In defense of contempt

John Ohno
6 min readOct 14, 2016

A response to a popular article

The article in question suggests that the habitual tribalism & combative style in communication within the tech community is toxic, particularly to minorities; I do not dispute this point. The article in question also suggests that criticism of languages and technologies should be avoided because it often discourages community diversity, and this is where the author and I part ways.

The state of the programming community is poor, with regard to diversity, and this leads to all sorts of systematic problems that are self-perpetuating. However, the state of the programming ecosystem is also poor, and the perception of acceptability given to bad tooling and bad habits leads to systematic and self-perpetuating problems of its own. The way to increase acceptance of outsiders into the community is not by sacrificing the very worth of the enterprise the community exists to engage in; indeed, it’s entirely unnecessary to do so.

The author decries the tribalism of the community with regard to tooling, but differences of opinion when it comes to preferred tools is not a meaningless aesthetic distinction. The prevalence of overflow-related vulnerabilities in real software ultimately comes down to the popularity of C over Pascal historically; as many exfiltrations of password files and other sensitive data are owed to the use of outdated PHP best practices as can be attributed to SQL injection (and thus, lack of input validation); the poor state of Windows security prior to 2001 when compared to…

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John Ohno

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net