[erlang-questions] Announcing Erlang.org Code of Conduct

Richard A. O'Keefe ok@REDACTED
Fri Mar 27 08:37:28 CET 2015

On 27/03/2015, at 7:23 pm, Bengt Kleberg <bengt.kleberg@REDACTED> wrote:

I think there is some point in continuing the discussion,
but NOT as a discussion about top-posting vs inline

> Given a background of no problems with heavily edited quotes and inline comments I understand that such an experience would make one like that practice. My experience is not one of those. I would prefer no editing of what I have written. It is therefore I top post. Do unto others etc.

We are now onto something that has nothing to do with the
mechanics of mail.  This is perhaps the key question.  One
reason it is a key question is that Bengt Kleberg's
position is one I find morally consistent but could never
have imagined it possible to hold.  If he's right about
selective quoting being wrong, I have been doing bad things
for a long time and need to change.  So have I?

It has been standard practice in the West, for about the
last two thousand years, when you quote someone to quote
only part.  (I'm thinking not just of Augustine and Origen
but Clement, Ignatius, Paul, the Evangelists, the fragments
we have of the pre-Socratics that survive because they were
quoted, ...) To be sure, the tractate "Ethics of the Fathers"
(Pirkei Avot) says in chapter 6, verse 6:

    ... Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities.
    These are: study, listening, ...., exactness in
    conveying a teaching, and saying something in the
    name of its speaker.  Thus we have learned:  On
    who says something in the name of its speaker
    brings redemption to the world, ...

[Quoted from the English translation at http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2122/jewish/Chapter-Six.htm]

This teaches the ethical importance of quoting accurately
and attributing correctly.  But Pirkei Avot is practically
made up of *short* quotations.  E.g., chapter 1 verse 12:

    ... Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron---
    a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves
    the creatures and draws them close to Torah. 


For the record, I'm not a Jew and never have been,
but I find Pirkei Avot edifying.

If it was ok to make a tiny extract from Hillel's teaching,
how can it be wrong to make an excerpt from mine?

Or let's descend to the (deliberately) ridiculous:
Lowering the Bar.  (www.loweringthebar.net).  The
recent blog entry "Court: Obligation to Make Sense May
Not Be Delegated to Client" quotes *part* of the
petition it's holding up to ridicule.  (And links to
the whole.)  Kevin Underhill also quotes *part* of the
Court's response.  The previous entry, "Minor Woodfoolery
in Today's Supreme Court Opinion", quotes *part* of what
Justice Kagan wrote and *part* of what Justice Scalia
wrote.  (There's a link to the full document, just as
e-mail messages have message-IDs to track quoting.)

Or for an example from our own discipline, consider
That's David Walden reviewing the book "The Essential
Knuth", "primarily an interview of Don Knuth by Edgar
Daylight".  In that review, David Walden quotes just
*four sentences* out of 90 pages.

If it's OK to extract one tiny point out of a book
and comment on that, when it's *KNUTH* in question,
how could it be wrong to edit my messages?  Heavily!

Seriously, I do not have a right to expect, and I do
not expect, that anything I say, if quoted, will be
quoted in full.  The most I can expect is that the
attribution be correct and the editing be fair.

Éric Pallieau (eric.pailleau@REDACTED) already
directed our attention to
which is quite explicit.  Section 2.1.1 says

    ... You may shorten the message and quote
    only relevant parts, but be sure you give
    proper attribution. ...

This is basically the Pirkei Avot rule.

So I have two questions.

- For Bengt Kleberg: why do you desire e-mail
  quoting to be so different from quoting
  practice in other verbal media?

- For the rest of us: if there is to be a
  code of conduct, is it generally agreed that
  * quoting extracts is OK
  * quoting in a way that distorts what the
    author meant is not OK
  * you should at least try to get attribution right
  or is Bengt Kleberg's position common?


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