[sf-lug] "tirekicker", PC[1], technical correctness, etc.

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Sat May 17 13:26:33 PDT 2008

> Date: Sun, 11 May 2008 21:22:48 -0700
> From: "Christian Einfeldt" <einfeldt at gmail.com>
> Cc: sf-lug at linuxmafia.com

> On Sat, May 10, 2008 at 11:26 AM, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> > To elaborate on what I was saying, both Wubi and live CDs can been seen
> > as ways of remaining a tirekicker Linux user -- for good or for bad.

> I wish you would please stop using that phrase, tirekicker, on a public
> list.  It sounds elitist, and alienates new users, IMHO.  You have done a
> lot to help new users, Rick, and I personally have benefited a great deal
> from your tips.  But these tirekickers are the administrators and teachers
> of public middle schools; they are decision-makers; they are people who
> could be great allies in bringing true competition to the desktop computing
> industry.  We need them.  They vote daily with their dollars, and they are
> voting for lock-down daily, and it is affecting our ability to have things
> like widespread open formats and jobs and a viable desktop Free Software
> industry.

Must we be *so* sensitive about these things? :-)

Really, "tirekicker" is hardly the worst descriptor - and it may even be
the most concisely apt[2] descriptor.  There is something to be said for
efficiency and conciseness[3].

Somehow I suspect,
A) newbie says, "I just started trying Linux" ... and is interrupted
   with commentary, "So, you're a tirekicker.", I'd think their most
   probable response would not be to frown, scowl, shriek, turn tail,
   and then immediately stomp out in an angry huff.  I'd think their
   most likely reaction would be more like, "Uhm, ... yeah, ... so, I
   was saying, I just started trying Linux ..."
B) Linux newbie reads online in a forum (e.g. this list) where they or
   a newbie like them is referred to as a "Linux tirekicker" - again, I
   think it rather unlikely that would scare them off.
C) Linux newbie is likely more "ready" for Linux when they stick some
   question or comment on some list or forum (or see someone like
   themselves do likewise), and see at least a minority[4] of responses
   of the form "eat flaming death", "you idiot", "you shouldn't ask that
   here", "you didn't ask that right, go read ...", and think "Hmmmm,
   interesting 'culture'", and persist to read, research ... and post,
   and learn to take it reasonably in stride.
D) So ... "tirekicker" might just weed out those that wouldn't quite be
   ready for Linux yet anyway. ;-)

Sure, it helps to pick one's words *reasonably* carefully, but there are
tradeoffs of time, efficiency, space, etc. (e.g. getting less than 100%
perfect and ideal but quite useful information out, vs. not getting it
out because there's not infinite time and resource to get it to be 100%
perfect and ideal before getting it out).

And in technical forums on technical topics and on technical
information, it can help significantly to immensely to state things
technically correctly, but again, often tradeoffs
(complete/correct/fast/efficient/clear/simple) are made.

penguinista (no, that might be "us" ;->)

free software
Open Source / open source
Linux / LINUX
Unix / UNIX
spam / SPAM (R)[5]

It helps to use the terms correctly, but in more casual communications
and/or with folks not so familiar with precise definitions, or wanting
to talk in more generalities without particularly noting exceptions
that may be relevant (at least to some others) ... often terms tend to
get used a bit more "loosely", ... to say the least.  "Big deal" (not).
Okay, so maybe *sometimes* it's a larger deal, but in many/most cases
it's not.  Most of us aren't in a position to have much influence on
how the language evolves (or devolves) ... though we can perhaps
influence or contribute our very slight bit (and that can add up
collectively), ... and we can add and toss in commentary and
clarifications when we feel so inclined.

Again, tradeoffs ... short/clear/complete/...

And somewhere to keep in mind (perhaps as much or more so for the
reader, than the writer? ;-)) ... from an author[6] I sometimes bother
to read:
  * if things are at all ambiguous in email, they'll generally be
    interpreted in the more/most negative of ways.  Many studies have
    shown this.  It mostly has to do with the relative "flatness" of
    email communication - no verbal cues, no body language, the feedback
    loop only starts after the e-mail is sent (no realtime or near
    realtime feedback of communication as it is being formed), etc.  And
    the smiley thingies can hardly come close to filling those gaps. 8-O

Or, paraphrased from a less likely of sources[7]:
"Can't we all just get along?"

1. PC - Politically Correct, not to be confused with PC - Personal
2. apt - inclined; disposed; given; prone, not to be confused with
   apt(8) - Advanced Package Tool
3. I particularly like "Within the area it surveys, this volume attempts
   to be timely, complete and concise.  Where the latter two objectives
   conflict, the obvious is often left unsaid in favor of brevity.  It
   is intended that each program be described as it is, not as it should
   be." - UNIX PROGRAMMER'S MANUAL, Seventh Edition, January, 1979,
4. Okay, it might be the majority of responses, depending exactly what
   they did, when, and where.
5. spam - yuck - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(electronic).  Not to
   be confused with SPAM (R) - http://www.hormelfoods.com/brands/spam/
6. http://linuxmafia.com/pipermail/sf-lug/2008q2/004537.html
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King

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