Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed


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Thursday, 15 November 2012, 10:19

Community is Exclusion

I've been meaning to write something along these lines for a while. But I finally pulled my thoughts together with the help of many thousand millions of tireless, beautiful, and unique yeast cells, and am finally ready to have a crack at it.

Community blah

Community this, and community that - it seems to be the 'meme' of anything to do with any project or movement or idea these days. Do anything, start a community.

But I don't like the word, it's just a bullshit and divisive word.

On the surface, a community is all about inclusion, but in reality it is precisely the opposite: it is all and only about exclusion. And exclusion only means one thing: division and the politics thereof1.

So when people talk about the "Linux community", "Ubuntu/Fedora/etc community", the "FOSS/FLOSS/Open Sauce(tm) community", or even "Free Software Community" they are really talking about a group who identifies themselves just as much by who they don't consider fellow members as who they do.

Once you identify with a particular "community" and are able to label another's, you tend to huddle together and treat those with different labels as 'forners', to be distrusted as a direct threat to you and your homies. An analogous situation is the wearing of religious paraphernalia in an attempt to isolate yourself from your fellow human beings on purpose to provoke a reaction. Or wearing gang colours or tramp stamps.

Even within so-called "communities" there are stark divides. For example, for several years I have forced my browser to a fixed font type and size and so didn't realise Groklaw had at some point directly separated the 'haves' and the 'have nots' by deliberately de-emphasising anonymous posters from those with name accounts by using a tiny font for the former. I was utterly shocked at this insidious behaviour from a site purporting to be about freedom and legal rights.

And mailing lists and on-line forums all suffer from even worse problems: say something out of line and you are simply banished. Rather than starve the true trolls who will eventually leave (or seek medication), or simply use them for entertainment, they simply punish any and all divergent views in precisely the same way a cult would.

You're standing in it

Here's a better word: World.

The GNU/Linux World. The Free Software World. And so on.

World is an all-inclusive word that encompasses not only all of humanity, but also all other known living entities and the entirety of the system on which we depend for our fragile existence.

World is a word which recognises a whole spectrum of opinions: not merely a black or white, true or false, the simple and stupidly stark 0 or 1 result of binary state which is all a machine can cope with.

World also implies there are issues and complications which sometimes simply cannot be solved at all, let alone on internet time-frames.

World also goes beyond the bronze-age tribal nonsense we've been saddled with since then - and it's about time we evolved socially to cope as the next stage of human evolution least we perish.

There's been some recent noise about the dangers of the "cult of personality" that infests the tech world - but I think in the case of GNU/Linux the problem is more simply a plain old "cult" based on community based tribal identification (Microsoft and Apple and any other multi-national with a strong brand presence are also well in on the act - but that is on purpose and for marketing reasons). I suggest that this leads directly to a tribal "herd" mentality and ultimately the "group think" which simply silences dissenting voices rather than acknowledge the breadth of human experience.

This situation is simply not healthy - and downright embarrassing after 100 000 years of so-called human "progress".

I think it's about time to grow up out of this tribal bronze age absurdity and call it out for the archaic and worthless nonsense it is.

1. Politics goes well beyond who we do or do not vote for on polling day. As soon as you have more than one person in a room: you have politics.

Tagged rants.
LBP for object recognition | Mailing lists. Or the lack of self censoring shame
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