Archive for July, 2010

Tribalism is the enemy within

Mark Shuttleworth, the first African tourist in space spent eight days in the Mir space station, in… errr… space! He went on to start a Linux distribution package called Ubuntu and although his article is aimed at the Ubuntu community, there are lessons for us all here. When reading, just discount references to software packages and read this as if it were about your own world.

Mark has given me permission to reproduce this here so it is only right to give a plug to the Ubuntu website.
Now read on:

Tribalism is when one group of people start to think people from another group are “wrong by default”. It’s the great-granddaddy of racism and sexism. And the most dangerous kind of tribalism is completely invisible: it has nothing to do with someone’s “birth tribe” and everything to do with their affiliations: where they work, which sports team they support, which linux distribution they love.

There are a couple of hallmarks of tribal argument:

1. “The other guys have never done anything useful”.

Well, let’s think about that. All of us wake up every day, with very similar ambitions and goals. I’ve travelled the world and I’ve never met a single company, or country, or church, where *everybody* there did *nothing* useful. So if you see someone saying “Microsoft is totally evil”, that’s a big red flag for tribal thinking. It’s just like someone saying “All black people are [name your prejudice]“. It’s offensive nonsense, and you would be advised to distance yourself from it, even if it feels like it would be fun to wave that pitchfork for a while.

2. “Evidence contrary to my views doesn’t count.”

So, for example, when a woman makes it to the top of her game, “it’s because she slept her way there”. Offensive nonsense. And similarly, when you see someone saying “Canonical didn’t actually sponsor that work by that Canonical employee, that was done in their spare time”, you should realize that’s likely to be offensive nonsense too.

Let’s be clear: tribalism makes you stupid. Just like it would be stupid not to hire someone super-smart and qualified because they’re purple, or because they are female, it would be stupid to refuse to hear and credit someone with great work just because they happen to be associated with another tribe.

The very uncool thing about being a fanboy (or fangirl) of a project is that you’re openly declaring both a tribal affiliation and a willingness to reject the work of others just because they belong to a different tribe.

One of the key values we hold in the Ubuntu project is that we expect everyone associated with Ubuntu to treat people with respect. It’s part of our code of conduct – it’s probably the reason we *pioneered* the use of codes of conduct in open source. I and others who founded Ubuntu have seen how easily open source projects descend into nasty, horrible and unproductive flamewars when you don’t exercise strong leadership away from tribal thinking.

Now, bad things happen everywhere. They happen in Ubuntu – and because we have a huge community, they are perhaps more likely to happen there than anywhere else. If we want to avoid human nature’s worst consequences, we have to work actively against them. That’s why we have strong leadership structures, which hopefully put people who are proven not to be tribal in nature into positions of responsibility. It takes hard work and commitment, but I’m grateful for the incredible efforts of all the moderators and council members and leaders in LoCo teams across this huge and wonderful project, for the leadership they exercise in keeping us focused on doing really good work.

It’s hard, but sometimes we have to critique people who are associated with Ubuntu, because they have been tribal. Hell, sometimes I and others have to critique ME for small-minded and tribal thinking. When someone who calls herself “an Ubuntu fan” stands up and slates the work of another distro we quietly reach out to that person and point out that it’s not the Ubuntu way of doing things. We don’t spot them all, but it’s a consistent practice within the Ubuntu leadership team: our values are more important than winning or losing any given debate.

Do not be drawn into a tribal argument on Ubuntu’s behalf

Right now, for a number of reasons, there is a fever pitch of tribalism in plain sight in the free software world. It’s sad. It’s not constructive. It’s ultimately going to be embarrassing for the people involved, because the Internet doesn’t forget. It’s certainly not helping us lift free software to the forefront of public expectations of what software can be.

I would like to say this to everyone who feels associated with Ubuntu: hold fast to what you know to be true. You know your values. You know how hard you work. You know what an incredible difference your work has made. You know that you do it for a complex mix of love and money, some more the former, others the more latter, but fundamentally you are all part of Ubuntu because you think it’s the most profound and best way to spend your time. Be proud of that.

There is no need to get into a playground squabble about your values, your ethics, your capabilities or your contribution. If you can do better, figure out how to do that, but do it because you are inspired by what makes Ubuntu wonderful: free software, delivered freely, in a way that demonstrates real care for the end user. Don’t do it because you feel intimidated or threatened or belittled.

The Gregs are entitled to their opinions, and folks like Jono and Dylan have set an excellent example in how to rebut and move beyond them.

I’ve been lucky to be part of many amazing things in life. Ubuntu is, far and away, the best of them. We can be proud of the way we are providing leadership: on how communities can be a central part of open source companies, on how communities can be organised and conduct themselves, on how the economics of free software can benefit more than just the winning distribution, on how a properly designed user experience combined with free software can beat the best proprietary interfaces any day. But remember: we do all of those things because we believe in them, not because we want to prove anybody else wrong.

Mark Shuttleworth

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Jeremy Clarkson is my hero

Not because of his recent outburst on the Burqa, and not for any other specific outburst.

His attitude is, “I am politically incorrect and sod the lot of you for your small tiny little minds!and I love it. I came across a politically incorrect website a little while ago at and if you look hard enough you will find that Political Correctness originated before the war in Germany because the exponents of Communism couldn’t understand why it was not taken up in the West and finally realised it was the Anglo-Saxon’s propensity for independent thought.

When Hitler took over in Germany, this group who thought up Political Correctness moved over to the United States as they were mainly Jewish. I have to admit, I found this very difficult to take on board as surely Communism was against Jews? Anyway the entire history is on the website for all to see.

The following, taken from Jeremy’s Wikipedia website says:

In 2008 an internet petition was posted on the Prime Minister’s Number 10 website to “Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister“. By the time it closed, it had attracted 49,446 signatures. An opposing petition posted on the same site set to “Never, Ever Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister” attracted 87 signatures. Clarkson later commented he would be a rubbish Prime Minister as he is always contradicting himself in his columns.[17] In their official response to the petition, Number 10 agreed with Clarkson’s comments.[42]

While his fashion sense and chauvinistic comments are often cited as making him unpopular with women,[citation needed] in a 2008 poll of 5,000 female members of an online dating website, Clarkson came third in a poll of MISAs—Men I Secretly Adore—behind Jonathan Ross and Phillip Schofield. Characteristically, Clarkson was upset not to have come top.[43]

People either love or hate Jeremy and I would hazard a guess that, if you take the short political quiz (only ten questions) it will show your true position on the political scale. Being left or right of centre is not too important, it is where you fit on the “y-axis” that counts. Are you a statist, centist or libertarian. I would hazard a guess that those who like Jeremy Clarkson rank high on the “y-axis” and those who hate him rank lower down on this axis. The link is


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The American Senators regret British MPs actions

An American senator said recently on TV that they regret that we British have the audacity not to jump through a hoop when a Senator calls. Not those actual words, granted, but that is what he was inferring!

I think the MPs should be willing to talk to the Americans and make their case. However, the entire American Senate should fly over to the UK for this purpose. There are hundreds of Hotels in London, and they could hire the Queen Elizabeth II Hall in Westminster which should be large enough for them. If we ensure that the various MPs only had windows in their diaries to attend over a two week period, this would bring a lot of revenue to our top hotels, the conference hall, and tourist attractions.

And if the Americans had to spend over a week here, knowing American woman, their wives would insist on coming as well. The Senators would also want to bring their assistants and secretaries with them, so London would be full of a lot of people spending a lot of money.

But then, it wouldn’t happen. Either the Senators would refuse the offer, or they would send a small delegation over.

But, either way, it would make it difficult for the arrogant, loud-mouthed American politicians! (If there are any Brits reading this who think my blog will upset the Americans, don’t worry, they know their politicians, like ours, are loud-mouthed and arrogant!)


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I really don’t understand why the Conservatives don’t go for the jugular when the opposition keep on going on about the ConDem coalition!

Of course it is a play on “condemn” I understand this.

But why not acknowledge the term with the opposition the next time they use it?

They could say,

“You’re behind as usual, we use this term internally to remind our team to keep condemning your party for the mess they left our finances in, the mess they made of the infrastructure, the mess they made of our young unmarried mothers and single parent families, the mess they made with our children’s future. Every time you use the term it reminds us, and perhaps the public of how you made an almighty mess of everything you touched.

C’mon on guys, attack, you know it’s the best form of defence!

Stupid Buggers.


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What is Open Source?

This is a computer software business model and is a growing success.

If we take a company which sells their software for £300 and they have five thousand customers and 20% of these take out a £150 a year support contract they will show a gross income of £M1.65. But, remember, they have to give limited support to all their other customers as well.

Now supposing the company gives the software, and the source code (their intellectual rights) away free, and their five thousand customers grow to a hundred thousand customers. Supposing only 15% of these take out a support contract. This will mean an income of £M2.25. In addition, because the software is free, the company would not be required to give limited support which could mean more people may purchase a support contract. In addition to this, the company would establish a support forum where the customers would be willing to help each other. And before you scoff at this, it is happening everywhere, all the time.

Further to this, because the source code is available, others would add extra function to the program. The software licence would ask people who added functionality to send the code to the company who might add it to the next version. So there is less work for the support engineers and more can be employed in servicing support contracts.

Although I don’t have the actual figures (Canonical who wrote Ubuntu in 1955 is a private limited company) and released the software and the intellectual property rights (the source code) into the public arena, was a small company with less than half a dozen employees. However, as at July 2010, they have 350 employees in twenty-six different countries. All by giving their software product away free.

Canonical must make money or it wouldn’t survive and, as in my previous example, they make their money with company support contracts, training and proficiency certificates.

A lot of people say that businesses will never use Linux. This is a very outdated idea. For example, there are more servers in the world running Linux than running Windows. Out of the 500 “super computers” in the world, 94% run Linux and only 1% run Windows. With mobile telephones, The open source Android operating system from Google is expanding at a rapid rate and is due this month to overtake Windows Mobile in sheer volume.

I have recently learned that the French Gendarmes have moved 70,000 PCs over to Ubuntu, and are scheduled to move a further 30,000 this year. Spain have 500,000 Ubuntu PCs spread across their schools, colleges, universities and educational departments. Citroen have moved 100 servers and 20,000 desktops over to SuSE Linux.

Last week I attended a seminar in London called “Ubuntu in Business” where I learned of some major business software writers writing CRM and other large business programs for the Corporate marketplace.

We had short presentations from

  • Chris Puttick of “Oxford Archaeology” one of the largest independent archaeology and heritage practices in Europe who took the strategic decision to adopt Ubuntu.”
  • Colin McMillan of “Publicus Solutions” running Open SourceERP solutions on Ubuntu, success indeed in the distribution sector”
  • Alan Lord of “Open Learning Centre” real and implemented Open Source solutions In The SME Sector”
  • David Hopwood of “DSNetworx Ltd” making it easier for smaller business to move to open source”
  • Jeff Nott of “Alfresco” complete content management systems
  • Michael Judd of “Akuna Ltd” deploying a multi-site retail operations platform using Ubuntu, OpenbravoPOS, ADempiere & Pentaho for the retail sector
  • Steve Young of “Likewise” a company extending Open Source into the enterprise’

One such program, “OpenERP” is a business management application, or ERP system, which consists of an integrated set of modules comprising of areas like accounting, manufacturing, stock management, CRM, sales management, logistics, and project management. This is a fully Open Source product consisting of over 350 modules and sold in over 45 countries.

Although the British Government have been slow in adopting Linux than their European counterparts, I have heard from one or two MPs that they are now looking at this more seriously.

There will be a second part to this story later when I have gone through all my notes of the meeting, but it will be after I have published the August edition of our newspaper at the end of this month.


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Banning the Burqa

I have been reading a lot of blogs writing about whether we should ban the burqa, together with a lot of frenzied comments taking either side of the argument. It has given me enough food for thought and I have sat down and slowly considered the arguments on both sides.

Finally, as a libertarian, I have decided that this is not something that should concern the Government, the Judges, or the Civil Service.

I have studied the arguments that this is something insisted upon by husbands to subject their women folk, as is their custom to make the women wear black clothing that absorbs the heat of the sun, thus making them unbearably hot in the summer, whereas the men wear lighter clothing that deflects the heat of the sun’s rays.

It is nothing to do with government if there are evil men about making the lives of their womenfolk unbearable. If the women really hate it they have means in Britain to divorce and if they fear their husbands and fathers, they will be given protection. Also decent people could bring pressure to bear by not employing men who force their women to wear black and wear the burqa. And neighbours can also let these people know exactly where they stand in society.

As for wearing the burqa in public, I can see no harm if a bank, building society or any shop or store bans people wearing the burqa as long as they also ban people wearing crash helmets or hoods.

However, passports and driving licences are a special case as these documents are used to identify the holder. With our present system, five woman in the same household could share one driving licence and if they get banned, then the next woman can use her licence so you could have four banning orders and still all woman would be able to drive. So a good deal of thought needs to be given here.

If the final decision is to allow a person wearing a burqa to be photographed for these documents with their faces totally covered then, for British Justice to be fair and to be seen to be fair, other non-Muslims should be allowed to be photographed for their passports or driving licenses wearing ski masks, balaclavas or a ladies stocking over their faces.


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Should I buy a mobile phone on contract?

I hate paying out anything on a regular contract. I hate borrowing money, and I hate incurring interest of any sort. All my credit cards are paid off each month by direct debit so that, if there is any error, it is the error of the credit card company.

So, as you can imagine, I always paid cash for my mobile phones and pay as I go.

But this time around, I decided to look into the figures. As I have been with Virgin from the beginning, I decided to check them out and as my previous phone was the HTC Hero, and I didn’t like the iPhone, I decided on the faster HTC Desire..

First of all, a 24 month contract cost £840 (payable at £35 a month for two years). For this I get 1,000 free minutes (£200 at PAYG rate), 3,000 free texts (£300 at PAYG rates) and one Gigabyte of Internet (£9 at PAYG rates).

However, I wanted to pay £25 a month and found I could pay £149.99 up front and get the monthly tariff lowered to £25 a month, but my free calls came down to 600 a month, and everything else stayed the same. This was OK with me as there is no way I can make 600 calls a month and over the months have never even reached half way, and I use it all the time! 3,000 texts is just ridiculous! And a gigabyte of Internet is more than generous. Virgin had evidently made an error with the up-front payment as they have since raised it to £199.99.

Looking at this another way. The phone was £460 at Amazon when it came out – and when I got mine. Although it is under £400 now. I am paying 24 x £25 plus the one off payment of £149.99. So over two years I will have paid out £749.99. If we deduct the Amazon price for the new phone from this figure we are left with £289.99, or £12.08 a month.

So, in real terms, in buying under contract, I am saving 2.5% interest on my £460 – reducing with each month, but still a saving. (Tesco Bank pay 2.5%)

And, I am getting 600 minutes to any cellphone or land-line, 3,000 texts, and a Gigabyte of Internet, all for £12.08 a month.

Or around 20 minutes talk, 100 texts and 33 Megabytes of Internet a day.

It was only after I worked all this out that I decided to bite the bullet and take out the contract.


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