Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jane You Ignorant Slug

Many of you will likely recognize the blog's title as the sanitized start of a totally unprofessional Saturday Night Live "Point Counter Point" rant between Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin that was more focused on personal attacks than on addressing actual issues like mature adults. Of course it was funny on Saturday Night Live, but I find it distressing to see the analog of it in Eclipse's blogosphere this week. I suppose some might even consider the Release Review Theme Song to be in this vein; I hope that's not the case and that certainly wasn't the intent. I think it's a testament to Bjorn's professionalism how he reacted to the obvious malcontent of the community in his usual constructive way.

All this reminds me of this little nipper I encountered on one of my dives in January. As I got ready to take his picture, he decided to dart out at me to nip my hand.

I considered it a personal attack and made a few threatening gestures in return. I suppose I had violated his space and he felt justified in asserting his dominance in that space. Be careful little fishy!

Now back to the issue at hand. I'll be the first to admit that Bjorn and I have had our differences. But guess what folks, intelligent people will often have differences of opinion and passions will often get the better of us. The more professional among us will use such things as a learning opportunity to see a perspective that might otherwise escape us, and will try to keep the heated debated focused on the subject matter rather than on denigrating the opposing party. Before folks feel compelled to knock me down off my high horse, don't worry, I often fall off all on my own. I'm far more likely to be swayed by emotions than most.

With regard to the issue in question, is Eclipse free, I don't agree with all the arguments Bjorn put forth but I certainly see he has a point, even if it does involve splitting hairs. Sometimes splitting hairs can be informative and even entertaining. The argument was made that by his reasoning even free beer isn't free, because you have to drink it. That's right; it might cause weight gain, and that might have health implications, the treatment for which might not be entirely free. And the over zealous free beer guzzler who killed people driving home might find that the family of those he killed doesn't consider the beer to have been free. And in some countries in the world, the folks who supplied the free beer might find that not only did the free beer cost them money but they're also held responsible for supplying it so copiously that folks go home drunk. In any case, the debate is an interesting one, and I don't see why it's necessary for it to degrade into a personal assault.

The community needs to remember that Bjorn as a representative of the Eclipse Management Office has the unenviable task of being the rule enforcer so while it's always easy to find fault with the messenger, as professionals we ought to know better. As a call to action, committers should take note that as a community it takes almost no advantage of the fact that we have five voting board members who can and do work in our interests to effect change in Eclipse's policies and processes. I doubt that most folks even realize we exist and likely would be shocked to understand just how much sway we have on the Eclipse Board. Keep in mind that many large corporations are paying $250,000 for a seat at the table, not to mention the $1,000,000 they are obligated to invest in active contributors. The committer community has five of such influential seats serving their interests and yet when was the last time someone had anything constructive to suggest on our newsgroup?

We're all responsible for making Eclipse better, so while ranting about frustrations is only human, acting on those frustrations constructively in order to harness the underlying passions for the purpose of effecting real change is what professionals do.


Gunnar said...

Ed, thanks for these words. I totally agree with you and support them!

Steve said...

It was actually Dan Aykroyd, if I recall correctly. :-)

Ed Merks said...

You're right! Chevy was the news anchor. I'm getting old and forgetful!

Anonymous said...

The community needs to remember that Bjorn as a representative of the Eclipse Management Office has the unenviable task of being the rule enforcer

What I don't understand is why is Bjorn the only rule enforcer? Why aren't the PMC leaders or the committer reps calling out projects for their non-compliance. IMO, no matter what set of rules the Eclipse community develops, if it is only the EMO or Bjorn that enforces them, the community as a whole will suffer.

Ed Merks said...

Ian, if everyone simply followed the rules, no one would ever need to enforce them. However, it's clear that people attempting to follow the rules in good faith make mistakes, that PMCs don't monitor every commit to CVS and every update to their download pages, and in fact, even people making or enforcing the rules misinterpret them; those misinterpretations are even encoded in the rules themselves. As such, it should come as no surprise that there is some confusion and that mistakes will be made...

In any case, I'm not happy with all the finger pointing and am horrified when it degrades into name calling. Bjorn is not the only rule enforcer, but clearly the EMO does have the ultimate responsibility, when all others have failed in their's, to enforce the rules; that's the crux of my comment that you've quoted.

I think your point is dead on if it's that everyone needs to take more responsibility, including the committers to understand and follow the rules, the PMCs to mentor and guide, and the EMO to draft consistent, clear rules and to enforce them with compassion. Since the committer reps are committers, are often component, project, or even PMC leads, and are members of Eclipse's governing body, they do indeed have important responsibilities in this area. That's why I've chosen to speak out as well as to remind folks that I'm just as fallible as the next guy.

Mik Kersten said...

Good points Ed. I just want to echo my experiences with Bjorn playing the role of the enforcer. Like you, I've been a committer since 2002 and have watched the process and rules evolve. If we did not have Bjorn to give a professional, principled, and caring buffer to those rules I would be totally lost. If we did not have the rules we would all be lost. Bjorn is an example of transparency, critical thinking, technical depth, accountability. Those are attributes that we need more of and that we should praise, instead of flaming whenever they cause minor inconvenience.

Anonymous said...

because my name is jane merks your blog pops up near the top of googling my name ...... uggggggghhhhhhhh! but nice pics though! jm