Gender, Representativeness and Reputation in StackOverflow

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Tue Jul 24 07:34:34 CEST 2012

On Mon, 23 Jul 2012 22:51:07 -0400, Devin Jeanpierre wrote:

> On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 9:30 PM, Steven D'Aprano
> <steve+comp.lang.python at> wrote:
>>> Leaving aside the point that this is not directly related to Python,
>>> my opinion is that if the authors will not make past and future papers
>>> freely available, not even an abstract, they should not ask for
>>> valuable free data from freely donated time.
>> Well of course it is your time and your judgement to make, but in my
>> opinion even non-free scientific knowledge is better than ignorance.
> When people boycott a product, it isn't because not having the product
> is better than having the product. That's clearly untrue: despite the
> reasons for the boycott, the product has some value. They boycott it
> because by doing so, they can get something better than <product with
> badness> or <nothing> -- they can get <product without badness>. (At
> least, in theory :)

I don't think that's why people boycott products. I think that boycotts 
are a clear example of people making a moral decision to punish somebody 
for doing wrong, even at the cost to themselves. Sometimes significant 
costs, as in missing out altogether.

We don't say, except in jest, "I needed to get gas for my car, but Acme 
Fuels were 2 cents more expensive than CQ Petroleum, so I boycotted Acme 
and bought from CQ." No, a boycott is more like "I think Acme Fuels are 
unethical and immoral, and so I am boycotting them until they change 
their behaviour, even though they are cheaper than CQ Petroleum."

Or, "Nectarine Computers are doing bad things in China, so I will never 
by an Nectarine ePod or eCommunicator even though I think the other 
brands aren't worth having."

In short, boycotts aren't merely an attempt to get a better deal. There 
is a strong element of moral outrage and punishment of a transgressor to 
boycotts. "You have broken a social contract, so we will ostracize you in 
whatever way we can, even if that means losing the benefits you can 

> Why settle for a terrible situation, when we could be encouraging people
> to do better?

I am sympathetic to the view that closed science is not real science, and 
that it is "cheating" in some sense. But I think it is a grey area where 
the practitioners should be cut some slack, rather than a clear case of 
unethical behaviour. After all, even patents eventually expire, and even 
closed journals don't prevent knowledge from leaking out into the wider 
scientific community and hence into the general community.


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