Friday, March 27, 2015

Linus's Law: Narrowly vs Broadly Defined

Posted this in Linus's Law... Yay or Nay?


This started off as a reply to this thread... Should Dywyddyr be banned from the Forum?  But in my reply I brought up the topic of Linus's Law.  So I'm posting my reply as a new thread so I don't get banned again for "derailing" a thread.  And since I'm posting a thread... I figured that I might as well add some additional and relevant content.

People like you are the reason why a forum needs moderators like that. Apparently they aren't quite tough enough. - Strange

People like me?  You mean... people with unconventional views/thoughts?  If my thoughts are correct... then these moderators aren't doing the members of this forum any favors by locking/trashing my threads and banning me.  If my thoughts are incorrect, which is entirely possible... then these moderators aren't doing the members of this forum any favors by locking/trashing my threads and banning me.

Let's break this down programming style...

Case correct

Trashing/locking my thread robs forum members of the opportunity to hear myself, and possibly others, provide some arguments/evidence in support of a correct thought.

Case incorrect

Locking my thread robs forum members of the opportunity to hear different perspectives/arguments/evidence on why my thought is incorrect.

The longer a thread stays open, the greater the chances that a new forum member will be able to find and point out the error or truth of my thought.  Could the new member simply start a new thread that does so?  Well... if he wants to point out the truth of my thought... then he might not be inclined to do so given that my thread was locked/trashed and/or I was banned for a week for starting it.

And if he wants to point out the error of my thought?  Sure, he can start a thread... but will any of the participants in my locked/trashed thread see it?

There's a reason that we subscribe to threads.  It's so that we can be notified when a thread/topic that we're interested in receives new replies.  Subscribing to threads is beneficial because it helps prevent us from missing any new replies to topics/discussions that we're interested in following.  If we lose interest in the thread/topic... then it's easy enough to unsubscribe.

Allowing a thread to stay open facilitates...

1. debugging (finding the errors in a thought).
2. subscribing to any future debugging.

In this thread...  Are HUMAN SWARMS more accuate tools than POLLS or SURVEYS? I shared a link to Linus's Law and this relevant passage....

The history of Unix should have prepared us for what we're learning from Linux (and what I've verified experimentally on a smaller scale by deliberately copying Linus's methods [EGCS]). That is, while coding remains an essentially solitary activity, the really great hacks come from harnessing the attention and brainpower of entire communities. The developer who uses only his or her own brain in a closed project is going to fall behind the developer who knows how to create an open, evolutionary context in which feedback exploring the design space, code contributions, bug-spotting, and other improvements come from from hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people. - Eric Steven Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar

Is this passage relevant to closed vs open threads?  I sure think it is.  When a moderator closes a thread... he prevents the "swarm" from tackling the topic of the thread.  Why does the moderator close the thread?  In too many cases it's because he, one person, is certain enough that his answer is better than any answer that the community could possibly come up with.  In economic terms this is known as the "fatal conceit".  It can also be described as "hubris".

Is Raymond's passage relevant to banned members?  I sure think it is.  Banning members decreases the number of eyeballs that this community has.  Less eyeballs means less chances that "bugs" (errors) will be found.  And the people who are most likely to be banned... ie "deviants"... are the people who are most likely to look in really different places.  Having more eyeballs isn't beneficial when everybody's looking in pretty much the same direction.   Uniformity in thinking really doesn't increase the chances that bugs will be found.  This is why it's always better to have more, rather than less, (bio)diversity.   Progress depends on difference.

Here's what you had to say about Linus's Law in that swarm thread...

You ignore the fact that the Wikipedia entry points out that this is a fallacy, as anyone with experience of professional software development would know. Quality is more important than quantity in code reviews, as in so many areas. - Strange

I would have pointed out the "bug" in your thinking shortly after you posted it... but I was banned for a week because I posted this thread.

When it comes to finding bugs in the programming code itself... then obviously you have to be able to read the code.  But the more people you have who can actually read the code... the greater the chances that somebody is going to spot the error.  Even when a program only consists of a few lines of code... I've found myself sitting there staring and staring trying to find the bug.  Sometimes it's not easy to spot things that are right under our nose.  Which is exactly why two heads are better than one.

And as anyone with experience of professional software development knows... most software isn't developed for developers... it's developed for people who aren't developers.  And the more people who are using your software... the greater the chances that somebody is going to enter some different input that "breaks" the software.  What did the user find?  A bug in the code.  Software is made for users... so it's a problem with the software when a user inadvertently "breaks" it.

It's a bug in your thinking to believe that Linus's Law is only relevant to finding errors in programming code.  Linus's Law is relevant to anything that can have bugs (errors/problems/mistakes).  This post of mine can certainly have plenty of bugs.  They can be minor errors such as misspellings and/or grammatical errors... or they can be major errors such as logical fallacies.  The more eyeballs that see this "code" (post)... the greater the chances that all the bugs will be found.   More eyeballs means more scrutiny.

In essence, a forum is decentralized (mostly) debugging process.  A member posts a thread (code) and other members are given the opportunity to try and find any errors.  If they find a large enough bug... then they have the opportunity to bring the bug to the attention of other members.

It's also a bug in your thinking to believe that Linus's Law is only relevant to finding bugs/errors/problems/mistakes.  Linus's Law is just as true for Easter Eggs as it for bugs.  Given enough eyeballs, all Easter Eggs are exposed.  The more kids that are looking for Easter Eggs (EEs)... the more EEs that will be found.

So not only is this forum a decentralized (mostly) debugging process... it's also a decentralized (mostly) treasure hunt.  We have the opportunity to point out what we perceive to be landmines/bugs/problems/errors... and we also have the opportunity to point out what we perceive to be EEs/truth/solutions/treasure.

When moderators lock/trash threads and ban members... is it because they have legitimate reasons for doing so... or is it because they fail to understand Linus's Law?  Most of my threads have been trashed/locked and I've already been banned twice.  So clearly I'm a little bit biased against Lynx_Fox and Dywyddyr.  But I'm entirely willing and able to admit that maybe I'm the one with the big bug in his code.  Maybe these two moderators understand Linus's Law a lot better than I do?

Perhaps Lynx_Fox and Dywyddyr can effectively explain the difference between Linus's Law and Proverbs 11:14?

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

A broader definition/understanding of Linus's Law has all types of relevance to our government.  If software can have bugs... and this forum post can have bugs... then it stand to reason that any plan can have bugs.  Government plans can be just as buggy as private plans.  There's a pretty big difference though.  In the private sector... if you want a lot of people to invest in your plan...  then you're going to have to subject your plan to a lot of scrutiny/eyeballs.   In the public sector however... congress doesn't have to persuade a multitude of taxpayers that a plan for a bridge will not violate Quiggin's Implied Rule of Economics.  Which is exactly why we end up with bridges to nowhere and unnecessary wars.  The solution is simply to create a market in the public sector (pragmatarianism).  If government plans are truly bug free... then they should have no problem holding up to all the additional scrutiny.  Because when it comes to government plans... ignorance of bugs truly isn't bliss.


  1. It really seems quite astonishing the lengths that some people will go to in bemoaning the decisions of moderators of online forums. Both the aforementioned Lynx_Fox and Dywyddyr are highly intelligent and extremely well respected members of the science forum. They have not, nor never do give their opinions or take decisions lightly.

    It would seem a real shame that someone has taken a simple issue beyond the confines of the said forum, rather than seeking suitable recourse by logical and reasoned discussion with moderators. Clearly though this does indeed present the obvious conclusion that this particular moan holds no merit, certainly none in which the original poster has any confidence in their own contention.

    1. "rather than seeking suitable recourse by logical and reasoned discussion with moderators"

      Evidently you missed the part where this blog entry is a thread that I posted on the science forum. Which means that you also missed the part where moderators moved this thread to the trash can. Threads in the trash cannot be viewed by the public.... they can only be viewed by signed-in members of the forum.

      The general rule is that highly intelligent people who have absolutely nothing to hide have absolutely no problem with full transparency. Which explains why you chose to post your comment anonymously.

  2. Clearly this masterpiece and of course your genius weren't correctly understood by the mere fools which inhabit the science forum.