The Anatomy and Habits Of the Common Support Leech

Support leeches are a fact of life in the open source world. Some people don't understand how to be worth supporting. Others are just so obsessed with their own short-term wants that they are willing to destroy the community they are trying to get support from in the process. Below are my observations, gleaned from years of actual support leech encounters. Anatomy There are two subspecies of support leech, however hybrids are not uncommon: The clueless support leech is uninitiated in the ways of open source support, and possibly in IRC, mailing list, or forum courtesy in general. With proper education, some clueless support leeches can be persuaded to morph into community members -- a completely different, non-parasitic, species. The entitled support leech is hyper-focused on its own needs, and does not care to make the support process go smoothly for support-givers or others in need of support. This subspecies is the more persistent parasite (when compared with the clueless subspecies), as even when educated on "helping us help you" or even general courtesy, it will barrel forward, certain that only its own needs could possibly matter. Habits The examples below center around support leech behavior in IRC support channels,…

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Taxes are less about money than you think

Reuters reported yesterday that a bill about to be considered would raise taxes on investment fund managers, by treating some of their investment income like "regular" income. Will this raise a lot more money in the grand scheme of things? No. Why do it? Politics. It's a way to look "tough on" Wall Street. This week the unpopular people are the investment fund managers, so we are going to tax them extra, and not let them eat lunch at the cool kids' table. One of the reasons our tax system is so insanely complex is that it's not designed to be about raising needed money, it's not particularly "designed" at all in the sense that there's some overreaching vision that has created a coherent system. The tax system is our legislature's favorite plaything. They take away money from whomever isn't cool this week, and give it to whomever is. Meanwhile, in their great concern that we all be a little cooler, they tax ugly shoes (or whatever else they deem uncool) a little extra and provide tax credits for funky wallpaper (or whatever they think is cool). Since, like ditzy teenage mallrats, congress can't be bothered to think for a…

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The Warrior Obsession

According to the latest ad for Kings Island amusement park, riding their roller coaster makes you a "ride warrior". I guess we can add it to the list with "road warrior" and "war on poverty". It's standard identity advertising -- that is, making people want something because they want to think of themselves as the kind of person who wants that thing. It's ridiculous, and it sells. There's a reason that the "warrior" image can sell Americans on just about anything these days, and it's a symptom of a real problem with some pretty terrifying results. There's big business in selling tactical gear to people who don't know how to use it, and convincing America that a thousand other mundane consumptions (roller coaster rides, taxes, etc) are empowering, but there's nothing you can buy or ride, and nothing that the government can take from someone else to give to you that will make you a warrior. Unfortunately, consumption is how mainstream America approaches life. The warrior ethos outright rejects passivity and non-responsibility. The warrior knows that with a trigger pull, a well-aimed slice, or a powerful strike, he or she can end someone's life. The resulting corpse will be equally…

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A mile wide and a half-inch deep

Martial arts has always been an important part of my life...in theory. In fact, the only thing more challenging that martial arts study, is trying to maintain some sort of coherent study while moving 11 times in 10 years (assuming you count temporary moves). Apart from some periods of exceptionally poor health, I've always studied something, but the something has changed many times based on local availability. Due to the irregularity of my study, and probably at least somewhat owing to my irrational hang-ups about sparring, my martial arts background is about a mile wide and a half-inch deep. Sure, there are many arts on my "tried that" list, but the longest-studied received only a few months of my effort and attention. Some, I only have a few hours of exposure to as part of a larger retreat or event. I really like my new dojo here in Indianapolis, and hope to stay for the long haul. I want the experience and growth that comes with going beyond beginner levels. I want to challenge myself with something other than my ability to adapt to new learning environments, and getting over my fear of sparring for the 15th time. This…

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Inside the Drupal toolbox.

Today's BoF for new Drupal contributors went better than I could have hoped. I've seen three of the participants in the issue queue already! One thing that came up at the BoF session was taht new contributors aren't always sure how to set up their dev environment and choose tools that will make playing in the issue queue easier chx* nano, komodo, bzr, kubuntu chx* lots and lots of good music is very important to get you in the groove (see my blog post on flow) wonder95* MAc Book Pro, AMP setup using MacPorts, Komodo IDE with xdebug and FF Xdebug Helper extensions, prefer Git jcfiala* komodo, mercurial. Either wamp or virtualbox to work in ubuntu. sepeck* notepad++ joshuarogers* Geany scyrma* debian, vim (and cgvg package), xdebug .. local lamp stack. merlinofchaos* all my servers are CentOS 5 servers running apache/php etc. I use EditPlus as my editor and samba so that I can use my windows tools on the files. Most other stuff I do via putty to ssh to the linux server. webchick* I use vim for most hacking, then Komodo when I need to deal with, like, Form API or node access. CVS for Drupal.org, Subversion…

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For anyone who ever doubted that martial arts study teaches kids hard work and discipline.

Today's mail brought a very nice card from my son's and my old Sensei and his wife asking how we've been since we moved, and whether we'd found a new place to study karate. I wrote a short letter in return, letting them know that our new city is treating us well, that we found a great new dojo (which I'll post more about later), and mentioning my son's new found diligence in practicing each day. My son drew a picture for Sensei's wife (a great lady who also helps with karate classes). I asked whether he'd drawn one for Sensei, too. He said "No, Senseis don't want pictures. Sensei will like this," handing me a second piece of paper. It read: Dear Sensei, I do my job at karate every day. and was signed at the bottom.…

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One item removed from my wish list

Bye, bye, Amazon Kindle. I've been lusting after the Kindle DX for months now. I'd planned a purchase this fall as a birthday gift to myself, but no more. Amazon, a company whom I had generally trusted, has really disappointed me with this one Publishers publish Kindle books. Kindle users buy Kindle books. Publishers feel flip-floppy and decide to stop selling certain ebooks. Amazon reverses the sale of those ebooks, refunding the purchase price and deleting them from users' Kindles and account archives without any warning or explanation. Now, are you ready for a killer dose of irony? The books were George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm. One could keep whispernet turned off at all times and download content via internet to the computer for transfer via USB -- this is something I planned to do anyway due to the general wisdom of maintaining fair use backups of all my digital content. However, I have already overlooked a great deal of DRM nonsense from Amazon, in the hope that it would soon go the way of the dodo like DRM on iTunes did once the sheeple finally figured out why it was bad. Worst of all is that Amazon (according…

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Another sign that the media just don't get it...

The Washington Post reported today that Cisco has purchased Jabber, the open instant messaging protocol used by Google, LiveJournal, MySpace, and many others. Unfortunately, the Washington Post isn't smart enough to discern between the purchase of Jabber.com, a Jabber service company, and Jabber a.k.a. XMPP, the protocol. One company bought another company -- it happens every day, and usually isn't the end of the world. Unfortunately, the story the Post told, that the protocol had been bought, would have spelled disaster for Jabber users and server operators worldwide. Jabber's greatest strength is that it is open to the community -- losing that would mean losing the ability for anyone to make an interoperable server or server software. I don't think anyone from the open source world who read this article believed it. I don't think anyone from the Washington Post intended deception. I think that the author, editor, fact-checker, etc. involved with the publication of this piece are woefully, inexcusably out of touch with a common, everyday technology, not to mention the issues of intellectual property that mark the difference between buying a company that uses a protocol, and buying the protocol. If anyone out there wonders…

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I have minions!

I am almost sorry to see winter break drawing near. For the past two weeks, I've had the privilege of introducing an amazing group of kids to open source software. Inspired by GHOP, Google's pilot Highly Open Participation contest, I've put together an extracurricular computer club for interested students at nearby Sandridge Elementary. We meet twice per week after school for an hour and a half. I came into this with the slim hope that the school's new administration would let me shepard a couple of students through GHOP. Mr. Hollingsworth's (Sandridge's principal) and Dr. Sawyer's (Sandridge's superintendent) enthusiasm took me by surprise, and became a catalyst for the growth of a program that I hope will someday serve as a model for other schools. Of the club's eight active participants (not counting occassional attendees), seven are trying their hands at GHOP projects, alongside high school students from around the world. Most have chosen to work on projects for Drupal, which makes for good crossover activities with our two under-13s who have taken charge of creating the club's web site. So far, the biggest challenge for me is leading a group like this in an essentially unwired community. Students generally…

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OSCMS Summit and Drupalcon -- Day 2

I started the morning with a round of Drupal lightning talks -- eleven topics in sixty minutes. dww even convinced me that if I ever actually have free time, I should pitch in a bit on project module. Dries' "State of Drupal" talk was excellent, though the audience as a whole didn't seem to react well to the bit about eliminating the webmaster, developer, designer, etc. The whispers and whines in the crowd implied that some people found those statements threatening. I'm mentioning this because I didn't feel that way, and I'd like my fellow geeks to know why: web technology is an ever-evolving industry. I've been doing system administration since the early 1990's, working with open source software since 1995, and playing with web technologies on and off since the 1990's as well. NOTHING is like it used to be, and I'm still here. So are a lot of other people. There was a time when the end-all and be-all of being a webmaster was smashing text and some basic HTML into static pages, then updating them by hand any time anyone wanted to make a change. Then came scripting and databases -- suddenly you could code your way…

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OSCMS Summit and Drupalcon -- Day 1

I started OSCMS by making hasty child care arrangements from my cell phone in the airport Wednesday night, due to my mom's flight being canceled in the eleventh hour. Everything worked out, though I also spent a large part of Thursday on the phone, ducking in and out of sessions to coordinate the situation at home. My poor mother finally made it to my place late Thursday night. I'm still glad I went, though I feel pretty bad that my mom went through all of those delays and cancellations. Rasmus Lerdorf's talk alone made the trip worth it. He's an even better public speaker than I'd heard, and I learned some new things about PHP, including the existence of some tools I can't believe I didn't know about. The OpenID talk was well done, but really didn't tell me anything new. I changed my mind about "Theming Drupal" and instead went to chx's talk on the new menu system. I am glad that I did. Not only did I learn quite a bit, but I ran in to webchick, the first of my fellow Drupalers besides chx to whom I could match nick, real name, and face. She is even…

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DrupalCon & Open Source CMS Summit at Yahoo!

Update: I found a roommie, yay! I can't wait to see you all at the summit. I'm trying to figure out how I can attend DrupalCon 2007 at the Open Source CMS Summit sponsored by Yahoo! The summit and related events are free, so it's mostly a matter of child care (got it covered) and affording transportation and the hotel stay. If any non-smokers in Washington would like to carpool to Sunnyvale, or any nonsmoking webmonkeys would like to split a hotel room with an easygoing lady geek, please let me know. I'm a night owl, I don't hog the bathroom, and I'm happy sharing accommodations with geeks of any gender. Please note that I am deathly allergic to cigarette smoke, so not smoking in the car/room isn't good enough -- you really have to be a nonsmoker.…

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