Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 23rd Aug 2008 15:37 UTC
Editorial Earlier this week, we ran a story on GoboLinux, and the distribution's effort to replace the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard with a more pleasant, human-readable, and logical design. A lot of people liked the idea of modernising/replacing the FHS, but just as many people were against doing so. Valid arguments were presented both ways, but in this article, I would like to focus on a common sentiment that came forward in that discussion: normal users shouldn't see the FHS, and advanced users are smart enough to figure out how the FHS works.
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devurandom
Member since:
2005-07-06


I have issues with both sentences. English is not a true standard, it's just a "de-facto" standard, much like the MS Office file formats.


MS Office is not a good standard because it is not free and it is undocumented.

English is both free and documented.

So it's a wrong comparison.

A true standard should be carefully designed with input from all the interested parties, beginning with a minimal common ground and then building upon it, trying to keep it simple, fair and balanced. Whenever possible, if parties disagree on how to do or how to express something, the standard should provide means for each party to specify their chosen option, rather than picking one of the competing solutions.


A de facto standard is not always a bad standard. Take Linux, for example: it's hard from being standard, formally, but it's a good example of a de facto free standard in the Unix world.

The only problem with usual de facto standards, like Office file formats, is that they are nor free nor documented. If these file formats were free and documented, I'd have no problem in using them.

In my view, it's just the dominant player's option in a no-true-standards situation.


In scientific contexts, for example, English is the required de facto standard. No serious journal publishes something in a language other than English.
The same holds for a lot of other disciplines.

*All* language standards emerged as de facto dominant players. It has been Greek, Latin, then German, then French, and now is English. One day maybe it will be Chinese, who knows.

Regarding direct human (spoken and written) communication, learning a second language up to near-native level is *hard*. As long as the "standard" language is native for some of its speakers and not for others, the native speakers have a *huge* advantage.


Please. I'm not talking about writing all newspapers, novels and so on in English. I'm not saying I want to eliminate all languages (in fact, I'd like language diversity to be saved as a value). But there are contexts in which it is better to know a bit of a standard language instead of relying on your own language. Technical contexts, in which technical information has to be shared worldwide, is one of them.

Also, anyway pushing those people learning the current de facto standard language can be hard, but it is an enormous advantage for those people that goes much, much further than simply being able to read computer documentation.

is it so surprising that many of the affected societies resist this trend?


They are not resisting any trend. Quite the contrary. English teaching is compulsory in most, if not all developed countries, and probably also in most non-developed ones. Here in Italy there's a lot of concern on the relative illiteracy in English of our population. I guess in a couple of generations a substantial part of humankind will be mostly (also) English speaking (if another language does not jump in as the new de facto standard).

Reply Parent Score: 2

wannabe geek Member since:
2006-09-27



MS Office is not a good standard because it is not free and it is undocumented.

English is both free and documented.

So it's a wrong comparison.

But English is still a de-facto standard.




A de facto standard is not always a bad standard. Take Linux, for example: it's hard from being standard, formally, but it's a good example of a de facto free standard in the Unix world.

Linux is more of a free implementation of a standard (POSIX). In particular, the fact that so many people use GNU/Linux as opposed to, say, FreeBSD, doesn't make FreeBSD users' lives more difficult, as they never worked under the assumption that all the world would use FreeBSD. OTOH, when one of the GNU/Linux distros, with all its quirks, tries to be "the one Linux distro", and third-party developers only build packages for this distro, then indeed a de-facto standard is being imposed. I think that's a bad thing.


The only problem with usual de facto standards, like Office file formats, is that they are nor free nor documented. If these file formats were free and documented, I'd have no problem in using them.


Office formats are quite similar to each other, at least from a user POV. You don't have to learn the new format, the computer does it for you (you do have to learn small differences in the tools available, but that's not intrinsic to the format). The situation with human languages, measuring systems and other conventions is very different in this aspect.




*All* language standards emerged as de facto dominant players. It has been Greek, Latin, then German, then French, and now is English. One day maybe it will be Chinese, who knows.


Sure, I'm not saying that other languages have a higher moral ground over English. All I'm saying is that it's perfectly logical for speakers of a language to resist the attempts to impose a foreign language as a standard, no matter how successful these attempts are turning out to be.



"Regarding direct human (spoken and written) communication, learning a second language up to near-native level is *hard*. As long as the "standard" language is native for some of its speakers and not for others, the native speakers have a *huge* advantage.


Please. I'm not talking about writing all newspapers, novels and so on in English. I'm not saying I want to eliminate all languages (in fact, I'd like language diversity to be saved as a value). But there are contexts in which it is better to know a bit of a standard language instead of relying on your own language. Technical contexts, in which technical information has to be shared worldwide, is one of them.

"
I see that's not what you want, but I think that's the most likely outcome. If only English is admitted in technical communication worldwide,it will soon become the only language admitted in any kind of public communication.




"is it so surprising that many of the affected societies resist this trend?


They are not resisting any trend. Quite the contrary. English teaching is compulsory in most, if not all developed countries, and probably also in most non-developed ones. Here in Italy there's a lot of concern on the relative illiteracy in English of our population.
"
That's the trend I'm talking about. Some sectors of these societies are enthusiastic about it, but other aren't. For instance, here is Spain there's an institution called "Instituto Cervantes", which is concerned about the expansion and "good health" of Spanish language here and abroad. I guess there are similar institutions in other countries. They tend to see a problem in the increasing predominance of English.



I guess in a couple of generations a substantial part of humankind will be mostly (also) English speaking (if another language does not jump in as the new de facto standard).


I would much prefer that some international agreement puts an end to all the de-facto standard dance, maybe by agreeing on a suitable auxiliary language, or on more effective translation protocols.

Reply Parent Score: 2