Linked by Kroc Camen on Thu 20th Aug 2009 09:43 UTC
Podcasts What else would we talk about other than the massively [popular|controversial] article about X.org last week. We try and address a number of concerns about the article and common lines of reasoning / misunderstanding. Lastly, we move onto something completely different with topics on Google Chrome on Linux, IE6 and the two details we know about RockMelt: Rock. Melt.
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RE[3]: X and Thom
by wfreund on Fri 21st Aug 2009 08:50 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: X and Thom"
wfreund
Member since:
2009-08-17

"Watch your generalizations and stereotypes, Thom. They are almost guaranteed to be wrong."

Actually, stereotypes and generalizations often prove to have varying measures of truth in them that apply to a visible portion of the targeted group at a level disproportionate to that of the general population. How much truth a particular generalization or stereotype contains usually depends on the observation skills and insight level of the speaker, not the fact that the statement is a generalization or stereotype.

That last sentence could be more accurately rendered such:

"They are almost guaranteed to have exceptions."

So long as one is willing to expect and allow for these exceptions, there is absolutely no danger in characterizing a group with a general statement. This is especially true when the members of said group are members because they self-identify with that group.

Generalizations can be useful in gaining an understanding of group-behavior. Without generalizations, you may as well take the torch to the entire field of study called Sociology, since in many ways it rests upon the forming of generalizations about people. In fact, many of the social sciences "suffer" from this "limitation."

Please don't fear generalizations and stereotypes simply because some people use them as a crutch with which to support their irrational or hateful beliefs. This would be throwing out the baby with the bath water.

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To speak particularly to this issue, I agree with Thom that the sentiments that he describes are exhibited visibly by a good deal of people that would consider themselves "Open Source" or "Free Software" advocates. By visibly, I mean that this occurs enough to warrant a useful generalization. In my many years of lurking on computer related message boards, I've lost respect for many a poster as it became clear that they liked to have it both ways on this point.

Perhaps it would help to put it in this way....

If I was served a free meal in a humble spirit with no claims made with respect towards the quality of the food, I would have nothing to say but "Thank you." This would be the case even if the meal was terrible. However, if the person serving me the meal also insisted on extolling the virtues of his cooking methods and the quality of his food as compared to that of others, I would not consider it rude to counter these statements based on my experience. And if he then complained that my opinions weren't fair because the meal was free, not only would his complaint fall on deaf ears, but he would lose my respect.

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