Re: us vs. them (somewhat long)

Subject: Re: us vs. them (somewhat long)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 20:28:17 -0700

"Sierra Godfrey" <kittenbreath -at- hotbot -dot- com> wrote:

>a lot of it is just learning to deal with those bad people. I don't care if they respect me or not now. >They won't. They don't respect anyone. I just try to do my job in the most efficient way possible, and >work around them.

This seems like the healthiest way to view things. Of course,
being male, I don't face the gender problems that many female
writers face in the largely male geek world. However, I've
learned the hard way that people who are on a kamikaze run to
destroy others have major problems respecting themselves. Whether
in academia or business, I've found that the people who are
really good in their jobs aren't interested in putting others
down or making somebody else's work difficult.

Case in point: I was recently interviewing a young coder for my
column. He's a teenager, and he's already a heavy-hitter: he's
made contributions to the Linux kernel and several major GNU
projects, and he's had offers of work from around the world. If
anyone could be excused some attitude, this coder could,
especially since he's young and might not have had time to
develop social skills.

Instead, this guy was very disturbed when I made a casual
distinction between developer and user. From where he stood, this
distinction made no sense: so far as he was concerned, he was
just a user who had made some tools that he found personally
useful. This comment wasn't false modesty; the guy obviously knew
how good he was. It was simply the way he saw the world.

Still, I don't expect any number of examples to destroy the
"geeks are out to get us attitude" that keeps cropping up on this
list. It seems to be a tech-writer myth: not a lie, and certainly
not unfounded, but one of the stories that writers constantly
repeat to themselves to reinforce their view of the world and
their position in it. As such, it's right up there with "free
trade and democracy are the same thing" and "all men are
potential rapists." Like all myths that have only a vague and
distorted relation to reality, it says disturbing things about
the people who subscribe to it. I often wonder if the writers who
hold to this myth aren't projecting their own worries about
inferiority on to those around them. Many of the insults they're
obsessive about probably weren't meant that way, and were
probably forgotten by the perpetrators thirty seconds afterwards.

I'd like to see tech-writers develop less self-destructive myths.
For example, how about, "Our goal is to be valued members of the
team" or "we're ombuds for the end-users"? Like the myth I'm
complaining about, both are half-truths, but they're less far
less self-destructive.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"My enemies were certain I was starving,
It must have given them a fearful shock,
Through the binoculars to see me carving,
A joint of beef upon the barren rock."
-Roy Daniells, "Psalm 23"

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