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Stackoverflow and pronouns

Stackoverflow is a website so focused on getting good technical answers to good technical questions that thank-you notes are removed because they are noise. And yet somehow there is now a 17 point FAQ about the gender pronoun rules recently added to the code of conduct. Says one response:

I am all in favor of wanting to be respected, I really do, but this is the most overhead to “don’t be mean” I have ever seen.

Another takes aim at the people who run the web site:

Putting identity politics front-and-center in what is supposed to be a neutral, objective Q&A environment promotes division and strife, not inclusion, and more importantly, it distracts from the primary mission of these sites: getting good answers to good questions. Our values reject it.

If you truly value your community, that means respecting the community’s values, not attempting to impose new and incompatible ones by fiat. Your values are out of alignment with the values of the community you are supporting. Please fix them.

Another points out that too many rules do not help:

I would very much like if we could all get along. We have rules and moderators because in a big community, there’ll always be a few participants who can’t get along. But increasingly, getting along is against the rules.

One of two things is going on.

  • This is just people on the Internet arguing because they can and anyone with things to get done will simply ignore them.
  • This is an example of an attempt to infiltrate and change a community, and the resistance to this attempt.

See also: Linux and its code of conduct.

43 comments to Stackoverflow and pronouns

  • Given the normal format of question and answer on StackOverflow, it will usually be non-trivial to find rational occasion to use a pronoun – and even where one could, in a thread of answers it will often be positively more helpful to refer to e.g. “Jane’s answer” rather than “her answer”, whether or not ‘Jane’ was christened with that name or adopted it after going through a mid-life crisis – a thing one would hardly know unless ‘Jane’ took time out from explaining how to resume in the debugger in order to inflict this irrelevant information upon you (and/or stack-overflow reworked their site design to make it, not the answer, front-and-centre).

    That said, I’ve noticed the growing wokeness in such stack-overflow areas as they can push it for years. There was a time when their survey write-ups were sure to have a ton of repetitive wittering about female percentages in IT but left you having to extract the technical information the survey was nominally about from the data. Of course, today’s flavour of wokeness may make them less loud about that, lest anyone ask whether a rise in the ratio is ‘real’. 🙂

  • Nullius in Verba

    Or a third thing:

    This is a demonstration of the age-old principle that once you accept the principle that the administrators of a community can set and enforce rules on allowed speech, you can’t then whine when somebody uses the mechanism you created against you.

    You can have a community with free speech, or without it. But it’s not possible to do so and guarantee every member that *their* preferred rules will be enforced, and not somebody else’s.

    The only other alternative to having rules you don’t like is to have no rules. They brought it on themselves.

    Well, it’s a point of view. 🙂 But any time someone says there are only two alternatives, I always automatically start looking for more.

  • Nullius in Verba is correct. In the case of Samizdata, the basic rule is simple: if Perry is okay with it, then have at it.
    Otherwise, don’t do it or get a kick/ban. I view this as an elastic garrote: it is flexible but if you push against it hard enough, it is still a garrote.

  • Simon Jester

    I rage-quitted when they brought in their “Code of Conduct”.

    The gender pronoun rules are just the icing on that craptacular cake.

  • Paul Marks

    It is infiltration – or rather “permeation”.

    The left do not really need formal agents dedicated to infiltration (although they have many) – they have the education system and most of the culture, so they influence ideas and beliefs. The people who run the website are now filled with Frankfurt School of Marxism ideas – without even knowing that this is what they are.

    The rule of John O’Sullivan – today neutrality no longer lasts, anything that is not explicitly on “the right” will come to be controlled by the left.

    It does not matter what it is – a knitting circle, a bank, an internet site, a walking club…… if it does not explicitly reject the left, it will end up controlled by them.

    And as “the right” is not really spreading its beliefs (the beliefs of Western Civilisation) to the young (as the left control education and most of popular culture) it is hard not to come to the conclusion that civilisation is doomed.

    The left will not replace Western Civilisation with a wonderful new civilisation – they will, as I make no apology for pointing out yet again, create a vast wasteland of ashes and dried blood.

    I suspect that some of the leaders of the left actually know this.

  • bobby b

    My own personal Code of Conduct has been to resign from any forum that adopts a Code of Conduct.

  • Julie near Chicago

    My own personal Code of Conduct is to do my best to write Standard, i.e. grammatical, English (with an occasional override in the name of poetic licence).

    And to avoid stretching Perry’s Elastic Garrote to its elastic limit. ;>)

    .

    I almost gave you Hosannahs, bobby. :>)) But then I thought, Yeah, but if I were running a website and somebody called me a c*** and not in jest, I’d ask Perry if I might borrow his Special Garrote.

    Besides, I defend Perry’s right to have the last say on whether behaviour here is acceptable here….

  • Julie near Chicago

    In re “Linux and its code of conduct,” not to mention StackExchange and any number of other websites, concerns, and persons:

    Some people have too much time on their hands.

    .

    As long as somebody (ahem) brought it up, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground” is sometimes correct. Some people eat more than is wise because they’re bored, some drink too much ditto, and some find that minor disagreements can be used as the kindling to start unnecessary nastiness-wars, which are diverting and besides can bring on a great adrenaline rush.

  • Crosbulon

    They’re coders, right? They need to add some markup, e.g. ‘@coderperson:pronoun’ ‘@coderperson:possesive_pronoun’ This would would optionally be populated by the target’s self designated pronoun. Or, as a reader of the site, I could choose which pronouns appear on my version of the page. Then everybody’s happy. (Right?)

  • Fred Z

    “if it does not explicitly reject the left, it will end up controlled by them”

    It must do a shit load more than “explicitly reject the left”.

    Savage Guerilla warfare, immediate knife thrusts to the heart of any detected lefty, eating their livers with canned beans and a shitty over-sweet California plonk will barely do it.

  • Fraser Orr

    It seems to me that it is only polite to call people what they want to be called. And it seems perfectly reasonable to me for the moderators in that type of forum to insist on polite discourse. I mean my name is Fraser, and if you keep on calling me Frank it’ll probably get annoying after a while.

    I have mixed feelings on this subject. I don’t much like the aggressive tactics and that cancel culture, “you’re evil if you don’t agree with me” culture.

    The big thing that troubles me, far more than calling someone with dangly genitals “she” is how the industry I work in, and have loved and cherished for decades has transformed from a hotbed of libertarianism, as it was when I started out, to a seething snake pit of the most snowflaky, “I’m going to find a way to be offended” bunch of weenies. It is, for you old timers out there, the Eternal September in a different guise.

    The open source movement (and Stackoverflow is in that general culture even if it isn’t actually open source) used to be all about “Show me the code”. Eric Raymond wrote a great article when the initial kerfuffle about code of conducts came around. I’ll try to dig it out. Google said “don’t be evil”, and I believed them. But it has transformed itself into an evil monster, just the worst nightmare.

    The internet could have fixed things, but then along came facebook and twitter and it all went to hell.

  • Nico

    Google’s “don’t be evil” was always an exhortation [to everyone else].

  • bobby b

    “It seems to me that it is only polite to call people what they want to be called. And it seems perfectly reasonable to me for the moderators in that type of forum to insist on polite discourse”

    It’s all far worse than you’re giving them credit for. If you read the SE forums, there’s been a rather huge war going on – not because people disagree with what you typed, but because the leaders of the forums went into a CoC change with a high-handed and nasty attitude that left a bad taste in many mouths. Over a hundred of the volunteer moderators have quit, SE has alienated lots of their huge international membership and has summarily fired some very popular mods, and SE’s attitude has been “we don’t need y’all!”

    As with so many of the gaming and coding forums and help-sites, SE seems to have been taken over by a rather radical 100-genders-trans-cabal who won’t be satisfied if everyone merely uses correct pronouns and tries to be nice to each other, and they’re making no allowances for those whose own cultures might not mesh well with the SJW-mandatory-pronoun game.

    It’s a huge community, and it’s all a big mess.

  • bobby b

    And, yes, it occurred to me after I posted that that it was pretty lame for me to be telling you anything about coding and gaming forums.

  • bobby b (October 17, 2019 at 6:06 am), +1. My first comment on this thread was pointing out that there was no natural way it could be an issue in stack overflow any more than in knitting or any of the other affected areas. Those who made it so are a cabal looking very aggressively for people to cancel.

  • The part that inconveniences me most directly is that I’d love it if English had a dedicated third-person-singular sex-neutral pronoun for humans. Yes, you can cite grammar teachers & style manuals who tell you that “he” is correct to use in that case. That won’t keep it from sounding wrong when applied to hypothetical or unknown people who might turn out to be female. The same applies to “they” in cases where the hypothetical is known to be singular. Software developers who work with text translated between multiple languages will back me up.

    However, between the legislation making it a prosecutable offense to use non-preferred pronouns, and the hard-line taken by previously lassez-faire communities, the stakes in pronoun usage are too high to risk a moderate approach.

    I predict the “sex-based pronouns” side will be culturally dominant as the “preference-based pronouns” side gradually dissolves as their members find more important things to focus on. If I’m wrong, it’ll actually make it harder to get the change I want, because the official words will be encoded in law.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The comments reproduced in the OP are brilliant and insightful.
    I particularly like this verbal ju-jitsu:

    If you truly value your community, that means respecting the community’s values, not attempting to impose new and incompatible ones by fiat. Your values are out of alignment with the values of the community you are supporting. Please fix them.

    And this:

    increasingly, getting along is against the rules.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nico
    Google’s “don’t be evil” was always an exhortation [to everyone else].

    That just isn’t true. Google at the start very much applied to motto to themselves. For example, their original search engine was VERY careful to make the distinction between search results and paid adverts, and it didn’t clutter the search results with the paid adverts. It was really when the company was taken over by “adults”, that is to say the MBA crowd like Eric Schmitt that that fresh faced libertarian spirit that used to imbue google disappeared.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    And, yes, it occurred to me after I posted that that it was pretty lame for me to be telling you anything about coding and gaming forums.

    Not at all. I don’t do gaming, though when I was a teenager I help pay my way through college writing them. But I do participate on a couple of the forums in the StackExchange world view, and in all honestly I can’t think of too many times I’d need a pronoun to refer to a person. It is usually about things rather than people. And FWIW, I am surprised about this whole thing. The originators, Jeff Attwood and Joel Splosky, don’t seem like the kind of guys who’d get all mixed up in this mess. But on the other side, they are kind of sidelined and it is the aforementioned MBAs who are running the show now.

  • Fraser Orr

    CayleyGraph
    The part that inconveniences me most directly is that I’d love it if English had a dedicated third-person-singular sex-neutral pronoun for humans.

    It does. It isn’t dedicated but the use of “they” as a singular gender neutral pronoun has hundreds of years of history. It might sound “wrong” to your ear, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is correct. And I’d much rather we pursue the pronouns Shakespeare used or the King James Bible used than allow for some artificial, politically motivated nonsense like zie or ier.

    I’m an advocate for the flexibility and openness to change of the English language. But this type if thing is literally newspeak — and attempt to manipulate people’s thoughts by forcibly manipulating their language. Which might contradict what I said earlier, but, like I say, I am conflicted on this subject. However, my personal approach has been to use “they”.

  • bobby b

    CayleyGraph
    October 17, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    “The part that inconveniences me most directly is that I’d love it if English had a dedicated third-person-singular sex-neutral pronoun for humans.”

    Just to put the Stack Exchange fight into context: a good deal of the controversy started when someone suggested that people move into neutral pronouns as a way to address the issue, and the over-woke crowd reacted angrily and said that that wouldn’t do – that that was an intentional showing of disrespect to the people who wanted – needed – insisted on – their own chosen pronouns. A well-liked moderator was (seemingly) fired for having suggested neutrality, which triggered the mass uprising in some respects.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    the over-woke crowd reacted angrily and said that that wouldn’t do – that that was an intentional showing of disrespect to the people who wanted – needed – insisted on – their own chosen pronouns.

    This is a very odd statement for them to make don’t you think? I mean one wonders if they have actually been on the internet before if they are getting their panties in a wad about “showing of disrespect”. That is after all a fairly concise description of about 80% of what is written on web site comments, isn’t it?

    And for the twitterati, that cesspool of verbal garbage and hostility, to complain about someone showing disrespect is the ultimate in lack of self awareness.

  • bobby b

    “This is a very odd statement for them to make don’t you think?”

    I thought it was in character. It is no longer enough to not show disrespect. You will be made to affirmatively show respect! Using neutral pronouns means you are pointedly defying their demands that you use their chosen ones.

  • CayleyGraph (October 17, 2019 at 12:58 pm), FWIW, I have long been accustomed to using ‘they’ to accompany a singular noun signifying an abstract member of a mixed sex group, e.g. ‘a manager’ or ‘a coder’ in some discussion. Sometimes I personalise, using e.g Alice, a manager, Bob, a coder, and Carol, a newbie, instead of a nameless manager, coder and newbie, and then one naturally uses the pronoun for the name – though I use the name more often than the pronoun because the point of personalising is to make the characters in the narrative easier to keep track of.

    IIUC, this meaning of ‘they’ was accepted usage in late mediaeval English, was frowned on by grammarians in the 1700s and 1800s (perhaps influenced by Latin and Greek) but never died out of idiomatic English.

    As bobby and I have noted, generalising ‘they’ won’t solve the OP problem because these PC-ers are looking for people to cancel.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “They’re coders, right? They need to add some markup, e.g. ‘@coderperson:pronoun’ ‘@coderperson:possesive_pronoun’ This would would optionally be populated by the target’s self designated pronoun. Or, as a reader of the site, I could choose which pronouns appear on my version of the page. Then everybody’s happy. (Right?)”

    That was my first thought, too. But then I started considering what would happen when someone used Ajax scripting to update all the pronouns of the genderfluid with their current status, with date conventions and time-zone issues surrounding pronouns that change depending on whether you’re referring to them pre-transition or post-transition, people filling theirs with animated kitten gifs or adverts, and of course the targeted inclusion of malicious code exploits that only show up on the page of people who self-declare either support or opposition to particular pronouns.

    And I could foresee arguments over whether the pronoun-scripting language was Turing-complete, regular expressions, polynomial-time, and what to do about people who picked paradoxical, non-computable or conjectural numbers as their favoured pronoun. (Like the Riemannites, whose pronoun depends on whether the Riemann Hypothesis is true.) And then of course people would start including code to mine bitcoins using other people’s browser processing time.

    And then of course there’s copyright and GDPR law and who is responsible for embedded libel and illegal content…

    At that point, I gave up on the idea.

  • bobby b

    It all reminds me of the loyalty-oath episode in Catch 22.

  • george m weinberg

    This one is the killer:
    Q11: If I’m uncomfortable with a particular pronoun, can I just avoid using it?

    We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.

    I am not “uncomfortable” using bullshit pronouns like “zhe”, I just won’t do it.

  • Fraser Orr

    @NIV that is funny because it is so close to being true….

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.”

    Just declare that your preferred 2nd/3rd person pronouns consists of 2^64 repetitions of the characters “VOTE_FOR_TRUMP!_” and require that everyone use them. Tell them you’ll be triggered if they microaggress you and don’t use it in full every time. Then loudly demand that anyone who breaks the code of conduct by avoiding using it be banned.

    “@NIV that is funny because it is so close to being true….”

    The internet can be very predictable… 🙂

  • Sam Duncan

    “This one is the killer:”

    It’s the giveaway. The correct, factual, answer to the question, “If I’m uncomfortable with a particular pronoun, can I just avoid using it?” is, of course, obviously, “Yes”. Why on earth couldn’t you?

    But that’s not good enough. They want to force you to do things you’re uncomfortable with. Anyone suspected of avoiding nonsensical invented “pronouns” will be punished.

    “Just declare that your preferred 2nd/3rd person pronouns consists of 2^64 repetitions of the characters ‘VOTE_FOR_TRUMP!_’”

    Highly tempting.

    Here’s the thing, though: I don’t respect people who make up “pronouns”. Attempting to force me to pretend that I do is like massively restricting me as a person and shit, yeah?

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b is correct – and his response is correct also.

    Once there is a “code of conduct” free people are finished.

    The left (or someone who has allied with them) can rant and rave for HOURS – but if anyone answers back for a few seconds (and even in a mild tone using polite language such as “misleading”) they run the risk of being dragged into the “Standards Board” process. This is why I intend to no longer speak at full council meetings – if I have to watch every word I say, then there really is no point in speaking at all.

    Whereas the other guy will carry on ranting – knowing they have nothing to fear.

    That is what “polite discourse” means in practice – one side getting to say anything they like, and the other side having to be silent, or to speak only to AGREE (or basically agree).

    President Donald Trump refuses to obey this “code of conduct” in the way he speaks and writes – and, at least in that – in Freedom of Speech, he is a light in the darkness.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Sam: +1

    .

    If you’re with a bunch of people including or referring to someone whose name everybody knows, just use the person’s name.

    If speaking to an audience, address or refer to a particular individual in the audience whose name you don’t know as “the lady” or “the gentleman” according to whether the person appears to be female or male respectively. Mostly, you’d say “can you repeat the question?” or “that’s a good comment, but I’d add that….” Or, simply, “No! She does NOT want this suggested A-1 superhighway to be built through her living room!” [Arguing against a project to do just that to our subdivision, some 30 years ago. 😡 In the end the project died a quiet death. 😥 😀 😀 😎 ]

    If speaking of a book’s author or of a historical person, “the author” or “he” or “she” or “Mr. Tchaikovsky” or “Miss Toklas” will do just fine.

    There’s nothing disrespectful about using correct English. It’s no more impolite to refer to a “zxx” as “he” or “she” (in the event, which I can’t quite imagine, that there’s no work-around in the case where you’re speaking to an individual “zxx”) than it is for that individual to insist that you refer to it as “zxx.”

  • Matthew H Iskra

    What’s the old phrase? “He who pays the piper calls the tune”.
    If Perry pays the bills, then he calls the shots, and I’m fine with that.

  • Fraser Orr

    Paul Marks
    Once there is a “code of conduct” free people are finished.

    That’s not true at all. Web sites and forums (going all the way back to nntp news) have frequently had codes of conduct, and there have always been minor skirmishes and a few bans here and there. But the code of conduct often kept these forums wandering off into free for alls and descending into useless anarchy.StackOverflow in particular had rules of what is allowed and not since its inception.

    The problem isn’t that there is a code of conduct, it is what the code of conduct says that is the problem.

  • Nico

    In Latin languages in general you get a) less gender-specificity in pronouns (e.g., possessive pronouns in Spanish are gender-less), but b) gendered nouns, and c) gendered adjectives.

    (a) is a minor benefit for those in the new-genders business, (b) can be a non-issue (perhaps), but (c)! Oh boy (c). You can’t just invent new pronouns if you also have to invent new adjective stems that don’t somehow make a hash of the language (possibly turning it into a pig latin).

    English is a mutant language that’s lost all these sorts of nuances and now only has gender in pronouns. That means that English is a prime candidate language for inventing new pronouns.

    As to Stack Exchange. What happened there, near as I can tell, is that some started agitating for a change to SE’s CoC to require use-of-preferred-pronouns, and one mod, Monica Clelio (sp?) argued that it’s hardly ever necessary to use pronouns in SE answers (for obvious reasons) and that anyways, she uses gender-neutral writing as much as possible, and that she would rather never use singular-they. I’m telling this from memory of various blogs I’ve read about this, so there may be errors in my retelling, but I think that’s the gist of Clelio’s position. This led to her being called a bigot, and then she got fired for violating their CoC. Except the CoC hadn’t yet been updated, and she didn’t even violate the then-not-yet-in-place new CoC — she’d only argued the proposed change to the CoC. The perception was that she would never adhere to the new CoC, thus she was to be fired, and she was fired.

    Assuming I have the gist of the story right, the SE case is a bit extreme, and illustrates one of the major problems of the cancel culture and its codes of conduct and terms of service: those who get canceled (and the public) never get told a specific clause or clauses of the CoCs/ToSes that they supposedly violated! This is both, by design and by accident. By design: it’s a form of psychological torture, and it invites the canceled person to demonstrate their cancel-worthiness by arguing the cancellation. By accident: the entity doing the canceling cannot explain why without discrediting themselves or inviting ferocious counter-arguments.

    Once labeled a bigot, there is nothing you can do but grovel, and even then.

    The only right answer is to never apologize to the cancelers. It doesn’t matter what the rule was that you broke if the rules are designed for you to inevitably break them and get canceled if and only if you’re not one of them.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Here’s the thing, though: I don’t respect people who make up “pronouns”.”

    Sure. and other people don’t respect people who dismiss them.

    It’s kind of a tricky issue. Consider people born with facial disfigurements, like a hare lip. You can have surgery to try to fix it, but it’s imperfect and people can tell. And some people want to comment on it – did you know you’re really ugly? Why are you pretending to have been born something you’re not – don’t you think we can tell you’re a freak? And yes, that’s free speech, and yes, we shouldn’t care what the world says or thinks about us, but it winds up driving a lot of those people to suicide. And most people can feel sympathetic with that.

    So, pronouns. The language demands this binary classification. But it doesn’t reflect reality. 99% of the population are either male or female. 1% of the population aren’t. The usual categories don’t work – they’re simply incorrect, untrue, misleading. And that leads people into making all sorts of social faux pas and wrong assumptions. So if we require pronouns to match people’s social categories, and there are more categories in reality than previously assumed, then logically we need more pronouns. It’s just a useful terminology for conveying precise information.

    And that ought to be fine. Extra pronouns are not, in themselves, a problem. Some people might have particularly rigid beliefs, thinking 99% should be treated as 100% and everybody should be forced into one category or the other, but most people are not that dogmatic.

    But the problem, as with every belief system, comes when you meet the people who are not simply trying to be helpful, but to impose their own worldview on the world. That applies equally to people who insist on the use of unusual pronouns where appropriate, as well as the people who because of their belief system insist that they should not ever be used. But the important thing is to distinguish the people doing the insisting from the people to who they apply. The groups overlap, of course, but many of the latter are innocent of being members of the former. Plenty of people who don’t fit either ‘him’ or ‘her’ don’t insist you use the alternatives, and plenty of those who do insist are not themselves in the 1%.

    There’s no problem making up new pronouns. The problem is only with people forcing their use (or non-use) on others. And we wind up losing the argument on the latter when our enemies can portray us as people who don’t respect the former.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nico: Good comment; thank you.

    .

    If that was Monica Clelio’s position, I will be happy to bear her shield.

    .

    I shall now repeat my famous sermon on “he” vs. “he.” I know you understand it perfectly well, but please go home and explain it to your granddaughter, or your little niece and her brother. I understand that in the Provinces we have decided that it isn’t necessary to cover English grammar in school.

    “He” and “he” are homonyms. For instance, per Merriam Webster online:

    Definition of homonym

    [Def. c] – grammar : one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning (such as the noun quail and the verb quail)

    “He” as standing for Everyman*, or for a person of unspecified gender, is specifically the inclusive pronoun:

    “A person is human if he has human DNA.”

    “He” in this meaning is specifically not exclusive of any human, regardless of gender.

    *”Everyman,” be it noted, signifies every human, not just the male ones. So can the word “man” itself; it may please you to call me a “layperson,” but I’m quite content to be a layman [depending on the field, of course]. But if you call me a laywoman for some ungodly reason, you should know that I’m also a rabies carrier.) And please don’t get all hincty about the word Man or the word “mankind.” Mowgli was a man-cub because he was a male child, but more to the point was that he was an offspring of man-the-species.

    .

    Just to point out an example, French (a Romance language) uses the same conventions as we do. “Il” can mean “he,” “he,” or “it.” Easy examples (but I’ll bet most people here are far more Francophonic than I):

    Specifically male, since the sentence implies the subject, “he,” refers to a known individual who happens to be male:

    1.
    He went to the doctor.
    Il est allé chez le médecin.

    –Specifically male, since the sentence implies that the subject, “he,” refers to a known individual who happens to be male.

    2.
    A person is human if he reads Samizdata.
    Une personne est humaine s’il lit Samizdata.

    –But here the subject of the dependent clause is any person of any gender who reads Samizdata.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    October 17, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    “The problem isn’t that there is a code of conduct . . . “

    No, the problem is that there is a Code of Conduct.

    We’re just dealing here with how phrases take on new definitions. Up until a few years ago, a code of conduct was simply the set of rules that we all recognized in dealing with each other. I don’t call your mother a ______, you don’t tell me my sister is ugly, etc. It’s the appropriate accepted culture of the room. There’s a code of conduct here. I have one in my living room.

    But then some authoritative types in computing forums – fora? – decided that Codes of Conduct were ripe grounds to impose their own social rules. They became great places for “thou shalt never mansplain”, and “if I tell you I am a giraffe, you WILL address me as a giraffe . . ” In the last eight years, the imposition of Codes of Conduct has most often meant that the Rules Freaks have taken over.

    I said above that I wouldn’t stay in a room with a Code of Conduct. I will stay in one with a code of conduct. I see a distinction. Paul Marks sees it the same way, I’m guessing.

  • Nico

    JnC: Well, good luck getting that crowd to accept your explanation.

    Here are links to some of Clelio’s blog posts about this:

    https://cellio.dreamwidth.org/2019/10/05/stack-overflow-fiasco-timeline.html

    https://cellio.dreamwidth.org/2019/10/13/stack-overflow-silence.html

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nico,

    It’s not as if they haven’t heard it before. 😆

    Thanks for the links! Will follow. :>)

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b, you seem to have in mind some usage of capital letters I am not familiar with. Plainly a set of rules for discourse, violation of which will get your banned, seems perfectly reasonable. Your objection is not to that but to the specifics of the set rules.
    Just as a for example, there are many, many forums that demand discussion stay on topic. As you can imagine, I have been frequently kicked out of such forums because I seem to have a hard time staying on topic (you might have noticed). That isn’t a common sense rule, but one that the forum administrators have decided.
    I think a lot of what sticks in people’s throat is the fact that a site like Stackoverflow is built by the users. All the value is user contributed. And so for some uppity johnny-come-lately to come along and kick out the very people who have built the forum they live by by some post facto rule making seems very unfair.

    I also wonder what they intend to do about the billion existing comments an answers. Are they going to have Winston Smith go back and revise all that oldspeak and bring it up to scratch? A curious dilemma. Perhaps they should fix Shakespeare and Hemingway (especially Hemingway) while they are at it.

    (Though in fairness I think Hemingway is THE most overrated author of the 20th century, so it could do with a bit of revision. And I live near Oak Park, IL where he is worshiped as a God.)

  • bobby b (October 18, 2019 at 2:26 am), + 1. Like some other phrases, the words “code of conduct” used to be one way of saying, “please don’t let debates become quarrels”. Now it means that a group is eager to start quarrels and make victims. It is a mere begging to be kicked to allow the old meaning of the phrase to make you hesitate when users of the new meaning appear. “Let’s have a code of conduct” means “let’s bring cancel culture here”.

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