[conspire] A sometimes scarily small community, is ours

Nick Moffitt nick at zork.net
Sun Jan 1 20:26:19 PST 2006

> [2] Back when Nick M. was one of my employees during Bubble 1.0 days,
> I tried to teach him that "A gentleman tries to never give offence
> _accidentally_."  I'm not sure he was paying attention.

It seems that I wakened some rather irritable dogs recently; and
although I enter this thread in the spirit of apology, I joined this
list because I wanted to keep up on some of the high-quality posting I
saw in a quick romp through the archives.  It is somewhat coincidental
that I completed my subscription just now (greylisting and
mailbox-sorting having added some delay).

As an attempt to illustrate, here is my experience of how this
particular teapot grew so stormy:

I have my own personal reasons for enjoying the carnival that spends its
time mocking Eric.  But I was startled to see a reference to Rick Moen
in the on-again-off-again comic, Everybody Loves Eric Raymond.  So I
posted a silly comment to the strip at
http://geekz.co.uk/lovesraymond/archive/in-my-day and mentioned it in an
e-mail conversation with Don Marti (who had been the originator of the
joke referenced in the post).

He replied in a typically inscrutable way, mentioning that esr-sux
entries exist if you search for them in Jim Thompson's site (which I, of
course, have had in my planet feed for months).  He also asked, hey,
what about "Eric's Rick-Moen-Author-Credit-Remover-O-Matic" and pointed
me to the google search.

I may have totally misinterpreted his glib tone there, but I thought the
event too amusing for words.  I sent the google link to Jim, partly
expecting him to have a link to a list archive somewhere with some vast
flame war detailing how things came to be.  He posted his initial entry
with my first analysis of the situation, listing me as an authoritative

I replied to Jim personally expressing a touch of surprise at that, and
figured I'd at least try to tell him everything I remembered about the
genesis of that document.  I remembered that Rick was working on a sort
of pre-emptive version of his famous FAQ.  He was kind of disappointed
that people were using it as a trump card to flame newbies (and I'll
admit that I was definitely guilty of this) and wanted something to give
people good advice before starting.  I remember this as being a similar
effort to the "Tips on Running a Successful LUG" document.

I did not know of Eric's involvement in the project until the
announcement of the joint HOWTO.  It seemed to me at the time as though
Rick benefited from ESR's ability to easily publish such a document so
as to reach a wide audience, and ESR gained from Rick's insight as to
the many and varied malfunctions that can occur in technical user groups
and online discussion areas.

After this explanation, and an analysis of Rick's copy wherein I must
admit that I misattributed one of Eric's turns of phrase as a "classic
Moenism", I noted the only actual primary source to weigh in on the

http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Essays/smart-questions.html :
> Lacking XML copy, corrected XHTML, adding CSS support. Fixed spelling,
> grammar, punctuation; tightened up phrasing. Corrected copyright
> notice to (correctly) assert joint copyright, citing both authors'
> names as owners of the document title rather than just Eric.

Jim drew the same conclusions I had, which would be that ESR shepherded
the Docbook/XML version of the HOWTO but had at some point dropped
attribution to (and copyright of!) Rick.  One imagines Rick just yanking
the XHTML output of one of Eric's scripts and forking from there.

The moment where I realized that something was wrong came when I was
Cc'd on a mail from Jim accusing Eric of being less than honest in the
changelog of his *own* version, which actually has Rick's name listed
(if not in the copyright).  The rest of this fiasco seems to have
occurred mostly in public, and doesn't bear repeating.  I'm still not
sure why Russ Nelson was included on the conversation, but it seems
there was a history of bad blood between Jim and Russ.

I can see why Rick would liken this to some of the clumsy conflagrations
that I managed to get myself into back when I was younger and more full
of punky bravado.  I'm sorry that this bubbled so much ire to the
surface, and I'll definitely remember this in future when I'm tempted to
pass off my leads for someone else to research.

Of course, this leads me to the one remaining and burning question from
this whole ridiculous affair:  Just how did so many copies of this
document escape into the wild without your name on them?  At this point
I am fully ready to accept the answer "none of your business", but I
hope you understand that curiosity compels me to ask (and of course, I
should have done so much sooner and more discreetly).

Information gladly given, but safety requires           Nick Moffitt
avoiding unnecessary conversation.                     nick at zork.net

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