This is why we can’t have nice things

I’m almost bubbling with a perverse, twisted sense of delight. Not since Beranger announced his defection from Linux to Windows and the outrageous threats of legal action over Linux has there been a windfall like the Sam Varghese vs. Caitlyn Martin spat. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning.

Why? Because yet again, my opinion is validated: Blogging is a pointless, worthless, self-indulgent function wasting the time and effort of thousands upon thousands of people, every day, myself included. An immense amount of time and money go into this pitiful, rancid little exercise, doing very little to actually motivate or resolve the real problems the world faces.

If there had been blogging in the late 1700s, the French Revolution would never have happened. If there had been blogs in the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t have made the I Have a Dream speech and men wouldn’t have landed on the moon. If cavemen had had blogs, there would be no cave paintings. (Wait, maybe that’s what cave paintings are. … :| )

A long time ago, people sat around in pubs, became incensed at their lot in life, shouted a lot, then went on a wild rampage, taking out their anger on the local mad scientist or semi-enlightened despot, burning his castle and throwing him into the moat. Nowadays, people sit around the house, become incensed at their lot in life, then whine into their electronic diary and mope for a few hours. A few other people read it, whine into their own electronic diaries, and nothing else happens. No mad scientist gets thrown in the moat. Nobody’s castle gets burned down.

This, we call progress.

Was anything solved when Ms. Martin took the pith out of the Ubuntu hierarchy for failing to recognize her printer? Nope. A few hundred comments and she attracted the ire of Mr. Varghese, who in turn took a wider swipe at the collective impudence of a certain kind of Linux user. Anything improved by that? Nope. A few more hundred comments and a pithy retort from Ms. Martin.

Nobody increased Linux’s user base. Nobody took a chunk out of Apple’s market share. Nobody kept another uneducated computer buyer from spending money on a Microsoft product. Nobody even cured the common cold.

What happened? A few advertisers made a little money on the redirects. The sites that host those writers drew a few more hits, and probably drew in a little more ad revenue. A network administrator somewhere had to deal with a little blip in the traffic. And I bask in the delight of being right, again.

There’s no lesson to be learned in any of this. I don’t have any jewels of wisdom to close this post with. It’s a free world, someone once said, and people are allowed to suck if they want to.

It is a shame though, that the effort and time and resources spent hashing out that little drama weren’t converted into some other endeavor. There are lots of ways to improve the world, and most of them don’t even require university education. The best ones don’t involve brushing a tear from your eye, moaning in a narcissistic puddle over the keyboard, and complaining because someone is having a different experience on this planet than you.

Enough. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find a cave to paint in. :evil:

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10 Responses to “This is why we can’t have nice things”


  1. 1 vespas 2010/04/16 at 8:58 PM

    This all sounds like the usenet flamewars of the 90s (and even 80s) all over again, just more mainstream. I think that cavemen, the French revolutionaries and MLK activists/haters all had had discussions (or tea parties, or brawls…) at some point that would today be less than proud of. I don’t see this as degeneracy or even much change, just greater publicity.
    Blogging has attracted (even mainstream) media attention because it is so accessible and easy for everyone, something that could be said to be the effect of all digital technologies: digital communications, audio, imaging etc made a big difference not (mainly) because they increased quality, but because they made things so much easier to share.
    This all reminds me of this headline from the onion:
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/couple-sneaks-away-from-party-for-a-little-arguing,6900/ ;)
    Also, there is something to be said about the quality of journalism in the technical sector. So many people confuse IT with computer science and proclaim themselves experts just because they installed winzip once that reading magazines does not even make sense anymore. At least with blogs, you know where you stand, it’s one man and his dog. But what really annoys me is reading Computerworld et al where 10-page articles will complain about “making it easier to install software in linux” in the author’s “24 hours with linux” and just throw MS marketing jargon at it.
    Oh well, you can always increase signal-to-noise ratio criteria for reading things :)

  2. 2 Nugnuts 2010/04/16 at 9:45 PM

    “Blogging is a pointless, worthless, self-indulgent function wasting the time and effort of thousands upon thousands of people, every day, myself included.”

    Though I see your point through the hyperbole (and even if you are fishing ;) ) I would like to point out that your blog and several of the comments here have taught me/turned me on to a thing or two over the years. I imagine I am not alone. I would say there is real worth in that.

    That said, I see a bit less worth in posts like these which seem to self fulfill the prophesy (to wit: “the effort and time and resources spent hashing out that little drama weren’t converted into some other endeavor” :p ), though they are certainly cathartic for the writer and can indeed be motivational for the reader.

  3. 3 Doug 2010/04/16 at 9:54 PM

    I tune out most flamewars, although some have helped me to learn new things. Lately, the Apple vs. Adobe war on the merits of Flash has been very educational about the merits of tightly controlled platforms vs. open platforms.

    I’ve learned a lot from the Ubuntu flamewars. They have shown me the value of learning more about Linux and experimenting to find the sorts of distros that best suit me. I wouldn’t have moved from Ubuntu to Debian and Arch without those flamewars.

    Not much merit in the Varghese vs. Martin flamewar, although I’ve found both to produce insightful posts from time to time. Ubuntu has its virtues and flaws. Nothing new here.

    This blog is one of the high signal-to-noise blogs that usually teaches me something. Not pointless for this reader, who thanks you for your blogging efforts.

  4. 4 JoshMiller 2010/04/17 at 12:36 AM

    It’s so true sadly. Even those who many online folks know like say, Leo Laporte, don’t really make much of a difference in the end. Some guy blogging in his spare time once a week might entertain 50-100 people occasionally but the end result is null.

  5. 5 koleoptero 2010/04/17 at 2:14 AM

    OUGK OUGK AARGHH OUGK.

  6. 6 Lithium 2010/04/17 at 6:55 AM

    Sigh!!… such dull flame wars these days.

    Whatever happened to the good old McLaren vs Williams, Senna vs Prost, Yamaha vs Honda, Brazil vs Argentina, Nikon vs Leica flame wars of the old days? :(

    I wish I had a cave to paint in…. but hey, at least I have Wacom support in Linux these days. Wonder if I owe thanks to someone ranting about Wacom support in his/her blog?

    FYI, I still sit around in pubs and go on wild drunken rampages. :P

    Great write-up, as always.

  7. 7 mulenmar 2010/04/17 at 4:20 PM

    *sigh* Rule number one in blogging — play nice, or else. :roll:

  8. 8 Hans Bezemer 2010/06/04 at 6:33 AM

    I think you’re right. This blogging has created an ecosystem of itself where people are fighting each other verbally to the death while the rest of the world hardly notices. There have been clashes around KDE/Gnome, Mono, sexism and now Ubuntu and the real world hasn’t moved even an inch.

    No more converts were made, people silently moved from one distribution or desktop to another and the 20,000 projects with their smaller or larger continue to exchange Usenet jokes like “Why C compilers are better than women”.

    The point is, it is a child play version of playing house. It’s bloggers playing the media and community leaders playing the politicians. And I think that is what in essence drives people: trying to make a difference so the “bad guys” (whoever they are) don’t win.

    But nobody is reading it. Nobody is paying attention. Only the politicians. And that can be dangerous for the FOSS community as a whole.


  1. 1 Once again: Don’t do it « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/11/09 at 10:23 PM
  2. 2 A comfortable limit « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2011/01/11 at 11:12 PM

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