in reply to Parallels Between Perlmonks.ORG and Religious Cults (Retirement Announcement)

Dear princepawn,

I've been following your posts with some interest for a while, because I often find them quite amusing. You always seem to come up with another way of looking at a problem, and I find that a good quality to have.

However, in this post, I believe you're chasing mind-ghosts, like the poor Don Quixote:


At this point they came in sight of thirty forty windmills that
there are on plain, and as soon as Don Quixote saw them he said to his
squire, "Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have
shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza,
where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of
whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we
shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and
it is God's good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of
the earth."

"What giants?" said Sancho Panza.

"Those thou seest there," answered his master, "with the long
arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long."

"Look, your worship," said Sancho; "what we see there are not giants
but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that
turned by the wind make the millstone go."

"It is easy to see," replied Don Quixote, "that thou art not used to
this business of adventures; those are giants; and if thou art afraid,
away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer while I engage
them in fierce and unequal combat."

So saying, he gave the spur to his steed Rocinante, heedless of
the cries his squire Sancho sent after him, warning him that most
certainly they were windmills and not giants he was going to attack.
He, however, was so positive they were giants that he neither heard
the cries of Sancho, nor perceived, near as he was, what they were,
but made at them shouting, "Fly not, cowards and vile beings, for a
single knight attacks you."


The characteristics you you bring up from the Cults-101 checklist could well be applied to almost any IRC group, however they are not all the characteristics and in my view you'll get it all wrong if you pick this or that and say "Hey, look - there's a Cult".

Let's discuss perlmonks.org, having all the characteristics from Cults-101 in mind, not just those that we like see fit...

I think of it like this (and I can only speak for myself):

1. The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
I'm focused on perl, not vroom (sorry, to break that illusion). I'm here because this site helps me improve my perl skills, not follow vrooms orders.

2. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
I've never ever tried to bring in new members to perlmonks.org. I've added a link to one of my homepages, thats all, and I have links to many other sites too.

3. The group is preoccupied with making money.
I've never contributed financial in any way to perlmonks.org. I haven't even bougth a T-shirt yet :)

4. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
I can see your point here, since I guess it is pretty clear for every one that you (and merlyn) been down-voted just because you are who you are. I don't vote --. I believe in explanation of errors, not -- votes. I've questioned the need for -- votes in previous posts, and I still don't think they make sense.

5. Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
I have a hard time thinking this applies to perlmonks.org. I've used the word chanting in one or two of my posts in a humorus sense, which I hope was clear to all readers.

6. The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).
I don't ask permission from vroom to do anything, I can even make this post without asking his permission (ain't that sweet). I can see vroom wearing a perlmonks.org T-shirt in the banners sometimes, asking me to buy one, not demanding it.

7. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).
vroom is not Messiah, it's going to be a _bit_ more fireworks when He returns.

8. The group has a polarized us- versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
I think the general jargon here is perl vs. the rest, not perlmonks.org vs. the rest. I think you need to understand that. Your posts often get downvoted by those who can't you questioning perl, not perlmonks.org. I think you're mixing things up here. I think you should be able to question perl (syntax or whatever), without being down-voted. But keep in mind that this site is about perl, so be gentle. If you throw in a little humor, you can even get ++ for mentioning Python. I've have.

9. The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).
Who on the internet is accountable to any one? This is cyberspace. It is nor for real :) If I turn of my computer, it is all gone. I just continue IRL (in real life), that's what count.

10. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).
I'm not aware of any "exalted ends" we have here at perlmonks.org. vroom am I missing something ?

11. The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
Your reasoning shifts focus from leadership -> members to member <-> member. I don't think that you can do that without stepping of the Cult trail. I don't like getting -- votes, noone does. But it is not vroom who -- me (at least I don't think so, but technically he could I guess).

12. Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
I'm here to archieve my personal goals (to be as good perl hacker as I can), not to give them up.

13. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
Any member can turn of his or her computer at any time. If I spend amounts of time here is it because I choose to, not because someone expects me to.

14. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
I seem to remember that merlyn were on a cruise full of java programmers, some weeks ago. If merlyn can do that, this isn't a characteristic of perlmonks.org, is it?.



perlmonks.org is a place full of people, just like any other place. Some like you, some don't. And as in any other place you go, there are certain "inofficial" rules you need to follow to get accepted by the group, or you'll have to stay on your own. This isn't a cult characteristic, its just the way things are.

So, please princepawn, listen to the cry of Sancho Panza, and don't go figthing windmills. If you feel sad about getting down-voted all the time, choose a new account without letting us know who you are, but stay with us.

I don't hate you, I don't even know you! If you feel low right now, have a break, have a beer with IRL friends and work-mates. If you don't have anyone (I don't know you, so I don't have any idea of how your social life looks like) and would like to have someone to "talk" to, please /msg me with your e-mail address and I'll try to be a cyber-friend.

/brother t0mas
  • Comment on Re: Parallels Between Perlmonks.ORG and Religious Cults (Retirement Announcement)

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Re (tilly) 2 (windmills): Parallels...
by tilly (Archbishop) on Nov 30, 2000 at 19:23 UTC
    There was more to the windmill story than you seem to recognize.

    While today the description of windmills as "giants oppressing the people" seems ridiculous, at the time it was well understood to be an accurate description. Prior to windmills each peasant had their own handmill, and ground their own grain. This made them hard to tax. But with a mill the miller would take his share, and set aside the landlord's. This made peasants far easier to tax. (Guess what happened to the tax rates?)

    This was why windmills were introduced and handmills were banned. And the peasants objected, resulting in the rate of spread of windmills being a good measure of how little power the peasants had. In particular peasants were strongest in Scandinavia, and windmills never arrived there. And I do mean never, in WW II the Germans were shocked to find that they could not take any central control of food production - people were still using handmills.

    As for the rest of what you say, I largely agree. However there are two qualities about princepawn that deserve comment. First of all it is a poor workman that blames his tools, and by that measure he is shoddy indeed. I will be the last to say that Perl is perfect, but most of his criticisms are stabs in the dark. He also has this amazing tendancy to repeat good advice as a slogan and badly misapply it. I never quite know what to do with this. Do I point out why his use is bad and accidentally discourage people from following the advice in the slogan? Do I explain why the slogan is good and not make the point that he is doing something bad? Do I just figure it is not worth my while and ignore? (I mostly do the last.)

    On a more personal note, I will not miss the sexist and sexually explicit garbage he spewed into the chatterbox from time to time. I really won't miss that!

      Just a little off-topic comment about, windmills and taxes.

      My family come from öland, a small island on the Swedish east-coast. There windmills are quite common, actually every small village had a couple of them in common. Anyone in the community could use the community windmill. You can have a look at a picture of some here. They were often of simple design, but some of them were of Dutch style, infact Europe's largest Dutch windmill is on öland.

      As of taxes, Sweden have one of the worlds highest taxrates in spite of our windmills...

      /brother t0mas