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Outer Log Thought Web
 zondag 10 november 2002
Perception is reality
Since I'm sent back to the living room bench again for the weekend, there's plenty enough time for philosophical ranting. Due to my back condition, I won't speak at the Dutch XML UG conference after all, but provided the conference organisators with some possible alternatives - I hope it will work out for them. That means I won't be able to meet Dirk-Willem Van Gulik, too :-(

Of course, wireless networking does help in this situation. I'm uptodate with most of the my preferred information channels, and have been browsing a good deal of the weblogs out there.

Unfortunately, this has led me to someone publicly making rather bad allegations about my genuineness and trustworthiness because of a series of events some months ago. He didn't reveal my name "to protect the innocent", but it was clear he was aiming at me. So I got back to him, asking him about his motivations to do so, and he was kind enough to iterate over those. Anyway, this stuff is really only relevant to the two of us (or that's at least what I'm hoping for), but it brings me back to the proverb I have been using and discussing quite often during the past few weeks: perception is reality.

On the Internet, no-one knows if you are a dog was one of these quotes people were often referring to during the early years of the web, and the funny thing is, with all these weblogs and personal homepages, with people seemingly exposing their most intimate thoughts to the larger community, this expression still stands. Even worse: I suspect people are actively making use of it. They know they can post their perception of the reality and influence the common perception that way.

Clearly this open source stuff is not only about community, project, documentation and code (hopefully in decreasing order of importance ;-) - it has also much to do with people's egos. Things happen because someone has an itch to scratch. The catalyst for this itch can be a common technical problem, but it can also be the need to position oneself within a community. To get public appraisal. To get your point across... Either way, vanity is only one of the human virtues, something which differentiates us from animals. So it's very human behaviour after all.

So when you read weblogs or posts on a mailing list, do not take anything you see and read for granted. Just as in normal life, people sometimes model their behaviour to gain community appraisal. Perception is reality: please make sure your perception isn't the product of a designed reality.


After posting the above, I saw a posting of James Duncan Davidson on community at, the new chit-chat mailinglist for Apache in-crowd. Since it has been voted upon that archives of that list will become publicly available, I guess I can quote here:

[...] Most of all at the current moment I believe that open source is driven by individuals who choose to come together or not depending on situation. Group dynamics take away from the business of getting on with code. By playing group games, we set into play a situation where neither the software, nor (more importantly) the group of users of that software are well served. [...]

Right on, James.
11:45:31 AM    comment []