Death of a Thousand Cuts

Evidently when tech companies get to a certain age, they begin to kill themselves.

The subject of immediate interest is Mozilla. Firefox, the browser that broke IE’s back, has been steadily losing ground for the last couple of years. This is scant surprise. The marketplace is flooded with browsers, at last count I had a half-dozen installed because each had its strengths and weaknesses. So Firefox’s market share would naturally decline out of equipartition, if nothing else.

But Mozilla, as Mozilla too frequently does, panicked. They identified their chief competition as Chrome, which is indicative of how deeply the intelligence of Mozilla’s management has eroded. And what they didn’t do was bother to check on what features in Firefox contributed to its continuance among users. Another management fail.

So Mozilla went off and tried to make Firefox more like Chrome, which is probably the award winner for stupid technical mistake of the year. It basically reduces your user base to zero in the hope of building a whole new user base. Nice idea, typical of management school solutions but compromised by history that shows that it almost always fails.

Should we mention that Mozilla has already micturated the user population by its abandonment of Thunderbird?

So now Mozilla has rolled out a “NEW” Firefox that is almost totally incompatible with the old Firefox? And that users, including SCP, are busy migrating to clones of the Old Firefox? 

I have heard of shooting one’s foot off but it seems likely Mozilla has gotten all the way up the leg to their femoral. Blood guttering any time now. 

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.


Memories of Schooldays 2

I ran across a New Yawk Times article [Link] entitled “Six Myths About Choosing a College Major.” I have to admit reading it because (1) I wanted to see how I had erred, and (2) gain some more insight into the current college population.

I found it a mixed bag: one-third abysmally wrong; one third maybe; and one-third accurate. The most important thing – I think – I learned is that too many people are concerned only with making money after college. Not once did the yahoo who wrote the piece – obviously a journalist – come anywhere close to any consideration of career satisfaction. In fact, the parts the author vertically copulated the most were due to that lack.

I’m not going to go into the list because it turns out to be rather uninteresting, mostly because it seems irrelevant to my own success, which developed along vectors totally missed by this paragon of Yankee journalism – maybe of journalism universal.

Back when I was a student at various campuses, I found there were two primary types of students: the listers; and the learners. I should probably comment that the former have nothing to do with the physician who one upped Semilweis (sp?) and has the world’s most disliked mouth rinse named for him. No, lister means a person who is controlled by a list. I think the latter is self-evident.

Listers were people whose whole college “career” (term of improvement may be better?) was driven by a list. The list consisted mostly of the things they had to do to matriculate with a few do-nots thrown in that would prevent them from matriculating. Appended to the list was a strategic plan for how and when they needed to implement all the do and don’t items. For example, which courses to take as soon as possible and which to defer as long as possible in hopes the rules would change or some patsy professor would teach the course. Everything these people did in college was oriented towards the list.

There were several sub-species of listers but the most notable were the hedonists and the greedies. The hedonists were the people who wanted their college stay to last as long as possible and be characterized by whatever they though was fun, mostly inebration and intercourse. These people played a trade-off game of when would the college authorities and their parents get tired of them? (And in my day, the draft board.)

The greedies were the folks who spent their spare time enumerating how much money they would make after they suffered the ritual punishment of college. Everything else about college was irrelevant other than obtaining the diploma and making lots of money. These are the people that the New Yawk Times thinks are now the solitary population of colleges.

The learners were just that. All they cared about was learning. A professor was judged solely on how much he/she would teach. A patsy professor was a traitor so far as these folks were concerned. These were the folks who ended up with double and triple majors and generally went on to graduate schule. They had little social life and didn’t care about much of anything except how to learn more.

And yes, I was one of the latter. And I found that if you get to do stuff after college that you enjoy, you will make money and get ahead. 

But that is beyond the ken of journalists and listers. 

The Insecure American

Sometimes a bunch of things fall at the same time and form a pattern. One is tempted to call it emergence, but is it a physical emergence, a mental emergence, or both? Or neither?

The recent church massacre was – perhaps – the seed crystal for all this. It caught my notice not for its uncommonality, which it most assuredly is not, but by the unusual – uncommon – effectiveness of the berserker. Usually the ratio of discorporated to wounded is 1: n where n is usually on (2,10). In this instance the ratio was essentially 3:1. 

Shooting incidents at schules and churches have become regular; news only of the sob sister genre. The clear indication is that there is something about these organizations that incites violence in them. The simplest answer – Occam’s Razor – is that something to do with the organization has injured the berserker.

Years ago, when I first became a supervisor, I formulated a theory that most instances of human behavior can be attributed to insecurity. Since then I have observed little conflicting evidence – and always from a rational individual – and much confirming evidence. 

Asimov famously has noted that Amerika is a nation that prizes ignorance over knowledge.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”― Isaac Asimov

The ending, the use of the words “just as good”, shout insecurity. Amerikans, the ones who treasure ignorance, apparently do so from insecurity. Ignorance is comfortable; you don’t have to try to accomplish anything and you don’t have any fear of failure.

Hunter-Gatherer bands were characterized by egalitarianism. This doesn’t mean that no one was a leader; the band sorted itself out socially. The lesson from this is that humans are programmed to not want equality: extroverts want to be exalted; introverts want to be left alone. Both groups consider equality to be a punishment – extroverts for being snubbed and disrespected, introverts for being bullied and abused. Both are examples of insecurity.

Organizations don’t care about humans, at least once they get to the size of a band – or larger. Whatever damage they do to their members is irrelevant. And eventually, that damage results in some retribution. 

The church massacre in Texas is as yet unresolved but it seems at this writing to be a transfer retribution. Evidently the berserker’s family was the organization that damaged him and the family attended the church. It was little more than a concentration of convenience.

Schools are similar. Their damage is a mixture of over-regulation of the membership and apathy towards it. This is not new. Clausewitz bemoaned such in the early years of the Nineteenth Century. What characterizes these two types of organizations that they are selected? Clearly it is a mixture of their apathy for the individual and the individual’s insecurity. 

It may seem strange to think of members of a church as insecure but a bit of analysis of the atmosphere of totalitarian rules and Weltanschauung – no questions answered, no answers questioned – indicates that churches are havens for the insecure who fear to try as much as they fear failure. Their evangelistic bravado is merely an expression of their comfort in denial, both their’s and the church’s. 


Bubba Bawb Tolt Me So

I have been musing on the relationship between the Amerikan culture of ignorance

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”― Isaac Asimov

and our propensity to trust those around us more than those who actually know something about a subject.

This appears to be a straightforward situation of “Us – Them” on its most fundamental level – geography. The people in our sight are more trustworthy than those we cannot see; the people in our valley are trustworthy, the people on the other side of the hill are not.

But what is difficult to grasp is how the exceptions to this come to arise. 


Code Cracklin’

I have previous – several times – muttered about the differences between Geeks and Nerds. As a general rule, Geeks collect and Nerds do. 

But I was reminded the other day that both Geeks and Nerds write code. And the passing thought was, how is this?

So after a bit of cogitation, I came to the hypothesis that coding is diverse enough to be a bag of many pockets. (Like humans, or other animals. After all, what are cells but pockets, and animals but bags?)

Anyway, coding is a bit like language. It can be used to communicate or to compose. So there is room for Geeks and Nerds, and, yes, even Bogs.

Geek coding seems to be of the flavor of web pages and data bases and even operating systems. Mostly communication.

Nerd coding seems to be of the flavor of ways to bash numbers. Lots of algorithm development. Not very much eye candy. (Which is probably why Nerds like eye candy.) Not much communcation but some component of originality.

Which leaves the question of Bog coding. Is there such a thing?