Thursday, August 29, 2013

Confrontation is scary! Confront your fear.

One of my recent CWG (KDE Community Working Group) emails said, in part:

...the confrontation seems to have clarified some issues...

Of course! That is what confrontation is about. It isn't necessarily a power struggle, although it's usually seen that way. Confrontation, argument, fights are all about issues. Of course sometimes the issue is power, and access to resources, but more often the issue is about how to get to a shared goal or value. Confrontation is best and most productive when it clarifies: How can we best collaborate?

Arguments aren't bad! They bring issues out in the open. And if people learn to 'fight fair' - focus on resolving issues, not people, not positions, then stuff gets done. Even if you aren't directly involved in an argument, sometimes your part is to remind the 'opponents' of that, and support them as they 'get to yes.' If there is anger involved, it's good to be able to blow off steam without injecting that heat into the argument itself. Often a friendly ear is invaluable there.

I think confrontation is scary to people because most of us are taught as children NOT to confront, but to obey authority. This is understandable from the parents' point of view, but over the long term, people need to learn confrontation, negotiation, and fighting fair. As a parent I tried to teach my kids how to fight fair --even with me. Because mama is not always right.

I've only been in the community for a few years, so I can't compare 'the old days' to now. The KDE, Kubuntu and Ubuntu communities are spread all over the world, with people from a lot of different cultures; it would be amazing if we had no misunderstandings, spats, fights, disagreements. It is my hope that we all learn to do this better, and remember to be respectful during the struggle.

The Codes of Conduct are our support here. A CoC is often seen as a club, or a codification of law, which I think is wrong. Re-read your CoC, and I think you'll find that it is a description of the community we want, and the way we want to work. I hope to see fewer mentions of "CoC violation" and more examples of living up to our shared ideals. Read 'em again:

KDE Code of Conduct:

Ubuntu Code of Conduct:

Linuxchix boils it down the best, I think. Two rules: Be polite, and be helpful.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Decipherment of Linear B

This wonderful little book has been recommended quite a few times by my friend Sho_. Today it arrived from the library, and I'm so happy to have read it. Yes, it's slim and readable; with afterward and appendices less than 150 pages. It's a loving tribute to Michael Ventris, who 'broke the code' of Linear B, then died before his publication presenting it to the word, by his co-author, John Chadwick.

Why a book on such an obscure subject? Yes, it's about Mycenaean Greek! But more important, it's about how a young person with an interest in languages and training in architecture (Michael Ventris) could use this background to crack one of the biggest mysteries revealed by modern archaeology. And he contradicted the leading experts and prevailing opinion that Linear B could not be Greek. When he proved that the Mycenaeans spoke Greek, he pushed the beginnings of European history back many centuries.

Ventris won over the experts by doing careful analysis, and always sharing his work as he proceeded. In fact, after reading all the published research, he began his work by surveying the twelve leading experts with a series of questions. This questionnaire was penetrating enough that he got ten answers. After compiling these answers and adding his own analysis, he sent out the survey results to all the experts. By getting a good grasp of current scholarship, he had built a wonderful foundation on which to build his study of the inscriptions.

Although it has not been proven that Ventris did any code-breaking during the war, his method of analysis certainly owes much to that Bletchley Park work. Also discussed here is Alice Kober, whose early work set Ventris on the right path. Her card catalogue was invaluable to Ventris, after her life was cut short by cancer. Ventris always consulted other experts, and was generous in sharing credit. He never succeeded in proving what he set out to do, which was prove that Linear B was Etruscan. Instead, he put in the hard work of analysis of all the evidence, and followed the trail to the end, proving what he started out believing impossible: Linear B is ancient Greek.

Read this book, and be inspired! Grab it used or get it from the library as I did. Although available for Kindle, the symbols render badly in that edition.