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Joel on Slashdot

This is a bit old, but see here:

http://developers.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=94291&cid=8090275

<quote>
Is Joel Spolsky anything more than a bit of a power tripper? I am a bit fed up with the "at fog creek we are the best, and I am the boss so I am even better" sentiment that seems to form the basis of most of Spolskys articles, not to mention the "and I love lording it over the great unwashed who dare to think that they would even be considered for employment at the mighty Fog Creek Software", which has been a recurrent theme in more than a few. I am also a slightly mystified as to why the great Joel Spolsky gets so much coverage on slashdot, seeing as he is on record as being a bit of a microsoft apologist, and general proprietary software fanboy (especially the rather generic and uninspired applications produced by his company, fog creek)
</quote>


Joel, I may not be as ascerbic as that dude, but that "you puny mortals are not worthy" attitude does come across in many of your articles.

Karl Max
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Joel writes articles, in addition to running this board? Didn't know.

  
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Funny, Ive always read it as having a kind of "this works for me" tonality. From that perspective a certain firmness is warranted because its all about his own experiences.
It all depends on what your are looking for and how you look at it.

Eric Debois
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

yeah. let's boycott this site.

Crass outsourcing posts, all is forgiven.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I don't get that attitude from his writings at all. But if the shoe fits wear it, my man.

TheManWhoWouldBeKing
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I'm confused, if you agree with that /. then why bother reading anything here.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Yeah, the whole time I was reading his Unicode article I was thinking, "yeah, 'code pages' sure, why don't you come down from the clouds and join us little people huh?"

Seriously though, I wonder if that impression has something to do with Microsoft culture.  My uncle was a program manager at Microsoft too, and he's also got that kind of confidence that some people mistake for arrogance.

If it really bothers you, I think that there's usually enough of value here that you can just ignore whatever you see as hubris.  I'm sure that's why slashdot links to him.

Kalani
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"general proprietary software fanboy"

General note: when trying to start a discussion about a contentious topic, try not to make statements that provide hooks for your anticipated opponents to dismiss your entire post.

I've always wondered if that is taught anywhere - how to avoid debate-killers. I used to be on a mailing list for Naval Academy alumni, and I can't tell you the number of people who lost their argument before they started by saying "well women don't even belong in the military, but..." (when it was tangential to the point at hand). When you say that, people just stop listening.

Other debate-killers:
"Look, open source is dead anyway, so..."
"Microsoft is just an evil monopoly and..."
"Maybe if the Indians weren't stealing our jobs..."
"That imperialistic George Bush..."
[any invocation of Godwin's Law]

I'm just curious - do I look at this wrong? Because I see introduction of off-topic debate-killers as a sign of a lack of focus - I try to stop myself doing it, but it can be difficult.

Just an idle musing.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I think you're spot-on, Philo.  I notice the same thing with a retired professor from the local college, who spends his afternoons sitting in the middle of the campus passing out papers with his thoughts about politics.  He makes some very good points, and he's done his research, but he throws in enough comments about "those crooks in the White House" or "the liars in the administration" that it makes you question his entire message.  I always think "if he has to resort to calling names, maybe his argument isn't all that strong." 

This thread is a perfect example of how prevalent these "debate-killers" are in most technology debates.  I've always wondered, though, if these things turn off most people as much as they do for me, or if stuff like that actually helps to persuade the audience.

Emperor Norton
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"I've always wondered, though, if these things turn off most people as much as they do for me, or if stuff like that actually helps to persuade the audience."

I'd bet it doesn't persuade anyone.  Comments like that turn discussions into religious debates, and all it seems to accomplish is getting the ardent supporters riled up, while everyone else dismisses the argument as being unfounded propaganda being disseminated by the radical factions of the cause.

Then, those on the other side of the fence turn your personal feelings against you and your cause making the whole issue seem like an uneducated rant coming from a bunch of zealots.

The only thing it does accomplish is widening the crevasse betweeen the two sides of the discussion.

Elephant
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"Joel, I may not be as ascerbic as that dude, but that "you puny mortals are not worthy" attitude does come across in many of your articles."

Give me a break!

Joel has a great sense of humor and unfortunately some people just don't get it.

I 've met him and he's very polite and personable.

Farid
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I enjoyed most of Joel's articles, and you're right, the "you puny mortals are not worthy" attitude (for the lack of a better phrase to describe it) does shine thru sometimes.

However it never bothered me because I never considered myself one of those puny mortals he belittles in his articles.

But I feel your insecurity man.

B.Y.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Honestly, I understand the arrogance vibe that people are feeling, I feel it some too.  However, from my own experience I have found that there is a double-edged sword that comes with healthy self-esteem.  In recent years, I just kind of reached the point where I was tired of beating myself up, and allowing others to do it, too.  I realized that there should be nothing wrong with recognizing that you have certain abilities, and that you can accomplish great things in line with applying those abilities with enough effort.  I am no longer ashamed to believe in myself, and I no longer just accept the status quo.

Consequently, I have had experiences where people judge me as arrogant and cocky when they first meet me, because I am not afraid to jump in and try to help solve problems.  For some wierd reason, people have been trained to believe that they have nothing to offer until someone *important* tells them they do.  The truth is that I am very aware of my flaws, and I am very aware that the aptitude and abilities I possess are not so much a credit to me, but a (dare I say) divine gift with which I have a great responsibility to do something productive.  I am on a path to do great things, not because I think I am great, but because to whom much is given, much is expected.

What is so wrong with believing in yourself, recognizing which methods and ideas have been successful for you, and then sharing those ideas with others?

I have the suspicion that many people slap the arrogance label on confident and successful people out of a sort of envy for the attributes which elude them personally.

Clay Whipkey
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Hey OP, if you want Joel to respond, you ought to post to the "Ask Joel" forum. His appearances here are irregular at best. :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

thats bang on Philo.

There are a bunch of things like that which should be taught in school....from avoiding debate killers to recognising when someones trying to control you, to avoiding the situations that lead to fights _before  the fight becomes inevitable_

Ive often thought about offering some night classes in stuff like that.....lessons of life and people.

FullNameRequired
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A confident, asserted opinion can easily be perceived as arrogance - especially in a faceless, toneless medium such as print.

DISCLAIMER: The above opinion, asserted with confidence, should not be perceived as arrogance on my part. ;-)

bpd
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

When I first encountered Joel, I realised here was one of the few writers on software who actually knew what they were talking about. Joel has actually developed software.

This is such a refreshing change to the "industry analysts" or academics who tend to get media attention and headlines. Experienced developers read that stuff and know it's not the full story.

Me And The View Out The Window
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Philo - that's also a very effective discreditation technique.

Apparently take the side of your enemy, advocate all their points, but slip in a few hints to being illiterate/homosexual/dictatorial/whatever is frowned upon.

So the whole 'speech' does them way more harm than good.

Alex.ro
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I think the difference between confidence and arrogance is in how you respond to contrary evidence.  Someone who is arrogant will get flustered, annoyed, angry and generally dig in their heels and assert their original point more strongly.  Confident people will listen, try to understand your counter-point and then say "good point" and happily go about their business. 

Certainly in his postings to the message boards, Joel has shown the later pattern.

Ken Klose
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"Someone who is arrogant will get flustered, annoyed, angry and generally dig in their heels and assert their original point more strongly.  Confident people will listen, try to understand your counter-point and then say "good point" and happily go about their business. "

Interesting take on that. I once had a manager who proclaimed that when someone is defensive (their definition of defensive was "one who sticks to their guns about something"), they must be wrong. This struck me as so absurd that I've never forgotten it, yet this is how he goes about life justifying anyone who disagrees with them -- eventually it comes to them disagreeing because they're wrong. What a pat little theory.

I get the same feeling about your theory. My perception is pretty much the exact opposite of yours: It is my experience that if someone is arrogant, they'll patronize your blatherings, pat you on the head and say "that's nice. Thank you for your input" and promptly disregard it as they move on. If someone is confident, on the other hand, they'll be willing to "dig in their heels" and argue the point on credibility -- to battle it out to a factual conclusion. When someone is willing to argue a point, this demonstrates respect for the co-arguers (otherwise they wouldn't bother, and would resort the previous activity of patting you on the head).

Dennis Forbes
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"If someone is confident, on the other hand, they'll be willing to "dig in their heels" and argue the point on credibility -- to battle it out to a factual conclusion."

I think therin lies the problem.  A lot of people don't have any ground to stand on and thus can't "dig their heels in".  They're barely treading water to make their case, yet it's their arrogance that keeps them from from realizing your point, and coming to grips with the facts.

An example I like, is some guy was bashing MS Word on here a while back for mangling his documents.  Then at the bottom, it comes out that he's using Word 97, and doesn't upgrade because if 97 was that bad, modern versions have to garble your documents before you even type them.

I'm sorry, but he doesn't have any ground to be making any point other than Word 97 wasn't a good product.  Yet he stuck to his guns.  Why, I don't know, but I don't think he was being altruistic.

Elephant
Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Ken says: 'Someone who is arrogant will get flustered, annoyed, angry and generally dig in their heels and assert their original point more strongly. Confident people will listen, try to understand your counter-point and then say "good point" and happily go about their business.'

Dennis counters with: 'It is my experience that if someone is arrogant, they'll patronize your blatherings, pat you on the head and say "that's nice. Thank you for your input" and promptly disregard it as they move on. If someone is confident, on the other hand, they'll be willing to "dig in their heels" and argue the point on credibility -- to battle it out to a factual conclusion.'

Both sets of responses are plausible, leading me to conclude that it is neither arrogance nor confidence that solely determines an individual's response - there must be something else.  Ken seems to believe that arrogant individuals will respond with asserted anger, while Dennis asserts that arrogant individuals are patronizing.  I don't think that arrogance is a prerequisite for either response.  I'm sure that neither combination (arrogance/anger and arrogance/patronizing) is in short supply!

Likewise, confident people surely have other characteristics/traits that might entice them to be either understanding or argumentative.  While I believe that traits such as arrogance and confidence are often (but not always) associated/present with other traits (such as high or low self-esteem), you can't generalize too much.  There's just too many factors and combinations to discriminate.

As Dennis' response implies, our conclusions in such matters tend to be based upon our individual experiences and interpersonal dealings.  What else do we have upon which to base our opinions?

bpd
Wednesday, April 14, 2004

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