What Led Up To The Mind Wipe

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 and DnaVsOo. This morphed into a DNA vs EJB argument on EjbInconsistencies, WhatsWrongWithEjb. 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, ThingsWeLoveAboutVbClassic, ThingsWeHateAboutVbClassic. 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:

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 began.

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).

-- StuCharlton 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.

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


EditText of this page (last edited February 2, 2009) or FindPage with title or text search