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SubjectRe: A modest proposal -- We need a patch penguin
Rob Landley <landley@trommello.org>:
> And we ARE using a patch penguin. You were around, and Dave is
> around. I'm kind of confused at the level of resistence to formally
> recognizing what basically IS current practice, and has been for
> YEARS. (The reason for naming the position is we can't just say
> "alan's tree" anymore. The position went from one person to another
> person, and as such the position seemed to need to be recognized as
> being separate from the individual. I didn't expect to hit a brick
> wall on that. It didn't seem like a revolutionary idea to me...)

Alas. That's because, like most Americans these days, you're
historically illiterate. What we are facing here is a *very* familiar
problem to social and institutional historians.

All movements founded by charismatic leaders like Linus eventually hit
this same wall -- the point at which the charisma of the founder and
the individual ability of the disciples he personally attracts are no
longer adequate to meet the challenges of success, and some way to
institutionalize and distribute the leader's role has to be found.
Movements that fail to make this transition die, generally by
implosion or fragmenting into feuding sub-sects.

If you were familiar with the historical precedents, Rob, you would
understand that your modest proposal re-enacts a common pattern.
A relatively junior member of the movement, one with few political
ties, sees the developing stress fractures in the organization of
the movement and proposes a modest, incremental change to relieve
some of them. Conservatives interpret the attempt to separate
and institutionalize part of the founder's role as an attack on
the authority of the founder. Huge flamewars ensue, with the
original pragmatic sense of the proposal often being lost as it
becomes a political football in the movement's internal status games.

Sometimes the first such attempt at institutionization succeeds. More
often, the movement has to go through a series of escalating crises
(burning up would-be reformers each time) before anyone finally
succeeds in changing the movement's internal culture.

Religions go through this. Secular social movements go through this.
Companies founded by brilliant entrepreneurs go through this (the
B-schools have a whole literature on "entrepreneurial overcontrol" and
its consequences). It's one of the dramas that gets perpetually
re-enacted; it's built in to our wiring. The unhappy truth is that
even *successful* transitions of this kind are invariably painful, and
often leave deep scars on the survivors and on the institution that
arises from the transition.

*Never* expect this sort of transition to be easy, especially when the
positions people are taking are as much about personal identity and
values as they are about "success" in whatever terms the movement
defines it.
--
<a href="http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond</a>
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