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Joined: 13 Sep 2006
Posts: 5153
Location: The Peanut Gallery

PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2016 2:52 pm    Post subject: Culture Clash Reply with quote

There is a distinct cultural difference in how people interact with one another, firstly between everyday life with attendant non-textual cues, such as body language and tone, and interaction over the internet, which is purely textual, such as email lists and web forums.
Secondly between such archived formats, and IRC.

Covering the basics, textual formats in general are prone to misinterpretation, precisely because there are none of the attendant cues which humans are used to; so content which could be interpreted as hostile when put in one tone of voice, but rather harmless when read in another, is prone to being read as the former, when more often it is the latter. Especially when someone feels that they're being mocked, or ignored, or patronised ie condescended/talked down to.
This is why what Yamakuzure used to have in his signature is essential to understand (paraphrasing from memory):
There are usually two or more ways to interpret any post. IF your interpretation of my post offends you, chances are that I meant the other one. ;)

IRL we are prone to explaining far more than is necessary in textual conversation. The case which comes up a lot, especially on IRC, ime, is how we explain our mistaken thinking IRL, such as: "Oh, I thought X was Y, and that's why I said Z.." which can be quite convivial IRL, but is quite irritating in text; perhaps because text looks "published" by comparison to writing, perhaps because it is always there in front of you when you review the log/topic/thread, a combination or something else.

This leads to the oft-used metaphor of signal vs noise; and we're all used to doing that IRL anyhow, so it's not such a big deal. The newcomer soon adjusts to the cultural norm of whatever medium they are coming to; providing there is a certain base minimum standard of human decency, as well as technical accuracy, it all works out in the wash.

Leaving aside the trolls, and the misguided souls who use their intellects to establish themselves in some sort of puerile alpha-dog/Lord of the Files game (fanbois soon grow out of their attachment, usually when they finally get laid), the other sort of culture clash that happens between the IRC user and those who only use web forums, or email lists, can be an issue.
It's not unique to any userbase, by any means; it used to be quite common for developers to play up on the mailing-list, in a way that would be quite acceptable in #gentoo-dev, if off-putting to some or most of us, but wholly inappropriate on a public mailing-list.

That acting-out isn't what I mean, however. If you've ever hung out for any period of time in #bash, then you've likely encountered greycat, who is a legend in terms of the clarity he has brought to teaching BASH.
Greycat can be quite vituperative (that's an understatement;) towards people who aren't paying attention; but then I've seen him spend ages with complete newbs, treating them incredibly gently, while guiding them toward a fuller understanding of the problem domain.
He does the same thing as Torvalds: if you should know better, and are wasting everybody's time with bogus argumentation, eg: for why in this specific instance your script will work, albeit badly and break hard in any general scenario, then he cuts through the crap, and tells you it's crap to your face.

Anyone who's served their apprenticeship in #bash knows this, and knows how it feels; they also know that he was right, every single time, and that he's taught them more about the UNIX userland than anyone else, apart from twkm.

IRC users see the same old crap so many times, and from so many people, we don't draw any inferences about the person from them; neither do we bother with pretending it's anything other than crap. We want to get past it as quickly as possible, and on to getting you a result with whatever question you came to us with, which is likely badly-put in the first instance.
This can be quite bruising if you're not used to it.

It is not however an attack on your person, if someone points out that you are at this point in time, talking nonsense.
Everybody does, from time to time.

It is exactly the same as the centuries-settled issue of free speech; anyone is free to express their opinion, so long as they are not inciting hatred; and equally anyone else is free to express an opinion on such statements. For the statement is not the person, and nor are their thoughts; any more than your CPU is the data it processes and then forgets about.

Similarly, your output is not you. You may feel very attached to it, etc, but it is not you.

Programmers know this: we spend the vast majority of our time reviewing and correcting our own broken output.
For this reason, once we have enough experience, we lose our ego-attachment (other fields like Art do this as a prerequisite, before you can start your Degree course -- and many don't get through it); and we spend a great deal of time cursing the crap we ourselves output, and correcting it forthwith.

As a result, programmers are even more brusque when it comes to calling crap on something:
Whether it's a WTF language, a WTF framework, or WTF policies, we can recognize a WTF from a mile away, and are quick to say so when we spot one. Non-programmers (our coworkers, managers, friends, spouses) often have a hard time understanding when we complain that things suck.

This will never change, because headspace is so critically important to us, and our work. In essence, we have to behave like this when it comes to textual input, or we are not programmers.

Please, don't take it personally, if you are a newcomer; just shrug it off, and learn to laugh at yourself, as we laugh at ourselves practically all day long.
Try to bear it in mind, if we start gently mocking you for taking yourself too seriously: we are laughing at ourselves too, and trying to get you to laugh with us at "the stupidity of organics". ;-)

At least, most of us are; and you'll soon spot the other kind of dweeb. They'll make you feel uncomfortable, and spend an inordinate amount of time on back and forth, that anyone else finds incredibly boring/tedious/sapping-of-the-will-to-live.
And funnily enough, no-one else can be bothered arguing with them. ;)

If you find IRC bruising, try #friendly-coders or #coding-n00bs if you are completely new, and want somewhere you can witter about off-topic stuff.
#gentoo-chat is very good for that too ;p and the moderators are decent folks who can spot an asshat a mile off, while still allowing people to witter.

When it comes to IRC, a good thought to bear in mind is:
Remember: this is more like email than you imagine.

All channels mentioned are on IRC: or: .org
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