Criticisms and choices (was Re: Is Matrix a good choice?)

Dr. Trigon dr.trigon at
Thu Mar 17 06:59:00 UTC 2022

This is an intressting read, thanks for your thoughts.

You are right that some patterns on how we think and what we value should be reflected and questioned.

I am a tech guy and thus I also tend very much to think in 2 categories only; working ("good") and not working ("bad") solutions. And from point of efficiency; why try to find another solution to a problem that has been solved already. But this tech or analytical kind of thinking is to simple to cope with full complexity of life (..., the universe and everything).


Am 16. März 2022 16:33:05 MEZ schrieb Paul Boddie <paul at>:
>On Wednesday, 16 March 2022 12:37:26 CET Max Mehl wrote:
>> On a personal and general note, I sometimes wonder about the energy some
>> people put into badmouthing certain projects in lengthy posts because of
>> personal taste or disliking a person behind the project. This did not
>> happen in this thread or by the initial poster, but I recently see it a
>> lot with Matrix or of course also systemd.
>There's a pervasive attitude in Free Software thanks to the influence of 
>broader commercial and social culture, particularly American-style capitalism, 
>where there apparently has to be a winner and, therefore, losers. So, a lot of 
>energy is spent pursuing the zero-sum game of hustling for one's chosen winner 
>and/or denigrating the competition. Ever heard anyone tell you that you should 
>"stop needlessly competing with us and join our project instead"? That gets 
>said quite a bit in Free Software, certainly in the Python community.
>The zero-sum game thing showed itself when people started to consider 
>alternatives to Facebook: pretty quickly, there was a lot of hype for Dispora 
>with the usual media focus on the personalities involved, plus a lot of 
>product focus rather than a focus on standards and interoperability. 
>Personally, I don't pay a lot of attention to this form of communication, but 
>I understand that things have since settled down. I guess everyone realised 
>that the opportunity to be the one wearing the crown and ruling the kingdom 
>wasn't really there.
>Our wider societies are largely consumerist and focused on "brand name" 
>solutions to everything, and it is arguably easier to deliver such messaging 
>than it is to communicate a more complicated and nuanced picture. 
>Counterintuitively, it seems that although competition and choice are 
>supposedly valued, the last thing that people seem to want is to be confronted 
>the existence of competition and the need to actually make a choice.
>Then again, this is understandable: things like privatisation have effectively 
>conjured up pretend markets that compel everyone to choose something that 
>should just be provided uniformly and in a reasonable way, and choice in such 
>a context is less about preferences and more about avoiding being exploited 
>and overcharged by middlemen. The UK energy supplier "market" has recently 
>been learning about this the hard way, although such "financialisation" has 
>been underway for years in various countries.
>> Is that helping Free Software? I don't think so. Sure, we should have a
>> close look at software solutions, criticise them based on facts if we
>> see defects or bad developments, but let us also try to fix these
>> issues. If they are unsolvable, one should at least try to make the
>> competing software solution (in this case XMPP, but also sysinit etc)
>> better than the one one is criticising; there have to be valid reasons
>> why users and projects switched to the newer software apart from "hype".
>> With this, we could achieve much more for the benefit of user freedoms
>> as a community.
>I agree that people should absolutely invest in alternatives to the latest 
>trends and fashions. One damaging element of our societies has been the 
>running down of their resilience by people deciding that any form of 
>duplication of effort is "inefficient" and therefore unnecessary. As noted 
>above, however, there is considerable resistance to pursuing such parallel 
>initiatives. It even becomes internalised and considered as common sense or 
>some kind of natural order: for example, why bother doing this or that when 
>"you can just put Linux on it"?
>Here the case of systemd is actually illustrative, too, often being presented 
>as a controversy based on technological ideology: one side wants to further a 
>particular technological agenda; the other apparently rejects that agenda and 
>appeals to earlier ideological principles. Soon enough, the discussion gets 
>heated and personal, which is, of course, unwelcome and regrettable. But 
>nobody really addresses the social and commercial dynamics that underpin the 
>real nature of the conflict.
>As with other technologies, like the Free Software desktop environments, by 
>the time end-users get to use the software, a bunch of other people have 
>decided precisely how the experience is going to be. And increasingly, if 
>those end-users don't like what they see, their complaints end up being 
>brushed off as "entitled" or unappreciative of the vision or hard work of the 
>designers and developers of that software. (Never mind that the designers in 
>various cases are pretty visionless and seem to have little sense of the 
>history of the technologies in which they claim to be authorities.)
>But what chance do the end-users actually have of influencing the result? They 
>can get involved and presumably be told to "pipe down" when making their 
>suggestions, so as not to upset the visionaries, or they can fork the entire 
>software stack, which is hardly realistic. One can argue that many influential 
>Free Software projects are barely participatory at all in a genuine sense: 
>"volunteers are needed" to get the work done, of course, but one has to work 
>one's way up the equivalent of the corporate ladder to steer the effort in a 
>different direction.
>The consequence is a rather more understandable degree of frustration 
>expressed by people feeling that they are experiencing a loss of control. When 
>a language like Python or a distribution like Debian or Fedora obliges its 
>users to do unnecessary extra work or see their systems break, just because 
>someone wanted to freshen up some element of the technology, and when 
>dissatisfaction about such matters is met with condescension and hostility 
>itself, I think that some reactions are understandable, at least if they are 
>communicated respectfully.
>To return closer to the original topic, I think it is worth asking whether we, 
>the users, can exercise control over the technologies involved, and if one 
>appears to be suffering from a lack of investment, then we must ask whether it 
>is feasible or desirable to overcome its deficiencies and make it more 
>appealing. From what I remember of XMPP, it rather suffered from "neat idea 
>syndrome" (messages being XML documents that are incrementally parsed, when 
>XML itself rather rests on notions such as well-formedness), specifications 
>that were verbose and yet incomplete in critical places, and the usual 
>proliferation of extensions driven by corporate opportunism. But that doesn't 
>necessarily mean that it cannot be salvaged in a more sensible form.
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