Software Needs Philosophers

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Xah Lee

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May 21, 2006, 5:15:31 AM5/21/06
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Software Needs Philosophers

by Steve Yegge, 2006-04-15.

Software needs philosophers.

This thought has been nagging at me for a year now, and recently it's
been growing like a tumor. One that plenty of folks on the 'net would
love to see kill me.

People don't put much stock in philosophers these days. The popular
impression of philosophy is that it's just rhetoric, just frivolous
debating about stuff that can never properly be answered. “Spare me
the philosophy; let's stick to the facts!”

The funny thing is, it's philosophers who gave us the ability to think
rationally, to stick to the facts. If it weren't for the work of
countless philosophers, facts would still be getting people tortured
and killed for discovering and sharing them.

Does it ever strike you as just a teeny bit odd that after a brief
period where philosophy flourished, from maybe 400 B.C.E. to ~100 C.E.,
we went through a follow-on period of well over one thousand five
hundred years during which the Roman Catholic Church enslaved
everyone's minds and killed anyone who dared think differently?

What's weirder is that we tend to pretend it didn't really happen. We
like to just skip right over the dominance of religion over our minds
for a hundred generations, and think of religion today as a kindly old
grandpa who's just looking out for us kids. No harm, no foul. Let
bygones be bygones. Sure, there were massacres and crusades and
genocides and torture chambers with teeth grinding and eyes bleeding
and intestines torn out in the name of God. But we were all just kids
then, right? Nobody does that kind of thing today, at least not in
civilized countries.

We try not to think about the uncivilized ones.

It was philosophers that got us out of that Dark Ages mess, and no
small number of them lost their lives in doing so. And today, the
philosophy majors are the butts of the most jokes, because after the
philosophers succeeded in opening our minds, we forgot why we needed
them.

And if we stop to think about it at all, we think that it was other
people, people who are very unlike us, who committed those atrocities
in the name of Faith (regardless of whether it's faith in a god, or in
a political party, or any other form of mind control carried out by
force).

We like to think we live in an enlightened age, but we don't. Humans
haven't changed significantly in 10,000 years. We're still killing and
torturing each other. It's apparently incredibly easy to decide to kill
someone and then do it. Happens every day, all around the world.
Torture, too.

But those people are just people. If they had been born down the street
from you, they'd have gone to school with you, been friends with you,
learned to program with you, written blogs and comments, never tortured
or killed anyone in the name of an idea. They'd have been you. Which
means they are you; you just got lucky in where you were born.

One of the commenters on my last blog entry expressed the fervent wish
that I drop dead. To be sure, they qualified it with “on the
internet”. But if they really feel that way, especially about
something as hilariously and absurdly unimportant in the Grand Scheme
as whether the Lisp programming language has any acceptable
implementations, then what does it say about us?

Everyone who commented angrily on that blog entry was caught. I caught
you, anonymous or not, being a religious fanatic. The only
“negative” commenter who doesn't appear to be a religious zombie
was Paul Costanza (ironic, since he claims to be the opinionated one),
who relegated his comments to pedantic technical corrections. They're
welcome, of course; I'm always looking to correct any technical
misconceptions I harbor. But they're moot, since even if I was wrong
about every single technical point I brought up in that entry, my
overall point — Lisp is not an acceptable Lisp — remains largely
uncontested by the commenters.

Some of them just don't get it, which is fine; no harm in that. If
you've been using Lisp for years and years, and you've written books
and articles and zillions of lines of Lisp code, then you're unlikely
to remember anything about what it's like coming to Lisp for the first
time. They're religious because they've forgotten what it's like to be
a skeptic.

But make no mistake; a substantial percentage of people who take a side
in any programming language discussion that devolves into a flamewar
know exactly what the other side means, and they want to invoke the
Ultimate Censorship: drop dead! Killing someone, after all, is one of
the best ways to silence them. You also have to burn all their
writings, which is getting harder these days; hence the increased
vehemence on the 'net.

Those of you who've followed what I've written over the past year or so
know where I'm going. I'm taking a stand, all right, and it's a very
definite one. I'm finding myself drawn inexorably towards a single
goal: stamping out technological religion, because I'm frigging tired
of not being able to stick to the facts.

FACT: Java has no first-class functions and no macros. This results in
warped code that hacks around the problem, and as the code base grows,
it takes on a definite, ugly shape, one that's utterly unique to Java.
Lisp people can see this clear as day. So can Python folks, so can Ruby
folks. Java people flip out, and say “macros are too much power”,
or “what do u mean i dont understand u” or “fuck you, you jerk,
Lisp will NEVER win”.

You think I don't hear ALL that, and much more, in the hate mail I get
every day?

I sure wouldn't want to be alone with a Java fanatic in a medieval
torture chamber, because God only knows what they're capable of.

Turn the mirror towards Python, and what happens? Funny, but the Java
folks will mail me saying: “yeah, I've always known I detested
Python, and you really nailed exactly why. Thanks!” Meanwhile, Python
folks are literally frothing at the mouth, looking for the “Kill That
Bastard” key on their 101-key keyboards.

I turned the mirror towards Lisp yesterday. Had to go to the bathroom
like nobody's business, and my wife was expecting me home any minute,
so I rushed it out: just a few thoughts here and there. So the Gorgon
only caught the tiniest glimpse of itself, but hell evidently hath no
fury like that of a Lisper scorned, and all that.

It doesn't matter that I rushed it out. I'm glad I did; spending any
more time on it, trying to get it “right” by looking up useless
factoids like how you can override length's non-polymorphicness with
some weird setting (when it plainly should just be the default), would
have had the exact same net effect: Lisp zealots would have found some
way to turn it into a flamewar. And I'd have been out 2 or 3 more
hours.

Let's call it a troll, then, because it was poorly researched; it was
just some months-old recollections of pain I'd gone through last year
trying to commit to Common Lisp, after another year of trying the same
with various flavors of Scheme and finding them all wanting. As far as
I'm concerned, Lisp is unacceptable today; it's my opinion and just
that, but I'll stick with it.

I still need Lisp; after you learn enough of it, it becomes part of
your soul. I get my fix hacking elisp, and I do a lot of it. The
commenters are quite right; I've never written anything substantial in
Common Lisp, because in each of my serious attempts, there was too much
friction. Risk/reward wasn't high enough, and believe me, I wanted it.

But after many attempts, I've given up on Common Lisp. They won't let
me use it where I work, and there are probably more Lispers per capita
where I work, including some famous ones, than at any other big company
in the world. If we can't use it where I work, then it's frigging
unacceptable; that's the shortest proof I can offer.

What I'm far more interested today is the situation that arises if you
consider my post a troll. I'm far more interested in the social
consequences of working in a world filled with religious fanatics of
different religious persuasions. Especially given that it's a world in
which “natural religion” has, by and large, been marginalized
through the work of philosophers.
[ • Peter Siebel is the author of the book Practical Common Lisp,
2005. ( http://gigamonkeys.com/book/).]

Let's look at this world in a little more detail, starting with Peter
Siebel's comment, which I believe is the most interesting. Peter said:

I was trying to figure out why on earth you spent so much time
writing about something that you apparently don't like. Then it hit me:
HCGS↗. So thanks for your help.

His first sentence speaks volumes about the sociology. His viewpoint is
exactly what they teach us all as kids: If you don't have anything nice
to say, don't say anything at all. We like to think people have a right
to believe whatever they want, and that it's not nice to say mean
things about other people's beliefs, especially when their livelihoods
are at stake.

That's where philosophers come in, folks. They pick your beliefs apart
and show you in unforgettable ways the consequences of what you believe
in. I'm no philosopher; I know basically nothing about it, but I can
tell you I wish fervently that some great philosophers would come along
and effect change in our technical society.

Because if nothing else, I can see the consequences of the way we're
thinking about things. One of many such consequences is that languages
aren't getting any better, and the worst offenders are Lisp and Scheme,
which by rights should be racing along the innovation curve faster than
their supposedly less capable peers. But they've stagnated worse than
any other non-dead language I can think of.[1]

Programming languages are religions. For a long while now I've been
mildly uncomfortable calling it “religion”, but I don't feel bad
about it anymore. They're similar enough. At the top of the language
religion is the language itself; it serves as the deity and the object
of worship.

Like any other organized religion, there's always a Pope (or a
politburo chairman, in countries where the government has brutally set
itself up as what is for all intents the religion of choice): a
spiritual leader that gives the religion the human touch. This person
is almost always the language designer, of course. In Lisp's case it's
complicated, because McCarthy, Sussman and Steele aren't very active as
spiritual leaders for their languages anymore.

Every major organized religion is a heirarchical government, and
programming languages are no exception. You'll find equivalents of
cardinals, bishops, priests and laity in programming language camps:
the closer you are to the fire, to the spiritual center, the higher
your rank. It's a great way to quantify your perceived self-importance:
a high-score list, in effect. Great for the ego, but it makes you a
piss-poor debater, because you're so emotionally invested in your
status.

You'd think your rank would be accrued by virtue of your technical
and/or documentation contributions, but in practice it's usually more
of a function of how many converts you've gained, how many followers
you have, how much you've been spreading the Word.

[• Paul Graham is a lisp dignitary. He is well known for having sold
his ecommerce software written in lisp to Yahoo.com for $49.9 million,
among other things. See Paul Graham↗ and http://www.paulgraham.com/ ]

That's why Paul Graham isn't the Pope of Lisp. He's eminently
qualified, but unfortunately he's a heretic. Notice that almost none of
the commenters on my last blog mentioned the PG argument I made. The
only one who did (as of this writing) tried to make it an argument for
Common Lisp. Let's face it: you can't give those heretics too much
press; people might start listening to them!

Peter, are you beginning to understand why I write so much about
something I apparently don't like? It's because I wanted to like it but
found it fatally flawed, technically and culturally. It's as if I were
a would-be convert to Roman Catholicism, but I can't bring myself to
commit because I've seen too much of their role in creating a history
that ironically we all wish we could rewrite.

I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and I renounced it when I was
thirteen years old, after my Uncle Frank (a devout terrorist Catholic
if there ever was one) told me to stop reading the Bible, that it would
“really screw a person up” to do that, that you needed someone to
interpret it for you. That wasn't the only reason I renounced it, but
it'll suffice for our purposes.

Technologically I was born and raised an assembly-language programmer;
at least that's what my first real job was, for 5 years after I got my
CS degree. Assembly is just flagellation, though, and damned
uncomfortable at that, so I joined the Church of Java for fully seven
years. And practically at the very moment I'd finally tired of chafing
at Java's limitations, Paul Graham came along and through his early
essays, showed me Lisp. What a great new religion!

Problem is, each time you switch religions, the next one has less
impact on you. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, they say. I don't
know what that means for me, since I was raised by the
assembly-language wolf, but it appears to mean that I'm never going to
be enthralled with another programming language. And now that I've
swallowed the red pill, what choice do I have? I need to try to show
people what's out there.

Interestingly, it was Peter Siebel's most excellent book, Practical
Common Lisp↗, that played the role of Uncle Frank and killed my
desired to continue with Common Lisp. Peter was the first person to
show me beast's underbelly. Every other Lisp book had pretended it was
pure and beautiful and uncorrupted, because they left all the nastiness
out as “implementation-defined”. Once I saw what you really need to
do in order to build something resembling a portable Lisp code base,
and then had a few runs at it myself, I threw in the towel.

I much prefer Lisp the idea to Lisp the implementation.[2]

[ • Fyodor_Dostoyevsky↗, David_Hume↗, Aristotle↗,
Jean-Paul_Sartre↗, Ben_Franklin↗, Galileo_Galilei↗,
Bertrand_Russell↗, Albert_Einstein↗ ]

I can tell you this: I've tried writing this essay for a year. I've
tried fully a dozen times. I've tackled it from a dozen angles. I've
wanted to say it — software needs philosophers! — so many times, in
so many ways. We need great thinkers — the Fyodor Dostoyevskys and
David Humes and Aristotles and Jean-Paul Sartres and Ben Franklins and
Galileo Galileis and Bertrand Russells and Albert Einsteins to show us
the way through the Software Dark Ages we're in today: a time that will
doubtless be remembered as every bit as mired in darkness and ignorance
as the Dark Ages themselves.

But I've failed. This isn't the essay I wanted to write, because I'm
neither a great thinker nor a great writer. However, you might be: if
not now, then perhaps someday. So I think it's better to get the idea
out now than to hoard it in the hopes of someday writing a
world-changing essay.

For those of you who were surprised at the suddenness and vehemence of
the Lisp community's backlash to my little rant, I hope I've helped
shed a little light, helped you see its inevitability. Basically
they've had a lot of practice. Lisp is one of the oldest technology
religions, and they've both experienced and doled out their share of
religious persecution.

But that's not the lesson you should take away. The lesson is that they
are you. Whenever you hear someone ranting about something you take for
granted as wonderful and praiseworthy, and you're wondering why they
don't leave well enough alone so we can all get back to our incestuous
cheerleading, just remember: we went from the Dark Ages to our
reeeeasonably enlightened society today by questioning our most
cherished beliefs.

So keep questioning them.

[ • R6RS refers to the Scheme Lisp language's upcoming specification.
See Scheme programming language↗ ]

[1] Yes, I've read all of R6RS. It's a lukewarm compromise that punts
on most of the important issues. It's not going to make Scheme any more
successful than it is today, which to me feels practically criminal; it
was their one big chance to break out of the rut they're in. But it
doesn't matter. Let's pretend this footnote is just a troll. If your
hackles went up, then you're a techno-religious zombie, and I hope in
my lifetime to find you a cure. Try your best to think about that long
and hard before responding.

[ • SLIME is a emacs mode for lisp programing. See
http://common-lisp.net/project/slime/. ]

[2] For the record, the commenter I agree the most with is the one who
said the problem basically boils down to an IDE issue. SLIME doesn't
cut it, either, as beautiful as SLIME is. Can't use it on Windows to
save your life, for instance. But that's one of a thousand problems
with the Lisp IDE situation; it's pointless to try to discuss them all
in blogger. It's probably pointless to discuss them at all, because
it's just going to make me more miserable that no decent IDE exists for
Lisp, except for Emacs-as-Elisp-IDE. Which is why I get my Lisp fix by
hacking elisp these days.

----
This post is archived at:
http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/04/software-needs-philosophers.html

and
http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/_p/software_phil.html

This essay is reported with permission.

Xah
x...@xahlee.org
http://xahlee.org/

PofN

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May 21, 2006, 5:49:45 AM5/21/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:
> Software needs philosophers.

No, software neds less idiots. So please take your medication and
change profession.

Mark Shelor

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May 21, 2006, 8:49:04 AM5/21/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:

> Programming languages are religions. For a long while now I've been
> mildly uncomfortable calling it “religion”, but I don't feel bad
> about it anymore. They're similar enough. At the top of the language
> religion is the language itself; it serves as the deity and the object
> of worship.


Programmers often display religious devotion to their chosen
language(s). But that's a reflection of the programmer, not of the
language.

Programming languages are nothing more than instruments: a means for
describing the process of computation. Any given language has no
meaning or significance above and beyond its use as an instrument for
describing and performing computations.

What's the need for religion or mysticism, other than to impart false
importance to problems that are already well-understood? There's no
measurable value or progress in such an endeavor. Instrumentalism is a
more constructive path.


> Problem is, each time you switch religions, the next one has less
> impact on you. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, they say. I don't
> know what that means for me, since I was raised by the
> assembly-language wolf, but it appears to mean that I'm never going to
> be enthralled with another programming language. And now that I've
> swallowed the red pill, what choice do I have? I need to try to show
> people what's out there.


Is there really something new out there? I would argue that software
needs innovation more than it needs philosophers.

Mark

co...@zedat.fu-berlin.de

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May 21, 2006, 10:13:17 AM5/21/06
to
In comp.lang.perl.misc Xah Lee <x...@xahlee.org> wrote:

: the way through the Software Dark Ages we're in today: a time that will

Wrong. We live in a paradise of ideas and possibilities well beyond the
wildest dreams of only 20 years ago.

: But I've failed. This isn't the essay I wanted to write, because I'm


: neither a great thinker nor a great writer.

Finally you got _something_ right.

Anyway, unless ($your_text=m/\b[Pp]erl\b/) {print "Completely OT."}

Sorry for feeding the unspeakable, Oliver.


--
Dr. Oliver Corff e-mail: co...@zedat.fu-berlin.de

SamFeltus

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May 21, 2006, 11:26:21 AM5/21/06
to
Religious Fanaticism is a very strong in the Computer community. But,
is it really a surprise that when a bunch of hairless apes created a
new mental world, they created it with a complicated Quilt of religions
and nationalities, and many became fanatical?

I am confidant the responces Xah will recieve will validate his
observation on religious fanaticism. It is funny, Xah always questions
people's Sacred Cow's, I have often noted that the reponces often read
like the writings of religious fanatics. As a Georgian (US), the
responces often remind me of the Dark Side (there is a Light) of the
Southern Baptist Church, translated into Computer Speak.

Software needs philosophers is an interesting point, perhaps the most
important function of Philosophers is exposing Sacred Cows as just
Cattle.

---
Sam the Gardener
http://SamFeltus.com
http://SonomaSunshine.com

Dražen Gemić

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May 21, 2006, 12:18:22 PM5/21/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:
> Software Needs Philosophers
>

Welcome to my junk filters !!!!

DG

M Jared Finder

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May 21, 2006, 12:34:44 PM5/21/06
to

Finally, someone else who sees that Xah's posts consistently expose
valid problems! (Though his solutions are usually not well thought out.)

-- MJF

Pascal Bourguignon

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May 21, 2006, 12:52:25 PM5/21/06
to
"SamFeltus" <s...@nuevageorgia.com> writes:
> Software needs philosophers is an interesting point, perhaps the most
> important function of Philosophers is exposing Sacred Cows as just
> Cattle.

As I see it philosophers have a big problem: nobody need them, so
they're out of job. That's why we see occasional articles "X needs
philosophers". I just ask: where are the job offers?


--
__Pascal_Bourguignon__ _ Software patents are endangering
() ASCII ribbon against html email (o_ the computer industry all around
/\ 1962:DO20I=1.100 //\ the world http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/
2001:my($f)=`fortune`; V_/ http://petition.eurolinux.org/

Ilias Lazaridis

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May 21, 2006, 1:20:05 PM5/21/06
to
Mark Shelor wrote:
> Xah Lee wrote:
>
>> Programming languages are religions. For a long while now I've been
...

...


> Is there really something new out there? I would argue that software
> needs innovation more than it needs philosophers.

software needs innovation.

innovation needs philosophy.

philosophy needs openness.

-

For readers which like a more compact overview of LISP (and its
surrounding community):

"Showcase for: how the "human factor" can negate, eliminate and even
reverse the evolution of a Programming Language System."

http://lazaridis.com/core/eval/lisp.html

-

Note: the results of this reviews are currently moved into several
projects:

http://lazaridis.com/pj

http://case.lazaridis.com/multi

.

--
http://lazaridis.com

Tel A.

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May 21, 2006, 1:26:32 PM5/21/06
to
Xah,

I agree with the thrust of your thread here, though I don't think it's
anything special: people invest their values in what they invest their
time in. To top it off, you're taking an anti-CL viewpoint in a group
predominantly focused around CL (despite being named for just lisp).
You're fighting against group polarization even as you fuel it.

Nevertheless, I agree with your point.

Unfortunately, I think you need to look closer into the philosophy of
your own writing. Rhetoric might not produce definitive answers, but it
has a purpose.

If you're looking for a place to openly criticize lisp, to search for
ways to improve it or to craft an alternative then, simply and without
malevolence, look somewhere else. That is the frustrated plea of those
who respond violently to your posts. C.l.l. isn't so versatile;
however, I'm sure the people here are if you approach the problem from
the right angle, with the right rhetoric.

Good luck.

Philippe Martin

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May 21, 2006, 2:48:53 PM5/21/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:

> Software Needs Philosophers
>
> by Steve Yegge, 2006-04-15.
>
> Software needs philosophers.
>
> This thought has been nagging at me for a year now, and recently it's
> been growing like a tumor. One that plenty of folks on the 'net would
> love to see kill me.
>
> People don't put much stock in philosophers these days. The popular
> impression of philosophy is that it's just rhetoric, just frivolous

> debating about stuff that can never properly be answered. ?Spare me
> the philosophy; let's stick to the facts!?

> that I drop dead. To be sure, they qualified it with ?on the
> internet?. But if they really feel that way, especially about


> something as hilariously and absurdly unimportant in the Grand Scheme
> as whether the Lisp programming language has any acceptable
> implementations, then what does it say about us?
>
> Everyone who commented angrily on that blog entry was caught. I caught
> you, anonymous or not, being a religious fanatic. The only

> ?negative? commenter who doesn't appear to be a religious zombie


> was Paul Costanza (ironic, since he claims to be the opinionated one),
> who relegated his comments to pedantic technical corrections. They're
> welcome, of course; I'm always looking to correct any technical
> misconceptions I harbor. But they're moot, since even if I was wrong
> about every single technical point I brought up in that entry, my

> overall point ? Lisp is not an acceptable Lisp ? remains largely


> uncontested by the commenters.
>
> Some of them just don't get it, which is fine; no harm in that. If
> you've been using Lisp for years and years, and you've written books
> and articles and zillions of lines of Lisp code, then you're unlikely
> to remember anything about what it's like coming to Lisp for the first
> time. They're religious because they've forgotten what it's like to be
> a skeptic.
>
> But make no mistake; a substantial percentage of people who take a side
> in any programming language discussion that devolves into a flamewar
> know exactly what the other side means, and they want to invoke the
> Ultimate Censorship: drop dead! Killing someone, after all, is one of
> the best ways to silence them. You also have to burn all their
> writings, which is getting harder these days; hence the increased
> vehemence on the 'net.
>
> Those of you who've followed what I've written over the past year or so
> know where I'm going. I'm taking a stand, all right, and it's a very
> definite one. I'm finding myself drawn inexorably towards a single
> goal: stamping out technological religion, because I'm frigging tired
> of not being able to stick to the facts.
>
> FACT: Java has no first-class functions and no macros. This results in
> warped code that hacks around the problem, and as the code base grows,
> it takes on a definite, ugly shape, one that's utterly unique to Java.
> Lisp people can see this clear as day. So can Python folks, so can Ruby

> folks. Java people flip out, and say ?macros are too much power?,
> or ?what do u mean i dont understand u? or ?fuck you, you jerk,
> Lisp will NEVER win?.


>
> You think I don't hear ALL that, and much more, in the hate mail I get
> every day?
>
> I sure wouldn't want to be alone with a Java fanatic in a medieval
> torture chamber, because God only knows what they're capable of.
>
> Turn the mirror towards Python, and what happens? Funny, but the Java

> folks will mail me saying: ?yeah, I've always known I detested
> Python, and you really nailed exactly why. Thanks!? Meanwhile, Python
> folks are literally frothing at the mouth, looking for the ?Kill That
> Bastard? key on their 101-key keyboards.


>
> I turned the mirror towards Lisp yesterday. Had to go to the bathroom
> like nobody's business, and my wife was expecting me home any minute,
> so I rushed it out: just a few thoughts here and there. So the Gorgon
> only caught the tiniest glimpse of itself, but hell evidently hath no
> fury like that of a Lisper scorned, and all that.
>
> It doesn't matter that I rushed it out. I'm glad I did; spending any

> more time on it, trying to get it ?right? by looking up useless

> which ?natural religion? has, by and large, been marginalized


> through the work of philosophers.

> [ ? Peter Siebel is the author of the book Practical Common Lisp,


> 2005. ( http://gigamonkeys.com/book/).]
>
> Let's look at this world in a little more detail, starting with Peter
> Siebel's comment, which I believe is the most interesting. Peter said:
>
> I was trying to figure out why on earth you spent so much time
> writing about something that you apparently don't like. Then it hit me:

> HCGS?. So thanks for your help.


>
> His first sentence speaks volumes about the sociology. His viewpoint is
> exactly what they teach us all as kids: If you don't have anything nice
> to say, don't say anything at all. We like to think people have a right
> to believe whatever they want, and that it's not nice to say mean
> things about other people's beliefs, especially when their livelihoods
> are at stake.
>
> That's where philosophers come in, folks. They pick your beliefs apart
> and show you in unforgettable ways the consequences of what you believe
> in. I'm no philosopher; I know basically nothing about it, but I can
> tell you I wish fervently that some great philosophers would come along
> and effect change in our technical society.
>
> Because if nothing else, I can see the consequences of the way we're
> thinking about things. One of many such consequences is that languages
> aren't getting any better, and the worst offenders are Lisp and Scheme,
> which by rights should be racing along the innovation curve faster than
> their supposedly less capable peers. But they've stagnated worse than
> any other non-dead language I can think of.[1]
>
> Programming languages are religions. For a long while now I've been

> mildly uncomfortable calling it ?religion?, but I don't feel bad


> about it anymore. They're similar enough. At the top of the language
> religion is the language itself; it serves as the deity and the object
> of worship.
>
> Like any other organized religion, there's always a Pope (or a
> politburo chairman, in countries where the government has brutally set
> itself up as what is for all intents the religion of choice): a
> spiritual leader that gives the religion the human touch. This person
> is almost always the language designer, of course. In Lisp's case it's
> complicated, because McCarthy, Sussman and Steele aren't very active as
> spiritual leaders for their languages anymore.
>
> Every major organized religion is a heirarchical government, and
> programming languages are no exception. You'll find equivalents of
> cardinals, bishops, priests and laity in programming language camps:
> the closer you are to the fire, to the spiritual center, the higher
> your rank. It's a great way to quantify your perceived self-importance:
> a high-score list, in effect. Great for the ego, but it makes you a
> piss-poor debater, because you're so emotionally invested in your
> status.
>
> You'd think your rank would be accrued by virtue of your technical
> and/or documentation contributions, but in practice it's usually more
> of a function of how many converts you've gained, how many followers
> you have, how much you've been spreading the Word.
>

> [? Paul Graham is a lisp dignitary. He is well known for having sold


> his ecommerce software written in lisp to Yahoo.com for $49.9 million,

> among other things. See Paul Graham? and http://www.paulgraham.com/ ]


>
> That's why Paul Graham isn't the Pope of Lisp. He's eminently
> qualified, but unfortunately he's a heretic. Notice that almost none of
> the commenters on my last blog mentioned the PG argument I made. The
> only one who did (as of this writing) tried to make it an argument for
> Common Lisp. Let's face it: you can't give those heretics too much
> press; people might start listening to them!
>
> Peter, are you beginning to understand why I write so much about
> something I apparently don't like? It's because I wanted to like it but
> found it fatally flawed, technically and culturally. It's as if I were
> a would-be convert to Roman Catholicism, but I can't bring myself to
> commit because I've seen too much of their role in creating a history
> that ironically we all wish we could rewrite.
>
> I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and I renounced it when I was
> thirteen years old, after my Uncle Frank (a devout terrorist Catholic
> if there ever was one) told me to stop reading the Bible, that it would

> ?really screw a person up? to do that, that you needed someone to


> interpret it for you. That wasn't the only reason I renounced it, but
> it'll suffice for our purposes.
>
> Technologically I was born and raised an assembly-language programmer;
> at least that's what my first real job was, for 5 years after I got my
> CS degree. Assembly is just flagellation, though, and damned
> uncomfortable at that, so I joined the Church of Java for fully seven
> years. And practically at the very moment I'd finally tired of chafing
> at Java's limitations, Paul Graham came along and through his early
> essays, showed me Lisp. What a great new religion!
>
> Problem is, each time you switch religions, the next one has less
> impact on you. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, they say. I don't
> know what that means for me, since I was raised by the
> assembly-language wolf, but it appears to mean that I'm never going to
> be enthralled with another programming language. And now that I've
> swallowed the red pill, what choice do I have? I need to try to show
> people what's out there.
>
> Interestingly, it was Peter Siebel's most excellent book, Practical

> Common Lisp?, that played the role of Uncle Frank and killed my


> desired to continue with Common Lisp. Peter was the first person to
> show me beast's underbelly. Every other Lisp book had pretended it was
> pure and beautiful and uncorrupted, because they left all the nastiness

> out as ?implementation-defined?. Once I saw what you really need to


> do in order to build something resembling a portable Lisp code base,
> and then had a few runs at it myself, I threw in the towel.
>
> I much prefer Lisp the idea to Lisp the implementation.[2]
>

> [ ? Fyodor_Dostoyevsky?, David_Hume?, Aristotle?,
> Jean-Paul_Sartre?, Ben_Franklin?, Galileo_Galilei?,
> Bertrand_Russell?, Albert_Einstein? ]


>
> I can tell you this: I've tried writing this essay for a year. I've
> tried fully a dozen times. I've tackled it from a dozen angles. I've

> wanted to say it ? software needs philosophers! ? so many times, in
> so many ways. We need great thinkers ? the Fyodor Dostoyevskys and


> David Humes and Aristotles and Jean-Paul Sartres and Ben Franklins and
> Galileo Galileis and Bertrand Russells and Albert Einsteins to show us
> the way through the Software Dark Ages we're in today: a time that will
> doubtless be remembered as every bit as mired in darkness and ignorance
> as the Dark Ages themselves.
>
> But I've failed. This isn't the essay I wanted to write, because I'm
> neither a great thinker nor a great writer. However, you might be: if
> not now, then perhaps someday. So I think it's better to get the idea
> out now than to hoard it in the hopes of someday writing a
> world-changing essay.
>
> For those of you who were surprised at the suddenness and vehemence of
> the Lisp community's backlash to my little rant, I hope I've helped
> shed a little light, helped you see its inevitability. Basically
> they've had a lot of practice. Lisp is one of the oldest technology
> religions, and they've both experienced and doled out their share of
> religious persecution.
>
> But that's not the lesson you should take away. The lesson is that they
> are you. Whenever you hear someone ranting about something you take for
> granted as wonderful and praiseworthy, and you're wondering why they
> don't leave well enough alone so we can all get back to our incestuous
> cheerleading, just remember: we went from the Dark Ages to our
> reeeeasonably enlightened society today by questioning our most
> cherished beliefs.
>
> So keep questioning them.
>

> [ ? R6RS refers to the Scheme Lisp language's upcoming specification.
> See Scheme programming language? ]


>
> [1] Yes, I've read all of R6RS. It's a lukewarm compromise that punts
> on most of the important issues. It's not going to make Scheme any more
> successful than it is today, which to me feels practically criminal; it
> was their one big chance to break out of the rut they're in. But it
> doesn't matter. Let's pretend this footnote is just a troll. If your
> hackles went up, then you're a techno-religious zombie, and I hope in
> my lifetime to find you a cure. Try your best to think about that long
> and hard before responding.
>

> [ ? SLIME is a emacs mode for lisp programing. See


> http://common-lisp.net/project/slime/. ]
>
> [2] For the record, the commenter I agree the most with is the one who
> said the problem basically boils down to an IDE issue. SLIME doesn't
> cut it, either, as beautiful as SLIME is. Can't use it on Windows to
> save your life, for instance. But that's one of a thousand problems
> with the Lisp IDE situation; it's pointless to try to discuss them all
> in blogger. It's probably pointless to discuss them at all, because
> it's just going to make me more miserable that no decent IDE exists for
> Lisp, except for Emacs-as-Elisp-IDE. Which is why I get my Lisp fix by
> hacking elisp these days.
>
> ----
> This post is archived at:
> http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/04/software-needs-philosophers.html
>
> and
> http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/_p/software_phil.html
>
> This essay is reported with permission.
>
> Xah
> x...@xahlee.org

> ? http://xahlee.org/


No Xah :-) many of us want you to stay healthy !

Philippe

Burton Samograd

unread,
May 21, 2006, 3:17:55 PM5/21/06
to
Pascal Bourguignon <p...@informatimago.com> writes:

> "SamFeltus" <s...@nuevageorgia.com> writes:
>> Software needs philosophers is an interesting point, perhaps the most
>> important function of Philosophers is exposing Sacred Cows as just
>> Cattle.
>
> As I see it philosophers have a big problem: nobody need them, so
> they're out of job. That's why we see occasional articles "X needs
> philosophers". I just ask: where are the job offers?

Some might think that Aristotle's categorization and type theories
might have created a few jobs in our current hobby/profession. There
are many types of philosophy, but from what I've read, the most
interesting the the mental deconstructionism of reality on a
humanistic linguistic level, similar to mathematics without all the
abbreviations.

No, there aren't any jobs for philosophers, and their works are
generally very underappreciated during thier lives, but it's quite
difficult to say that it's useless, just often misunderstood by the
less forward thinking people of their time.

--
burton samograd kruhft .at. gmail
kruhft.blogspot.com www.myspace.com/kruhft metashell.blogspot.com

Edward Elliott

unread,
May 21, 2006, 3:18:57 PM5/21/06
to
Philippe Martin wrote:

> No Xah :-) many of us want you to stay healthy !
>
> Philippe

Please don't quote 350 lines of garbage to post a one-line reply. In fact,
please don't quote 350 lines of garbage at all.

--
Edward Elliott
UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)
complangpython at eddeye dot net

nikie

unread,
May 21, 2006, 7:38:34 PM5/21/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:

> Software Needs Philosophers
>
> by Steve Yegge, 2006-04-15.
>
> Software needs philosophers.
>
> This thought has been nagging at me for a year now, and recently it's
> been growing like a tumor. One that plenty of folks on the 'net would
> love to see kill me.

No, we all wish you a long and quiet life! Although some of us are a
little annoyed that you keep cross-posting articles wildly to
completely unrelated newsgroups...

> People don't put much stock in philosophers these days. The popular
> impression of philosophy is that it's just rhetoric, just frivolous
> debating about stuff that can never properly be answered. "Spare me
> the philosophy; let's stick to the facts!"
>
> The funny thing is, it's philosophers who gave us the ability to think
> rationally, to stick to the facts. If it weren't for the work of
> countless philosophers, facts would still be getting people tortured
> and killed for discovering and sharing them.
>
> Does it ever strike you as just a teeny bit odd that after a brief
> period where philosophy flourished, from maybe 400 B.C.E. to ~100 C.E.,
> we went through a follow-on period of well over one thousand five
> hundred years during which the Roman Catholic Church enslaved
> everyone's minds and killed anyone who dared think differently?

I wonder where you get your historical "facts" form? (Monty Python
movies?) Let's just add a few fun facts: Yes, philosophy did flourish
in ancient greece, but liberty certainly didn't. Yes, Athens was (at
least most of the time) a democracy - which by the way, most
philosophers thought was a very bad thing. But still, about 90% of the
population of Athens were slaves at that time. Not just "mentally
enslaved", no, real, physical slaves.
Also, it was dangerous to have oppinions that authorities didn't like
(Socrates for example was sentenced to death because of impiety,
Anaxagoras and Aristoteles had to flee because of similar charges,
Hipposus, who _proved_ a flaw in Pythagoras' number theory was
drowned). And, sad to say, if philosophers would have been in charge,
things would probably have been even worse (Ever read Plato's "The
State"?)

Also, has the roman catholic church really "killed anyone who dared
think differently"? The Spanish Inquisition for example killed about
1000-2000 people in two centuries. That's bad enough, no question, but
"anyone who dared think differently"? Hardly.

> What's weirder is that we tend to pretend it didn't really happen. We
> like to just skip right over the dominance of religion over our minds
> for a hundred generations, and think of religion today as a kindly old
> grandpa who's just looking out for us kids. No harm, no foul. Let
> bygones be bygones. Sure, there were massacres and crusades and
> genocides and torture chambers with teeth grinding and eyes bleeding
> and intestines torn out in the name of God. But we were all just kids
> then, right? Nobody does that kind of thing today, at least not in
> civilized countries.

Hmmm. There were massacres in the name of liberty to, e.g. in the
French Revolution. Does that make liberty (and those who value it)
equally evil? (The same is of course true for money, love, or probably
anything else people like)

> We try not to think about the uncivilized ones.

We do! Let's think about some of them: The Khmers rouges come to my
mind, also China, and a few years back the Soviet Union. Notice
something? Right, no religion. In fact, they were more or less
following the works of the philosopher Karl Marx.

> It was philosophers that got us out of that Dark Ages mess, and no
> small number of them lost their lives in doing so.

In the "Dark Ages" pretty much the only chance to get a decent
education was to become a monk or at least be taught by monks. So, it
isn't surprising that almost all of the philosophers at the time (like
William of Occam or Roger Bacon) were monks. Therefore, philosophy was
never clearly separated from theology during that time.

The end of the middle ages is probably marked by the renaissance and
the reformation, the latter of course started by a priest.

What have we learned? Yes, Religion was an important power in the
development of europe over the last 3000 years (yes, I'm including the
Antiquity in this, it didn't just take a break to watch the philosophy
channel). So were money, and military power, technology, social
factors, and of course philosophy. Yes, it did have bad consequences,
and it did have good ones. The same is true for all the other powers as
well.

(BTW: Have you ever considered the possibility that philosophers might
not be interested in tab-versus-spaces-debates in the first place?
Maybe they have more interesting matters to discuss. Just like the rest
of us.)

Mumia W.

unread,
May 21, 2006, 8:01:35 PM5/21/06
to
M Jared Finder wrote:
> SamFeltus wrote:
>> [...]

>> Software needs philosophers is an interesting point, perhaps the most
>> important function of Philosophers is exposing Sacred Cows as just
>> Cattle.
>
> Finally, someone else who sees that Xah's posts consistently expose
> valid problems! (Though his solutions are usually not well thought out.)
>
> -- MJF

I agree, Xah's articles make you think. Although in this case, it's a
blog article by Steve Yegge that Xah evidently got permission to post.

Software *does* need philosophers, but the more I think about the
implications of that, the more I think it's scary.

David Steuber

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May 21, 2006, 8:15:08 PM5/21/06
to
"PofN" <7a...@sogetthis.com> writes:

Perhaps fewer would do.

--
http://www.david-steuber.com/
1998 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport
2006 Honda 599 Hornet (CB600F) x 2 Crash & Slider
The lithobraker. Zero distance stops at any speed.

jab3

unread,
May 21, 2006, 9:43:49 PM5/21/06
to
SamFeltus wrote:

Unless Xah Lee is Steve Yegge, Xah Lee did not write that essay. Nor did he
claim to:

> Software Needs Philosophers

> by Steve Yegge, 2006-04-15.

<....>

alex23

unread,
May 21, 2006, 10:08:05 PM5/21/06
to
As a professionally trained "philosopher" and "programmer", I'm
perfectly well aware that the onus is on _me_ to make others respect &
appreciate my skills and what they offer. Posting to usenet about how
others just don't "get it" is, in fact, not "getting it".

Even further, using "religion" as the antithesis to the glorious
philosophy which produces only truth makes this little more than the
standard net rant of "your way is different from mine and therefore
wrong". I can just as easily use "philosophy" to mean "the pointless
rantings of obsessed individuals"...

Seriously, this fails on every single level it aims at.

- alex23

Jeffrey Schwab

unread,
May 22, 2006, 12:03:35 AM5/22/06
to
David Steuber wrote:
> "PofN" <7a...@sogetthis.com> writes:
>
>> Xah Lee wrote:
>>> Software needs philosophers.
>> No, software neds less idiots. So please take your medication and
>> change profession.
>
> Perhaps fewer would do.

Thank you. I didn't want to be "that guy."

Mumia W.

unread,
May 22, 2006, 4:03:31 AM5/22/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:
> Software Needs Philosophers
>
> by Steve Yegge, 2006-04-15.
>
> Software needs philosophers.
>
> [...]> ? http://xahlee.org/
>

Remember that this was a blog post from Steve Yegge that Xah
Lee got permission to repost.

It was a little long, and I got bored in the middle, but I
think I understand (a little) Steve's point. He thinks we need
software philosophers to break programmers' religious-like
devotion to their languages of choice. I don't agree with
this.

I'd say we need software philosophers to help us see where
software is taking us so that we can avoid bad spots if
necessary. After all, the computer might just be the cotton
gin of our time. We might be virtually enslaved by
our own information if we don't watch out.

Philosophers have the ability to think long, to think big,
and to think about the future, and to think about the
consequences of actions in a rational manner. They would be
able to warn us if we were about to do something stupid with
our society.

However, Steve Yegge's software philosophers only serve to
eliminate programmer's passions for their programming
languages. While removing irrational beliefs is a good
thing, I see Yegge's philosophers moving through the
software industry, destroying everyone's passions for
programming, and, as a result, the software industry is
destroyed.

It's scary the way I see it. On the other hand, I support
rational thinking, and part of supporting rational thinking
is (presumably) having the courage to support rational
thinking even when the results are not to your immediate
liking. IOW, I have to support something that scares the
bejeebers out of me.

Yet on the other, other hand, if people think rationally,
the quality of life can only improve. Boy, am I confused :)

Fortunately, people have their passions, for both
programming and life, and that's not going to change anytime
soon. If it does, it'll be a very gray world indeed.

Thanks again Xah for getting these brain cells working
again.

Mirco Wahab

unread,
May 22, 2006, 4:01:54 AM5/22/06
to
after all, somebody dumped some
backup of his brain to use-net:

> Software Needs Philosophers
> by Steve Yegge, 2006-04-15.

including lots of personal details.

So what I basically took from it
is written in this paragraph:

> I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and I renounced it when I was
> thirteen years old, after my Uncle Frank (a devout terrorist Catholic
> if there ever was one) told me to stop reading the Bible, that it would
> “really screw a person up” to do that, that you needed someone to
> interpret it for you. That wasn't the only reason I renounced it, but
> it'll suffice for our purposes.

Under 'best effort interpretation', one could see
the whole thing in the light of the small thing:
he's rescuing 'us' by telling us:
- to think rational,
- to de-construct our beliefs and
- don't put that much personal sympathy into
'subculture group pseudoreligion',
the latter is what he thinks 'computer language culture'
really is today.

I can't see what's wrong with these hypotheses
(besides he got some terms wrong); he describes
things we most probably are already aware of
(in our own context of notions) - but wouldn't
bother to fill the communication lines of the
world with it (wouldn't give a damn about ...)

(my €0.05)

Mirco

f'up ==> c.l.p.m

Matt Garrish

unread,
May 22, 2006, 9:58:23 AM5/22/06
to

"Mumia W." <mumia.w.18....@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:nfecg.192$Sf2...@newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net...

Thank you for that laugh. I think you're the first person I've read in this
century who advocates Plato's silly notion of the philosopher kings. If you
want to talk philosophy, please jump foward past the Enlightment.

Matt


vjg

unread,
May 22, 2006, 2:08:23 PM5/22/06
to

nikie wrote:
>
> (BTW: Have you ever considered the possibility that philosophers might
> not be interested in tab-versus-spaces-debates in the first place?
> Maybe they have more interesting matters to discuss. Just like the rest
> of us.)

Debate? There's no valid dabate. Tabs bad. Spaces good.

Timo Stamm

unread,
May 22, 2006, 5:59:18 PM5/22/06
to
Dražen Gemić schrieb:

> Xah Lee wrote:
>> Software Needs Philosophers
>>
>
> Welcome to my junk filters !!!!


Thanks for informing each and every reader of the newsgroups
comp.lang.perl.misc, comp.lang.python, comp.lang.java.programmer,
comp.lang.lisp, comp.lang.function about your junk filters.


Timo

Dražen Gemić

unread,
May 22, 2006, 7:18:41 PM5/22/06
to

Anytime......

DG

John Bokma

unread,
May 22, 2006, 7:23:50 PM5/22/06
to
fupto: poster

Dražen Gemić <use...@local.machine> wrote:

Instead of adding Xah to your junk filter, you might want to complain with
his ISP: abuse at sbcglobal dot net

Hosting provider has already taken steps

Google Groups might not care, but its worth a try. The more people
complain, the faster Xah has to hop ISPs and providers, and maybe one day
he understand that shitting in your garden costs money.

--
John Bokma Freelance software developer
&
Experienced Perl programmer: http://castleamber.com/

Dan Mercer

unread,
May 22, 2006, 8:03:25 PM5/22/06
to

"nikie" <n.es...@gmx.de> wrote in message news:1148254714.6...@y43g2000cwc.googlegroups.com...
: Xah Lee wrote:
:
:
: I wonder where you get your historical "facts" form? (Monty Python

: movies?) Let's just add a few fun facts: Yes, philosophy did flourish
: in ancient greece, but liberty certainly didn't. Yes, Athens was (at
: least most of the time) a democracy - which by the way, most
: philosophers thought was a very bad thing. But still, about 90% of the
: population of Athens were slaves at that time. Not just "mentally
: enslaved", no, real, physical slaves.

Small quibble - while only 10% of the population were citizens,
by no means were the rest all slaves. The other 90% were children,
women, metoikoi (a commercial class of free men of foreign birth
who paid for the right to live in Athens) and house slaves.
Most Athenian slaves lived in the country.
: Also, it was dangerous to have oppinions that authorities didn't like


: (Socrates for example was sentenced to death because of impiety,
: Anaxagoras and Aristoteles had to flee because of similar charges,
: Hipposus, who _proved_ a flaw in Pythagoras' number theory was
: drowned).

Which should act as a warning to all who employ the Socratic Method. Sadly,
it doesn't.

Dan Mercer


Edward Elliott

unread,
May 22, 2006, 9:15:05 PM5/22/06
to
Dan Mercer wrote:

> "nikie" <n.es...@gmx.de> wrote:
> : Also, it was dangerous to have oppinions that authorities didn't like
> : (Socrates for example was sentenced to death because of impiety,
> : Anaxagoras and Aristoteles had to flee because of similar charges,
> : Hipposus, who _proved_ a flaw in Pythagoras' number theory was
> : drowned).
>
> Which should act as a warning to all who employ the Socratic Method.
> Sadly, it doesn't.

Tell that to law professors. Socratic method is a way of life.

John D Salt

unread,
May 23, 2006, 9:58:12 AM5/23/06
to
<co...@zedat.fu-berlin.de> wrote in news:4dbartF...@uni-berlin.de:

[Snips]


> Wrong. We live in a paradise of ideas and possibilities well beyond the
> wildest dreams of only 20 years ago.

What exciting new ideas exist in software that are both important and
cannot be traced back to 1986 or earlier?

I'd like to believe that there are some, but I can't think of any at the
moment.

All the best,

John.

Xah Lee

unread,
May 24, 2006, 4:29:37 AM5/24/06
to
I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
controversial writings and style, recently John Bokma lobbied people to
complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few emails, my
web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation notice last
Friday.

I'm not sure I will be able to keep using their service, but I do hope
so. I do not like to post off-topic messages, but this is newsgroup
incidence is getting out of hand, and I wish people to know about it.

I wrote some full detail here:
http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/t2/harassment.html

If you believe this lobbying to my webhosting provider is unjust,
please write to my web hosting provider ab...@dreamhost.com

Your help is appreciated. Thank you.

Xah
x...@xahlee.org
http://xahlee.org/

Erik Max Francis

unread,
May 24, 2006, 4:39:34 AM5/24/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:

> I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
> controversial writings and style, recently John Bokma lobbied people to
> complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few emails, my
> web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation notice last
> Friday.

It's not simply harassment if your ISP considers it a TOS violation.
You did something, it was reported to your ISP, your ISP considered it a
violation of their TOS, were warned, failed to comply and continued
doing it, and now are suffering the consequences. Should this really be
any surprise to you?

This has nothing to do with whether you feel that the complaint or the
judgement against you was "right" -- this has happened before; this is
familiar territory for you. If you do something, your ISP tells you not
to do it anymore, and then you continue doing it, why should you be
surprised at the inevitable outcome? (I'm impressed they're giving you
a 30-day notice, quite frankly ... I'm sure you'll "take advantage" of it.)

> I'm not sure I will be able to keep using their service, but I do hope
> so. I do not like to post off-topic messages, but this is newsgroup
> incidence is getting out of hand, and I wish people to know about it.

Apart from the obvious fact of you being a general tool, why would you
_want_ to consider continuing to use their service if you felt that they
were cutting you off unfairly?

The alternative is that you're not surprised by this action and are
simply trying to spin things in your favor.

--
Erik Max Francis && m...@alcyone.com && http://www.alcyone.com/max/
San Jose, CA, USA && 37 20 N 121 53 W && AIM erikmaxfrancis
The woman's movement is no longer a cause but a symptom.
-- Joan Didion

Dag Sunde

unread,
May 24, 2006, 5:14:50 AM5/24/06
to
"Xah Lee" <x...@xahlee.org> skrev i melding
news:1148459377.3...@j73g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

> I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
> controversial writings and style, recently John Bokma lobbied people to
> complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few emails, my
> web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation notice last
> Friday.

The solution to your problem is very simple:

Stop posting your "controversial writings and style" to public
newgroups, and keep them on your web-server where they belong.

<snipped />

--
Dag.


ilit...@gmail.com

unread,
May 24, 2006, 5:39:48 AM5/24/06
to

Xah Lee schreef:

We seem to have strayed a long way from Voltaire's
"I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your
right to say it.",
but that was of course the age of enlightenment.
Immanuel

Ant

unread,
May 24, 2006, 5:43:03 AM5/24/06
to
>From my point of view, this issue has two sides:

1) Xah is posting to the newgroups valid topics for discussion - if
some find these controversial, then all the better: it means that the
topic has provoked some thought. You only need to look at the quantity
of Xah's threads to see how popular they are (even if you filter out
the "you're in my kill file", or "plonk" style spam that some people
feel the need to post)

2) Xah cross posted the posts to several newsgroups he has an interest
in.

Now this second point should be the only factor for reporting him to
his ISP. Given that it has gone this far, wouldn't it be fair to give
the guy a break on the condition that if he wants to post to a variety
of newgroups, that he does it individually rather than as a cross post?

--
Ant...

Ian Wilson

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May 24, 2006, 6:29:07 AM5/24/06
to
ilit...@gmail.com wrote:
> Xah Lee schreef:
>
>> <snip: plea for sympathy after being reported to ISP for persistent off-topic postings>

Which reminds me of
http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#not_losing

> We seem to have strayed a long way from Voltaire's
> "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your
> right to say it.",

I don't think we have. Surely Voltaire didn't support speaking in
inappropriate fora? He didn't support causing a public nuisance?

Would you lay down *your* life to defend Xah's "right" to wallpaper your
street, your church, your school with printed essays about his personal
obsessions?

In societies with a right to free speech, there are limits on where and
how you may exercise that right. For example, you don't have a right to
force any newspaper or TV station to publish your speech.

Xah's ISP can decide whether their terms of service provide Xah with a
"right" to publish anything he wishes through their facilities
regardless of established standards of appropriateness.

Alan

unread,
May 24, 2006, 6:35:19 AM5/24/06
to
With apologies to Voltaire:
If Xah Lee did not exist, it would be necessary for John Bokma to
invent him.

Xah and Bokma are both idiots, they truly deserve each other. The
sooner you killfile these two clowns, the happier you'll be.

ilit...@gmail.com

unread,
May 24, 2006, 7:00:47 AM5/24/06
to
I agree there are limits to you right to free speech, but I believe Xah
Lee is not crossing
any boundaries. If he starts taking over newspapers and TV stations be
sure to notify me,
I might revise my position.
Immanuel

Ant

unread,
May 24, 2006, 7:06:07 AM5/24/06
to
> Surely Voltaire didn't support speaking in inappropriate fora?

Who knows? But the fora Xah posts to are few (5 or so?) and
appropriate. "Software needs Philosophers" wasn't even his rant, but
was certainly appropriate to all groups he posted to.

If you don't like Xah's posts, then don't read them. Killfile him or
whatever. But they *are* generally on-topic, they are not frequent,
they are not spam and they do seem to be intended to provoke discussion
rather than being simply trolls.

I have no particular affinity for Xah's views, but what does get up my
nose is usenet Nazism.

Alex Hunsley

unread,
May 24, 2006, 7:13:33 AM5/24/06
to
Xah Lee wrote:
> I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
> controversial writings and style, recently John Bokma lobbied people to
> complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few emails, my
> web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation notice last
> Friday.
>
> I'm not sure I will be able to keep using their service, but I do hope
> so.


> I do not like to post off-topic messages,

You don't? Then who has been forcing you to post off-topic essays? A man
with a gun?

> but this is newsgroup
> incidence is getting out of hand, and I wish people to know about it.

Nothing out of hand here. You are abusing usenet, and for once an ISP is
doing something prompt about it. More power them.

Robert Sedlacek

unread,
May 24, 2006, 7:18:53 AM5/24/06
to
In comp.lang.perl.misc Xah Lee <x...@xahlee.org> wrote

> I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
> controversial writings and style, recently John Bokma lobbied people to
> complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few emails, my
> web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation notice last
> Friday.

Look at it that way: People gave you criticisms numerous times in
various ways and many newsgroups. You ignored it. You just thought you
were right. Maybe you should read some of your posts on criticisms
yourself?

Just start taking the consequences of your actions.

As a side note, a big ++ to John and Dreamhost. I've sent a mail to DH
to thank them for taking these steps.


p

PS: This message just goes to cl.perl.misc.

--
Hear the chants of old powers, the weak fall on their swords.
Nature is above all morals, destiny a shameless whore.
-- Sol Invictus, Black Easter

Tim N. van der Leeuw

unread,
May 24, 2006, 7:29:09 AM5/24/06
to

Perhaps he's not crossing boundaries of free speech, but he's
repeatedly crossing boundaries on usenet nettiquette, even though
repeatedly he's being asked not to do so. (Extensive crossposting to
various usenetgroups / mailing lists, for instance).

If he would just post his stuff on a blog and find a why to get people
to visit hist blog, without crossposting to 10 usenest groups for each
post he makes to his blog, then nobody would mind him expressing his
opinions, and those interested could discuss them wildly on the blog.

But I've repeatedly seen people telling him not to crosspost his essays
to so many newsgroups, yet he continues doing it.
If that's enough to quit his subscription with his ISP I don't know,
but since I've stopped following threads originated by him I don't know
what other grounds there would be.

Cheers,

--Tim

Timo Stamm

unread,
May 24, 2006, 7:54:06 AM5/24/06
to
Tim N. van der Leeuw schrieb:

> ilit...@gmail.com wrote:
>> I agree there are limits to you right to free speech, but I believe Xah
>> Lee is not crossing
>> any boundaries. If he starts taking over newspapers and TV stations be
>> sure to notify me,
>> I might revise my position.
>> Immanuel
>
> Perhaps he's not crossing boundaries of free speech, but he's
> repeatedly crossing boundaries on usenet nettiquette, even though
> repeatedly he's being asked not to do so.

And repeatedly, others have encouraged him because they appreciate his
posts.


> but since I've stopped following threads originated by him

That's all you need to do if you are not interested in his posts.


Timo

Ben Bullock

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May 24, 2006, 8:45:25 AM5/24/06
to
"Xah Lee" <x...@xahlee.org> wrote in message
news:1148459377.3...@j73g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

> If you believe this lobbying to my webhosting provider is unjust,
> please write to my web hosting provider ab...@dreamhost.com

Why don't you just change your provider? It would take less time than this.

ols...@verizon.net

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May 24, 2006, 9:43:39 AM5/24/06
to

The trouble is there's no definitive definition of 'nettiquette' (and
no the RFC on nettiquette doesn't count). Should people get kicked off
of thier ISP for top posting? What about not asking 'smart' questions
as defined by Eric Raymond?

In addition, the people telling him not to cross-post don't really have
any authority. They're just random people on the internet. For
example, you've cross posted to several groups. I'm telling you to
stop. Of course I'm doing the same thing and you can feel free to
ignore me. I'm not the Supreme Master of comp.lang.python.

But I think you would agree that it would be harrassment if I went to
your ISP- nl.unisys.com - and said that you were abusing the internet
and 'spamming' the usenet, especially if you are a unisys employee (not
sure if they're a service provider over there, but I'm guessing not).
If I got a hold of the wrong person on the wrong day, you could lose
your job.

Xah is an crackpot, but he doesn't spam or mailbomb groups. And
besides, what fun would the usenet be without crackpots?

SamFeltus

unread,
May 24, 2006, 10:00:02 AM5/24/06
to
I was considering opening an account with Dreamhost. Can't say I agree
with all of Xah's writings, but they often raise important points.
Dreamhost is a company I will never spend money with. Usenet is full
of narrow minded group thinking that needs to be questioned.

George Sakkis

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May 24, 2006, 10:12:14 AM5/24/06
to
Alan wrote:

Well said, I couldn't put it better.

Eli Gottlieb

unread,
May 24, 2006, 10:13:11 AM5/24/06
to
Tim N. van der Leeuw wrote:
Who reads blogs? They're well known for housing crackpots far worse
than Xah, and I estimate he doesn't want to associate himself with that
sort.

--
The science of economics is the cleverest proof of free will yet
constructed.

Ken Tilton

unread,
May 24, 2006, 10:18:24 AM5/24/06
to

Tim N. van der Leeuw wrote:

> ilit...@gmail.com wrote:
>
>>I agree there are limits to you right to free speech, but I believe Xah
>>Lee is not crossing
>>any boundaries. If he starts taking over newspapers and TV stations be
>>sure to notify me,
>>I might revise my position.
>>Immanuel
>
>
> Perhaps he's not crossing boundaries of free speech, but he's
> repeatedly crossing boundaries on usenet nettiquette, even though
> repeatedly he's being asked not to do so.

This would be a more compelling argument if people on newsgroups
everywhere did not regularly carry on the most inane threads, often
off-topic to begin with, but mostly threads that stray from something
relevant to the NG to <insert just about anything>, ending only when
Hitler is reached.

And I am talking about NG regulars who really do usually talk about
stuff specific to the NG. Those are the worst spammers of c.l.l, anyway.

Xah's stuff, as wild as it is, is at least technical, and it is only an
article here and an article there.

John Bokma on the other hand.... well, I have to go write to the dorks
at dreamhost now.

kenny

Ken Tilton

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May 24, 2006, 10:22:28 AM5/24/06
to

Are you joking. "Just change your provider?" Do you have a little button
on your computer that says "Change provider"? Cool! :)

C'mon, John Bokma (and everyone else dumb enough to crosspost their
shushing to every group on the crosspost list -- why do they do that? So
Xah will hear them six times? No, they want everyone to see how witty
they are when they tell Xah off. Now /that/ is spam) is the problem.

kenny

--
Cells: http://common-lisp.net/project/cells/

"Have you ever been in a relationship?"
Attorney for Mary Winkler, confessed killer of her
minister husband, when asked if the couple had
marital problems.

Mitch

unread,
May 24, 2006, 10:34:23 AM5/24/06
to
ilit...@gmail.com wrote:
> Xah Lee schreef:
>
[...]

>>
>> If you believe this lobbying to my webhosting provider is unjust,
>> please write to my web hosting provider ab...@dreamhost.com
>>
>> Your help is appreciated. Thank you.
>>
>> Xah
>> x...@xahlee.org
>> ∑ http://xahlee.org/
>
> We seem to have strayed a long way from Voltaire's
> "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your
> right to say it.",
> but that was of course the age of enlightenment.
> Immanuel
>

I would have to say +1 for Voltaire. Xah has as much right to post to
the newsgroups as I do to skip over them. One of the reasons I enjoy
lurking on newsgroups is the passion with which a lot of you speak;
however, I do think there are a lot of short tempers flying around.
Perhaps its because you've been putting up with this guy a lot longer
than I have, but I can't imagine it takes that much effort to
skip/block/kill file his posts. It's his as much as anyone else's, and
all the while this is an unmoderated medium he has the *right* to say as
he pleases.


That said, if the ISP is kicking you off, it should be because you have
broken a TOC. IF you don't think that that is the case, then that is
your beef with them.

Secondarily, all these essays end up on your site anyway, so why post
the whole thing /again/ on the newsgroups when you could just link to
the page, perhaps with a brief summary. Will that not

A) still allow you to advertise the essays

B) Save resources rather than copying everything twice

and

C) Piss less people off?

I'm sure you aren't worried about pissing people off, but when it
results in you getting kicked from your ISP, this just seems so much
more sensible an answer.

My 2 cents.

P.S.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Summary) says:

<quote>
Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this
right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to
seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers.
</quote>
http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

This debate boils down to whether or not he has broken the ISP's TOCs,
nothing more.

bradb

unread,
May 24, 2006, 10:57:59 AM5/24/06
to

> C'mon, John Bokma (and everyone else dumb enough to crosspost their
> shushing to every group on the crosspost list -- why do they do that? So
> Xah will hear them six times? No, they want everyone to see how witty
> they are when they tell Xah off. Now /that/ is spam) is the problem.
>
> kenny

I agree. It is not Xah who is the problem, but the 200 replies to him
telling him to go away. Look at Xah's posting to replies ratio, it is
enormous - Xah is the ultimate troll and everything he posts turns into
huge threads. At c.l.l at least his threads are almost certainly the
longest by far.
The answer is easy, don't respond to his posts.

Cheers
Brad

(sigh, now I am one of the crossposting Xah repliers)

John Bokma

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:00:06 AM5/24/06
to
fup to poster

"Xah Lee" <x...@xahlee.org> wrote:

> I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
> controversial writings and style,

You're mistaken. Not that I or many other people with some brains had
expected anything else. The problem is that you crosspost to 5 groups (5,
which I am sure is a limitation Google Groups set to you, and has nothing
to do with you respecting Usenet a bit) for the sole purpose of
spamvertizing your website.

> recently John Bokma lobbied people to
> complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few emails, my
> web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation notice last
> Friday.

Which shows that your actions are frowned upon by others, for good
reasons. Of course you are going in cry baby mode now.

> I'm not sure I will be able to keep using their service, but I do hope
> so. I do not like to post off-topic messages,

Liar.

> but this is newsgroup
> incidence is getting out of hand, and I wish people to know about it.
>
> I wrote some full detail here:
> http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/t2/harassment.html

You mean your brain farted again some bullshit.

> If you believe this lobbying to my webhosting provider is unjust,
> please write to my web hosting provider ab...@dreamhost.com

dreamhost has made a decission, a right one IMO. And now you ask people to
harass them more?

You really are just a pathetic little shit now aren't you?

Not even the balls nor the guts to fix the issue that you are.

--
John Bokma Freelance software developer
&
Experienced Perl programmer: http://castleamber.com/

John Bokma

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:02:51 AM5/24/06
to
"Dag Sunde" <m...@dagsunde.com> wrote:

Or post them to one, and just one, relevant news group instead of
spamvertizing your site with a hit & run post in 5 (which is a Google
Groups limit, if it was 10, Xah would use 10)

John Bokma

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:07:11 AM5/24/06
to
Ken Tilton <kent...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Ben Bullock wrote:
>> "Xah Lee" <x...@xahlee.org> wrote in message
>> news:1148459377.3...@j73g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
>>
>>> If you believe this lobbying to my webhosting provider is unjust,
>>> please write to my web hosting provider ab...@dreamhost.com
>>
>>
>> Why don't you just change your provider? It would take less time than
>> this.
>
> Are you joking. "Just change your provider?" Do you have a little
> button on your computer that says "Change provider"? Cool! :)

No, it will cost Xah money. In the end he will be with a bullet proof
hoster, like other kooks on Usenet, or get the message.

> C'mon, John Bokma (and everyone else dumb enough to crosspost their
> shushing to every group on the crosspost list -- why do they do that?

So other people can read that reporting Xah *does* have an effect. A lot
of people think that a kill file is the only solution.

> So Xah will hear them six times? No, they want everyone to see how
> witty they are when they tell Xah off.

So you haven't noticed that Xah does just hit & run posting?

In short, you have no clue what this is about, or are one of the fans Xah
seem to have?

Get a clue Kenny.

John Bokma

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:14:32 AM5/24/06
to
Timo Stamm <timo....@arcor.de> wrote:

> Tim N. van der Leeuw schrieb:

>> Perhaps he's not crossing boundaries of free speech, but he's


>> repeatedly crossing boundaries on usenet nettiquette, even though
>> repeatedly he's being asked not to do so.
>
> And repeatedly, others have encouraged him because they appreciate his
> posts.

Of which I am sure a large part are just in for the troll fest that
follows. Some probably have also bumped into the netiquette. And instead
of using their brains, they can't handle the dent in their ego, and what
is not with them, must be shit, so they love stuff like this.

Every Usenet kook has a group of pathetic followers and sock puppets.

>> but since I've stopped following threads originated by him
>
> That's all you need to do if you are not interested in his posts.

You're mistaken. All you need to do is report it. After some time Xah will
either walk in line with the rest of the world, or has found somewhere
else to yell. As long as it's not my back garden and not around 4AM, I am
ok with it.

John Bokma

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:15:43 AM5/24/06
to
Eli Gottlieb <eligo...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Who reads blogs? They're well known for housing crackpots far worse
> than Xah, and I estimate he doesn't want to associate himself with that
> sort.

Yup, he seems to be quite happy as a Usenet Kook

Mitch

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:20:01 AM5/24/06
to
John Bokma wrote:
[...]

> You're mistaken. All you need to do is report it. After some time Xah will
> either walk in line with the rest of the world, or has found somewhere
> else to yell. As long as it's not my back garden and not around 4AM, I am
> ok with it.
>

Walk in line with the rest of the world? Pah.

This is no-ones back garden.

Bill Atkins

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:15:35 AM5/24/06
to
Ken Tilton <kent...@gmail.com> writes:

> C'mon, John Bokma (and everyone else dumb enough to crosspost their
> shushing to every group on the crosspost list -- why do they do that?
> So Xah will hear them six times? No, they want everyone to see how
> witty they are when they tell Xah off. Now /that/ is spam) is the
> problem.

+12 !

--
You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most
famous is, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia", but only
slightly less well-known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian when
death is on the line"!

John Bokma

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:26:12 AM5/24/06
to
"Ant" <ant...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I have no particular affinity for Xah's views, but what does get up my
> nose is usenet Nazism.

That's because you're clueless.

--
John MexIT: http://johnbokma.com/mexit/
personal page: http://johnbokma.com/
Experienced programmer available: http://castleamber.com/
Happy Customers: http://castleamber.com/testimonials.html

John Bokma

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:29:19 AM5/24/06
to
Mitch <spudthe...@hotORgooMAIL.invalid> wrote:

Funny how people who always think they can "change Usenet" have no clue
about what Usenet is and how it works in the first place.

Usenet is just that, each server participating can be thought of as being
the back yard of the news master.

If you have no clue about how Usenet works, first read up a bit. What a
Usenet server is, a feed, and how Usenet is distributed.

And then come back if you finally have something to say that you can back
up.

Bill Atkins

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:25:19 AM5/24/06
to
John Bokma <jo...@castleamber.com> writes:

> Ken Tilton <kent...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> Ben Bullock wrote:
>>> "Xah Lee" <x...@xahlee.org> wrote in message
>>> news:1148459377.3...@j73g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
>>>
>>>> If you believe this lobbying to my webhosting provider is unjust,
>>>> please write to my web hosting provider ab...@dreamhost.com
>>>
>>>
>>> Why don't you just change your provider? It would take less time than
>>> this.
>>
>> Are you joking. "Just change your provider?" Do you have a little
>> button on your computer that says "Change provider"? Cool! :)
>
> No, it will cost Xah money. In the end he will be with a bullet proof
> hoster, like other kooks on Usenet, or get the message.
>
>> C'mon, John Bokma (and everyone else dumb enough to crosspost their
>> shushing to every group on the crosspost list -- why do they do that?
>
> So other people can read that reporting Xah *does* have an effect. A lot
> of people think that a kill file is the only solution.

You win my unofficial contest for "Usenet Tool of the Year." It is
not difficult to skip to the next file or to add a sender to a
killfile. It is certainly less of a hassle than all this complaining
you do.

Life is short, John Bokma. There are more important things in the
world than tattling on Xah to his host. Maybe you can start
experiencing them if you learn to make use of the 'next message' key.

>> So Xah will hear them six times? No, they want everyone to see how
>> witty they are when they tell Xah off.
>
> So you haven't noticed that Xah does just hit & run posting?

I've noticed it - but have you?

It would be only one post that could easily be ignored, if not for all
this rubbish that you and people like you feel the need to post (sure,
I realize I'm contributing to the problem). Isn't "hit & run posting"
better than a thread full of nonsense?

Rune Strand

unread,
May 24, 2006, 11:29:57 AM5/24/06
to

Xah Lee wrote:
> I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
> controversial writings and style, recently John Bokma lobbied people to
> complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few emails, my
> web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation notice last
> Friday.

> x...@xahlee.org
> ∑ http://xahlee.org/

I can just declare my support. Reading Mr. Bokmas comments below [*]
certainly makes my suport stronger.

*
http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.python/tree/browse_frm/thread/28edb6b248dbae85/b89d934d12adf3a9?rnum=61&utoken=rJk98zMAAAAqRjR_RIs2SQx_9Hh6SccKbmCj1Nw6TBD3Zp3qTOpBLP1axhNO2WH2KLoXjtKtup7b9E_jTXH5EMe8d2Tvis0T&_done=%2Fgroup%2Fcomp.lang.python%2Fbrowse_frm%2Fthread%2F28edb6b248dbae85%2Fbbcab154ad579cd4%3Futoken%3DrJk98zMAAAAqRjR_RIs2SQx_9Hh6SccKbmCj1Nw6TBD3Zp3qTOpBLP1axhNO2WH2KLoXjtKtup7b9E_jTXH5EMe8d2Tvis0T%26#doc_837dc168e2a56fa2