I’ve been doing some thinking about how to have more civil and respectful discussions online. Most people would agree that direct personal attacks and insults are unwelcome, but many times people (perhaps unintentionally) end up insulting the other party or putting them on the defensive by using labels that come with baggage. The other party takes offense to use of these labels, perhaps responds by hurling a few labels of their own, and the conversation devolves into nastiness.
In my post on “Worse is Better”, I stated that software development could be viewed as a form of investment management:
Our industry has been infected by a dangerous meme, and it’s one that hasn’t been given its proper scrutiny. Like many memes that explode in popularity, “Worse is Better” gave a name to an underlying fragment of culture or philosophy that had been incubating for some time. I point to C++ as one of the first instances of what would later become “Worse is Better” culture. There had been plenty of programming languages with hacks and warts before C++, but C++ was the first popular language deliberately crippled for pragmatic reasons by a language designer who likely knew better. That is, Stroustrup had the skills and knowledge to create a better language, but he chose to accept as a design requirement retaining full compatibility with C, including all its warts.
A little over a month ago, I started an experiment in being “exceedingly polite” to everyone I interacted with online:
I was struck by this passage in Steven Pinker’s article about why academics’ writing stinks: