Why Can't You Be Normal?

By Xah Lee. Date:

Over the past ~5 years there are some negative remarks on me or my posts. I have almost never responded to any of them. Here i want to clarify a few things.

• I seldom write off-topic posts. For example, any argument about netiquette, i consider off-topic, including defense such as what i'm doing now. But in recent years i gradually relaxed my stringent self-imposed rules in my posting habit. (For explanation, see: Aloofness vs Approachable.)

• Many say i'm posting off topic posts. In recent years they start to say i'm posting borderline relevant posts. That's not correct. In fact, there are huge number of blatantly off-topic posts by regulars that spawn off from threads, regularly. The topics vary anywhere from discussing politics, law, licenses, free speech, relevance of math, english usage, yapping on happenings of celebrity programers, and including rampant flamewars and accusations among themselves. (For some views on netiquette, see: Old School Netiquette.)

• Some people say that i don't participate in discussion, and this is part of the reason they think i'm a so-called “troll”. Actually i do, and read every reply to my post, as well have replied to technical questions other posted. Most replies to my posts are attacks or trivial (of few sentences) i don't consider worthy to reply.

A few, maybe 10% replies to my unconventional posts, i consider having some value. But if i don't have sufficiently remarkable opinion on what they remarked, i don't reply. Also, if all i wanted to say is “thanks”, i tend to avoid posting such trivial posts too. (i used to reply by personal email in such cases, I still do sometimes now, but today that can be considered intrusive.)

(For reasons of the propensity of posting infrequently, see Philosophies of Netiquette)

In newsgroups which i feel i'm more part of the community, i do reply more often. (For example, in the dot com years (~1999) i'm much more active in comp.lang.perl.misc including asking technical questions; during 2005 to 2006 while i was learning python, did somewhat frequent posts to comp.lang.python, perhaps few times a week; in this year in comp.lang.lisp, i frequently replied and argued more freely. But in this year, am also very active in gnu.emacs.help, most of my posts there just answered tech questions, at a rate perhaps one post a day.)

• 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. [see Cross-posting and Language Factions]

• There's some rumor that says i post prodigiously. Actually, when i'm active, i post only about 1 or 2 posts per week or month, in the past 10 years, with rare exceptions. (See Aloofness vs Approachable article for reason why. (Note that, about last year (2007) i checked, the stat given by poster's profile at groups.google.com is erroneous. For example, it shows the number of posts per month. I recall, seeing it says tens of messages for particular months where i know i've only posted maybe no more than 10 each month. This can be verified by using groups.google.com to search the group and count the number of actual messages and compare to the number reported in the posting profile.))

• Some say i repeatedly post old essays i wrote that are published on my website. The total number of times i've done that is perhaps 4 or absolutely less than 10, since the 12 years of using newsgroup started in 1996. The first of such “repeat” must be sometimes after 2004. The interval of a “repeat” happens is at least half a year, more likely 1 or 2 years. Also, the repeat does not happen more than once. (to be absolutely correct, possibly there is 1 essay that are posted at a max of 3 times) I “repeat” a essay i've written because i think the issue is important, the situation has not changed, and i consider it worth to be said again. When appropriate, i incorporate information from the discussion into my essay, with proper credits. (this especially has happened in my Python tutorial, emacs lisp tutorial, Java Tutorial, various Literature Classics on my site)

Actually, most accusations about me fall apart if one just take 10 min to check the facts.

• When i used my google email account to post, as opposed to my older google account with xah@xahlee.org email address, often people accuse me of “changing identity to avoid killfile”. This is just one of their ways these people drivel. I don't really give a faak i'm kill filed or not kill filed. Many of these people publicly proclaimed that i've been kill filed, yet respond to my messages again and again. [see Killfile Considered Harmful]

People change emails all the time. In the past 8 years of using newsgroups, i've only used xah@xahlee.org and xahlee@gmail.com . And before 2000, i had few other emails before i registered the domain xahlee.org. I rather stick with xah@xahlee.org, but the re-login to different google accounts with several of their services is becoming a pain. See, for example, this post from me last month about how to merge google accounts:

Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2008 01:02:48 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: merge google accounts
groups.google.com Google Accounts merge post.

Also, whenever i had a new web hosting provider, people dig it up and accuse me of changing IP to troll. (this happens more frequently in the past, say before 2003. I think that the know-how of domain info lookup is now considered lame even among these stupid tech geekers)

My site xahlee.org has changed web hosting about every 2 or 3 years for variety of reasons. For a few years it was hosted free on the math educational site that used to be mathforum.org by Swathmore edu. (For some detail of my website hosting and history, see: Web Hosting Compared: 2006-01. A little trivia: before i had xahlee.org in 2000, my site was hosted at [http://www.best.com/~xah/] starting in 1996. Some very very old sites still link to that.)

The only time that my change of web host has anything to do with my posting, is in 2006 someone harassed me to have my web hosting kick me off due to my controversial postings in “comp.lang.*” groups. I have written a detailed account about it on my website. See DreamHost.com and A Incidence of Harassment .

(for the record, any ban, or harassment on me, i keep a record as truthful as possible. These bans, kicks, or fights happen in just about every online forum, inworld game groups, irc chat groups, etc where the members are almost exclusive males. Typically, they are not unlike high-school boys brawling things out. If the issue effected me or pissed me in some serious way, i publish it on my website. The keeping record is very tedious. For example, in newsgroups you might want to save all the messages in a thread this happened. In online forums, blogs, social networking sites, where posts can be deleted or modified easily, it's more tedious to keep a history of the site (For example, screen-shots of the page at multiple times), and to keep a manually written log of what happened when. Similarly, in irc, you have to save the chat, manage the chat logs, adding comment on what happened where with what chat log, finding out people's real identities if proper, etc. (as a example, i've been ban'd in freenode.net's “#emacs” irc channel since 2006. See Freenode IRC Emacs Channel Ban on Xah Lee. I have a bunch of irc chat logs when i'm banned. I always save the chat log when someone ban me that i consider unjust. But it's quite time consuming to organize them and write about them.))

as another example of ban, in about 2 months ago i was ban'd in Wikipedia. I was editing 3 article related to Tibet, of which i consider my edit very proper. But, in my opinion, it's too much against Westerner's popular beliefs. I wrote detailed argument about my edit in my Wikipedia's personal talk page. The Wikipedia faakheads not only ban'd me, but subsequently ban'd me in editing my personal Wikipedia talk page too, and blatantly deleted the detailed reason that i defended my edit. The incident is here, bottom: User talk:P0lyglut. the writing where i defended my edit, is here: Wikipedia User talk:P0lyglut … 2008-07.

Wikipedia these days is a huge organization (ranked top 10 of all sites since about 2005), and part of the good thing in large orgs is that they have developed, with public scrutiny, some regulations that prevents faakheads doing power struggle too much. For example, they have locks, bans, votes, must be done by agreement of admins (as opposed to a single person), and the ban is in general limited in duration, and they have a record of edit history, and in general has ways to further one's case if he believes being ban'd wrongly. However, it's still subject to a lot tech geekers or other cartel of vested interest in keeping some article to the way they liked. (basically, if you have nothing to do and hog Wikipedia all day for a couple of years (typically students), and if you are in general not offensive, then you'll become a admin, and establish a bunch of admin friends of the same ilk. This class of people, basically control Wikipedia's disputes. Also, by the way how Wikipedia developed, they don't appreciate identity nor credentials. So, many of these “admins” are anonymous.)

I do consider Wikipedia one of the most important site and in fact part of my life, but these days i avoid “contributing”.

For example: i have now over 4000 links to Wikipedia articles from my site. I estimate, that for each link i've made, there are maybe 10 more article i've read. See for example:

I've been actively using online forums since 1991 in CompuServe and AppleLink days. I've seen my share of flames, netiquette arguments, etc. (the medium include: newsgroup, mailing list, web forum, irc, communities inside massive multi-player online games (a niche but typically with literally tens of thousands of users world-wide logged-in at any moment)) I've been banned now and then in places. (in one case, legally definable harassment, which happened and perhaps well-known at the time in comp.lang.* groups few years ago) From what i see, the banning, heated accusations and quarrels, are mostly exhibition of male nature and political struggle, not unlike political struggles that happens in society at large, such as in academia, corporations, government orgs, between corporations, between nations.

Some say “why can't you be normal”?

It is true i tend to discuss controversial topics and with non-conformal attitude. I have my reasons and you could say it's just a personality. However, “being not normal” is not a reason to accuse. There are philosophers, unorthodox, dissenters, free thinkers, flag burners, protesters, traitor/founder, prostitutes, homosexuals … many are persecuted, considered a crime, in the past, and some are now considered national or international heros.

Btw, this post is not some kinda formal defense to some formal accusations. Usenet has always been a mecca of rowdy contention and clueless argument among tech geekers, and the medium today is perhaps far more worthless with relatively little readership and impact on society than newsgroup dwellers like to think. Newsgroups users in fact like this free-for-all aspect. I don't feel necessary to respond to morons. This post is just one of my post i feel like writing. You guys to whatever it is that you do.

PS as i have detailed, i have my own moral ethics in posting. Most posts and opinions are just too stupid, ignorant, for me to consider replying. If you really believed that some of my opinion or posts are wrong, contain bad advice, or incorrect fact, then do post, as i do read every reply it shows up in groups.google.com. And, whatever is your opinion, i would recommend you spend 30 minutes to write your reply. (i spend 1 to even 6 hours in most of my opinion-oriented newsgroup posts as explained in detail in one of the above cited article) Also, if you see my post of a unconventional opinion, and i was forceful in my writing style, then it is likely i have serious knowledge and or did serious research and or i consider it a widely misunderstood issue. I suggest you take 30 minutes, to think, do research, about it before you reply. Also, i prefer to reply to those who post with real identities. Again, i don't consider this is some serious issue, or that my opinions and beliefs and behaviors are always good. It's just another newsgroup day. Do whatever it is that you do.

The above is originally posted to newsgroup “comp.lang.python”, among others.