Please avoid recycling the "considered harmful" trope

The same applies to the Clojurians Slack (code of conduct and a low tolerance for “bad” behavior) and, yes, some people have complained about the policies/atmosphere and left because they feel they “can’t be their natural self” (because their natural self, apparently, includes being rude and aggressive and belittling certain groups of other people). But, yes, it has also made other people feel much safer and more at ease because they feel they can express themselves without others being rude and/or belittling them.

And it’s worth noting that many Clojure events (conferences, meetups) also work under a similar code of conduct and “moderation” for the same goals – and that those goals are in line with what Rich and Stu and others have expressed over the years for the furtherance of respectful, productive discussions about our shared technological interest.


I just found about this ClojureVerse topic. Obviously it refers to my recently published blog post; as people have made it abundantly clear here that such statements make me unwelcome in the Clojure community, I will now leave it.

(… joking. Just wanted exert my abrupt-intro writing style one last time.)

Seriously: that last experience has driven me to consider that you’re probably right. Even though that article explicitly aimed for much more nuance and contextuality than its title let out as soon as the introduction, the comments have shown that a lot of people won’t read past the title, not even to the introduction. So yeah, better watch those titles: if people take them seriously, care must be taken not to hurt their feelings.

Still, in this case I don’t know if it was harmful to the debate (“harmful” - look, I’m doing it again!). I had published a ClojureVerse discussion some months before that with a much more nuanced and less provocative title, and the discussion had had a much smaller reach back then, both in terms of audience and in terms of ideas. You know how they say “there are 2 sorts of languages, those people complain about and those nobody uses” - maybe it works the same for published ideas. Anyway, I wouldn’t do it again - even if we assume that being provocative was useful to the debate, it was too emotionally straining at a personal level (so much impugning motives!).

Having said all that, one thing bothers me here, and it explains why I was surprised at the reactions to the post: that it seems normal to interpret and judge an article solely based on its title. If that’s the cultural norm we agree on in this community, well, sure, I’ll stand by it - whatever it takes for its members to feel well and at peace. But I also fear that it would encourage a prejudiced, simplistic culture. To me it feels more natural and sane for people not to make up their mind based on titles, and to have enough trust and charity for the author to assume her message is nuanced and non-violent.

That might seem idealistic, but OTOH, from what I’ve seen of the world, you can’t really make people more tolerant and welcoming just by condemning bad form, with style rules, etiquette, taboos etc. You do it by getting them to look deeply and patiently into each other, making social interactions a good conductor of the deep things, and deal compassionately with what they find there, even if it annoys them at first.


first of all, i want to say that i think the technology powering clojureverse is great. looks great. works great. ( one thing that could be improved is perhaps the support for strange strings of question marks and exclamation marks. like in the following: !!! )

second of all, i sometimes feel like it would be nice if i could give my heart / like to certain parts of a post specifically. since, often times, the author will make various points in a single post and some of them will strike my fancy, while i may feel more cautious about others. so what i will often end up doing, is to sort of balance things a bit, so even if there is one thing that i don’t find to be convincing at all, if i like the rest of the argument being presented enough i will put my like on it regardless. now this also works the other way around, if there is something that i feel very skeptical about in a post i will probably not approve of it, as a whole, even if in that same post another point is raised, which i believe to be very interesting and worthwhile contemplating.

now i realize that there would be pros and cons to implementing such a feature and also that this really would not be the right place for voicing such a feature request. the reason i bring this up is actually the following, which i think is very insightful and worth our consideration:

so, if i could i would put a like on that! :smile:

now why do i feel like this is such an important but also such difficult point?

well, as i have repeated ad nauseam at this point, i happen to be very fascinated by Japanese language and Japanese culture. Okay, what does that have to do with anything you ask?

well, when i first came into some more contact with Japanese culture, coming from a German culture background, i felt like i could as well have been placed on a different planet :smile: ( …such i thought and felt was the extent of the differences… )

to be more concrete: in Germany ( Bavaria ) people often like to meet up in what is called a “beergarden” ( you can bring your own food, that is totally fine! ) and ( obviously it depends on who you are talking to ) they will often times engage each other in hot-headed debate about sports, politics, science, philosophy, poetry,… you name it! also, ( again, it really depends on who you are talking to, not everyone in Germany is like that to be sure ) the discussion is very likely not to shy away from expressing critical views and opinions regarding the personal affairs of whomever happens to sit at the table and is participating in the discussion. ( …also, the more and better they know each other, the less they are gonna hold back… in fact, if you ever happen to overhear people yelling at and insulting each other while at the same time laughing, being merry, drinking beer and eating their brezn with obazda with gusto, well, probably what you are witnessing are just the best of mates interacting “Bavarian style”… )

Now, in Japanese culture on the other hand, afaik, to be this outspoken, especially in a public space, would be entirely unthinkable / unforgivable. in fact Japanese language and culture ( seams to me ) puts very high emphasis on the need for politeness. so for example, usually when Japanese people are asked to do something and they don’t wanna do it, they probably will not even say no to you directly, ( so that you don’t take offence ) but they will turn you down much more indirectly, they’ll let you down easy, if you will. :smile:

So, i am telling you this, because i want to stress how good, valid and important this point that @plexus made in his post is!

but, now, how to deal with this? i think that what people have mostly argued so far is that it is best to basically take as much care as possible. coming back to my example, the advice would be to simply assume somebody from Japan is overhearing what you are saying, or you know,… that the kids hanging out at the clj-forum could end up traumatized. ( …now i am joking, but i am also not :smile: … )

alright, now what are my thoughts on that? well, it is probably the safest thing to do. and i really can not think of anything “wrong” in trying to be extra-super-extra-nice whenever you write a post. having said that, here is another good point that @plexus has presented us with:

so, in the context this argument i am making right now, i am reading this as: we have all been raised up in different societies with different norms / expectations and therefore it is often very difficult for us to switch over to “Japanese-mode”, so to speak. ( …i really hope i am not overdoing it with my Japanese example here… also, should anyone from Japan read this, I LOVE YOU GUYS!..really not wanting to sound rude or anything like that,… just trying to explain my thoughts as best as i know how… )

so when i read:

i really don’t know about any of the specifics ( never been on slack ), but when @seancorfield writes about their “natural selves”, perhaps / probably he means / refers to just that cultural aspect of a persons identity which i have tried to highlight.

now, am i trying to defend / excuse someone who said something completely out of line on slack? of course not! ( …also, why would / how could i… when i really don’t know the first thing about what this may or may not be about… )

what i am trying to say is basically this: it is difficult to know what another person is thinking / feeling, especially when they come from a different cultural background. also, it is difficult for people to act / talk in ways that are not part of their cultural background or that are simply “out of character” for them.

so the advice “just try to be on your best behavior” seams to be very much commendable, but at the same time a bit idealistic / impractical.

okay, now, i feel like i can’t just point out problems, without voicing something of a solution proposal as well, so here goes nothing:

what i suggest for clojureverse ( this forum is what i know about a little bit ) is this:

  • let’s keep the code of conduct etc.
  • let’s not speak out against misconduct in too general terms too often. ( …for nobody will be sure what / who this is about… worse! not only will people end up none the wiser, but potentially / probably confused! )
  • let’s not accuse ( …however noble our our cause / reasons / intentions… ) anyone not present / involved of their various shortcomings, especially when they are heavily outnumbered or otherwise to be expected to have a hard time defending themselves.
  • if there is something that we think requires our reproach, let’s point it out overtly and in public.
  • when we attack someone / defend ourselves, let us try to express our thoughts and feelings as clearly and openly as possible ( …for it is simply all too easy to be misunderstood / misunderstand… )
  • let’s not try to express our discomfort / hurt by protesting in silence, letting the “offender” speculate about if there may be a problem / what that problem may or may not be.

so, basically, i guess what i am saying is what i would imagine people will here a lot when they do couples counseling or something like that: think! talk it out! think some more! talk it out some more! think some more! etc.

alright, enough already!!! probably the longest post i’ve written so far. so please don’t hold it’s length against me. i just wanted to make myself and my thinking as clear as i knew how, in the hope of avoiding those regrettable misunderstandings i have tried to describe for you. in a way, i am just trying to follow my own advice. :wink:

We shouldn’t attack “someone” or feel the need to defend “ourselves” – it is fine to be critical of ideas, of processes, of concepts, of tools. It is not fine to be critical of people, especially specific people.

(and, yes, in broad strokes I agree with most of the rest of your post – the beergarden scenario sounds like Brits down the pub, and I can say that I’ve seen stuff happen in English offices that was considered sort of acceptable-ish that would have you fired on the spot in American offices… adjusting my management style to local norms was one of the hardest things when I emigrated from England and settled in California).


I agree with your sentiment, and I would add something else: when you seek to protect people from “harm” … you can paradoxically harm them.

Think about exercise: it harms you (micro-tears in muscle fibres) but it actually makes you stronger. So, if you protect people from the genuine harm of exercise, they will get progressively weaker and weaker.

Historically, a lot of philosophical movements have some variation of Nietzsche’s “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” (which overstates the point, in order to make the point). And N.N. Taleb talks about “antifragile” and likes talking about the benifits of jumping off a 1m wall vs the disaster of jumping off a 30m wall.

So an experienced mentor seeks only to protect someone from material harm … the kind you don’t recover from. So, challenges like exercise, which makes you genuinely sore, are good. But sticking a fork in an electric socket is not.

Currently, in the USA and some other western countries, the pendulum on this has swung crazily to one extreme, and they are particularly afflicted with “Safetyism”. There is a growing view that this is hurting kids and society (very high levels of anxiety, etc). If you are interested in this point of view, read “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Haidt and Lukianoff.

Finally, my spidey-senses tingle when any argument has to be propped up with variations on Pedophrasty ("think about the children and the newbies … they are weak and need us (particularly virtuous me!) to protect them from all “harm” and if you disagree you are a terrible person). Sometimes these arguments are very reasonable because we all want a good environment, but increasingly proponents use these arguments to avoid debate and virtue signal at the same time.

In my experience, the Clojure community is excellent. Really excellent. And I’ve seen a lot of communities over the years. But … please … let’s not get neurotic with saftyism … that will actually hurt the vitality and quality of community. I, personally, would happily accept a bruise or two to avoid the sterility of guarenteeing none.

Having said this … I can’t believe vvvalvalval’s attacks (VICIOUS!) on re-frame in another thread and I demand that he is cancelled !!! I am an older frail person, who has suffered a lifetime of insults both physical and emotional, and this might push me over the edge … (Do I need to say this is a joke? Do I need to say this is the mirror opposite of what I think? Do I need to say I’m watching that thread with genuine interest to see if there are good quality harms (criticisms) which I can use to make re-frame stronger?)


Being one of the targets for the criticism made here (by way of this blog post of mine), I have to say this statement makes me feel discouraged.

Given the amount of effort I put (on my personal time) into articulating the ideas in it, seeing this work characterized as “deeply lazy” is dispiriting to me. Even the choice of a title was patiently considered, maybe in a misguided way as people have legitimately argued, but it was still work.

I’m happy to get criticism on the content in order to improve on it, but this sort of judgement drives me to think twice before publishing anything at all for the Clojure community, in which I perceive that a writer is to receive much less consideration and care than a reader.


I would have probably failed to come up with a better title myself, and now from this discussion I learned of the wonderful: “A case against”. From this, I am now better for it.

Anything you say which you might not be sure if it causes libel or if it touches upon potentially real traumatising lived experiences is probably best rephrased or not said.

In person, I have this tendency to use hyperboles and generalizations to start a discussion. Overtime, I learned that this is just a flaw, and a bad way to approach a topic. You definitely draw in attention, but not in a way for people to be receptive to your reasoning. The truth is, I never mean it as such, my real thoughts are very much nuanced and considering those nuances, and if at the end I conclude it is 54% of the time best avoided, I will just say: It sucks don’t use it. I’ve learned to express myself better overtime, because the truth of the matter is, this is just bad communication. I say something blunt, and the other person is astonished and taken a back, then I spend an hour explaining to them my real thoughts which are actually nuanced and not at all representative of the hyperbolic sweeping statement I started with, and the listener has a really hard time reconciliating the fact that I started with that, and now am discussing well thought out, rationale, reasonable, and nuanced ideas. Online I can easily proof read those hyperboles out luckily :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.

When it comes to having authority, like a known community member, that people consider their opinion to be that of an expert, it’s even more important to be aware of that. Because you’ll definitely get engineers at work repeating the same hyperboles to their coworkers, and causing unnecessary debates within teams about using or not using such and such. The amount of times I need to fight other people and all their argument boils down too is: So and so says “hyperbolic quote”, Google it, it’s a well established notion. And I have to be like, no, it’s a hotly debated idea, or actually, that’s not even what the person says, if you read their book or more of their article, watched their talk, you see that there are scenarios, and specific cases, and pros/cons, etc, and the details matters…

That said, like the wise Testivus explains:

Some programmers want only simple answers – even when there are no simple answers … and then don’t follow them anyway

In such case, sometime, you need a blunt generalization to bias things towards good enough. And I think that’s the main benefit behind “beat practices” and “tenets”.

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I wasn’t making reference to any specific article or paper in my comment, so I’m sorry if circumstance has made it feel directed at you. Taking a look at your linked piece – where you refer to it as an “inflammatory and simplistic title” – it seems you did it on purpose for rhetorical effect, which is a different matter. That said, I stand by my general point that cliche is the enemy of good writing, and it has mostly been a lack of creativity that has led to the dozens of articles and papers I’ve read with variations on this title over the years.


now, because of this topic i feel like i have spend way too much time pondering questions of morality lately, and although i agree with @plexus that this is / those are a

thing, i also agree with myself in that

with that nobody including first and foremost yours truly i guess.

having said that, i want to now move on from this entire unpleasantry by ending in a ( hopefully ) humorous pointing out of some of the cultural differences we have been discussing:

japan: the customer is a god

germany: the customer is king

little britain: computer says no!


'nuff said, lock it! :wink:

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Thanks everyone for participating in the conversation and providing multiple viewpoints to reflect upon. I will also be reflecting on how to approach moderation on this forum going forward.

I think @Kah0ona is right and it’s time to bring this to a close. Of course if you have more ideas or suggestions on how to make this community better, or if you find issue with how certain things happen here and you would like to bring that up then please do so in a new post, or message me or one of the other moderators in private.

Thanks a lot!