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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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