Cross-posting and Language Factions

By Xah Lee. Date:

(The following article is originally cross-posted on to the following newsgroups: comp.lang.perl.misc, comp.lang.python, comp.lang.lisp,, comp.lang.functional.)

Dear tech geekers,

In the past year i have crossed-posted (For example, recently What are OOP's Jargons and Complexities, Is laziness a programer's virtue?, On Java's Interface (the meaning of interface in computer programing), there are some controversy, and lots of off-topic and careless following.

I think there are few things today's tech geekers should remind themselves:

• If you deem something off-topic to “your” newsgroup, and want to tech-geek by changing the “follow-up group”, start with yourself. Please do not cross-post yourself, and tweak the follow-up, and proudly proclaim that you changed the follow-up as a benign gesture.

• Please remind yourself what is on-topic and off-topic. Unless you are the authority of a online forum, otherwise, netiquette discussion, policing, are off-topic in general, and only tend to worsen the forum's quality. This issue is realized in newsgroup communities as early as early 1990s. (See: Netiquette Guidelines, 1995, by S Hambridge. (RFC 1855) [] )

• The facility of cross-posting is a good thing as a progress of communication technology, and the action of cross-posting is a good thing with respect to communication. What the common tech-geekers's sensitivity to cross-posting are due to this collective's lack of understanding of social aspects of communication. Cross-posting isn't a problem. The problem is the power-struggling male nature and defensiveness in propagating the tongues of a tech geeker's own.

Tech-geeker's behavior towards cross-posting over the years did nothing to enhance the content quality of newsgroups, but engendered among computing language factions incommunicado, and aided in the proliferation of unnecessary re-invention (For example, the likes of Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby that are essentially the same) and stagnation (For example, the lisp camp with their above-it attitude).

If you are a programer of X and is learning Y or wondering about Y, please do cross-post it. If your article is relevant to X, Y, and Z, please cross post it. If you are really anti-cross-posting, please use a online forum that is more specialized with controlled communication, such as mailing lists, developer's blogs, and website-based forums.

I hope that the computing newsgroups will revive to its ancient nature of verdant cross communication of quality content, as opposed to today's rampant messages focused on political in-fighting, mutual sneering, closed-mindedness, and careless postings.

The Need for Cross Communication

On 2010-03-10, Ben Morrow [b…] wrote:

Also, flamebait language-comparison xposts involving Lisp are one of Xah Lee's trademarks. You might want to look into not imitating him/her/it.

Being a professional programer today, typically you know more than just one language. Practical questions, discussions, involving more than one language is natural, and in fact happens more and more often in online forums over the past 15 years i've seen. Partly due to, of course, the tremendous birth of languages in the past decade. (See: Proliferation of Programing Languages)

In the 1980s or 1990s, you don't typically use more than one lang in a project. Today, majority of projects require you to use more than one well known general purpose language. In 1980s or 1990s, discussion of more than one language is usually academic comparison. Today, honest posts such as “i know this in X but how you do in Y” is a common need.

The reason they become flame wars is mostly not about the message content. More about tech geeker's sensitivity, with the carried over old school netiquette that any person mentioning lang x in group y must be of no good intentions.

If you look at online forums today, in fact most comp lang forums have no problem in mentioning or discussing different languages in context. The problem occur more frequently in free-for-all type of forums where the know-it-all tech geekers reside (the in-group argot is “hacker”). Each thinking they are kings and knights, take opportunities to ridicule, flame, any post that mentions other lang or any thing that doesn't seem to be protective of their lang. This is comp.lang.* newsgroups, with good as well as mostly bad aspects. Of course, the free-for-all nature is precisely the reason most tech geekers dwell in newsgroups. A good percentage of them are old timers.

Most newsgroup tech geekers consider cross-posting wrong. I consider such taboo in this convention being a major contribution to the redundant creation of new languages, flaws, and foster the hostile faction nature of programing language groups we see.

It is sad to say, comp.lang.lisp today is 90% machine generated spam. You see that each time this is brought up in the past 3 years, the regulars are too busy boasting about how they've set up some tech geek system so that spam don't reach their eyes, and sternly sputter about web browser using idiots, with, profuse suggestions from their infinite knowledge about what newsgroup reading software people should be using.

To the python community officers, i think perhaps it is fruitful now to think about de-coupling the newsgroup from the mailing list… am not very involved in the comp.lang.python or python community in recent years, but my thought is that, i got the feeling that most practical posts happen in the mailing list and the newsgroup ones tend to be more rowdy. So perhaps de-couple them is good, because python is main stream now and its mailing list is sustainable large, is good for more practical, concrete questions and answers, and philosophical free thoughts still have a place to go, in newsgroups.