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Tribalism Is the Enemy Within, Says Shuttleworth 655

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
climenole points out a post from Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth about internal strife in the free software community. He wrote, "Tribalism is when one group of people start to think people from another group are 'wrong by default.' It's the great-granddaddy of racism and sexism. And the most dangerous kind of tribalism is completely invisible: it has nothing to do with someone's 'birth tribe' and everything to do with their affiliations: where they work, which sports team they support, which Linux distribution they love. ... Right now, for a number of reasons, there is a fever pitch of tribalism in plain sight in the free software world. It's sad. It's not constructive. It's ultimately going to be embarrassing for the people involved, because the Internet doesn't forget. It's certainly not helping us lift free software to the forefront of public expectations of what software can be."
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Tribalism Is the Enemy Within, Says Shuttleworth

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:04PM (#33088210)

    Would you mind expanding on this comment please my dearest sir/madam?

  • Re:Politics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:17PM (#33088464) Journal

    As soon as you enter Congress, you are no longer allowed to belong to any party. You become one single whole group, with no allegiances to anything but your own personal beliefs, your voters back home, and the Law.

    If that works, extend it to the Member State Parliaments too.

  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:32PM (#33088766)

    Shuttleworth is deeply embroiled in the constant in-fighting between Canonical and Debian, so it's not a big surprise that he sees fragmentation.

    And now, it sounds like Redhat has entered the ring against Canonical, too... over contributions to GNOME of all things.

  • Indulge me.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by itomato (91092) on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:49PM (#33089066)

    I'm not entirely qualified to make a fluid dynamics analogy, but bear with me here..

    Tribes are eddys.

    If a current within a fluid encourages inter-eddy interaction (dispersal, conjoinment) - no matter how temporary or permanent, yet the tendency is for eddys to exist outside a flow or current system.

    How can tribes not also persist outside those social currents not strong enough to induce diffusion?

    There are still 'Kolmogrov microscales' when there appear to be no eddys..

  • Re:What a hypocrite (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:55PM (#33089192) Homepage Journal
    It just takes one Ubuntu sympathizer or PR flack to minus-moderate any comment. Unfortunately, once PR agencies and so on started paying people to moderate online communities, and to have hundreds of accounts each, things changed.
  • by jimicus (737525) on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:59PM (#33089268)

    A friend and I have recently been discussing tribalism and an idea he called Monkeysphere - I'll quote him here more-or-less verbatim as he's already written it beautifully:


    It's [Monkeysphere] a brilliant concept. It came about when researchers noticed a correlation between primate brain sizes (I forget whether it was the whole brain or a key part of it) and the size of their social groups. It was such a strong correlation that they could actually predict how big a group it would be when presented with a brain they hadn't seen before. This group limit has been termed the Monkeysphere.

    One day they were given a rather large brain, and guessed a social group size of 150. You might already have guessed which species this brain came from.

    Basically, we cannot cope with the idea of more than 150 people - at least, not AS people. We blur the others out. The supermarket
    checkouts may as well be staffed by robots for all we care. There are human beings taking away our rubbish every morning, but we don't even think about them. All we think about is the rubbish going out, and then disappearing. Road rage? We simply don't see other drivers as people.

    We *have* to work this way, or we'd go mad.

    Stereotypes? Racism? That's the Monkeysphere at work. It's much easier to think of a million people far away if we think of them all as the
    *same* person.

    Now apply this logic to any community. Once the community gets big enough (such as in the Free Software world), it essentially divides into such tribes and you wind up with exactly what Shuttleworth's describing.

    The sad thing is, if this Monkeysphere idea is accurate, I don't see how such tribalism in the F/OSS world is avoidable. Indeed, it'll only get worse as more organisations jump on the bandwagon.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday July 30, 2010 @05:34PM (#33089760)

    He shouldn't have to do anything if socialism is unworkable - eventually the society that provided all those things will either collapse or realize on it's own that socialism is unworkable.

  • by mangu (126918) on Friday July 30, 2010 @05:46PM (#33089956)

    Not everyone wants to learn the intricate details of how their OS works, some of them just want to use it.

    What many people don't realize is that this is true for advanced users as well. I know the intricate details of Linux, but don't want to be bothered by them, so I choose to use Ubuntu.

    It's the same thing with programming languages. I have programmed in C for over 25 years, but I use Python for many jobs. Having a simpler language to program makes my work more productive for day to day tasks, although I can resort to C whenever Python isn't powerful enough.

  • Lord of the flies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Friday July 30, 2010 @06:03PM (#33090154)
    Everyone, please go read Lord Of The Flies. I'll wait whilst you do that.
    Waiting
    Waiting
    Waiting
    Waiting

    Now do you understand the original post? Thanks.
  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Friday July 30, 2010 @06:09PM (#33090234) Homepage

    I'm not necessarily disagreeing with him, but for perspective, contrast with with Daniel Quinn, Ishmael, and "Beyond Civilization":
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael_(novel)#New_Tribalist_Movement [wikipedia.org]
    http://books.google.com/books?id=bHP9ztHuWmwC [google.com]
    "With the publication of his trilogy of novels (Ishmael; The Story of B; My Ishmael), Quinn became something of a cult figure in visionary fiction. In those books, Quinn explored the self-sustaining nature of tribal societies and his belief that the current worldwide ecological and economic crises are due to the agriculture-based organization of civilized societies. He now turns his hand to nonfiction, with an appeal for universal renewal through a "New Tribal Revolution." Acknowledging that it would be impossible for most civilized humans to return to the hunting and gathering typical of tribes, Quinn argues that modern men and women need to invent a completely different mode of existence. To do this, they must question a basic assumption of all civilized societies: "Civilization must continue at any cost and must not be abandoned under any circumstances." Quinn, borrowing from Richard Dawkins, calls this assumption a "meme," the cultural equivalent of a gene. Quinn's main examples are peoples like the Maya and Anasazi, who returned to tribalism after unsuccessful attempts at other types of social organization, and the communal structure of traditional circuses. The author has a knack for stating the obvious with tremendous personal conviction. His articulation of a simpler way of life will appeal to those made frantic by globalization and all the forces conspiring to make people dance as fast as they can. (Oct.) "

    As well as someone else's related point:
    "New Tribalism" By Royce Carlson
    http://www.zenzibar.com/articles/newtribalism.asp [zenzibar.com]

  • by moranar (632206) on Friday July 30, 2010 @06:16PM (#33090302) Homepage Journal

    I've used both, and other distros, and other Unixes. I don't keep on using Ubuntu just because their leaflets and CDs are shinier. I keep using it because it has less hassles, less fanbois and is more usable.

    Not wasting a weekend configuring shit because it already works is a freedom.

    Not finding fanbois ready to discuss that "apt is better than rpm, therefore your not debian distro sucks" for hours is a freedom.

    Downloading an iso with easy instructions from a polished website, or actually having a CD come to my address for free is a freedom.

    Having the system work with most of what I need in a usable configuration in half an hour is a freedom.

    Do you need any more freedoms that explain why do I use Ubuntu over Debian?

    Apparently, to promote your own distro with your money is a grave misdeed. Fuck me, no, it is not. Sorry you feel suckered into having been their PR, but hey, at least someone started using Linux.
    Oh, and responding with 'but all Ubuntu adds over Debian is polish' will get an eye roll. Yes, it might be 'all' it adds. It's still something that Debian hasn't managed to add in years. And it's quite a lot.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday July 30, 2010 @07:34PM (#33091198)
    The problem is that we've spent several generations in America being taught that there's only one type of Socialism and it was part of the international Communist conspiracy. Even after the fall of the Evil Empire, we're still stuck with a legacy of distrusting anything that even hints at socialism or socialized programs.
  • by Raenex (947668) on Friday July 30, 2010 @08:11PM (#33091550)

    I'd sooner DIE than steal from you.

    I seem to recall you collecting unemployment benefits, and even complaining about some aspect of it. True or not?

  • Re:What a hypocrite (Score:3, Interesting)

    by schon (31600) on Friday July 30, 2010 @08:25PM (#33091664)

    Bruce, you are exactly right - especially after you read things like this [markshuttleworth.com].

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Friday July 30, 2010 @10:27PM (#33092400) Homepage

    See, that's why so many people don't use Debian. :-)

    I understand what you are getting at in a glance because I used Debian for years. But would the average person understand it? Let alone be able to do that right. Even knowing stuff, it sometimes would take a day to get a machine settled again after doing an upgrade (all sorts of little things would go wrong with fonts or audio or multi-screen support or whatever). Which is why we use Macs now. My wife switched first. Then I did about a year later. Am I happy about that? Not really. I'd rather use all free software. I do use free software mostly on top of Mac OS X. And I use GNU/Linux in embedded hardware. I guess we could have tried switching to Ubuntu instead of Mac OS X, but Ubuntu has its own issues. At some point, I think I'll try running it on my Mac Pro (although the couple times I tried in the past from a bootable DVD, it did not work).

    Anyway, the big issue with any typical GNU/Linux system is that changes like you outline are textual at the command line or editor and not in terms of objects and transactions. It's a fundamental problem with the whole model. I never wanted to use GNU/Linux in the sense that I had used UNIX decades before and thought that much better software was possible (such as based on Smalltalk or Lisp or even Forth ideas).

    But I jumped on the GNU/Linux bandwagon eventually because of the community. But, at the core, UNIX systems are still messed up compared to what might be possible. Sure, a very knowledgeable user can fix things like you outlined (assuming it works, I just glanced at it), or a less knowledgeable but determined one can solve the problem in an hour or so, but the typical user can not approach the problem oftentimes. And really, what is the point of learning a lot of esoteric stuff you mainly use once and never again? Are you really in control of your machine if you are overwhelmed by complexity and brittleness, even if in theory you can do whatever you want with it? And if something keeps breaking with every upgrade?

    Granted we used Debian years ago, and went through major revisions to the X server, to the USB support, to the sound system, and other things, so maybe by now that basic stuff is all settled down?

    We need a better underlying architecture for a free OS. And a monolithic kernel just contributes to the problem IMHO. QNX was a much better system way back when in that sense.

  • by donscarletti (569232) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @12:28AM (#33093008)

    Back when Ubuntu started, Canonical contributed nothing to Gnome, the highest profile "Gnome community" members it hired was not a real developer but more of a professional narcissist employed to accumulating credit for the company. Also, Ubuntu manages to take the bulk of its packages from Debian without crediting it which has infuriated many people from that community also. However, Ubuntu does what it does well, it provides a fully configured and ready to run desktop. And it is for that reason that I use it personally and would not hesitate from recommending it to others.

    However, as for Canonical, well, I suspect they don't really know anything useful for enterprise customers because they really have never got any experience doing anything themselves, they don't know the codebase of anything important. I would never ever consider paying for Canonical services when they have not demonstrated they have the ability to take responsibility for the software that they are putting brand onto. I consider Ubuntu to be a "community supported" distro like Debian or Fedora. In my past experience this attitude is quite common, Ubuntu is not an enterprise distro, for that, you can use something like Red Hat, Ubuntu is for workstations that you don't really care about. Canonical may wish that this attitude was different, but I really think it is not.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @10:09AM (#33095088) Homepage

    Offtopic, but I was hoping to ask a few questions to an intelligent, rational member of the Tea Party. I'm assuming you qualify, since you are a member of this tribe -- and of course our tribe is very intelligent and rational. :)

    A big chunk of the Tea Party platform is adherence to The Constitution and Bill of Rights. I am a studious and zealous fan of those documents. I think their underlying principles, particularly in The Bill of Rights, are surprisingly prescient and noble.

    I have heard varying views from high ranking Tea Party members regarding some portions of The Bill of Rights, and while I know that it is a young party and subject to various interpretations, I am interested to hear your take.

    What is your take on "Congress shall make no law" when it is in conflict with sections of The Constitution like the responsibility of The President to provide for the national defense? Does the prohibition in The Bill of Rights take precedence, or the obligation in The Constitution?

    I am a strong supporter of The Second Amendment. Yet I am tempted to agree that private citizens should not be allowed to own nuclear weapons. The Supreme Court once ruled (in not protecting sawed off shotguns) that the second only applied to weapons of war, though clearly nuclear weapons are weapons of war (or mortars or tanks, for example). Many have argued the "well regulated militia angle", of course. Where do you stand on limitations to The Second Amendment?

    What is your take on The Establishment Clause? The First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, yet many (including many high ranking members of The Tea Party) have expressed a belief that religious morals rightly should inform legislation. There are certainly laws which satisfy religious morals while not being an establishment of religion, like the prohibition against murder. Other issues, such as the distinction between civil union and marriage, seem difficult to divide from their religious origins. How should The Establishment Clause be interpreted, and do you feel that The Tea Party as an organization has internalized that interpretation?

    Though the bent of my questions may seem hard, I am not trying to be hostile. I genuinely would like to see a party that truly put The Bill of Rights and The Constitution first -- but there are some deep conflicts between those documents and our modern interpretation of civilization. I am interested to hear your views, and your thoughts on whether The Tea Party can find a closer reality to the principles behind those documents.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @04:28PM (#33097356) Homepage

    Well, I think it's an overall negative for Free Software to create rich and powerful corporations who stand between the users and the developers. It's a matter of their profits coming before principle.

    So then fork Ubuntu and create your own project. Hell, take Ubuntus changes and roll 'em back into Debian and create Debian Desktop. Voila, the cross-pollination enabled by open source works again.

    Seriously, you just sound like you're suffering from sour grapes. You aren't getting yours, so Ubuntu must be evil...

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