Discussion Style [was: Does "reliable" mean "safe" and or "secure" or neither?]

From: Peter Bernard Ladkin < >
Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2016 07:50:59 +0200

Misleading title, by the way. No longer.

On 2016-04-24 01:19 , Ross Hannan - Sigma wrote:
> I really don't understand why this list needs to degrade in to abuse on a regular basis and why certain members of this list seem to see others as fodder for these abusive attacks.


There has been no abuse of this list. None. Zero. Ever. We've been in operation over two decades, with the current host for nearly four years. That's a testament to the seriousness, motivation, engineering commitment and mutual respect of our list members.

Not to speak of the point that, if there were any abuse, our subscribers from corporate domains would need to leave in droves and the list would implode. As happened once for unrelated reasons.

Compare, for example, what The Guardian is telling us in its new project to stem abuse and reintroduce productive discussion in its WWW operations. A very labor-intensive project. Our situation? 100% OK, null effort for admins.

People in any intellectual discipline develop very different views from each other, and use various styles of argument to try those views out, when they care to do so. The kind of commentary which occurs here is very mild compared with what the giants of literature, politics and economics deal out to each other on a regular basis in the major communication organs. And that is after peer review and professional editing. Have you read the New York Review of Books recently? Consider the kind of things said in public by prominent people, and archived, in Margaret Hodge's and Andrew Tyrie's very effective - on might say indispensable - UK parliamentary committees. What about the things prominent people say in public about climate change? About taxing international corporations? About offshore finances? About the European Court of Human Rights? About nuclear power? About sustainable energy? About transport and its effect on the lived environment? All of which are pressing human problems, some of them with considerable engineering involvement, that I would suggest need to be argued out to the best of proponents' abilities.

The President of the United States comes to Britain and makes a thoughtful speech on which (we may presume) lots of smart people worked for a long time. Probably no other piece of writing in history gets as much attention as a major POTUS intervention. A British politician with aims to partake at Cabinet level in the government of the country publicly labels his intervention "hypocritical". It is not discussed whether that is "abusive", indeed, no one cares. It is discussed whether what POTUS said is hypocritical or not. And whether POTUS had any kind of right to say anything at all. All of which are important points. (I would imagine that POTUS, like his predecessors, welcomes such debate.) That is robust discussion and, goodness knows, Britain needs it right now of all times.

This list is a place where people can say that the notion of system integrity is akin to ideas in organised religion. And others can call it poppycock. And where people can claim there is no such thing as software reliability, and others refute it in three words, or at length. And where people claim that you can evaluate software statistically in an effective manner, and others say no you can't. And where people claim to see verbal misbehavior and others disagree. I am proud to continue the tradition and enable that kind of communication.

The alternative is for people not to say what they genuinely think and receive the views of others on the matter. I've rarely seen any good come out of that.

This is a place to try out your ideas, in other words, and have people comment (if, like me, you have the freedom to do so; many people on this list don't). You can't do that effectively in any other forum in system safety. Blogs are practically only one-way communication, because of the administrative effort involved in filtering "comments". WWW forums are labor-intensive for the admins as well as generally being content-poor.

PBL Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, Faculty of Technology, University of Bielefeld, 33594 Bielefeld, Germany Je suis Charlie
Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319 www.rvs.uni-bielefeld.de

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systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Sun Apr 24 2016 - 07:55:56 CEST

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