I hadn't been following the MS / VB pages for a while. Can someone summarize what led up to the WikiMindWipe
? I'd like to try and understand how something this traumatic could occur on Wiki.
It'd be great if we could be sensitive and reflective in responding to this question.
I followed this for a while. I was split between my own frustration with Sam's comments and my frustration in general with the situation, where I was worried something was going to snap eventually though I had no idea it would be as bad as a WikiMindWipe
. Here's my interpretation:
It was initially a slow process. Some signs of Sam's frustration were back in 1997/98 when the ExtremeProgramming
discussion was in full force. Sam was very much against XP at the time (IsExtremeProgrammingWacko
). Eventually, some time before the time Kent's book came out, he had an about face and became a very vocal supporter of XP. His Amazon.com review of ExtremeProgrammingExplainedEmbraceChange
is still available to read.
As time went on, a COM vs objects argument occurred on OoHasFailed
. This morphed into a DNA vs EJB argument on EjbInconsistencies
. Sam's arguments were effectively the same as Microsoft's PR arguments on these matters. These arguments were never really resolved.
In these exchanges, I noticed that there was a "binary nature" to Sam's opinions. Either extreme one way, or extreme the other. There was no grey, or FuzzyAreaWhereLearningTakesPlace?
aspect to his discourse, at least in public. It was sometimes clear that Sam was trying to learn and understand everyone else's viewpoint (for instance, he asked around for SmalltalkLanguage
book recommendations), but in his general discourse this wasn't easy to see. Typically, it was a very intense argument from authority, or a challenge
to everyone else's experience or opinions.
Finally, the VB argument began to swell, on WhyChooseMicrosoftAndVb
. Sam claimed that VB was TheMostWidelyUsedProgrammingLanguageAtAnyLevel
. Some of us called him on that. He also touted the coming VisualBasicSeven?
features as finally a way for VB to eclipse Java. Some of us called him on that too. His frustration really peaked now:
- There were a few comments to the like of "you don't know what is going on in the real world!", and regarding the AntiMicrosoftBiasOnWiki.
- He posted on several topics a quotation from AlexanderStepanov (the creator of the C++ STL) claiming that OO was junk and that generics were the truly powerful feature to use. Stepanov is widely known to be less than objective in these matters, and it wasn't too clear why Sam was doing this, except out of frustration.
- In general, there were just very frustrated pieces complaining about the SmallTalk mentality on Wiki, how the rest of the world is moving to VisualBasic and how silly it is that we can't see this, and that Java is going to die because of Sun's attitude. These arguments were usually prefaced with "everybody knows", or "all the IT shops I've been in"...
- Sam also mentioned a few times that many of his friends and co-workers laughed at the Wiki on a regular basis at how silly & blind we all are, wondering why Sam even bothers trying to talk to us at all.
- Finally, there was a major argument about finding statistics for VB's popularity vs other languages like COBOL. Sam claimed these numbers were available everywhere and he didn't have time to look for them. He also claimed we again didn't know what is going on in the real world. Someone eventually DID find numbers, but someone else questioned their usefulness since we didn't have COBOL numbers. This probably pushed him over the edge: Sam really thought that we didn't believe the numbers (when instead I believe we were just questioning their context).
I tried to make amends by creating AntiMicrosoftBiasOnWiki
to try to discuss & understand this argument more, hopefully as a way to calm everyone down. It didn't work . Twelve hours later, the WikiMindWipe
This is only from my perspective, so it may be incomplete or not entirely fair. There especially needs to be an addition of ways that we might have "goaded him on" (EvilCppBigot?
, for instance).
with help from others
Sam did say on several occasions that he liked Java. Unfortunately, his pieces over the last 2-3 weeks were very anti-Java: perhaps out of frustration? There was a point where he ceased to explain why he liked Java vs VB vs C++ and just started implying "Java sucks, and it will die. Smalltalk sucks, and it's already dead."
I don't think there's a single cause for Sam's WikiMindWipe
, nor do I think the escalation is completely his fault. Maybe we should try to identify some of the forces that were at work.
- Some view online discussions on a rational, dispassionate level; for others, they constitute a deeply personal process. Misunderstandings result.
- A lot of people tend to get very emotional about all things Microsoft, especially Visual Basic, one way or the other.
- On deeply emotional issues, people tend to take things personally, and often attack participants instead of positions (they "play the man, not the ball" as PeterMerel puts it). They also tend to view attacks on their positions as personal attacks.
- Through self-selection and for historic reasons, a large group of Wiki participants share certain beliefs, opinions and experiences. Sam's own beliefs, opinions and experiences are very different from these, and probably under-represented here on Wiki.
See also CommunityLifeCycle
Whatever the reasons, Sam eventually decided that arguments about Microsoft were a waste of his time and took drastic steps to make sure his time was used better in the future. I have to say that I fully agree with the first part and have increasing sympathy with the second. Was this the first successful attempt by a Wikiholic to go ColdTurkey?
without warning and without any help from the waffling old therapy group at all? Of course, it stung at first.
No, this wasn't the first successful such attempt. JimCoplien did the same thing a few years ago when ThingsOnWikisMind took a turn toward ExtremeProgramming. But Jim didn't commit WikiSuicide. -- RandyStafford
But I do have real sympathy with those whose past contributions were made to look foolish in the process. -- RichardDrake
I think that folks tended to argue with Sam's points rather than his premise. Microsoft has actually put out a heck of a lot of good software and has built an infrastructure that IT departments can use with great success in most cases. I think that Sam could have made that argument, won it, and gotten plenty of validation here on this forum and helped a bunch of us in the process. But he went on to argue that everything other than Microsoft was second rate and that anyone who opposed Microsoft was the enemy of what is good and just. That was a very poor choice of battles. I'm glad that he lost it but I'm really, really
sorry that he got so beat up in the process. -- PhilGoodwin
I find it telling that it took at least three people to edit some of the colourful language used to describe Microsoft during the development of this page. By then, any RecentChangesJunkie
would have read the tactless words at least once. Too late to rewrite.
I think this is an extremely important point, if I am reading it right. When someone as passionate and sensitive as Sam was a RecentChangesJunkie, this gave those in the same threads a real challenge. But leaving tactless, heavy-handed words around also happened far too much, in my view. It's never too late to rewrite. -- RichardDrake
And never too early. -- KeithBraithwaite