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Hackers & Painters

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the why-cats-paint dept.

Programming 112

honestpuck writes "Paul Graham has delivered final proof that he is a marvelous essayist with his volume of fairly diverse writings, Hackers & Painters. I first came across his writing with his article, "A Plan For Spam," on using Bayesian filtering to block spam and found it a well written and informative technical article. I next came across him some time later when he wrote an essay on his web site entitled "Hackers & Painters," and once again it was well written, informative and (more importantly for an essayist) thought provoking. I was excited to hear he had published a volume of writing and pleased when O'Reilly sent me a copy, despite my pleas that I did not have time to review it." He found time, to your benefit; read on for honestpuck's review.

Literature has a long history of the essayist; since those famous theses on the church door at Wittgenstein a well written and thought provoking essay on a topic has provided power and focus for important discussions. Graham has either learnt or discovered the important points in writing a good essay; brevity, quality writing and thought.

In this volume Graham covers a range of topics, though all are, understandably, centered on computers. Why nerds are unpopular at school, and what this demonstrates about our eduction system; why program in Lisp; the importance of "startups", programming languages and web development are all touched on. At the same time he covers topics less techno-centric such as heretical thinking and speech. wealth creation and unequal income distribution.

I found myself disagreeing with him often while reading the book, though every time I did I found his argument compelling. I agree with Andy Hertzfeld, quoted on the back cover of the book, "He may even make you want to start programming in Lisp." Graham is politically more conservative and right wing than me, he is also a fervent supporter of Lisp, while I'm a C and Perl advocate. It is telling that at no time did I find myself railing at his views, rather I was reading his arguments and giving them meme space. A good sign of a writer that does not indulge in unnecessary or extreme polemic.

Graham also tends to concentrate on a single point in each essay, allowing for both good coverage and a brief essay. Where he covers a larger context, such as high school education in "Why Nerds Are Unpopular" that opens the book, he seems to focus on just one or two good points of discussion.

The title essay is the second in the collection and provides an interesting look at hacking and some lessons we can learn by analogy to the work and life of Rennaissance painters, particularly in how it is done and how it can be funded. The third, "What You Can't Say" is social commentary on heretical thinking. Four, "Good Bad Attitude" is on the benefits of breaking rules, both in life and hacking. Five, "The Other Road Ahead", is an excellent look at web based software and why it offers benefits to both user and developer with Graham examining some lessons he learnt while building ViaWeb. Six, "How To Make Wealth", is a look at becoming wealthy and how a 'startup' might be the best way to do it. The seventh, "Mind The Gap", is an argument that we should not worry so much about 'unequal wealth distribution' and why it might actually be a good thing. From this list, and a look at the table of contents (available as a PDF on the O'Reilly page for the book), you can see that Graham covers a wide spectrum while never straying from topics he knows.

If I was forced to identify a weakness in this book it may well be that Graham does not evince doubt or uncertainty in his arguments, on a few occasions he may admit to a narrow view or knowledge but doubt or uncertainty don't seem to enter his field of vision while he writes. This coupled with a single viewpoint makes the book less than all-encompassing in discussion. However, I must admit that it is almost impossible to be anything more with a single author and Graham may well be more honest than others who pick and choose the alternatives they present.

Most of the essays are available at Graham's website, but frankly I am a fan of dead trees and appreciated that this book could be read on the bus or in bed. If you would prefer something you cna read on the bus then a PDF of the second chapter, "Hackers & Painters" is available from the O'Reilly page linked above.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to think about a number of topics important to the culture of our tiny corner of the world, computers and the net, while not ignoring the rest.


You can purchase Hackers & Painters from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, carefully read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Little known fact... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368802)

Cowboy Neal is Kim Jong Il's love child. For the love of America please, PLEASE, PLEASE boycott slashdot if you love your freedom at all. Kim Jong Il kidnapped an honest white woman and with asian communist depravity he took the delicate flower of that young woman, and then abandoned her. In order to hide his shameful past, the Cowboy has had several operations to make him look more caucasian, but we are all well aware of his communist, god-loathing, American-hating, meglomaniac lineage.
God Bless America and may you find peace with our glorious leader, the eternal president, the esteemed George W. Bush.

HAI LAR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368835)

OMG HAI!

Diaper Haiku

You shit your diapers.
Squishy poo poo give ass rash.
Taco's diaper full!

© 2004 bone2pik Troll Industries (bTI), distributed under the GNU General Trolling License, freely distributed under GNU GTL terms.

God Bless America... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368873)

...and NO PLACE ELSE!

+1, Patriotic

flip flops [dailykos.com]

asdf (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368808)

www.too-1337.tk bitches

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368811)

fp?

I am afraid... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369067)

...that you fail it utterly.

flip flops [dailykos.com]

A good trait for writers (5, Insightful)

xerph (229015) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368825)

I found myself disagreeing with him often while reading the book, though every time I did I found his argument compelling.

This is something that we don't see enough of these days. Too often people get stuck in a "because I said so" kind of rut, making claims with little in the way of a solid agument to back them up.

IMO, one of the markings of a well written work is when somebody can say "I may not agree with it, but he made a good argument for his case". Its a sign that the author is generally interested in painting an accurate picture rather than simply throwing a biased view out there for the world to swallow.

Re:A good trait for writers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368923)

I find myself disagreeing with you now because I said so.

Re:A good trait for writers (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368979)

This is something that we don't see enough of these days. Too often people get stuck in a "because I said so" kind of rut, making claims with little in the way of a solid agument to back them up.

Am I the only one who found that quote slightly ironic?

Re:A good trait for writers (1)

dunsurfin (570404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371122)

I disagree, but your argument is compelling. ;-)

All they really have in common (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368826)

is higher rates of homosexuality.

Wittgenstein? (5, Informative)

calebb (685461) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368828)

I'm sure you mean "Wittenberg." That's where Luther nailed his 95 theses at the beginning of the reformation... Caleb

Re:Wittgenstein? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368904)

ROFL! A malaprop worthy of Calvin & Hegel.

He is the very pineapple of politeness... (1)

calebb (685461) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369043)

LOL, I actually hadn't ever heard of a malapropism before... so I hit up google: Malaprop. [bartleby.com] Good stuff :-)

Caleb

p.s., sed 'Subject s/pineapple/pinnacle/g'

Re:Wittgenstein? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369099)

Forget that:

Luther's 95 These was hardly an "essay." It was more like a list of discussion topics; an invitation to debate; an attack on church policies.

The first writings actually called essays were written by Michel de Montaigne over 60 years after Luther.

Controversial writing predates Luther by thousands of years. I am sure Moses was considered pretty controversial at the time. There was also plenty of discussion worthy items in the works of great Greek philsophers.

The whole story of the nailing to the church door is itself apocryphal. The one supposed witness wasn't even at Wittenberg until the year after. Luther himself never mentions nailing anything.

Perhaps that is why honestpuck writes reviews and not books himself.

Critics search for ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit, they eventually find. --Peter Ustinov

Re:Wittgenstein? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369151)

Well isn't that just what you'd like us to believe.

Filthy Papist.

Re:Wittgenstein? (-1, Offtopic)

OECD (639690) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369119)

I'm sure you mean "Wittenberg."

Nah, I'm sure he meant "Wolfenstein."

Re:Wittgenstein? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369289)

Yep, because Wittgenstein was a philosopher.

philosophy nerd humor (2, Funny)

scubacuda (411898) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369372)

I'm sure you mean "Wittenberg." That's where Luther nailed his 95 theses at the beginning of the reformation...

HELP! This LISP language is a cage! Get me out!

You're confused. (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369637)

It's the rest of the world that's in. YOU are outside of the cage.

Is this book about JeffK? (-1, Offtopic)

User 956 (568564) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368879)

He's a h4ck3r, and he uses MS Paint. [somethingawful.com] That makes him both a hacker and a painter, right?

Right?

Re:Is this book about JeffK? (4, Interesting)

linzeal (197905) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369112)

A lot of artists are going digital [art.net] , including yours truly.

It is sort of like open source software in a way, as digital art lends itself to being copied and used as wallpapers, fodder for other digital art, and the like. For instance you are free to use my digital pieces for whatever you like as long as it is not commercial. Hmmmm, looks like I need to put up my copyleft tag. Anyways the future of art is the mutability of the medium. Where people will buy 3 or 4 digital photo frames or make your own [audreyhacking.com] out of old computers or laptops.

Re:Is this book about JeffK? (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 10 years ago | (#9373297)

Heh, Link to my art [ebsqart.com] .

Wittgenstein? (4, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368883)

Literature has a long history of the essayist; since those famous theses on the church door at Wittgenstein a well written and thought provoking essay on a topic has provided power and focus for important discussions.

Being Jewish, I don't claim to have the last word on this subject but wasn't it Wittenberg? Wittgenstein certainly doesn't sound right -- perhaps you're thinking of the philosopher (also Jewish, more or less)?

Anyway, regarding the book: Some of those essays have been linked here. Good for sparking a few hours of argument, but they seem much more suited to a website than to a 200 page bound volume.

Hmmm... (1)

Moth7 (699815) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368934)

Wasn't Wittgenstein a philosopher? Or a drunkard if you listen to Monty Python's "Bruce's Philosopher's song" ;-)

Re:Hmmm... (2, Funny)

linzeal (197905) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369046)

No, he was an underwater bassist for an alternate history rock band head by Wagner and Cain (of Cain and Able) that died in a plane wreck going to a gig in Dayton Ohio in 1963. Of course, he was a philosopher, check out some of his thoughts [utm.edu] .

A curious slip (1)

Wah (30840) | more than 10 years ago | (#9372441)

if that's the case.

One of the points that Wittgenstein brought to light was that many political and philosophical arguments are nothing more than misunderstandings about what various words mean, and then people use them in ways that other people don't agree with, and argument results.

Computer code alleviates this problem, but it does come back in discussions about computer code, strangely enough.

Re:Wittgenstein? (0, Offtopic)

Chessed (115329) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370425)

Martin Luther is supposed to have nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg back 1517. There is, however, no proof that he really did so and considering his actions and behavior it seem rather unlikely.

Buy it here. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368895)

Looks like you can already get it at amazon.com [amazon.com]

MOD PARENT UP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369029)

Thanks for the helpful link. I like Amazon better than bn.

TROLL REDIRECT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369290)

Amazon should plug that hole, and I mean that in the least offensive way possible.

Paul Graham's politics (4, Interesting)

ESR (3702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368915)

I wrote the intro for Paul's book and he's a good friend of mine. The reviewer is wrong on one point: Paul's politics are not "conservative" or "right-wing". Like me, he is a libertarian who stands outside the left/right spectrum and wants as little as possible to do with those who inhabit it.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (-1, Flamebait)

swb (14022) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368983)

I read someplace that the difference between libertarians and Republicans is that the libertarians are too poor and slovenly to get into the country club.

I'm sure there's an equivilent for Democrats and socialists.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369031)

Well, seeing Paul was entitled to a lot of Viaweb when it was purchased by Yahoo!, I'm pretty sure he can afford the dues ;)

Paul Graham is crazy rich (1)

BlackTriangle (581416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369034)

Ehn Tea

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

Drawkcab (550036) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369141)

Err.. I don't think thats a very accurate observation. If anything, the ultra-rich are more likely to lean towards libertarian, while the non-affluent cultural conservatives are more solidly republican. Libertarians are every bit as pro-business, and just as likely to get into the country club. The only consistent distinction between the two groups is that religious people are more likely to be Republican, while the atheist/agnostic minority are generally predisposed towards Libertarianism. Whichever way they vote, most of the successful business executives I know have a distinctly libertarian perspective, while the most Republican people I know tend to be religious but not particularly wealthy. Those are two very different groups (fiscal vs cultural conservatives), and the republican party has to work to strike a balance to try to satisfy both. The comparison is not the same as between Democrats and Socialists. In the 2-dimensional political graph defining Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians, Socialists are like Democrats amplified. Democrats are much closer to center than socialists, but oriented in the same direction. If you're talking about hippies who can't get into the country club, perhaps you're thinking of the greens, not the libertarians.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369240)

Just piping up here to be counted: put me down as a religious libertarian. In fact, the way my politics have been going, lately, I think you can start calling me an anarchist.

And, yes, I honestly believe it is wrong to use governmental force (or any force) to compel acceptance of my religion or adherence to its precepts.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369648)

Agreed, however

I should not be forced to CEASE practice of my chosen religion using the police power of government.

No one except government employees and the millitary should lay claim to my property using the police power of government. I should be treated equally in this reguard despite my income, color, religion, or geographical location.

This includes farmers, corporations, foreign countries, welfare mothers and old people who won't give up their cellphones and new cadillacs to buy health insurance.

See: The Law by Fredrick Bastiat

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369764)

Er, right. I'm not sure why you feel the need to convince me of this, which I already believe.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369798)

Wait a sec. I don't believe government employees and the military can lay claim to your property, either, because their powers are simply delegated from the people. Since I and the rest of this country do not have the right to lay claim to your property, the government cannot do it. In a democracy, if government employees lay claim to your property, it is because the common people voted it so (directly or indirectly). There is no distinction between government employees and the common people when the government is "we the people."

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

lharmon (786097) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370733)

There is no distinction between government employees and the common people when the government is "we the people."

Well, this isn't a democracy, first off. It's a republic. So the will of the people doesn't mean much.

Have you ever read Thucydides [amazon.com] ? I ask because it's a great portrait of a pure democracy (especially during times of war and turmoil). The Athenians (Athens was a democracy for most of the war) are idiots who can be swayed by the most idiotic speeches and appeals to the "Greatness of Athens" and glories of war. Needless to say, they overextended their forces, and ended up losing their empire and sea trade monopoly (this isn't covered in the book - Th. died before he could finish it). It's worth reflecting on, especially as Athens was the "birthplace" of Democracy, and held up as an example of a great society.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9371153)

Actually if we could just get some judges who can read Article X of the Consitution, we wouldn't have this mess.

Instead they find rights that don't exist at the federal level and ignore constraints on government as stated above.

All the necessary functions of government could be easily paid for without levying the taxes we do.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (2, Informative)

swb (14022) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369548)

Pre-civil rights, the people you consider to be culutral conservatives (middle-to-lower class, predominantely Southern and Western religious whites) were predmoninately Democrats based on their economic and labor affiliiation.

The Democrats association with the civil rights movement and forced intgeration created the movement that Nixonites called the "silent majority" and enabled the Republican party to soften its image as the pro-business party and embrace a "traditional values" platform, and leaving us with the Republican party we have today.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369172)

Naw, libertarians are republicans who smoke pot.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (3, Funny)

jonnystiph (192687) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371231)

Naw, libertarians are republicans who smoke pot.

AND eat children, we also eat small children. I wanted to make sure that was noted.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9373183)

You people [rotten.com] .

Re:Paul Graham's politics (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369100)

Shut the fuck up, you ignorant gasbag.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

ihaddsl (772965) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369168)

Nice try, but (and I suspect many others) libertarians are definately on the right end of that spectrum you try to wash yourself of.

That being said, anyone with 1/2 a grain of sense realises that calling something left/right is an excerise in generalization.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (3, Informative)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369299)

Many libertarians, like myself, came to the philosophy from the right side of politics: a belief in strong economic liberty as the best (and only ethical) policy led to a belief in strong social liberty. I personally still identify as "right wing," and "conservative," although the more libertarian I become the more problems I have with those I formerly identified as "my side."

Meanwhile, many libertarians came to the philosophy from the left side of politics, and I presume ESR is probably one of them: a belief in strong social liberty led to a belief in strong economic liberty. I was shocked when I started reading libertarian forums and discovered these people even existed; it seemed so wrong to me that there were people who thought legalizing drugs was more important than deregulating industries. But they are out there, and they do not appreciate being identified as right wing.

And in the end us "right-wing libertarians" and those "left-wing libertarians" are far more similar to each other than to any other group. Some of us are still having trouble wrapping our brains around the beliefs further from where we started, but for the most part, we all agree. Thus libertarianism is a different animal from the right wing, left wing spectrum. You might google for the "world's smallest political quiz," which is less useful as a quiz and more useful as a graph to show how libertarians envision the political "spectrum."

Incidentally, it was the very ESR you replied to who was mostly responsible for my shift from conservative, laissez-faire capitalist to anarcho-libertarian.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369342)

[CLEANED UP REPOST]

> Nice try, but (and I suspect many others) libertarians are definately on the
> right end of that spectrum you try to wash yourself of

This is just false by any but the most abused (and ultimately meaningless) definitions of the terms. The right and left wings are used, at most, to define two basic axes:

1) authoritarian (anarchism----totalitarianism)
2) moral (progressive-----traditionalist)

One can still be a progressively-minded libertarian or an anarcho-libertarian - neither of those examples is conservative or right-wing.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (2, Informative)

ESR (3702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370402)

Actually, my pre-libertarian background was as a
centrist Democrat, not a left-winger. I worked
for Henry Jackson's campaign in 1975. I found
myself repelled both by the racist conservatives
of the 1960s and the Communist-sympathizing "New
Left". I loathed both the anti-drug crowd and
the anti-war crowd. So my history of rejecting
both ends of the spectrum goes back a long way.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9374913)

I found
myself repelled both by the racist conservatives
of the 1960s and the Communist-sympathizing "New
Left".


Thats an interesting asumption- that the conservatives are racists. Didn't somethign like 81% of the conservative republicans vote in favor of the civil right legelastion of '64 were only 69% of the democrates voted in favor? But i guess that doesn't matter seeing how the democrates who had senator byrd, a one time grand pubar of the KKK (wich now resembles a neo-nazi organization)and he was one of those that voted ney (or against it).

I keep hearing how the republicans are racists and i don't see the conection.. ok david duke one time leader of the KKK is now a republican and doesn't hold any office that i'm aware of but, does that hold any more weight then senator byrd that is still a democrate in office? There is a difference betwwen giving someone rights and treating them as equals, as aposed to giving them everything and trying to keep them classified. I dunno some one should show me were the republicans are racists

BTW, isn't bushes cabinate comprised of more minorities then most if not all other presidents? could that be the reason everyone says he is an idiot?

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9374134)

Actually, what you call "right wing libertarians" are more properly called "American libertarians." Around most of the world, libertarianism is synonymous with anarchism, i.e. left wing libertarianism.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

wwest4 (183559) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369311)

> Nice try, but (and I suspect many others) libertarians are definately on the
> right end of that spectrum you try to wash yourself of

This is just false by any but the most abused (and ultimately meaningless) definitions of the terms. The right and left wings are used, at most, to define two basic axes:

1) authoritarian (anarchismtotalitarianism)
2) moral (progressivetraditionalist)

One can still be a progressively-minded libertarian or an anarcho-libertarian - neither breed is conservative or right-wing.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (2, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369219)

Eric, you don't stand outside the spectrum, the spectrum is simply multi-dimensional, and you've stepped off the axis which runs through "liberal" and "conservative."

Re:Paul Graham's politics (4, Interesting)

Mr Guy (547690) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369253)

Does it make the labels wrong simply because that's not the label he chose himself?

Call it postmodernist if you must, but if the reviewer read his book and decided he comes across as conservative and right-wing, perhaps it is because his beliefs and those considered to be conservative and right-wing overlap.

There are only so many beliefs you can have within the realm of sanity; we tend to label these in context of an ever evolving spectrum. Like all arbitrary standards, whether or not you wish to be compared to it is fruitless; the standard exists in order to compare aspects of your beliefs. The best you can hope for in terms of non-comparison is "No Comment."

Having read several of his essays, and being at least somewhat aware of (admittedly stereotypical) tenets of Libertarianism, I'd say that both he and you most likely DO hold many "right-wing" views. It does not naturally follow that you hold views in line with the Republican party simply because it also considered to represent the "right-wing."

I think the arguement of being outside the spectrum is probably the one as laid out in the Wikipedia in regards to a graphing scale rather than a linear one. While I grant it may have merit, it in the context of a limited body of work the argument seems fallacious, as the seperation between economic freedom and personal freedom is not a concrete one and relies on typecasting and presumption that you must isolate the two.

Instead I would propose that Libertarians actually are the most pure form of the right wing, believing that freedoms must be preserved at all costs and being unwilling to compromise in the ways that Conservatives often have.

Even having read Hayek's essay on Conservatives, it still doesn't seem to address the basic point that the scale is a matter of convenience for the oberserver, not a strict definition of a set of beliefs.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (5, Informative)

bugbear (448726) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369791)

I've never been sure myself whether I was liberal or conservative. I think some things I wouldn't dare say out loud in front of a group of liberals, and others I wouldn't dare say out loud in from of a group of conservatives. It's a tossup which category of thoughts is bigger.

There's a footnote about this in "What You Can't Say." If you went back to visit, say, Victorian England, your opinions would probably shock Whigs and Tories about equally. If your goal is to be close to the truth, then you are going to seem like an alien to the people of your own time. It's like projecting a point onto a line segment that is very far away. Where you end up on it is almost random.

Could someone explain a little bit please (1)

B1ackDragon (543470) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371211)

What the differences between all of these groups actually are? I can see I'm not the only one with the problem, but I think I'm further gone than most. I often read in the political realm, and am at least fairly knowledgeable about a few current world and American events (I read slashdot after all) but I can never decide what these terms seem to mean. Left wing, Right wing, Liberal, Conservative, hell even Democrat and Republican are terms thrown about, all over the place, and they all seems to make claims both the same, and contradictory, about their own views and the views of the other parties.

Possibly I should elaborate on my own (current) understanding, which is very limited, and probably quite wrong. So far I seem to have seperated two distinct groups of people among all of these words, people who tend to be about resisting change, extending governmental powers, and things like that. With this I tend to associate the words conservative, republican, and right wing. Then there are the "pot smoking hippies" as my unconscious mind refers to them, with which I associate the words liberal, democrat, and left wing, who _seem_ to be about limiting governmental powers, and exacting reform.

However, I've also read lots of counter examples to this. For instance, I once read that conservatives were so called because they wanted governmental powers to be held in check (conservative with power) and liberals were all about liberal powers for government. Thus, I tend to be rather confused, and shy away from political discussions because I fear showing my ignorance.

I'm actually pretty good about resisting associating myself with any "party" of people, as I think it is a sign of weakness to need to define your values as that of a group of people, rather than thinking as an individual. This might seem like a liberal point of view (I think...) but I really doubt it is any of these people's point of veiw.

So, if anyone out there could tell me, in all honesty and truth - is there any objective reality to any of these words and labels?

Re:Could someone explain a little bit please (3, Interesting)

MourningBlade (182180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371393)

I've found most often the best meaning to these words is based on what people call others, not as they identify themselves.

Part of the problem is that the terms have changed meaning over time, as they were concocted so as to oppose themselves to another group.

Imagine the pro-life and pro-choice groups, in 30 years. Let's say that the stance that all abortion should be illegal fades away to obscurity, and is replaced by the idea that the most important thing is that both the mother and the father have a say in what happens.

This group is opposing itself to the pro-choice group (of 30 years in the future, keep in mind!), and they want to say exactly what they believe in their name, so thay call themselves the Rights party.

Well now, "pro-choice" makes little sense, since both groups desire for abortion to be legal. But nevertheless, there they are.

The process repeats itself over the years, and the terms stop meaning anything. You could really start saying "party A" and "party B" and be about as accurate.

The things that don't change are fundamental ideas about government: proper use of police powers, rights of component states, how law is created, jurisprudence, rights of commerce, central planning, etc.

Which groups are which, though...that changes all the time.

L/liberal (1)

sbszine (633428) | more than 10 years ago | (#9373908)

The process repeats itself over the years, and the terms stop meaning anything. You could really start saying "party A" and "party B" and be about as accurate.

A good modern example of this is the Australian Liberal party, which has a similar platform to the US Republican party (pro-war, anti-gay marriage etc). On his recent US visit, Liberal PM John Howard had to explain at length to Arnie that he wasn't an actual leftist liberal. Hilarity and terrible accents ensued.

Re: Differences among political groups (1)

some guy I know (229718) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375264)

Could someone explain a little bit please what the differences between all of these groups actually are?
The main difference between most political groups is which of your freedoms they want to suppress.
For example, Democrats and left-wingers generally want to suppress your freedoms use your property however you see fit, while Republicans and right-wingers generally want to suppress your freedoms to use your body however you see fit.
Only Libertarians and similar groups wish to provide individuals with the most kinds of freedoms possible, as long as those freedoms doesn't impinge on others' freedoms.
Note that the labels "conservative" and "liberal" don't mean what they used to; for example, GWB is a "conservative", but his recent actions have done anything but "conserve" the staus quo.

Also, many people don't fit any of these labels.
(For example, I am mostly libertarian in my philosophy, but would I extend rights to the unborn and non-human animals, which most libertarians would not.)

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9374712)

After reading your articles, I'm getting the feeling that here is where you stand on various political issues (thought you'd appreciate some feedback):

Affirmative Action - no
Political Correctness - no
Religion - no
Lower taxes - yes
Minimize Welfare - yes
Abortion - yes
Invasion of Canada - no
Economic protectionism - no
Legalized Pot - yes
Right to bear arms - yes

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369795)

Does it make the labels wrong simply because that's not the label he chose himself?

I think the real problem is a severe allergy to the sticky stuff on the inside of the label...

Re:Paul Graham's politics (3, Informative)

danharan (714822) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370929)

Check out the political compass [politicalcompass.org] .

It's hard to tell from the few essays I've read by Graham whether he is more right than left-wing, but it seems pretty clear that he is leaning to the libertarian side of things. Note that you could be both libertarian and right-wing, and have more in common with me (left-wing libertarian) than you would with GWB.

As to what the reviewer thought... sure, that might be postmodernist. A lot of people in Europe think I'm American when in fact I am Canadian; their belief and their claim does not change this. You could deconstruct the meaning of Canadian or American, but you couldn't reduce the fact I hold a Canadian (but not American) citizenship and passport.

It's murkier with political labels because there is no "proof" that can be easily produced such as a passport. All we can say then is that according to a right-left political spectrum hypothesis, much of Graham's politics seem unexplainable -perhaps even insane- while using a spectrum they are quite straightforward, and arguably more internally coherent than what passes as right or left-wing these days.

Since I don't like postmodernism all that much, I'll finish by saying in Wilberian fashion that the compass includes and transcends the old idea of the spectrum, and is therefore closer to the truth.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

alex_tibbles (754541) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375324)

"Check out the political compass."

Or even better(?), check out Political Survey [beasts.org] , the open source equivalent, where the methodology is open to all to inspect and criticise.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9371161)

"Right-wing" is a pretty misleading label, applied to libertarians. Their core principle is "no one has the right to initiate force." Talk to the average libertarian today and you'll find someone who is very pissed about the war in Iraq, and wants to legalize marijuana...most people consider these views left-wing.

They have other views the people would consider right-wing. But unlike the weird mishmash of views on both ends of the right-left spectrum, libertarians views are actually consistent with each other, pretty much all stemming from the principle above.

Personally, I'm a libertarian convert from the Republicans, and these days the pro-Bush people are calling me a liberal. (My favorite was being dismissed as just one of the "assmonkeys on the Left.")

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

samantha (68231) | more than 10 years ago | (#9373525)

Even bothering to say something is "conservative" or "right wing" exposes rather limited thinking. These categories are impossibly limiting. About all that can be set of "right wing" is "not leftist". A linear scale to describe politics is amazingly simplistic. At least go to full 2D and preferably at least 3D.

It is even more inane in the context of the book because the book is not about politics nor does it often touch on politics.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

Rahga (13479) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369662)

However wrong the review may be, he is rather conceited. One thing I've noticed about review on Slashdot recently is a number of self-serving reviews and uninformed opinions (usually on tech matters) from "honestpuck", so I'm not really surprised that he would take advantage of our time and attention by identifying himself politically.

It's a shame, because I've really enjoyed /. book reviews by others.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369797)

Similar to you.. Ah right, so he's another mouthy wanker who talks shit then?

Man, you're a right cunt. I hope you spasticate your other foot up, fall over and smash your brain in. Fuckwit.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (2, Insightful)

robmyers (782934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371306)

Libertarianism is right-wing apologetics. This is very clear from Graham's opinions on the distribution of wealth. Wanting nothing to do with left/right politics is a hallmark of the right, and libertarianism certainly isn't left wing in many of its tenets.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375404)

Spoken like a true commie

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0, Offtopic)

Z4rd0Z (211373) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371856)

Thanks for sharing that with us, Eric. I'm glad to know you're good friends with Paul Graham. Any other little tidbits you can tell us?

Re:Paul Graham's politics (2, Insightful)

Chris Z. Wintrowski (442269) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371877)

"Like me, he is a libertarian ..."


At last, an explanation for the pages of drivel pg recently published as "What You Can't Say" [paulgraham.com] . For such a smart guy, I was agape with confusion as to how pg had gotten himself into the absurd position of arguing that heresy is "cool", and if you are not a heretic then "...Odds are you just think whatever you're told" - it was like reading the rants of some eloquent teenager, full of childish angst and rage toward authority.


The word heresy means to choose or to pick out, and libertarianism, which chooses the rights of the individual over the rights of the collective whole, is an apt example of how pg's much-advised heretical thought ends in useless, unoriginal crackpottery. Slowly, a heretic's monomania warps his mind, preventing him from seeing things in a universal sense, according to the whole, and I think it highly unfortunate to see pg slowly manifest these symptoms.


In the end, as G. K. Chesterton said, there is nothing more boring than a heretic, and pg has become exceedingly boring of late (of course, not quite to the standard of Mr. E.S. Raymond or Mr. R.M. Stallman), as evidenced by the content of his essays, and the time he is wasting by implementing another pointless dialect of ANSI Common Lisp. It would certainly benefit us all if there were at least one person with voice in the open source world who thought in a more catholic manner; then perhaps we would see some progress instead of good people being wasted, thinking unoriginal thoughts, and re-implementing old ideas.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375758)

the time he is wasting by implementing another pointless dialect of ANSI Common Lisp.

Time he is wasting? It's a hobby, and I'm sure he thinks it's fun. I'm glad he's doing it, I hope it can shake things up a bit.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

SanGrail (472847) | more than 10 years ago | (#9374323)

I'd definately disagree with this.
Going by the 4 point model of the political spectrum, you have right wing, left wing, anti-authoritarian & authoritarian.

Libertarianism is supposedly at the anti-authoritarian point, however those I've met, and read, most are actually more towards right wing anti-authoritarianism.
Part of this may be due to the fact that many left wing anti-authoritarians are more likely to refer to themselves as anarchists, or just, anti-authoritarian.

But going back to those four points, just because you're anti-authoritarian, or 'Libertarian', doesn't mean that you can't also be extremely Right or Left wing - as many are.

Re:Paul Graham's politics (1)

Sunnan (466558) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375687)

I guess it's primarily your (ESR's and PG's) view on the ethics concerning monetarian wealth that I react against, since I believe (possibly erroneously) that in a capitalist (meaning employment hierarchy) system, one man's gain is another man's pain, to the extent of increasing divides between rich and poor.

I do think that both you and Paul have great writing styles so I read most of what you publish, but I definitely disagree on your views on economy.

Some of the things you've written, especially Homesteading the Noosphere, gives me the impression that you think that gift economies are nothing but trade economies in disguise - trading "status". While that's may or may not be true (my view is "not") for economies historically regarded as gift economies, it robs us of a way to think about the economics of "you owe me nothing in return" markets.

Personally, I consider myself an anarchist, but unlike some pro-capitalist libertarians I've encountered, I want people to (voluntarily) work with cooperation rather than competition, and veer away from the corporate hierarchies of modern society.

Value added? (5, Insightful)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369093)

Most of the essays are available at Graham's website, but frankly I am a fan of dead trees and appreciated that this book could be read on the bus or in bed. If you would prefer something you cna read on the bus then a PDF of the second chapter, "Hackers & Painters" is available from the O'Reilly page linked above.

What about those of us who aren't necessarily a fan of "dead trees"? Is there still a reason for us to purchase the book? The reviewer doesn't say. He states that "most of the essays are available at Graham's website". How many is "most"? Are the ones only available in the book second-rate essays? Or are we missing some real gems by just perusing his website?

I don't mean to be overly harsh towards the reviewer but the question of what is the 'value added' in this book version of collected essays seems like something that really should be addressed. I've read many of the essays described in the review off the website so I'm already familiar with Graham's writing style and world view. When I read a review, I have one question uppermost in my mind: "Should I buy this book?" Alas, after reading this review I don't know if I should or not.

Can someone here (maybe the reviewer?) please give a description of what's in the book versus what's available on the website? Even a count of how many new essays are in the book would be a start.

GMD

Re:Value added? (5, Informative)

Tellarin (444097) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369625)

The following essays are available at http://www.paulgraham.com/articles.html

*What You Can't Say
Stopping Spam
So Far, So Good
Filters that Fight Back
*Hackers and Painters
*The Hundred-Year Language
*Why Nerds are Unpopular
Better Bayesian Filtering
*Design and Research
Will Filters Kill Spam?
*A Plan for Spam
Spam is Different
Filters vs. Blacklists
*Revenge of the Nerds
Succinctness is Power
*Taste for Makers
*Beating the Averages
Being Popular
*The Other Road Ahead
What Made Lisp Different
The Roots of Lisp
Programming Bottom-Up
Lisp for Web-Based Applications
Why Arc Isn't Especially Object-Oriented
Five Questions about Language Design
If Lisp is So Great
Java's Cover
What Languages Fix
Chapter 1 of Ansi Common Lisp
Chapter 2 of Ansi Common Lisp
E-Commerce

And the following are on the book:
*Why Nerds Are Unpopular
*Hackers and Painters (also available at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/hackpaint/chapter/c h02.pdf)
*What You Can't Say
Good Bad Attitude
*The Other Road Ahead
How to Make Wealth
Mind the Gap
*A Plan for Spam
*Taste for Makers
Programming Languages Explained
*The Hundred-Year Language
*Beating the Averages
*Revenge of the Nerds
The Dream Language
*Design and Research

the ones marked with a * are on both

I would still recommend buying his book.

Re:Value added? (5, Informative)

bugbear (448726) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369678)

I'd guess about 30% of the text in the book is new. The essays that are already on the web have been rewritten too-- some quite extensively, some just tightened up a bit.

Re:Value added? (4, Informative)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369679)

Here's a start, from the PDF table of contents [oreilly.com] , to which the reviewer linked, and from Graham's web site [paulgraham.com] .

The ones which are also available on the website are: Why Nerds are Unpopular, Hackers and PAinters, What You Can't Say, The Other Road Ahead, The Hundred YEar Language, BEating the Averages, Revenge of the Nerds and Design and Research.

The ones which seem to be missing from the website (i.e, the ones for which youwould have to buy the book!) include Good Bad Attitude, How to Make Wealth, Mind the Gap, A Plan for Spam, Taste for Makers, Programming LAnguages Explained, The Dream Language.

There are also some on the website which are not in the book.

I had the table of contents from the book and the list of essays from the website reproduced here, but the lameness filter (designed to ensure lameness, I guess) kept saying that the characters per line was 36.

Re:Value added? (1)

nizram (92977) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370813)

The ones which seem to be missing from the website (i.e, the ones for which youwould have to buy the book!) include Good Bad Attitude, How to Make Wealth, Mind the Gap, A Plan for Spam, Taste for Makers, Programming LAnguages Explained, The Dream Language.

A couple of these are available from his website as well:

A Plan for Spam [paulgraham.com]
A Taste for Makers [paulgraham.com]

I'd like to now if "The Dream Language" is a genuinly new article, or a rehash of his Being Popular [paulgraham.com] article.

Re:Value added? (1)

DukeyToo (681226) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369714)

Ok, I'll do your homework for you. Comparing the articles listed on the author's website with the TOC of the book, the book appears to have the following additional articles:

4. Good Bad Attitude
6. How to Make Wealth
7. Mind the Gap
10. Programming Languages Explained
14. The Dream Language
15. Design and Research

The author's website has the following articles not in the book:
Stopping Spam
So Far, So Good
Filters that Fight Back
Better Bayesian Filtering
Design and Research
Will Filters Kill Spam?
Spam is Different
Filters vs. Blacklists
Succinctness is Power
Being Popular
What Made Lisp Different
The Roots of Lisp
Programming Bottom-Up
Lisp for Web-Based Applications
Why Arc Isn't Especially Object-Oriented
Five Questions about Language Design
If Lisp is So Great
Java's Cover
What Languages Fix
Chapter 1 of Ansi Common Lisp
Chapter 2 of Ansi Common Lisp
E-Commerce

Re:Value added? (1)

daltonlp (678530) | more than 10 years ago | (#9372788)

According to O'Reilly, the essays that appear in both the book and website were partially rewritten for the book. About 15% of the material in the book is new (again, that's O'Reilly's estimate).

The book is a good deal more than just a reprint of online material.

A nice quote... (3, Interesting)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369101)

...from his LISP quotes [paulgraham.com] page:

"I suppose I should learn Lisp, but it seems so foreign."

- Paul Graham, Nov 1983

Nice to see he remembers how he felt about LISP at first; gives me hope for my own LISP aspirations :-)

In soviet russia... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369105)

The hacker gets more dates then a painter...

Offtopic you say? Not really, do you have a date for tonight?

Re:In soviet russia... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369173)

Even in Soviet Russia painters get more dates than hackers.

troolko8e (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369138)

I type this. Slashdot 'BSD is and arms and dick Track of where worthwhile. So I munches the most And coders Little-known up my toys. I'm Never hheded

bl0wj0b (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369262)

Yeah, I got it sucked real good today.

She wanted to play-rape again, so I slapped her face a bit until she finally lowered her head onto my throbbing member. Although I didn't force her to, she instantly started deepthroating it, jamming the entire length deep inside herself. I always worry she's going to choke and accidentally bite down, but it feels good enough that I don't care.

As she was vigorously sucking away, I slapped her ass, and in doing so noticed that her hand was placed firmly down her pants. She often enjoys playing with herself while she slurps away on my manhood...

FUD? (4, Insightful)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369328)

Graham does not evince doubt or uncertainty in his arguments, on a few occasions he may admit to a narrow view or knowledge but doubt or uncertainty don't seem to enter his field of vision while he writes.

Having read the free chapter at OReilly it seems to me he intends to inform from his own experience - hence the unwavering tone, 'this is what I see'. Why would he have to show doubts, if any, in such a case? Finally, why would he want to confuse his audience by switching tacks in midstream? I think the tone is perfect: informative, entertaining, and convincing all at the same time - while keeping to the point.

"Doubt" and "uncertainty" are fallacies (3, Interesting)

Kismet (13199) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370199)

I also disagree with the reviewer's assessment on this point.

A good argument does not allow for doubt or uncertainty. You can't effectively persuade people if you put things in terms of "probably" or "maybe" or "I think."

When you have been proven wrong in your argument, then you admit you were wrong. Those who are courageous enough to admit their errors, and then to alter their beliefs, don't need the excuse of doubt and uncertainty in their arguments in the first place.

There is a group of people who take one of the ideas of critical thinking - to question everything - to the false conclusion that we must therefore live with doubt and uncertainty because we can't empirically know it all. "Question everything" becomes "doubt everything," and then you have assertions such as this: that the author is conservative and dogmatic in his views. The aspiring critical thinker, perceiving a flaw in another's thinking, projects that flaw onto the other's argument and cannot except it by virtue of the thought process used to arrive at the conclusion.

Re:"Doubt" and "uncertainty" are fallacies (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9371412)

The benchmark for intellectual honesty is the recognition of your own limitations, and the pursuit of presenting argument as correctly as possible knowing your limitations. If you do not know as a matter of certainty that something is true, you do not present it as truth. You present your argument as possibly true given evidence and reasoning. You do not present generalizations as true when you know them to be false in order to further your argument. You don't come to hasty conclusions about the validity of your reasoning. You don't present belief as fact.

Don't waste people's time by offering unsound arguments.

TubbgIrl (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369514)

SINCE WE MADE THE rrots and gets on outstrips rules are This under the GPL. sure that I've serves to reinforce

at first glance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369565)

I thought it said "Hackers and Panites." Sure caught my attention for a split second until I actually read what it said!

quote from Hackers and Painters (3, Interesting)

t1m0r4n (310230) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369594)

I just read the "Hackers and Painters" essay. A note that struck me as odd is this, "The influence of fashion is not nearly so great in hacking as it is in painting." I suspect the influence of fashion is nearly equal (regardless of interpretation).

Main difference being, artists who ignore fashion may be remembered hundreds of years later despite not being popular during their lifetimes. However, I suspect that other than a couple of early programmers, all hackers will be quickly forgotten. Nice old paintings sell for big bucks, but old code is just trivia for geeks.

You FAIL Pit! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9370759)

Bought the far8.... BSD machines

Extrordinary (1)

Daedalus Jones (786388) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371466)

I've read his essay "What you can't say". It set me on fire. I certainly recomend it. I found his ideas neither conservative nor liberal. Perhaps libertarian... He seemed to have the perspective of being outside looking in. His ideas were always well supported, expertly conveyd and seldom repeated. I will buy this book.

from a Painter dating a Hacker (1)

Brunelleschi (765961) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371642)

Very interesting from the point of view of a painter /architect whose boyfriend is a hacker. We've made similar comparisons ourselves in many conversations. I look forward to finishing the essay which I'm sure will inspire many more conversations and blogging.
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