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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Them? Oh, they don't matter.

Let's set the stage. You're reading a story about some kind of giant programming project which happened some time ago. Many people from all over the world were involved. Work happened both here in the US and abroad, and people of all nationalities were involved. It was truly a global effort.

The kernel hackers who were affiliated with one of my former teams would be a good example of this. They were from all over the world. I met people with all sorts of interesting backgrounds while working there.

So you're reading about something this group did, and the article includes a line like this:

Fortunately, the American kernel programmers knew how to write quality code.

I'd hope you'd look at that and think "gee, that's funny". Why did the author need to single out the Americans? After all, there are lots of people from other places who also work on the project, and they do good work too. Is this article trying to say that the others don't write quality code, even though they do?

I'd expect most people to look at that and think it was anomalous. You could hope that it came about as a sentence which changed directions halfway between the author's brain and the keyboard. That happens to me from time to time, and you'll see weird words floating around which don't belong there. I get reports and I fix them -- thanks, Michiel.

Anyway, if you assume it's an oversight or error, then it shouldn't be a big deal to raise a question about it in a discussion forum.

Just the American kernel programmers? Why not all of them?

Imagine if you said that in a community of programmers and started receiving responses from people who were clearly not agreeing with you. I'm talking about things like this:

Given the time period in question, I think it's quite likely that all the people working on this project were Americans.

Or, something like this:

"American" also means "citizen of the world".

Or, this one, which is much longer:

As far as I know, foreigners didn't have anything to do with quality code, or designing the kernel itself. Therefore, yes, "Americans" is the correct word to use.

[...]

I'm sorry you think it is more productive to call out perceived slights to your nationality, rather than doing something awesome. I guess it's a lot easier kvetching than, you know, actually doing something.

But wait, there's more.

Could somebody let me know if this is going to be a thing on every thread in this forum? Because if it is, I'm going back to reading it through RSS.

Is it so much to ask to not be forgotten once in a while? Is it even possible to do that without receiving a disproportional response of hate?

Apparently not.