went West first, etc. In that kind of situation, the individual's capabilities are strongly preferred because an individual can make a much larger difference.

      To take a sports analogy, there's a reason why basketball has superstars that out-eclipse those for american football, real football, cricket, and baseball (to cover my bases). Since there's only 5 people/team on the floor at any given time (vs. 9 to 11 for the other sports), each person's performance has more weight. (For those who argue that the quarterback is the superstar of american football, I only have to point to Brett Favre's performance over the past 12 years and its correlation to the capabilities of his front line. And, yes, I'm a Packers fan.)

      Now, I suspect my remarks are being read into. I was specifically addressing the confusion that many have when they comes in, as what they perceive to be a reasonable question, and receives what they perceive to be rude response. I wasn't addressing how geeks interoperate or the relative amount of cooperation vs. individualism in the FOSS community as a whole. Frankly, most geeks interoperate very well.


      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
      > Cooperation beats individual excellence.
      

      This, of course, explains why ants have built spaceships and discovered broad-spectrum antibiotics, while we humans still consider finding a yummy dead mouse the highlight of our existence.

      Individual excellence supported by cooperation - and please note the order in which these must come - has taken us to our current status. Without individual excellence, we'd be just another species (and most likely found only in the fossil records of some ancient stratum.)

      
      -- 
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. -- HG Wells
      
        Hmm - yeah. Maybe you are right - actually most such absolute statements are mostly meaningless. Now I think I should formulate that in terms of dynamic, in terms of change. That now cooperation is cheaper - so it is economically applicable in broader spectrum of situations.
      Put Cooperation in jail for assault!
Re: Please remember that geeks have their own social mores.
by zby (Vicar) on Mar 30, 2008 at 11:35 UTC
    Another note - does it not sound a bit narcissistic?

Log In?
Username:
Password:

What's my password?
Create A New User
Node Status?
node history
Node Type: perlmeditation [id://669062]
Approved by davies
Front-paged by Old_Gray_Bear
help
Chatterbox?
and the web crawler heard nothing...

How do I use this? | Other CB clients
Other Users?
Others studying the Monastery: (5)
As of 2021-05-16 18:27 GMT
Sections?
Information?
Find Nodes?
Leftovers?
    Voting Booth?
    Perl 7 will be out ...





    Results (152 votes). Check out past polls.

    Notices?