back to article You have GNU sense of humor! Glibc abortion 'joke' diff tiff leaves Richard Stallman miffed

Late last month, open-source contributor Raymond Nicholson proposed a change to the manual for glibc, the GNU implementation of the C programming language's standard library, to remove "the abortion joke," which accompanied the explanation of libc's abort() function. Nicholson said: "The joke does not provide any useful …

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  1. Notas Badoff Silver badge

    Hidden wisdom

    Long time ago I captured a comment from Usenet I thought useful:

    "There's no winners here, just the sad trolling the bad trolling the mad. I call Cripple Fight on this."

  2. tfewster Silver badge

    You can tune a file system but you can't tuna fish

    1. Fungus Bob Silver badge
      Coat

      You also can't tuna noodle casserole.

  3. JohnFen Silver badge

    Wait, what?

    I can see people wanting to avoid politically sensitive jokes, but this...

    "O'Donnell recommended avoiding jokes altogether, a position supported by many of those weighing in on the issue."

    ...is hard to interpret as anything but another indication of the ongoing decline of the software industry.

    1. tmerchant

      Re: Wait, what?

      Thoroughly agree, jokes have been a cornerstone of the Free Software movement from the beginning.

      1. Mycho Silver badge

        Re: Wait, what?

        GNU is literally named as two jokes in one.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Wait, what?

      Not just the industry but civilization. Everyone takes everything too seriously, however humor isn't universal so some will be offended. To those... if it offends you, don't look. If one is of religious ilk, then "if thy eye offends thee, pluck it out".

      A pox on political correctness....

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Wait, what?

        I once got a call from an upset user, who complained that the departmental server in their office area kept showing messages about dead children. She'd had a family tragedy recently and, very understandably, the messages were distressing her.

        The server console messages in question were of the form "child process nnn died". I explained what they meant and that they were were quite normal. I declined her request to rewrite the operating system, but I adjusted the display settings and affixed a label "Dumb terminal - brightness has been turned down".

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Wait, what?

          I have written software at some point for a client then later just happened to meet someone who worked there at the time and got to see my code - when we realized this, you know what was first thing he mentioned? Not that the code was shit or that it was great, no. "Your comments were quite funny you know..." Humour is part of who we are and therefore of what we make. It needs to stay!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wait, what?

        "if thy eye offends thee, pluck it out"

        I believe you will find that the context for that statement gives it quite a different meaning than the one you gave it. It was part of the sermon on the mount in which Jesus was defining adultery, so "offending" in this sense would be leading one to commit adultery and not getting upset about lame jokes.

      3. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
        Pint

        Re: Wait, what?

        humor isn't universal so some will be offended.

        There is a few quotes I can pull out of the bag here....

        1) offence is never given, only taken.

        but my favourite is from a notorious very non political correct comedian when asked about if he worried about offending people....

        2) Every joke will offend somebody somewhere, so consider the jokes YOU find offensive as tax on the ones you find funny.

        Beer, well, he owned a very famous northern comedy club named after his favourite brand of smokes.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wait, what?

        Not just the industry but civilization. Everyone takes everything too seriously, however humor isn't universal so some will be offended. To those... if it offends you, don't look. If one is of religious ilk, then "if thy eye offends thee, pluck it out".

        A pox on political correctness....

        Exactly!

        A joke that doesn't offend anyone isn't funny!

        ...but you don't have to take my word for it, because Benign Violation Theory does a much better job of expanding on that concept.

        You can read the original paper here:

        http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/mcgrawp/pdf/mcgraw.warren.2010.pdf

        Dig even deeper, here:

        http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/mcgrawp/Benign_Violation_Theory.html

        TL:DR? Here:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theories_of_humor#Benign_violation_theory

    3. John Sanders
      Holmes

      Re: Wait, what?

      @JohnFen

      >> ...is hard to interpret as anything but another indication of the ongoing decline of the software industry.

      I think you mean society as a whole.

      Remember humor is dangerously subversive to SJW as it doesn't allow them to control the language, and an SJW needs to control language to set the narrative so they can't achieve power without opposition.

      Having said that, in my humble opinion anyone ever butt-hurt by such an obvious joke is not fit for purpose.

      1. lowwall

        Re: Wait, what?

        Right. And I've noticed that humour is the hallmark of all internet utterances that contain the term "SJW" (or its apparent synonym "snowflake").

        1. GX5000
          Devil

          Re: Wait, what?

          Of course it is.

          WE coined the derogatory term SJW as an insult.

          Now they're using it to identify themselves...

          CLASSIC!

      2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        FFS

        Everyone who seeks power seeks to control language not just your mythical SJW bogeymen.

  4. VikiAi

    The joke is more about attitudes to abortion than abortion itself, the way I read it.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      I view the joke as being about government censorship than even attitudes about abortion, but I agree with you that it's not really about abortion as such.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      That's what I assumed it would be after reading the headline.

      Having read the article however, it's making fun of censorship, not abortion IMO.

  5. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Oh, come on. It's hardly laugh out loud funny, but it is worthy of a slight smile.

  6. Weiss_von_Nichts

    Also not stictly technical, but:

    "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."

  7. CheesyTheClown Silver badge

    Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

    Man pages on Linux have been on a nearly consistent decline relative to the number of features added to the system. As authors of Linux utilities depend more on web based documentation, man pages have become more and more horrifying in quality.

    Let’s also make clear that there are many of us who believe Stallman should simply be muted and censored as his behavior is generally reprehensible. I have actually experienced opposition to use of LGPL code by legal teams because they feared being associated in any way with such an oaf. I do not discount the contributions made by Stallman, but I believe his damage to the GNU world far outweighs the benefits at this time. He clearly marks everything he touches as questionable with regards to professionalism.

    As to jokes in man pages. This can be saved for flame wars in forums. There is no benefit to adding them to documentation that should be free of anything other that empirical data unless positing a theory with regards to appropriate use. For example “I would recommend use of an alternative function as the algorithm used in this one may prove questionable with regards to data security.”

    I have no opionion regarding the specific joke in question as I see it as lacking the depth necessary to make it entertaining. I see it as offering no more engaging value than the labeling of a manhole cover. But I also believe that even if it were a funny joke, it’s better for the forums.

    1. Peter Prof Fox

      There's no quality issue. It's a movement you benefit from.

      The originators of the free software culture which you enjoy today had heard of a thing called satire and realised every actor in society should act wisely and with responsibility. How prescient. Where has that wisdom gone?

      We don't have essays and references to that father of satire Juvenal in man pages but we do have the free (recognise the word?) spirit of contempt for restrictive regulation. Who are you or anybody else to 'decide' on the grounds that 'it's your opinion and that's what matters' to deface an important document. Dyking out perfectly appropriate observations is the actions of a miserable self-appointed Bowdleriser. Do tell us exactly which silent and oppressed group you purport to be acting for.

      You're always free to fork the man pages. That's what freedom is. You live in a software society made possible by people like Stallman. Fork or f**k-off.

      For those readers who are slow on the uptake, some bright minds brought two things to the late 20th century and now the 21st century:

      1 A vision of free software. LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE That was Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph. Now look around you and you'll see free software everywhere. And how much poorer would we be without it?

      2 A commitment to a progressive, cooperative, energetic society that continually built on the foundations of previous generations.

      Perhaps you should educate yourself by starting with Ian Hislop giving the 2016 Orwell lecture (Available for free on YT. It's a brilliant summary of all the issues surrounding this silly spat. )

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There's no quality issue. It's a movement you benefit from.

        No need to fork the man pages - switch to FreeBSD. Whilst often understaffed, they still view them as important.

        As for the 'joke' - not offensive. Also, not funny - just a paranoid rant masking as humor. It is also confusing at first glance, advising that the function may not be recommended in the future.

        1. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

          Re: There's no quality issue. It's a movement you benefit from.

          ...a paranoid rant... - paranoid or prescient, in the context?

        2. doke

          Re: There's no quality issue. It's a movement you benefit from.

          FreeBSD recently adopted an appallingly bad code of conduct. The problems aren't as much with what it says, as what it doesn't. It has no transparency. There is no requirement that charges be publicly announced (in an anonymized fashion). There is no provision for defense. There is no requirement for the defendant to be informed that a charge is pending against them, so they are unable to plan our mount a defense. After the fact, appeals are allowed only to a tiny subset of penalties. Appeals are handled by the same committee. There is no way to appeal to a higher, or different, authority.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's no quality issue. It's a movement you benefit from.

          > No need to fork the man pages - switch to FreeBSD. Whilst often understaffed,

          > they still view them as important.

          > As for the 'joke' - not offensive.....

          Whilst on the subject of FreeBSD documentation standards, and jokes in man pages..... :

          PCIB(4) FreeBSD Kernel Interfaces Manual PCIB(4)

          NAME

          pcib - PCI bridge driver

          SYNOPSIS

          To compile this driver into the kernel, place the following line in your kernel configuration file:

          device pci

          DESCRIPTION

          The pcib driver provides for host and PCI bridges in a PCI system.

          BUGS

          This man page is too short.

          FreeBSD 12.0-CURRENT January 18, 2008 FreeBSD 12.0-CURRENT

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: There's no quality issue. It's a movement you benefit from.

        We don't have essays and references to that father of satire Juvenal in man pages

        Now that's a challenge we should accept.

    2. eldakka Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      > documentation that should be free of anything other that empirical data

      says whom?

      Fuck off, I'll put whatever I want in documentation I create on my own time, which is generally what most GNU software is.

      > Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      Most GNU-based software is being created by people who are not being paid, therefore, by definition, it is not professional software, it is a hobby, or even a lifestyle, but not a profession. Which is not to say that some, or many, of the contributors are not professional, many of them are professional developers. However, they are not doing GNU contributions as a profession.

      1. Not That Andrew

        Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

        IIRC at last half of the contributors to core GNU projects like glibc & GCC are actually paid to do so these days. Not that that justifies removing a statement on reproductive rights and censorship (but unfunny attempt at humour).

    3. Steve Knox Silver badge

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      Let’s also make clear that there are many of us who believe Stallman should simply be muted and censored as his behavior is generally reprehensible.

      So you believe that censorship is acceptable behavior? I happen to think it can be, in one specific set of circumstances.

      Censorship of others is at best morally questionable: even when their statements appear reprehensible to the rest of us, logically countering them is generally much more productive.

      However, self-censorship is a very useful practice, as it can preserve one's reputation and prevent foot-in-mouth disease. Give it a try, won't you?

    4. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      GNU doesn't believe in man pages, they use 'info'.

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: info

        Totally beside the point of this discussion of course, but I have been using GNU software for two decades and don't think I've ever come across a worse documentation system than info. The browser is so unusable that I'd actually virtually forgotten that "info" exists - after an initial struggle to see the logic I've always just used such man pages as are available rather than waste time trying to untangle the writhings of the tortured mind that created the info browser!

        1. Alan Mackenzie

          Re: info

          I disagree with you profoundly. Info is likely the most useful and user friendly doc system there is. What it isn't is beginner friendly; being a sophisticated system, it takes time and effort to learn and get used to. Examples of its features include typing "i" followed by a word to look up that word in the index/indices, moving directly to the page where it is defined; "u" to go to the heierarchically containing page. There are hyperlinks and search facilities.

          Indeed, it is hard to believe that Info is older than HTML, given how many of its features are missing from HTML.

          1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            Re: info

            "I disagree with you profoundly. Info is likely the most useful and user friendly doc system there is. What it isn't is beginner friendly; being a sophisticated system, it takes time and effort to learn and get used to. "

            Alas, you contradict yourself.

            User friendly means it's also friendly for beginners.

            Info is not the only culprit here, but one really does need to recognise where "the competition" has the edge.

        2. onefang Silver badge

          Re: info

          "The browser is so unusable that I'd actually virtually forgotten that "info" exists"

          pinfo or tinfo makes it a bit easier to use at least.

    5. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      I dont really agree with you on many points but, why did you start talking about man pages?

      This is about a comment in source code. Not "published" documentation.

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

        The article says it's in the Manual for glibc.

        Not in the code.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      "Let’s also make clear that there are many of us who believe Stallman should simply be muted and censored as his behavior is generally reprehensible."

      Let me guess. You make a living writing and/or selling closed-source software.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      @CheesyTheClown: I think you should consider changing your professional sounding but perhaps overly dour forum handle to something a little less serious.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      >Let’s also make clear that there are many of us who believe Stallman should simply be muted and censored as his behavior is generally reprehensible.

      Really? That term "many of us" is in my experience a cheap attempt at invoking authority by a claimed majority. Unless you can document that I must declare you a bald faced liar. Also:

      >I have actually experienced opposition to use of LGPL code by legal teams because they feared being associated in any way with such an oaf.

      Really now, have you? I work in law and it is never my job to oppose a document because it could be associated by a person who has been called an oaf on the Internet. Nor have I ever heard my colleagues do so either. That simply is not our job. Again I must ask you to document your claims carefully, or I shall assume you are a shameless serial liar.

    9. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Shouldn’t quality and professionalism be the issue?

      @CheesyTheClown

      Where I come from, clowns are supposed to be funny.

      So I assume your ridiculous and unhuman opinion is a troll.

  8. Ptol

    The "joke" makes a valid political point very much in line with the GNU political views

    I would expect that any software developer or technical author who had written that joke into their software document at work, for their customers to read would probably be having a difficult conversation with their boss afterwards...

    However, as I understand it, one of the aims of GNU software is to make a political stance about freedom of software, its source and its documentation, and in that respect this line of text is very much on message.

    Whats next? break everyone existing code by renaming the function from abort() to terminate()?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The "joke" makes a valid political point very much in line with the GNU political views

      > Whats next? break everyone existing code by renaming the function from abort() to terminate()?

      A complete false equivalence, and you know it.

      1. KiTA

        Re: The "joke" makes a valid political point very much in line with the GNU political views

        > A complete false equivalence, and you know it.

        All snark has a kernel of truth to it, and this is no different. There have been good faith yet still insane requests for similar renames in the past.

    2. Michael Habel Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: The "joke" makes a valid political point very much in line with the GNU political views

      Whats next? break everyone existing code by renaming the function from abort() to terminate()?

      I propose we use the term "EXTERMINATE!" (But, it seems we don't have a Dalek Icon here :( )

  9. gnasher729 Silver badge

    It's the kind of "joke" that I would expect from Stallman. It's not funny. It's tasteless, and defending it is even more tasteless. The man is an embarrassment.

    1. VikiAi
      Facepalm

      You didn't actually read it, did you.

      But you do like to be loudly opinionated.

      1. ghp

        Not opinionated, but opionionated.

    2. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

      We know where you stand then

      "It's the kind of "joke" that I would expect from Stallman. It's not funny. It's tasteless, and defending it is even more tasteless. The man is an embarrassment."

      So you disagree on his stance on abortive rights? He has been very clear that he fully supports abortion as a right and this statement in his code represents his comptempt towards a government that didnt at the time.

      I'm wondering if any Russian gay programmers have ever written such messages against their own government on its position on their sexuality. Guess they should shut up too.

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