OT: Hierarchies [was Re: Possibly better loop construct, also labels+goto important and on the fly compiler idea.]

Chris Angelico rosuav at gmail.com
Fri Nov 1 09:19:24 CET 2013

On Fri, Nov 1, 2013 at 6:00 PM, Steven D'Aprano
<steve+comp.lang.python at pearwood.info> wrote:
> On Tue, 29 Oct 2013 17:22:03 +1100, Chris Angelico wrote:
>> On Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 3:03 PM,  <rurpy at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>> Regarding esr's "smart-questions", although I acknowledge it has useful
>>> advice, I have always found it elitist and abrasive.  I wish someone
>>> would rewrite it without the "we are gods" attitude.
>> I find it actually pretty appropriate. The attitude comes from a
>> hierarchy in which we are not at the top - but neither is esr.
> Hmmm, well it's not clear to me that ESR doesn't consider himself at the
> top of any hacker hierarchy. I'm sure that he considers that there are
> those who know more than him with respect to some specific technology or
> other, and I'm sure he doesn't think geeks fall into organisation charts
> with nice neat lines between those who report to whom. But I also think
> he doesn't have the false modesty to put himself anywhere but in the top
> "elite geek hacker" category.

There are multiple independent hierarchies, and in some of them, he
may well be at (or close to) the top - but not all of them. Proper
acceptance of a hierarchical world includes knowing that there's
always someone above you.

> But I think that *servant* is not the right description for the
> relationship you are talking about. That implies that (say) I could
> demand ESR's service at any time, or at least at any time within pre-
> defined boundaries (even servants get days off), and that he would have
> no right to refuse service. But that's not the case. He is a volunteer
> who is free to say No at any time, and the quickest way to get him to say
> No would be to treat him as a servant.

It's a tricky concept to describe, and I agree that "servant" isn't an
ideal term for it. I'm the head of a (tiny) community called Minstrel
Hall, and what that means is that whenever anyone needs something
done, it's my job to do it. That's not the classic understanding of
the servant's role (the bonded man who has to do whatever he's told
immediately), but is somewhat closer to a somewhat obscure term:
servitor [1] or sizar [2]. I first met that word via Princess Ida, who
stated that her university had no such students, though Wikipedia
gives a better actual definition. The head of a community has certain
duties to perform [3] and may or may not receive respect in return.
Ultimately, if the head doesn't do his (or her, but the "his/her"
"he/she" gets tedious) duties, he'll have no community following him,
so he's responsible to his members in a very direct way.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servitor
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sizar
[3] The quirky part of my brain is thinking now of this, sung by one
of the kings in a newly-formed republican monarchy (it makes sense in
context): http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/gondoliers/web_opera/gond12.html

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