Proposition 8

November 1st, 2008

I was adding a point to the Wikipedia article on California's Proposition 8 which prohibits same-sex marriages. I was reading the background article, the 'talk' page where those who edit the article discuss the issues regarding the article and whether some things should or should not be included. I decided to throw my EUR 0.02 and add a little fuel to the fire, when I pointed out that, if the article includes examples of those who oppose passage of the matter, it has to include those who support it:

Whether we agree or disagree with the sentiments of this act (I personally disagree with it) our responsibility - if this [Wikipedia] is to be an encyclopedia and not ''Jimbo's Bag O'Trivia'' as some have maligned it - is to be neutral and to not show bias; this includes giving examples of the organizations that support the measure as long as we include those who oppose it. If it is reasonable to include examples of either side in the article - and I think it is - then it is both fair ''and mandatory'' to include examples of the opposite point of view to that side.

There are a number of religious arguments which may be used to support this measure, and therefore it is reasonable and proper for churches to come out (oh, that's a terrible pun!) in favor of it. Conversely, a number of groups could have reasons, including those who are simply of the opinion that restricting who may marry simply on the grounds that they don't like the type of people getting married it is not something that other people should have the right to do.

It's one thing to prohibit, say, a brother and sister to get married, we have incest issues there. But typically if two people who are not related to each other meet and wish to have this option, they have the privilege as long as they are of the opposite sex. But the problem has become that there are certain special privileges which are ''only'' available to couples which are married.

If you win, say, $10 million in the state lottery, and you want to give me 1/2, if I'm either your husband or wife, there's no problem and that's the end of it. But if I'm anyone else, you are also going to owe a gift tax of at least 3 million dollars, plus probably a state gift tax as well. And I do not believe that the 'Domestic Partnership' compromise changes this; I haven't looked it up and if it does that's a different matter.

But this is one example of what are probably many reasons - I think someone gave an estimate of something like 300 different benefits that are available to a married couple that are denied to a relationship of two adults who do not have that status - that those adults that are in a stable relationship with someone else want the legal right for their relationship, that, except for the fact one of them is not a different gender, would be treated exactly the same as anyone else where the two people were adults who are not of the same sex.

There are a number of organizations who are of the opinion that marriage is a sacred institution, created by God and intended to solemnize a special relationship between a man and a woman, and it should not be cheapened and degraded by using it for other purposes.

The problem we have is that marriage, as a solemn religious ceremony, has been merged with a government contract, which is which is what you get at the courthouse, and thus we have a mess for that very reason when you mix two things which are - for all intents and purposes - two different things and call both of them the same thing.

Religious marriage is a ceremonial rite; civil marriage is a formal contract. This causes all sorts of problems on this issue because the religious groups feel that granting the latter is going to eventually force them to accept it being granted to the former.

And the results of this ballot measure - no matter which way it goes - will neither settle the issue nor be the final word on the subject.

Golf pro suing Florida company over Wikipedia article

March 1st, 2007

As noted in this article in Linux Insider, Fuzzy Zoeller is suing a Florida Company because apparently an article containing allegedly libelous information about the golf professional was posted to Wikipedia from an IP address assigned to their company. Zoeller, under a John Doe pseudonym (which was discovered by the Miami Herald), was suing the company where the posting apparently came from, because federal law gives Wikipedia immunity for postings made by its contributors. Whether the company can be held liable is also problematic.

Better treatment of programmers by Management: An argument from a business perspective

November 24th, 2006

If you're going to get management to understand the reasons for better treatment of programmers, you have to make a business case argument. The simple matter is to argue (in the sense of making a proposal, not in the sense of expressing anger) that it is more cost effective to do it this way.

Software developers are skilled professionals - or they should be, anyway - and professionals need proper tools and resources to be at their highest productivity levels. Higher productivity means more value for every peso spent. No one would expect even a moderately competent surgeon to work in a dark and cramped operating room with dull tools, doing every job in the operating room with no support staff, and expect anything but sub-par, low grade work with a very high mortality rate. And you wouldn't expect it of a world-class surgeon either.

And this is exactly the state of software development today in the places that don't make it possible for their software development staff to do anything but sub-par, low grade work with a high probability of failure and an strong likelihood of cancellation of projects as unfinished and a waste of valuable resources.

The purpose in having a programming staff is to deveop the software tools that allow your organization to obtain the one thing that no other organization in the world has: a competitive advantage and a reason for the customer to select your company over all of your competitors.

Every piece of hardware you can purchase commercially, and every piece of shrink-wrapped software you buy does nothing but give you the same tools as your competitors have, because you all can (and do) buy from the same suppliers. Software either makes your company more efficient - that it can get more done with less resources than your competitors - or it gives you the capacity to offer products or services that are markedly better than anyone else, or potentially unavailable from anyone else.

If software isn't there to give you a competitive edge relative to your customers, then what do you have software developers for? Why even bother to have them if you aren't getting something more than every other company with a checkbook? Fire them all and use off-the-shelf applications. If you have software developers, the whole idea is that what they are capable of doing, that no other people can do, is supply you with something different that no other company has, that you can use that difference as a competitive edge that makes your company more valuable to your customers than any of your competitors.

An advertising company can purchase office supplies from anyone else, they can hire - or freelance - artists to do drawings, photographers and models for ad campaigns, announcers for voice overs, but none of these things can give them a competitive edge because everyone else can buy from the same suppliers, and none of these things will make a difference other than in the technical quality of the ads they produce. The competitive edge is in the people who can think up a great idea for an ad campaign that works to sell the customer's product or service. That competitive edge is something you can't buy, you need high-quality people who can think to get it.

If you're in the business of selling a commodity product or service that they can buy from anyone else, your sales people are the stars that allow you to make a difference because your salespeople can give your customers new ideas on how to use your product or service more effectively, or show your customers reasons to use your product or service over anyone else. And for that, sales people are paid high salaries, or they get special compensation packages. Because the extra resources that they get provide the company with a competitive advantage.

The same thing applies to any company that uses software developers to create software used in their business. If your business is the development of software, this is an even more imperative issue, because the software you sell is the only thing that differentiates you from everyone else who sells something similar to do the same or an equivalent task.

Now, if we consider that the software developers you have are a competitive edge that differentiates your company from all the others who can buy every other thing except the great ideas that your people can produce, and thus the software you produce is either your company's product that you sell that makes you different from everyoine else selling a similar software product, or the software is a competitive advantage that makes your company different from all your competitors, it makes sense from a business case to make it possible for your people to produce the best possible work they are capable of.

A software developer's stock in trade is, quite simply, the figments of their imagination. They translate pure ideas into a software system capable of producing a unique and special capability which no one else who does not posess that software system can have. To the extent that system provides you with capacities and features that you need, that are not available to anyone else, that system is part of the competitive edge that provides your company a reason for its customers to want to deal with you instead of your competitors.

All of the things that programmers usually want:

  • Large monitors
  • Private offices
  • Good software tools
  • A well-stocked reference library, including high-speed internet access
  • Better chairs
  • Better training
  • Support staff to allow them to concentrate on the things that only they can do
  • (Any other factor useful for them to do their jobs that I have failed to name.)

All point toward one thing: allowing them the capability to do better work. These are not 'perks' any more than allowing surgeons to have razor-sharp scalpels over dull ones, and adequate lighting are 'perks', unless you consider the ability to do world-class development over commodity development - the same commodity development that every one of your competitors can and do get and does not give them a competitive advantage - is a 'perk'.

Professional people, such as executives, are paid to think. All of the tools that executives get: good quality chairs, support staff, quiet offices, are there to allow them to do their job better. And software designers are just as much professionals as the CEO of a company.

Now, realize that unless your company is Microsoft, Google or one of the really big software companies, you have the same disadvantage over hiring good people as everyone else. Or in retaining good people. Everybody else can offer the same salaries, same benefits, same monetary values as anyone else. And maybe your competitors can afford to throw more money at people than you can. You don't have a damn thing you can offer that every other similar company can offer too, and some of them can offer more than you can. Or do you?

Is there something you can do to attract, and keep, the software developers who can provide your company with a competitive edge that all of your competitors can't also do? And there is your answer. Your competitors don't want to offer private offices. They don't want to offer adequate support staff. And all the other things that mean the difference between whether your people can provide quality work, or you get the same undifferentiated crap that everyone else has. And if all you have are the same things as everyone else, why should your customers pick you?

And these are the reasons to offer software developers all these things. Because giving them a better work environment gives you two things. It allows you to acquire and retain the best people available for what you can afford, and in the long run, to spend less money because you don't have to pay more to get people, and because you lose fewer people to your competitors so you don't have high rehiring costs. And it allows your people to do their best work possible in providing you with the software systems that allow you to provide a competitive advantage over your competitors.

Down Under: Use an iPod, go to jail?

November 21st, 2006

In this article, the Sydney Morning Herald reports proposed changes to Australia's copyright laws could so lower the standard of proof in copyright infringement cases by making posession of a device which can infringe copyright even if you were unaware you were doing so to be a crime. Virtually any device that can easily reproduce copyrightable material, such as a camera cell phone, an iPod or any MP3 player which is used to, say, load tracks from a CD even if the CD was legally purchased, "would constitute an indictable offense" of criminal copyright infringement with huge fines (AU$65,000, almost exactly US$50,000) and jail time of up to 5 years. Wonder how long before this sort of stunt is tried here in the U.S., after all, as Ayn Rand said in "Atlas Shrugged", if you don't have enough conscript labor in jails, change the laws to make more people into criminals.

Google supports atty fees on copyright owner suit loss

August 12th, 2006

In a PDF of a motion filing, Google is requesting over $11,000 in attorneys fees from Gordon Roy Parker, also known as Ray Gordon, a Philadelphia alleged self-publisher of books, after his claims in a federal lawsuit (prior slashdot article here) arguing Google's indexing of web pages violated his copyright (among other claims), were determined to be totally lacking even the slightest scintilla of merit whatsoever. The points made in Google's brief may be helpful in the case of Debbie Foster who is trying to get attorneys fees for successfully defending a frivolous lawsuit by the RIAA. As Google's brief says, "A party is improperly motivated if he does not have a good faith intent to protect a valid copyright interest... or if his intent was to 'vex and
harass the defendant.'" Google's argument here seems to fit very closely with the improper suits RIAA has filed or threatened to file unless paid off, against people who were totally innocent, and give further reasons to argue for award of attorneys fees to the defendant when they successfully defend a bogus copyright infringement charge.

Gordon Roy Parker is someone I happen to know personally, I've dealt with him and his ridiculous commentary on the Usenet Newsgroup, a group devoted to the posting of ideas having to do with the seduction of women and ways of encouraging them to go to bed with guys. Most of his comments either have nothing to do with trying to have sex, and his ideas mostly are the type that are so worthless that it it practically guaranteed that if a guy followed them he couldn't get laid if he had a wallet full of hundred dollar bills in a whorehouse.