[Edu-sig] Computer Languages via Immersion Experiences

Kirby Urner urnerk at qwest.net
Sun Oct 24 20:45:18 CEST 2004

> But it is totally unacceptable, on a professional level, nonetheless.
> Back to the short answer.
> Art

I think what you're talking about is pretending to an objective voice about
something, while concealing your vested interest from the audience.

An example would be hyping a stock, supposedly on its merits, whereas really
you're just trying to sucker some folks into buying it, so you can cash in
(being a holder of this stock yourself).  Sort of the Enron scenario, with
the principals urging their employees to dive in, even while they were in
the midst of bailing out.

Another example from my files:  when Bucky Fuller and Werner Erhard crossed
paths, late 70s early 80s, Fuller started saying positive things about
Erhard.  Then some newspaper story mentioned Fuller receiving some financial
support from Erhard's est Foundation, and Fuller went ballistic.  

Fuller wrote to Erhard saying he'd better correct these false newspaper
accounts immediately (Fuller had never applied for, nor received any grant
from Erhard's operation), otherwise all the nice things he'd been saying
about Erhard would suddenly appear to have no integrity -- like, of course
Bucky is being all gushy, he's a paid spokesman for est (which wasn't true
-- but even the *appearance* of a conflict, thanks to wrong reporting, could
be highly problematic to the both of them).

A few years later, CBS's '60 Minutes' trashed Erhard's reputation on
national TV.  Was there any conflict of interest here?  Some scholars say
there was:  the producer of that segment was in bed with the scientologists,
who had a longstanding vendetta against est (as revealed by internal Church
of Scientology memos snarfed up by the FBI).  When some of those with
damning things to say later recanted, '60 Minutes' made no effort to
follow-up.  The wrong (and if there was one, it was egregious) was never
righted, even to this day.

Now let's turn to the case of Disney and Kay.  If the financial arrangement
is clear and public, then I don't see the problem.  Disney is behaving like
a think tank or even a university, and, through Kay, is going on record
saying "we're endorsing this experimental prototype curriculum of tomorrow,
based on Squeak, which is a kid-friendly implementation of SmallTalk."

That's like MIT saying, through some faculty presenter, "we favor a formal
approach to writing programs based on Scheme."  No problem.  Schools may be
defined by the curricula they favor.  Jesuits like Loyola's training.
Erhard was partial to Zen.  Different schools of thought exist, and compete
for recruits.

Or take a publisher of Python CS books helping to sponsor, and showing up
at, an event that promotes Python as a good way to go.  What's the problem?
That's like O'Reilly sponsoring OSCON, and using the venue to sell books,
promote Safari, and drive the open source community -- knowing from
experience that a lot of its sales are owing to open source programmers and
designers.  Not a problem.  The financial arrangements are not concealed,
and no one begrudges Tim O'Reilly for having an agenda.  Why shouldn't he?

Bottom line:  I see ways for a person like Kay to work for a company, think
tank or university, and to present about Squeak or some other technology,
without any appearance of impropriety.  It just has to be clear what the
arrangements are.  The transparency must be sufficient to reveal any
strings, running from the presenter to off-stage puppet masters.  Or, as you
say, at least the *appearance* of a conflict shouldn't be there -- so if
there is one, and it's discovered to have been willfully concealed, then too
bad for the players if their audience now feels deceived.

In the case of Kay, I've never personally felt deceived (ditto re Erhard and
Bucky -- not so sure about CBS and MIT, and of course Fox News has no
integrity whatsoever (those concealed ties have been completely exposed)).


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