How to argue about Code
How to argue about Code  (on the internet)
Why?
internet          +open-source software          +       GitHub
Our argumentsshould be purposeful.
ideal: scientific research
reality: political debate
“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and t...
“Who the hell are you?”
No one of consequence.
“Where do you get offcensoring me, you fascist?”
I don’t.
Motives for havinga code argument:
to troll
to feel awesome about yourself
to persuade othersto your way of thinking
to understandthe subject better
An argument has three goals.
Goal 1:     It should producea wise agreement, if possible.
Goal 2:It should be efficient.
Goal 3:      It should not damagethe relationship between parties.
Our case study:
the original ticket:https://github.com/twitter/bootstrap/issues/3057
Tactics for arguments:
Tactic 1:Separate the people from the problem.
bad:the objective nature of the problemhow humans feel about the problem
bad:the objective nature of the problemhow humans feel about the problem
good:the objective nature of the problemhow humans feel about the problem
the original ticket:
response from Jacob Thornton (@fat):
comments one and two:
comment three:
comment four:
(this is why you should be nice)
Tactic 2:Focus on interests, not positions.
Tactic 3:Invent options for mutual gain.
Tactic 4:Insist on objective criteria.
(standards)
(benchmarks)
THE SELECTOR WARS
jsPerf(jsperf.com)
“So what should I do?”
How to think:
Retain a willingness to be convinced
Imagine where others  are coming from
Account for your own taste
Account for your own emotions
John Resig“I learned some things about jQuery today…”
Recognize derails as they happen
Ahead:   An inventory of the discussions taking place in a single closed ticketon Twitter Bootstrap’s GitHub project
main question:  Should Bootstrap change asyntactic shortcut that does not  minify properly in JSMin?
main question (broadened):     Should library authors care about interoperability with JSMin?Or should JSMin accommodate c...
derails and meta-discussions perpetuatedby at least two of the 143 ticket participants:
“People who don’t usesemicolons areJavaScript hipsters.”                        “No, people who are                       ...
“@fat is being a jackassand a bad projectsteward.”                           “No, people like you are                     ...
“Semicolon or not, that line should still be rewritten.”
“JSMin sucks anyway.  People should use some other minifier.”
“Who cares about minification?Everyone’s got a fast connection now.”
“We’ve now spent like a hundred comments     arguing about a single semicolon     that @fat is too stubborn to add.”
“We are bikeshedding like hell up in here.”
“Stop posting on this ticket! GitHub sends me a    notification with each new comment.”
also: trolls
also: wisecracks
meanwhile:
Staying on topicrequires moderation.
How to speak:
Be nice.
Speak with surgical precision.
E-Prime
“Any proposition containing the word ‘is’ creates a linguistic structural confusion which will eventually give birth to se...
“PHP is awful.”
“PHP is awful.”“Whenever I use PHP, I end up longing for the logical API and unsurprising   behavior of Ruby or JavaScript.”
“jQuery is easier to use   than MooTools.”
“jQuery is easier to use     than MooTools.”“I find jQuery more intuitive    to use than MooTools.”
Be honest in yourcharacterizations.
“What if the other side won’t play along?”
Don’t rise to the bait.
Emphasize the contrast betweenyour tactics and your opponents’.
Nicole Sullivan,“Don’t feed the trolls”   http://bit.ly/JWksIU
In short: Postel’s Law
“Why do I have totake the high road?”
(fin)
How to Argue about Code
How to Argue about Code
How to Argue about Code
How to Argue about Code
How to Argue about Code
How to Argue about Code
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How to Argue about Code

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None of us would be very good developers if we never had arguments about The Best Way to Do Things. But I've had enough silly arguments about tabs-versus-spaces to last me the rest of my life. When should we stop arguing and start writing code? I'll share specific tactics for keeping code arguments evidence-based, respectful, and drama-free.

Given at Refresh Austin on September 11, 2012.

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How to Argue about Code

  1. 1. How to argue about Code
  2. 2. How to argue about Code (on the internet)
  3. 3. Why?
  4. 4. internet +open-source software + GitHub
  5. 5. Our argumentsshould be purposeful.
  6. 6. ideal: scientific research
  7. 7. reality: political debate
  8. 8. “In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.” Carl Sagan (1987)
  9. 9. “Who the hell are you?”
  10. 10. No one of consequence.
  11. 11. “Where do you get offcensoring me, you fascist?”
  12. 12. I don’t.
  13. 13. Motives for havinga code argument:
  14. 14. to troll
  15. 15. to feel awesome about yourself
  16. 16. to persuade othersto your way of thinking
  17. 17. to understandthe subject better
  18. 18. An argument has three goals.
  19. 19. Goal 1: It should producea wise agreement, if possible.
  20. 20. Goal 2:It should be efficient.
  21. 21. Goal 3: It should not damagethe relationship between parties.
  22. 22. Our case study:
  23. 23. the original ticket:https://github.com/twitter/bootstrap/issues/3057
  24. 24. Tactics for arguments:
  25. 25. Tactic 1:Separate the people from the problem.
  26. 26. bad:the objective nature of the problemhow humans feel about the problem
  27. 27. bad:the objective nature of the problemhow humans feel about the problem
  28. 28. good:the objective nature of the problemhow humans feel about the problem
  29. 29. the original ticket:
  30. 30. response from Jacob Thornton (@fat):
  31. 31. comments one and two:
  32. 32. comment three:
  33. 33. comment four:
  34. 34. (this is why you should be nice)
  35. 35. Tactic 2:Focus on interests, not positions.
  36. 36. Tactic 3:Invent options for mutual gain.
  37. 37. Tactic 4:Insist on objective criteria.
  38. 38. (standards)
  39. 39. (benchmarks)
  40. 40. THE SELECTOR WARS
  41. 41. jsPerf(jsperf.com)
  42. 42. “So what should I do?”
  43. 43. How to think:
  44. 44. Retain a willingness to be convinced
  45. 45. Imagine where others are coming from
  46. 46. Account for your own taste
  47. 47. Account for your own emotions
  48. 48. John Resig“I learned some things about jQuery today…”
  49. 49. Recognize derails as they happen
  50. 50. Ahead: An inventory of the discussions taking place in a single closed ticketon Twitter Bootstrap’s GitHub project
  51. 51. main question: Should Bootstrap change asyntactic shortcut that does not minify properly in JSMin?
  52. 52. main question (broadened): Should library authors care about interoperability with JSMin?Or should JSMin accommodate code that Crockford finds distasteful?
  53. 53. derails and meta-discussions perpetuatedby at least two of the 143 ticket participants:
  54. 54. “People who don’t usesemicolons areJavaScript hipsters.” “No, people who are fanatical about semicolons are just spreading FUD.”
  55. 55. “@fat is being a jackassand a bad projectsteward.” “No, people like you are bitching about a library they got for free.”
  56. 56. “Semicolon or not, that line should still be rewritten.”
  57. 57. “JSMin sucks anyway. People should use some other minifier.”
  58. 58. “Who cares about minification?Everyone’s got a fast connection now.”
  59. 59. “We’ve now spent like a hundred comments arguing about a single semicolon that @fat is too stubborn to add.”
  60. 60. “We are bikeshedding like hell up in here.”
  61. 61. “Stop posting on this ticket! GitHub sends me a notification with each new comment.”
  62. 62. also: trolls
  63. 63. also: wisecracks
  64. 64. meanwhile:
  65. 65. Staying on topicrequires moderation.
  66. 66. How to speak:
  67. 67. Be nice.
  68. 68. Speak with surgical precision.
  69. 69. E-Prime
  70. 70. “Any proposition containing the word ‘is’ creates a linguistic structural confusion which will eventually give birth to serious fallacies.” Alfred Korzybski, Semanticist
  71. 71. “PHP is awful.”
  72. 72. “PHP is awful.”“Whenever I use PHP, I end up longing for the logical API and unsurprising behavior of Ruby or JavaScript.”
  73. 73. “jQuery is easier to use than MooTools.”
  74. 74. “jQuery is easier to use than MooTools.”“I find jQuery more intuitive to use than MooTools.”
  75. 75. Be honest in yourcharacterizations.
  76. 76. “What if the other side won’t play along?”
  77. 77. Don’t rise to the bait.
  78. 78. Emphasize the contrast betweenyour tactics and your opponents’.
  79. 79. Nicole Sullivan,“Don’t feed the trolls” http://bit.ly/JWksIU
  80. 80. In short: Postel’s Law
  81. 81. “Why do I have totake the high road?”
  82. 82. (fin)

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