If You've Got a Problem With Me, Please Contact Me!

Thursday 29 November 2012 by Bradley M. Kuhn

[ I usually write blog posts about high-minded software freedom concepts. This post isn't one of those; it's much more typical personal blog-fare, so please stop reading here if you're looking for a good software freedom essay; just move on to another one of my blog posts if that's what you want. ]

I heard something really odd today. I was told that a relatively large group of people find me untrustworthy and refuse to work or collaborate with me because of it. I heard this second-hand, and I asked for more details, and the person who told me really doesn't want to be involved any further (and I don't blame that person, because the whole thing is admittedly rather silly, and I'd walk away too if it wasn't personally about me).

There are people in the world I don't trust too, of course. I always tell them so to their face. I just operate my life in a really transparent way, so if I believe someone is my political opponent, I tell them so. I've written emails to people that say things like: Now that you work for Company Blah, I have to assume you're working against Free Software, because Company Blah has a history of doing so. If someone says something offensive to me, I tell them they've offended me. Sometimes, I clearly say that I am explicitly not forgiving the person, which thus makes it clear that there is a standing issue between us indefinitely. I do occasionally hold a grudge. (Frankly, I doubt people who claim they never hold a grudge, because everyone I've ever met seems to have a grudge against somebody for something.)

I've been told that I'm not tactful. I always respond with: Of course, I'm not a tactful person. I've made a conscious choice not to change that behavior because, IMO, the other option is to leave people guessing about how you feel about their actions. If I think someone's action is wrong, I tell them I think it's wrong and why. If I think someone's action is good, I thank them for it and ask if I can help in the future. That's not a tactful way to live, I admit, but I believe it's nevertheless an honorable way to live. I'm grateful for the tactful people I know, because I realize they can accomplish things that I can't, but I also point out that there are things that the untactful can accomplish that the tactful can't. For example, only the tactless can point out emperors who wear no clothes.

Meanwhile, the kinds of backroom (and seemingly tactful) politics that we sometimes see in Free Software have a way of descending into high school drama. I heard from Foo who heard from Bar that you won't be elected class president because nobody likes you. No, I can't say who Bar heard it from. No, I can't tell you exactly why. This immature behavior is, IMO, much worse than being tactless.

I frankly think those who operate this way should be ashamed of themselves. I'm therefore putting out a public call (which is just a repeat of what I've said privately to people for years): if you have some problem with something I've done, or find my actions at any time untrustworthy, or wrong, or anything else negative, you're welcome to contact me. I get emails almost weekly anyway of people who have issues with something I've said on the Free as in Freedom audcast or somewhere else. I take the time to answer almost everyone who writes to me. I also always tell people that you can keep pinging me until I answer and I won't be offended if you do. Sometimes, I might just write back with the reasons why I decided not to answer you. But, I'll always at least tell you my opinions on what you've said, even if it's just a tactless: I don't think what you're writing about is a major priority and I can't schedule the time to think about it further right now. I challenge others in the Free Software community to also rise up to more transparency in their actions and statements.

I want to be clear, BTW, there's a difference between being tactless and mean. I work really hard not to be mean; I sometimes fail, and I also work very hard to examine my actions to see if I've crossed the line. I send apologies to people when it becomes apparent that I've been not just tactless but also mean. I have to admit, though, there are plenty of mean people kicking around the Free Software world who owe a bunch of apologies (including some to me), but if you think I owe you an apology, I encourage you to write to me and ask for one. In my tactless style, I'll either give you an apology or tell you why I disagree about why you deserve one. :)

Finally, I thought hard about whether to “name names” herein. It's surely obvious that a specific situation has inspired my words above, and those who know what this situation is will realize immediately; those that don't will sadly be left wondering what the hell is going on. Still, as disgusted as I am about the backroom politics I'm dealing with at the moment, I think public admonishment of the perpetrators here would cross the line from tactless to mean, so I decided not to cross the line.

Posted on Thursday 29 November 2012 at 09:10 by Bradley M. Kuhn.

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#include <std/disclaimer.h>
use Standard::Disclaimer;
from standard import disclaimer
SELECT full_text FROM standard WHERE type = 'disclaimer';

Both previously and presently, I have been employed by and/or done work for various organizations that also have views on Free, Libre, and Open Source Software. As should be blatantly obvious, this is my website, not theirs, so please do not assume views and opinions here belong to any such organization. Since I do co-own ebb.org with my wife, it may not be so obvious that these aren't her views and opinions, either.

— bkuhn


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Bradley M. Kuhn <bkuhn@ebb.org>