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Feature:Distortions 181

Richard Thieme has long been writing a weekly column called Islands in the Clickstream. Richard wants to run them weekly on Slashdot - he would be joining Katz then providing new content on these pages. I'm excited about this, and I think many of you will too. The following feature is this weeks island. Read it, vote on the poll, and hopefully Richard will be back next week.
The following was written by Slashdot Reader Richard Thieme


"We all know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it." -- Woody Allen

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported by Reuters News Agency that hackers had taken control of a British military satellite and demonstrated control of the "bird" by changing its orbit. The report said the hackers were blackmailing the British government, and unless they received a ransom, they would take action. The demonstration was frightening for those who were just waiting for a blatant act of cyber-terror.

A few days later, the Hacker News Network , an underground alternative to CNN, reported that the hijacking was bogus.

The Hacker News Network got it right while Reuters got it wrong.

Just as business managers increasingly supervise IT workers who know more about networks than they do, traditional news sources often cover subjects they don't understand, and they often get it wrong.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for Forbes Digital on the unique culture of the professional Services Division of Secure Computing, where a number of former hackers help government agencies and large financial institutions secure their networks. Many articles have appeared recently about former hackers who have swapped underground lives for stock options, but that wasn't what my article was about. It was about the mindset that hackers bring to their work, a map or model of reality that is becoming the norm in a borderless world, where intelligence operatives are migrating into competitive intelligence in growing numbers. It's a mindset characterized, said one, by "paranoia appropriate to the real risks of open networks and a global economy."

Businesses used to decide on a course of action, then inform IT people so they could implement the plan. Now our thinking must move through the network that shapes it, not around it. The network itself - how it enables us to think, how it defines the questions that can be asked - determines the forms of possible strategies. So those who implement strategy must participate in setting strategy, not be added on after the fact, just as information security must be intrinsic to the architecture of an organizational structure, not added on as an afterthought.

The mind that designs the network designs the possibilities for human thinking and therefore for action.

Every single node in a network is a center from which both attack and defense can originate. The gray world in which hackers live has spilled over the edges which used to look more black and white. The skies of the digital world grow grayer day by day.

In that world, we are real birds fluttering about in digital cages. Images - icons, text, sound - define the "space" in which we move. If the cages are large enough, we have the illusion we are free and flying, when in fact we are moved in groups by the cages.

Example: to prevent insurrection during times of extreme civil unrest, government agencies created groups whose members were potentially dangerous, building a database of people they intended to collect if things fell apart. These days, many digital communities serve this purpose.

Example: Last week an FDIC spokesperson provided data on the readiness of American banks for Y2K. Tom Brokaw of NBC had recently announced, he said, that 33% of the banks weren't ready, but in fact, 96% of the banks are on schedule, 3 % are lagging a little, and only 1% are seriously behind. The biggest threat to the monetary system is a stampeding herd, spooked by the digital image of a talking head giving bogus information.

The digital world is a hall of mirrors, and the social construction of reality is big business, fueled by the explosion of the Internet, a marketplace where the buyer of ideas - as well as items at auction - had better beware.

This is not just about the distortion of facts by mainstream (or alternative) news media, nor the exploitation of fear because we know that fear sells. More and more, we are seeking and finding alternative sources of information from sources we believe we can trust. Believable truth must be linked to believable sources, or else we will make it up, pasting fears and hopes onto a blank screen or onto images built like bookshelves to receive our projections. Because we like to live on islands of agreement, receiving information that supports our current thinking, we live in thought worlds threaded on digital information that isolates and divides us. But the network is also the means of a larger communion and the discovery of a more unified, more comprehensive truth. We live on the edge of a digital blade, and the blade cuts both ways.

"We all know the same truth," said Woody Allen. "Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it."

Except Woody Allen didn't say it. Rather, he said it through the mouth of a character in "Deconstructing Harry" named Harry Block. Except Harry Block didn't say it either. He said it through the mouth of a character he created in the movie.

Hacking is a kind of deconstruction of the combinations and permutations available in a network. Deconstruction is essential in a digital world. The skills of critical thinking, the ability to integrate fragments and know how to build a Big Picture are more important than ever. Those skills are critical to hacking and securing networks and critical to understanding who is really who in a world in which people are not always what they seem.

Plato feared the emerging world of writing because anybody could say anything without accountability, but he did not foresee the emergence of tools to document and evaluate what was written. Our world may seem for the moment to be a-historical, fragmentary, multi-modal in relationship to the world of printed text, but something new is evolving - a matrix of understanding, a set of skills, a mindset that lets us sift through disinformation and use the same technology that lulls us to sleep to wake ourselves up.

Richard Thieme ( speaks, writes and consults on the human dimension of technology and the work place.

CT : So what do you think? Is he a keeper? Vote on the poll if you'd like to see this column each week on Slashdot. Of course, now that we have the customizable stuff, you'll be able to disable future Island's even if we do keep him.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.


Comments Filter:
  • As long as he can tell the difference, keep him.

  • "As fun as I'm sure it would be, I can't let you space your Green comrades." --Garibaldi
  • Don't devalue the worth of ancillary prose. Facts may have a higher intrinsic value, but the surrounding prose accentuates the intended context and connotations of the author.

    Example: From a purely logical perspective, the words "and" and "but" are synonymous. But in the casual vernacular, their connotations are almost opposite.
  • Well, I got dizzy trying to follow a couple of those metaphors, but he had a point and he made it. Katz, there might be a lesson here for you.
  • Yeah, Katz really needs some constructive criticism. Unfortunately, I don't think he actually reads the comments people post to his articles. I'm not sure I really blame him... he catches enough mindless flaming that it makes looking for the occasional bit of constructive criticism like looking for a screw you've dropped into a pile carpet.

    I sent him an email one time (because he claims to read and reply to all his email), explaining to him, as calmly and rationally as I could, why it was that so many Slashdot readers have such a big problem with him - not flaming him (or trying not to), just saying, "Look, this is what you're doing that they don't like, and here are the cultural reasons why..." The response I got back indicated that he a) didn't understand any of the points I brought up, and b) didn't think the personal opinion of one Slashdot reader was relevant (and I'd tried to avoid inserting my personal opinion if at all possible, limiting myself to broad coverage of what I've seen dozens or hundreds of people saying). I started writing a response to clarify the points he missed, came to the realization that I was simply restating my previous email because he'd blatently missed _all_ of my points, and gave it up as a bad job.

    All of which is to say: I think we might as well throw Katz back... he isn't learning anything. On the contrary, that bit about the sexbots was the most ridiculous piece of tripe I've seen make it to Slashdot's front page. I wouldn't even know where to *begin* to constructively criticize _that_ rot.
  • Katz's articles tend to be about Katz, and this is when they are most annoying. Thieme is writing about reality. Summary:
    There's so much data in the world, and it's so conflicting, that people are increasingly desperate for ways of weeding out the nonsense and getting to a coherent picture of reality.

    This is important because in a world where it's arguably possible for someone to literally drop a spy satellite on your head, or (my own example) actively marginalise your choice of information tool (such as linux maybe?), it's important to have a coherent picture of reality to know what is threatening you before it stomps you completely.
    Computer hackers (in the old school sense) are particularly well suited to making such a sensible picture of reality, because they are accustomed to making sense of a computer system, which you can't con- if your underlying assumptions are wrong, the computer program is almost certainly not going to work. This forces an examination of the underlying assumptions, which is also the best way to maintain a coherent picture of reality.

    There- good summary? Hopefully it's a bit clearer than the actual article. It's a good article at bottom- that is why computer hackers can be more plugged in to reality than the mainstream media- and it also gives a bit of insight on why so many hackers are infuriated by vague ideamongering and confusion, as seen in some of the responses to Op/Ed pieces on slashdot itself. Hackers can react to muddying of their concept-spaces as if physically threatened- what they do requires that they understand how things work, and it's not an option for them to float merrily about in vague notions of philosophical meaninglessness.
    I too feel that I could write essays for slashdot- however, I figure it's not slashdot's job to legitimise me, so I've put mine up elsewhere. My URL is the site where I keep my stuff, and if you go to the Essays section, that's where you'll find my essays. I try to have them present a coherent picture of reality- that's what they're for ;) some ('I, Borg' []) are even about linux! If anybody wants these or essays like them on Slashdot, they can ask CmdrTaco about it or just send a link, and he can run a story on it or not. I feel the author/editor separation has to be maintained at Slashdot in order for us to continue building a coherent picture of reality from it. :)
    I'm saying yes to this new writer- largely because he is writing about ideas in places where Katz basically wrote about himself. I figure I can get through the verbiage to the ideas, and there will actually be something there. I look forward to his next essay.
  • Cracking describes the act of removing copy protection, usually from shareware. Crackers are talented asm coders. Phrozen Crew and United Cracking Force would fall into this category.

    Script kiddies are the talentless self-described "hackers" who use programs or scripts they downloaded to break into other computers, usually to cause damage. Also known as "hax0rs" or "hax0r d00ds," in an interesting case of using their own 3l33t-sp34k to mock them. The various web-page "hacker" groups would fall into this category.

    Those who actually discover security holes in software are indeed "hackers," in their case, the term is applied correctly. L0pht Heavy Industries and the Cult of the Dead Cow would fall into this category.
  • by Enry ( 630 )
    Nice article. I hope the ones that follow are this good.
  • Posted by someone stole my nick:

    "The skies of the digital world grow grayer day by day.

    In that world, we are real birds fluttering about in digital cages.

    The digital world is a hall of mirrors,

    We live on the edge of a digital blade, and the blade cuts both ways. "

    ...Apart from an overuse of metaphor... And what seems to be a destinct desire to be unclear... He has some intersting ideas.... Unfortunately he obscured the synthesis of his disjoint points with an overbearing literary style. A philosphy major at some point, no doubt.

    The greatest thing about the new customizable /. is that we can keep him or lose him, and its's our choice.
  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    I went to my preferences page and found I had no option to kill him off. Please allow me to do this. I HATE pseudo-intellectual "techno"-journalists.
  • Posted by bSMfh (bastard ScoutMaster fro:

    I say sign him up!
    If you don't like it,turn on your internal or
    your /. filters
  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    In the first place it was kind of hard to figure out what he was trying to say. Did he have a point to make? There was some junk about the net becoming more important at the start, and techies getting increased power (which is not really true, imho) but then he just started- well- rambling. The last 5 paragraphs were painful.

    Someone earlier mentioned something to the extent that he was spoiled on howto's and O'reily prose. Well, I think good writing should be a lot like that- something easy to read. I don't mean trite or illeterate, I mean Earnest Hemingway or O'Henry prose. When I read an essay or novel by a good and relatively contemporary (otherwise changes in language usage interfere) author there is no effort involved- I don't have to try and unravel convoluted sentances and paragraphs.

    this was not the case here
  • Posted by Fimmtiu:

    On one hand, I think one talking head was too many for Slashdot. This is a great news forum, but if every struggling semi-computer-literate journalist can post silly Katzian articles here, the signal-to-noise unbalance will start driving people off. As long as the editorial pieces stay reasonably rare, it should be OK. (And the customizable slashdot feature kicks major booty, if I do say so myself!)

    On the other hand, this guy isn't as bad as Katz. (I know Jon means well, but he's still rather purple and content-free, IMHO.) Apart from a few laughably top-heavy metaphors ("digital blade?" whatever...), this is pretty lucid.

    I propose a probationary period. We let him keep posting, for now... but if he ever again posts an article which confuses "hacker" and "cracker" as cluelessly as this one, we kick him out and mail a dead cat to his house.

    All in favor? :-)
  • Posted by Lord_Badass:

    I have to agree, he had me interested at first, then started spewing the buzzword crap and I got bored.
  • Posted by Joseph Blowseph:

    He only mentions himself in a Katzian self-aggrandizing
    way once, so that's a good start.

    Plus he uses the word "deconstruction" without
    its constant companion, "overdetermination", which
    is also good.

    On the other hand, he gets to the end of the article
    without actually saying anything.

    So it's impossible to tell if he's going to start
    adding content, or start adding Katzinan self-aggrandizement,
    or what.

    Let's see some more, without the annoying links
    to his Terribly Important Other Stories in
    Terribly Important mainstream magazines that
    many of us don't give a hoot about.

  • The more the merrier, fluff or not, hi-falutin crap or demented ravings...

    Just be sure he's got his flame-proof suit on because all those flame-throwing ACs are just rarin' to go!!

    Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools
    of thought contend... -- MaoZeDong (just before he started purging all those "revisionists" who did'nt agree with him :-()
  • but I still voted to ditch him.
  • Look, no one is ever going to reverse the perpetuation of "hacker" as a synonym for "cracker". Accept it and work around it.

    Better still, drill it into peoples' heads that there are two types of "hacker", not necessarily mutually exclusive. The illuminati of and similar, for example, are both, at least as far as Joe Sixpack can tell.

    Revel in the idiosyncracies of human language.

  • This makes a good point, and I have a suggestion to deal with the problem of what gets to take up valuable screen real-estate:

    Put the op-ed pieces up on the weekends. Saturdays and Sundays tend to be very quiet, for the most part, and it's more likely that people would be receptive to lengthier, more reflective pieces when they aren't trying to squeeze their /. reading into three-minute breaks during the work week.

    Consider it like a "Sunday Edition" of Slashdot - more in-depth articles, op-ed, and now we have links to the Sunday funnies! Something you can enjoy with a cup of coffee without having to rush through it.

  • black-turtlenecked oedipal poseur ???

    Come on, man, if you don't like what the guy has to say, address what he's saying, don't just rip into what you view as trite deconstructionist jargon .

    I honestly didn't care much for the article, because it was poorly constructed (from an English-major standpoint) and tried to do too much , thereby losing its focus. But some of the ideas themselves were valid and well worth considering.
  • It's always good to have more perspectives on technical stuff. God knows, those of us who watch tv get a lot of distortions. It'd be nice to have a clueful source of "bigger picture" essays here.
  • I am a long-time anti-Katz-er. I think this guy is better, both in terms of writing mechanics (if there were any dorky spelling errors, I missed them) and in terms of prose quality (shorter, creative without being tedious). I also think the bit about networks constraining/defining our possible modes of action was an insight beyond what Katz could come up with. But it wasn't exactly Claude Shannon or anything. :^P

    Now that we have customizable front pages, I say keep him, and Katz too. I personally do not filter Katz, because I just have to read his articles every time (makes me feel better about myself), and I will not filter this column, either.

  • "The skies of the digital world grow grayer day by day."

    I like that line. The rest are so-so.

    If he's a good journalist, he'll adapt to his audience. If he's not, we'll stop reading his stuff.

    That's the best part about the new journalistic model that is being created here on /. We know the writers' names, we know their inclinations and agendas, and we know whether or not to trust them.

    Don Negro
  • Simple, suits like decontructuralist bullshit. It makes them feel smart to understand all the words.

    The more enlightened of the suits (or those freshly back from leadership-training seminars) read sites like this to try and get a clue what the employees think. If they read someone who's published [sounds of angelic choir] in Forbes Digital [86 heavenly host glee club] and he says that they should ask their IT employees about network strategy before dictating it, then there's a small chance that it actually might happen.

    And that'd be a good thing for all of us.

    Don Negro
  • Subject says it all.

    Don Negro
  • I guess I'm too used to reading HOWTO's and O'Reilly manuals. Couldn't the article be summed up in a couple of paragraphs?

    Just give me the information and let the newbies have the pretty prose.

    Still though. He's a better writer than I am and I'm glad to see Slashdot getting some solid writers.

    Keep him on. I'm fully capable of choosing what I read or don't read.
  • Just like companies are starting to "join" the Linux Movement, jornalists are starting to "join" slashdot.

    Hey, the man cant distinguisg crackers from hackers, does he belong here?

    Cmon, writing in /. is a great thing, 1000s of listeners with lots of spare time to hear whatever people say. How many books did Kats sold just to /. readers? I didnt buy it, but I believe many did.
  • Reading this guy and Katz (both of whom I've voted to keep) has left me with one basic impression: I should become a writer.

    See, before I read these guys, I thought that you actually had to be good at it to have anyone read what you wrote. Not so! Just throw out vaguely interesting concepts, sprinkle buzzwords on top, and then totally fail to develop the idea to anything meaningful.

    I can do that. I can do that _better_ than these guys can. Look for my next book "Deconstructing Geek Hackers, on the Mountain" in fine bookstores everywhere.

    Sheesh. I just want to make it clear that I'm only voting to keep these guys for two basic reasons. One, I think they really, really need criticism and practice to improve their writing; slashdot is good for that. Two, filtering them out has recently become real simple, so if I just get completely tired of reading stuff from this guy, I can remove him from what I see.
  • by joss ( 1346 )
    Extra choice is seldom a bad thing, and more than that, I think he belongs. For those who don't like it - Just ignore It (TM)

  • so long as it doesn't displace other stuff.

    I think there is room for op-ed pieces on /., but there is not limitless room.

    So, go for it I say.
  • :1,$s/hack/crack/g

    - Randy
  • I've been reading Thieme's stuff for...maybe two years? Probably longer for Katz (back in HotWired's heyday). I think it's a real coup getting Thieme in to slashdot, particularly since he managed to start making sense again about a month ago.

    Keep him. Definitely.
  • impartial

  • I like his writing style better than Katz, but I didn't find this piece very interesting.

    I do want to see more of his work in the future.
  • One misconception: there is any design whatsoever in the emerging Internet, or its society. And the idea that the government can easily get a list of "dangerous" elements by the newsgroups they keep is a bit of misdirection; the government could always get a list of usavories simply by the subscription lists of underground papers, for instance.

    I'd like to believe that cluelessness is transient. The future I work for is a future filled with slightly-clueful people, people who know the difference between a hacker and a cracker. Maybe even Ted Koppel will one day understand the communications society we've evolved.

    The article's paranoia of ignorance and government maliciousness is unseemly. The government is not clueful enough to use the digital realm against us-- even the groups savvy enough (NSA) to cull useful information from the 'net don't have the manpower to do anything with it. They barely have the power to take out people like Kevin Mitnick.

    And ignorance is a passing fad. I hope.

  • I don't particularly like this article, but its not like I'll be required to read future articles. I think we might as well keep him for the people who enjoy the articles, and the rest can screen him out.
  • ... he will probably generate some entertaining flame wars.

    Apart from that he seems to be ok. So keep him.
  • Katz can't get much more technical than Hackers: the movie.

    As long as each individual is facing the TV tube alone, formal freedom poses no threat to privilege.
  • Amen brother. I have a tendency to skim over the flowery parts of sentences to get to the real meat. Unfortunately i found myself skimming the whole thing.
  • Sunday's would be a GREAT time to put articles like this. I do like reading other views of people . Lets you know what the rest of the world is thinking. Maybe "Slashdot Sunday" could also have a few guest columnists.. Rob, maybe send out invitations to write a guest column to people inside and outside the industry! They will appreciate (if they have flame proof suits) the feedback that such a vocal audience could give! Hell wouldn't it be great to flame BillGatus of Borg. See what he has to say, if he can actually take off those rose coloured glasses, and drop all the marketing BS...
  • I think that Eric Raymond has always gotten this one wrong too. If you reverse engineer software for the purpose of making keygens or to find out where to change a JZ to a JNZ, you are a cracker. The name makes sense.

    If, OTOH you try to break into systems where your grubby hands don't belong, you are, some what unfortunately, a hacker.

    They are two different things that need different names. Until another name is invented for a hacker, you'll just have to live with it. Hell, just call yourself a programmer.

  • I like it. He flatters his readers just enough to get 'em to pay attention, then makes paying attention worth it.

    Katz flatters poorly and too much, and doesn't make it worth it. He has potential, though.

    Both of these guys need to test and refine their ideas, and this is a perfect place to do it.

  • With the advent of /.'s new customizability, if people don't care for it, they can choose not to see it. Personally, I thought it was well written. Even if I didn't agree with all of it, it was still enoyable to read. I voted to keep him.
  • Lets try him out. One article is not good enuff to judge an author.Keep the poll after a month or so, let ppl get a good idea of what they are going to vote for before they are allowed to vote.

  • I had a similar problem getting through the metaphors. The article wasn't bad, it's just that the author needs to be more conscise in getting his point across. I like EngrBohn's distilled summary. Maybe we can have him write for us instead -- it will save me a lot of time reading.
  • Keep em.
  • ...I've occasionally seen this column before, and it's invariably unfocused and rambling. He doesn't seem to have gotten much bettern since I last saw him.
  • by marquis ( 5361 )
    If you're interested - read it; if you're uninterested, repulsed, frightened, whatever - filter it.
  • Metaphors are supposed to make it easier to convey a concept, but this article has little but metaphors, making it difficult to follow. I think I can summarize this article: Only trust reliable sources; news media outlets need to keep their facts straight; decisions should be made holistically, based upon facts and not assumptions.
    --I still say keep him.
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • I used to read Freff Connor Cochrane's columns in Keyboard Magazine, and I think what I liked about his writing is reflected in this person's column as well. It is insightful without being overly subjective. Opinions based on observations are more valuable to me than opinions based on maintaining a comic-book anti-hero self-image.

    This guy looks like a keeper. What's Stan Kelly-Bootle up to? Maybe add him too...
  • I thought the metaphor was about being carried around in the birdcage, i.e, about being the prisoner, not being the warden.

  • I don't think even Katz thinks that.

  • Same for this guy.
    I like the Sunday Slashdot idea (or even Saturday).
    I am curious as to whether this guy is here because he got run off from wherever he was writing before.
    Perhaps we could keep him and Katz on condition that they edit each other. That should produce some interesting results.

  • I hereby declare that the best post ever!

  • You'd have thought after the number of rants posted on /. about the mix up between hacker and cracker, /. it's self would be able to get it right.
  • It looks to me like the comments for the essay and the comments for the poll are the same. Was that intentional?

    Yeah, sure, keep him. Believe it or not, after this first installment, I prefer Katz.
  • If he learns the difference between hacker and cracker.
  • While I'd like to Thieme kept for a bit to find out how good/poor his material is, he (and Katz) should not have the ability to post at will. They should be read and edited by Rob (or someone). This way someone other than the readers, proofs and fact checks the article before its posted. Further one article is not enough on which to base a decission. Let me see three or four and I'll make one. As illustration: I initially voted to keep Katz (not to kick a dead one :), but have gotten to the point where only absolute boredom is the only reason I go near his work.
  • His style is smoother than Katz', and the unsupported claims that he puts out are at least wrapped in pretty language, rather than Katz' huffing, puffing rants.

    Keep him.

  • I say keep him on, and then vote again after a couple more articles. I'm usually pretty good at slogging through this kind of writing, but the buzzword factor was so high I was having problems gleaning any real content. In the future though, if I decide he doesn't have anything interesting to say, I can just use the new nufty-difty filters and ignore his posts. Floats my boat.
  • Gratuitous implementation of multi-syllabic verbiage obfuscates the impoverished, redundant contemplation of a deficient individual.

  • What I done wrote there was supposed to be a little iffy. It's like, self-referential and stuff. Uh huh huh. Uh huh huh huh huh.
  • Had he written the piece in the style of a philosophy text, he would have started with five pages of definitions nobody else in the field agrees with, followed by a ten-page rant about why his views of qualia are superior to everyone elses :-)

    Disclaimer: CompSci major doing doctoral work at a philosophy department - any bias is my own fault.
  • I like his comments. He, Katz and others are good at devising metaphors and explainations that other groups can use to better understand the world as the 'geeks' see it. That metaphor about carrying the birdcage around is a really powerful one. It could be useful to explain alot of things, technical or not.

    Keep him.
  • I guess you are referring to design vs. implementation in software development. Unfortunatly you generally need to know what the program needs to do before you start coding it.

    So you generally do spend more time designing than actually implementing software.

    > (that is...if you even program).
  • The first time I hit the "deconstruction" line, I thought, 'Oh, Christ. Not again...'. Geeks have it easy in the wrong word department. At least "hacker" is sometimes used correctly, whereas "deconstruction", in my experience, is never used right. Here's a quick primer for the unfamiliar:

    'Deconstruction' != 'taking apart'

    But I read it again, and, although I suspect he doesn't even know it, he did sort of get the idea right. In the first two sentences at least. The method of deconstruction is indeed very much like a litererary version of an IP-spoofing attack. The idea is to take a central metaphor or comparison in the work in question, and see how it can become unstable, through different readings, different meanings of the words, etc. Much like a supposedly "priveleged" host can be taken over by a "trusted" subordinate machine (which is of course being spoofed by a totally different machine, the "supplement" in deconstructo-speak). So bravo for this point, which is a new one on me.

    The next sentence, of course goes on to provide evidence that he has no idea what he just said, with all that blather about the big picture, which is pretty much the opposite of what deconstruction is about, and hacking, for that matter. PHB's are the people who see the "big picture". That's what they're there for. New-critics, Marxist critics, Feminists... in the world of words, these are the PHB's; the big-picture types. And thus, he snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

    I say keep, but then again, I don't feel like I have much right to tell Rob what to put here anyway. I just wanted to bitch about the world's lack of understanding of, and continuous perverse need to misuse, deconstruction.

    P.S. Sorry about all the "quotes". It's hard to restrain myself when I get writing about deconstruction :-)

  • Perhaps the most important lesson I learned in high school was simply:

    Whilst I do enjoy articles on something other than kernel update 2.2.3ac93, Katz and this new guy don't seem to be able to apply this rule. In my experience, the hacker audience has the following characteristics:

    1. They prefer their information dense-packed, but expressed explicitly and with clarity.
    2. They are interested in philosophical discussion, but mostly don't have a background in it and are deeply sceptical of the "postmodernist/structuralist crap" coming out of Gen X writers and their own dippy liberal-arts acquaintances :), which often tends to go against charactistic 1, and
    3. Have their own history and philosophy, and aren't terribly impressed with anyone who tries to preach to them without bothering to gain an understanding of it.

    So, IMHO, if the less-technical writers who want to write here would like a more friendly response, they should take steps to address these points. As a starting point and an excellent introduction to hacker culture (though not, of course, a be-all and end-all), why don't they have a look at The Jargon File? []?

  • :%s/hack/crack/g
  • The sequel no one asked for.

    Its not that they aren't good wirters, its just that they don't have anything interestin to write about.

    This forum is turning into web show-and-tell for every amateur hack out there.
  • Look up ad hominem in the dictionary, or a philosophy book.

    To say you can't critique someone's essay (even though Rob's post explicitly asked for comments) unless you post one yourself is moronic.

    You've never run for President, so I guess you can't comment on Clinton.
  • unsubstantiated opinions

    Well how would I go about "substantiating" the fact that I simply don't like his article? What do you want a reference to? Perhaps the IETF can cobble up some RFC for "Gut Feelings" that I can point to to make you feel better.

    I can't say it any more elegantly than you are a retard.
  • I agree. The term he should be using is "cracker". Unless he can get this fundamental bit of info correct, he doesn't belong here.

  • ...It was better than Katz.

  • I like the new guy. Indeed, apparently quite a few people like the new guy. I would assume the folks who are making snide comments voted in the poll along with everybody else. The overwhelming majority of the voters, so far, seem to want to keep him. The usual batch of flamers explains why this is a terrible idea. It's pretty funny.

  • An anonymous flamer wrote:
    Remember, there are a zillion zines out there full of new media philosophy trash. Don't forget that: WE DON'T CARE.
    Actually, to judge from the people who bothered to vote, you are in a minority position. Somebody does care. The overwhelming majority voted to keep the new writer.

    It's funny how the people who are most willing to speak for everyone else are least equipped to do so.

  • Well, I for one am going to filter him out if he stays. I'm one of the apparent minority who actually likes Katz's stuff so it isn't animosity toward the topics. I just really didn't like this guy's writing style.
  • I feel like a voice in the wilderness here, but I find his prose style overbearing and pretentious. Let's not stroke the ego of another hacker wannabe.

    The quality of his thesis is better than the quality of his prose. This man needs a tough, competent editor: with a little ego-deflation this article would be very good. But I don't see Slashdot as a literary forum and, no offense Rob, I am not sure any of "us geeks" are qualified to be that tough, competent editor.
  • Keep him on. We as a group tend to distort things to fit our own model of reality, and I think that the more writers who are around to step outside this view give us a chance to receive new perspective. While Katz tends to write so that his audience likes him (something he hasn't quite got the hang of considering the reply posts), this guy seems to just write out what he has found.

    As far as the Katz haters, I understand that he is trying to evangelize his works and that he is in fact "preaching to the choir." I didn't get a sense of evangelism from this one, so time will only tell if he will demean himself to that level. The general sense though around here is that we're geeks and we don't need preachy effects in articles, just plain, hard facts and numbers. We like those.

    That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.


  • NEVER?????

    If the contributions are so poor here on Slashdot, please...enlighten us. Show us the way.
  • What I want here is interesting "news for nerds". I don't want a bunch of op-ed stuff. If I wanted that, I'd read something else.
  • Yeah, the whole article was a little metaphor-heavy. But one can never have too much content, I suppose...
  • Down with Green! Purple rules!

  • . . . but I'm not sure that Slashdot ought to be in the business of allocating cosmic resources like space and time. There could be, like, billions and billions of problems.


  • When he learns to piss people off the way Katz does, I'll reconsider, but right now I don't see him engendering enough mindless animosity to justify his presence.

    With my threshold firmly at -9,


  • From the polling blurb:

    "This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important- you're insane."

    So is the decision whether or not to add a new columnist an unimportant decision, or an insane one?
  • But the voting is loud and clear! Keep him.

    One really nice thing about that vote button is that lurkers count. I think there's a few people here who think that the loudest person should win, which is a problem common to all online discussion forums -- not just /.
  • Why must yet another wanna-be /. write misuse the term ``hacker''? This is Slashdot, and it was one of the few places where I could use the term hacker with freedom.

    Until this guy gets a clue, please don't post anymore of his articles.

  • .. fix his terminology! Mis-using "hacker" the way he did in that article makes him look like an idiot.
  • I'll bet you have no idea how ironic that comment is.
  • Did he say anything? I think the total information content of that article was about 0.5 bits. Katz at least makes an effort to have a point of some substance, even if he doesn't alway succeed.

    Dump this guy.

  • A little fluffy, but not bad.

    Anything that raises the Slashdot Quotient (abbreviation: /./ ) is good enough for me.

    What's the /./ ?

    Aggregate Content
    Annoying Drivel

  • Oh wow. I had to read this twice to get the jist of it. Usually as soon as I see the word "deconstruct", it's over. Deconstruction is a discredited form of critical analysis (lit-crit) and seemed badly out of place here. But when I re-read ...a world in which people are not always what they seem. I had to stop and think. And that was Thieme's intent. Wasn't it? Contrats. It worked. Keep him. But I warn you. As soon as I see the work "SubAltern" in one of his tomes, I'm outta here. Joe
  • Keep'm
  • Where was the part about Porn and Sexbots??
  • I think having an op-ed area that /.ers can read about is a positive attribute, if for no other reason than that it will cause some interesting flames and thoughts to surface. However, I hate bloatware in both Microsoft and Op-ed pieces. Say what you have to say in the most compressed and eloquent way you can.
  • Why is it that there are 3 links to Richard Thieme ( in the Related Links section? Isn't that redundant?
  • I like it. It appears to come from someone who knows a bit about technology and the mind of a hacker (using the proper connotation here). It's concise and not too fluffy like other features authors here who can now thankfully be removed with the check of a box. Keep him around, I say.

    Jason Dufair
    "Those who know don't have the words to tell
  • I like Katz better. He talks about his own personal experiences which makes for a less dry article. This guy seems to rely too much on fancy metaphors and buzzwords. I also find it hard to follow his line thinking; his theme or purpose isn't clear from the beginning and seems jump around.
  • Sunday is about the only day of the week when I can handle long, metaphor-rich, rambling essays anyway. (I like them, but I have a short attention span)

    I would guess the Katz-flamers are gonna toast this guy as well. Can CT find some way to group them together? throw them a side-box?
  • In general I say keep him, with the following critique:

    This first article suffered from lack of brevity. Although it can be challenging to do so, with some reorganization and editing, my belief is that he probably could have made the same points with about 60% of the words.

    In other words (lousy /. pun warning) SLASH out the fat, and keep the thoughts right on the "."

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.