Forum OpenACS Q&A: Anybody been banned from aD's site?

Posted by jim Zamboob on
All right, so I flamed the SVP of Marketing and I will admit that I wasn't the most diplomatic individual posting to the web/db bboards, but to get banned? It seems that I got the 86 for:

A) Suggesting that they have deteriorating integrity for firing people in very classless ways or

B) Insulting the aD fish.

(View the bboard here bboard)

Is this normal stuff, or just when you start pushing the buttons of SVP of marketing? Am I the only one that thinks aD is full of it when they talk open source and act like M$oft?

I mean, I don't want the ACS bboards, web/db or otherwise, to become Slashdot, but has this ever happened to anyone else?

Posted by Don Baccus on
I've never heard of anyone being banned for criticizing the company.

Now that Adam's gone I've given up on aD the company.  I think we're the community, at least as far as ACS 4x Tcl goes...

Posted by Don Baccus on is official, Jim's banned:
this user is deleted and banned from the community for the following reason: "pseudonymous flamefest"
A careful reading suggests that in the future you should restrain yourself and simply start an anonymous flamefest using a hotmail address ...
Posted by Ben Adida on

While I do not think that censorship is useful or much in the spirit
of open-source, I think that some of your comments to the aD
site were pure flame with no real arguments to back up your
statements. In particular, your flame of Dave Menninger, who
came out and gave a straight-forward account of *what*
happened, was uncalled for.

Sure, aD is acting a *bit* less open-sourcish, and a *bit* more
Microsoftish. Then again, your posts are right up there with
some of the harshest Slashdot flame I've seen.

You're free to flame me, and you won't ever be banned from the
OpenACS site for it, but that's my honest, as-objective-as-I-can-
be point of view.

Posted by Don Baccus on
The flamage serves no purpose, I'll agree with Ben on this point.  It is a bit strange to see aD being so sensitive.

I suspect everyone there's a bit on edge.  Layoffs are painful events.  In young companies like aD, the first time the company lays folk off is often the first time that the fact that the company might fail strikes home.  Obviously, when people join a young startup they understand intellectually that the company might fail, but most folks aren't any better prepared emotionally for signs of corporate mortality than they are for signs of their own mortality.

Gee, can you tell that I once ran a company that's been bankrupt for a  decade and that I've personally had to lay people off? :)

Posted by Rich Graves on
Actually I think they handled it quite well. All the posts are all still there, unedited, three clicks from the corporate home page, readily linked from here or slashdot, and /community-member?user_id=58307 tells the world exactly what they did and why. If you can get the same treatment from PeopleSoft, Oracle, Microsoft, or ANYBODY, I'd like to know where.

In the dim dark past, I got myself banned a couple times (including once from an anti-censorship mailing list, without notice to the list members, which was interesting), and I was never treated as well as you.

I count myself Gravely Concerned about aD's future, but I haven't given up like Don has. As long as Eve, Tracy, and Ron consider it a good enough place to work, so do I. I'm not surprised they haven't joined in the flamefest. I've been on that side of the breakdown as well.

Posted by Jon Griffin on
Since the future is uncertain at AD regarding anything other than proprietary java apps, has anyone slurped the code and etc in case it "disappears".
Posted by jim Zamboob on
Yes, I will admit that it was a pretty harsh flame. I will not, though, say it's worse than anything at slashdot. I also won't say I consider it terribly regrettable. I understand that lay offs are an ugly thing and that nobody wishes it upon anyone else, either as messenger or receiver. But this one was particularly egregious given the ostensible "principles" of aD and their supposed commitment to open source.

I mean, the guy is the SVP. I didn't take a pot shot at the little guy in the corner -- I took a shot at a head honcho that makes serious decisions and must accept the consequences. It's the price of "fame", making disingenuous comments about "employee performance" and making false assurances about "commitments to the community". If Shaheen ever poked his head into the boards then he would be worthy of a pretty massive shot as well, just as Philip got and, I think, took once in a while.

In all fairness, Jon, everything I've heard (from within and without of aD) is that they are committed to open source. That's a lot different from saying they are committed to transparency of organization. I won't say that's a reason to maintain faith in the company -- I'm not sure you can necessarily be open source without airing your underwear in public.

My point is that the code will still be available for a port to OpenACS, if the community so desires. Of course, I highly doubt they will embrace db independence meaning that ACS 5 probably will be as much PL/SQL as Java.

Rich, as far as leaving the posting up there, they have no choice. In the ACS, you can't kill messages on bboards. I guess it's the risk you take with unmoderated forums...

And Ben, I appreciate that you've recognized that a flame of that sort isn't worthy of banishment from OpenACS. Of course, that is precisely why I (speaking only for myself) would be less inclined to fire a shot at people in these boards. Except, of course, for the people that want a port to Perl, PHP, Python... (just kidding.)

Posted by Michael A. Cleverly on
> Rich, as far as leaving the posting up there, they have
> no choice. In the ACS, you can't kill messages on bboards.
> I guess it's the risk you take with unmoderated forums...
Uh, what'd stop them from simply droping into sql*plus and doing a little
delete from ... where user_id = 58307;
if they really wanted to?
Posted by carl garland on
I thought you could delete individual msg in the admin ... at least
in the older 3.X series... also what exactly is "following reason: 
pseudonymous flamefest" anyway ? I've never heard of pseudonymous 
before, although I do think it is in their right to ban whomever they
Posted by jim Zamboob on
Uh, what'd stop them from simply droping into sql*plus and doing a little

delete from ... where user_id = 58307;

if they really wanted to?

My understanding is that it breaks the bboards or some such thing, but I could be wrong. In fact, I'm probably wrong. But if they did that, then I would really flame them.

Posted by Eve Andersson on
It's easy to delete messages from the bboard in ACS.  You just
go to /bboard/admin-q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=xxxxx.  And I'm
pretty sure that all PL/SQL will be replaced by Java in ACS5.
Posted by jim Zamboob on
Now *there's* some helpful info!!! Thanks Eve!!!

aD management, was that so hard?

Posted by Michael A. Cleverly on
"I've never heard of pseudonymous before."


Main Entry:     pseu·don·y·mous
Pronunciation:  sü-'dä-n&-m&s
Function:       adjective
Etymology:      Greek pseudOnymos
Date:   circa 1706
: bearing or using a fictitious name  <a pseudonymous report>;
also : being a pseudonym- pseu·don·y·mous·ly adverb- pseu·don·y·mous·ness noun
Hats off to aD for coming up with such an elegant & succinct description as to their reasoning!
Posted by Chris Rasch on
Imagine for a moment that you were at a party and someone began shouting some of the words Jim wrote.  What should the host do?

It seems to me that the appropriate response would be to ask Jim to calm down, and if he refused, to escort him from the party.

The above is not a perfect analogy, I know.  And I empathize with Jim's frustration with some of aD's decisions and future plans.  However, were I the admin of the aD bboards, I would've given Jim a warning, and if he continued, then banned him.  (Perhaps they did this.)

I want to participate in a community where people treat each other with courtesy, even if they disagree with each other. What does it mean to treat someone with courtesy?  To me, it implies that when you wish to criticize someone, a) that you identify specific, objective actions they have taken that you believe to be in error b) you offer logical, evidence-supported reasons for your criticism c) you offer an alternative course of action that corrects the error(s) d) you avoid inflammatory language (swearing, shouting).

Jim's posts, in which he claimed that aD "...treats their partners and users like shit..", or that Brea and Shaheen's posts were "...crafted bullshit..." don't adequately meet the criteria above in my opinion.

web/db and the forums have a high signal to noise ratio relative to many of the other lists/bboards in which I post.  In part, I think that's because posters know that they will be banned if they become too obnoxious.

To be sure, banning someone is a judgement call, and an admin may abuse his/her power.  I also think that admins should take into account the poster's other contributions to the community.  In Jim's case, he had made no positive contributions under the "Zamboob" name--only flames.  Someone who has made many contributions to the community, in my opinion, deserves more leeway to flame a bit than someone who has contributed nothing.

So I support aD's ban, in this case.  That said, it would be nice if the policy were explicitly defined, with examples.  It would also be nice if there was a way that a wayward poster could offer "penance" for bad behavior--maybe a $50.00 donation to get their posting privileges back.  (Although, of course, the errant poster could just sign up under another pseudonym.)

Posted by Mike Bruce on
This is just more evidence that aD is swirling down the toilet.

I can't say I'm surprised.  Things have been steadily going downhill for a while, and the game was pretty much over when Greenspun left.  No matter how many good, well-intentioned people are working at the company, if none of them are at the top it doesn't do any good.

Certainly, Jim's comments were not presented in the most diplomatic way.  But when has ArsDigita ever been about diplomacy?  At the beginning, it was about honesty.  Now that has all been replaced with marketing.  Fundamentally, no matter how crudely he put things, Jim's concerns were _valid_.  If ArsDigita was really OK, they would've taken the opportunity to calmly address his comments, not just ignore and ban him.

Posted by Mark Ciccarello on
Valid concerns?  It's hard to imagine how Jim's comments could have been responded to, since they consist mainly of nonspecific, unsubstantiated charges mixed with a few factual inaccuracies.

Going through Jim's various posts and picking out the major points, he:

1) Calls ACS 4.0 "half-assed."  Clearly he has a right to this opinion, but since he supplied no specific criticism, what is anyone supposed to say?

2) Says we treat our partners and users like "shit."  Similar comment as above.

3) Says that Allen and Cesar care more about $1000 chairs and flat-panel monitors than making good software.  The chairs and monitors predate Allen, and Cesar certainly had nothing to do with them -- those were Philip's ideas.

4) Accuses aD of "constantly decreasing integrety" without supplying specifics.

5) Makes bizarre comments about koi ponds and the piano.  Aside from the irrelevance, aD does not have, nor has it ever had, a koi pond, and the piano actually belongs to a couple of employees.  If he's trying to make some point about profligate spending, it's been Allen who's been bringing that under control.

6) Finally, in this thread, accuses aD of "firing people in very classless ways."  As both a manager who participated in the evaluation process and one of the downsized myself, I'd be interested in knowing how Jim, who was in no way involved, came to this conclusion.

I understand some members of the user community are disappointed to see Adam go, but you can't realistically expect aD to run its personnel decisions by the user community for approval.  Please judge aD's commitment to the community going forward by the degree of effort they put into it, rather than which specific face is involved.  And if you have criticisms of aD's policies or products, specifics work a lot better than general flamefests.

Posted by Mike Bruce on
"I understand some members of the user community are disappointed to see Adam go, but you can't realistically expect aD to run its personnel decisions by the user community for approval"

Well, when his job was to work with the community, yes, I think at least a heads-up might be in order.  At least, if they want to keep any kind of a community at all.  Which they don't seem very concerned about, actually.

Posted by Dave Menninger on
Thanks Mark.  I couldn't have said it better myself.
Posted by Mike Bruce on
The only thing I'm finding unfortunate about Jim's comments, after reading the threads in question a few more times, is that they overshadowed the many other concerns raised in those threads.

I'm also confused that you managed to semi-coherently respond to his complaints _here_, and not in the thread he originally posted in.  Or even on the same system.

Finally, and this is personal opinion, possibly-faulty reasoning is not grounds for being banned.

Posted by Mark Ciccarello on
I didn't respond to Jim's comments in the original thread for two reasons:

1) I didn't want it to appear that my response was necessarily the company's position, and by posting as an employee on a company forum people tend to get that impression.  I'm not a spokesman for company policy, or even web site policy.  I'm not even an employee for much longer.

2) Since Jim was banned, he wouldn't have been unable to reply to me there, if that was his desire.

Clearly there are issues that need to be worked out in the relationship between aD and its user community -- maybe more issues than anyone was aware of.  It would be great if everyone calmed down, someone let Jim back on, and we could have an open and productive discussion.

22: Are we finished here? (response to 1)
Posted by Todd Gillespie on
Okay, my inbox has logged about 30k of messages mostly filled with eisegesis of Mr. Zamboob's lack of tact. I'd like to appeal to reason, or else Godwinate this thread.

I have noticed 3 facinating things reading this thread:

  • The facination with aD borders on the religious.
  • Some people here are having a real hard time classifying the new aD into a 2-slot morality structure.
  • BBoard has a ways to go, technically, to provide constructive conversation without resorting to the admin's ICBM of moderation, the ban/censor.
First of all, everyone in this thread who is talking, and does not, nor has not, work[ed] for arsDigita, please stand up. What the hell do you want?? -- that is not a rhetorical question. Why is there a host of 3rd party advocates/assailants posting here about aD's future, motivations, and purity of spirit?
I suspect that there is a strong desire amongst some here for aD to remain an island of engineering purity, a open source avalon where "they do things right"; the 1001st face on Cambell's god - the happy geek. It's a perfection myth: "if aD can succeed as a completely transparent, OS company of propeller heads, then so can I." If this description fits anyone, I suggest you get over it -- accepting myth in the face of conflicting reality is rarely beneficial.

Secondly, must everyone here grade aD as either good or evil? This was the straw that broke me open:

At the beginning, it was about honesty. Now that has all been replaced with marketing. Fundamentally, no matter how crudely he put things, Jim's concerns were _valid_. If ArsDigita was really OK, they would've taken the opportunity to calmly address his comments, not just ignore and ban him. -- Mike Bruce
Is this some kind of litmus test? "Aha, you're using the Dark Side of the Source!" C'mon, people, we're working with authentic humans here - milage & behavior will vary.

Lastly, the structure of bboard. Jim Zamboob was flaming, plain and simple - personal attacks, no new info, lack of serious questions. He caricatured what everyone knows, and tried to insult some people on the way. 'What do you want, a cookie?'. But there must be a better way to run the bboard. A ban is like exising a virtual tongue - he can no longer speak, but staggers around nuisancing everyone and becomes the center of attention for a while. And he can always get a new account - red queen game, anyone? 7 years of Usenet tells me that the best response for dealing with flamers is still a fast vgrep & a 'mark read, next msg' key.

Chris Rasch: I like some of your bboard ideas - in particular an explicit definition of banning rules. I don't agree about courtesy; it's just so personal. Most of my design meetings are pretty combative -- different standards. I think a better litmus is "are you stating new information?" || "are you asking an earnest question?". I'm not sure about the 'penance' fee to reinstate accounts, but I would enjoy calling it "sacrament to the church of akira".

Jon Griffin: why yes, quite a few of us have 'slurped the code' - since 3.2. And the robot, I should add. I am bit puzzled, though, by your phrase "proprietary java [apps]" - these words are not dependent. If English was Normalizable, you would be violating 2NF.

Eve: props for the coolness to enter an anti-aD flamefest, dispense tech wisdom, and leave. You need a fan club.

Anyone: I assume Adam Farkas is taking it easy ATM, but will we be seeing much of him 'round these parts in the future?

Posted by Mike Bruce on
People who have not worked at aD take an interest because aD is the source of the software that we are interested in.

I suppose you could argue that a company's culture has no effect on the software they write, but I don't think it would be a very good argument.  So, from that angle, there is fear that corporate changes are going to undermine the software.  This would not be a unique happening.

Posted by Jon Griffin on
Well Todd,

1. I did work at AD
2. English is not normalizable so it is irrelevant.

Posted by Talli Somekh on

While a rude, retarded flame is easily ignored, this one seems to have struck a nerve. It's occurred at a point in time when aD hasn't done a good job of conveying their intentions, at delivering a finished product (ACS Tcl4.X) for anybody to implement a complete site (at least with ecommerce) and they haven't paid enough attention to their user base. Also they are going through regrettable downsizing, which by some accounts that I heard were especially crushing and even tactless.

My fascination with the ACS is not religious, it is because I am staking a business (i.e. employee salaries) on aD's software. If they don't publish the right information, choose not to finish the Tcl code they started or simply throw another obstacle in the way of accessing information it has potentially significant implications for me.

That being said, I would like to say I met with David Menninger today and found him to be open and very approachable. He shared with me that ACS will still be very much Open Source, that aD is eager to work with the community and that OpenACS is considered a very complimentary project.

We've heard that before and I still don't trust aD, and I did tell him that. We'll just have to see what happens.


Posted by Don Baccus on
Note that jim was banned in part because of his psuedonymous posting, i.e. the person banning him presumes that "jim zamboob" is not his real name.

I actually think that's a reaonsably good reason to kick someone's account, if it is true.  "Jim's" not kicked off the bboard, he can always post under his real name.

Jim, is "jim zamboob" really your name?  If not, why aren't you using your real name here?

I've been alternatively harsh and forgiving towards aD for a very long time, and have never seen any reason to try to hide my identity.

Hmmm...I think this is the longest thread we've ever had on  Let's funnel this energy into the OpenACS4.x project!

As far as my giving up on aD, I should really clarify that statement a bit.  At the moment, I could care less about ACS 5 Java, though I was very pleased to hear last January that multi-db support was a consideration and because of that a lot of application logic would be pulled out of PL/SQL into the Java level.  The opposite of the path taken with ACS 4.x (the PL/SQL decision will hurt efforts to port to dbs like InterBase more than PostgreSQL, and aD *did* check with us OpenACSers to make sure that we were confident that we could port the PL/SQL code to PL/pgSQL before making their decision to take this path .  Just so there's no misunderstanding).  The fact that aD is taking the view that the past "Oracle uber alles" attitude is perhaps unreasonable is very welcome, but other than that ACS 5 Java's off in the future, another entire rewrite, and simply not relevant to my life.

So my "I'm giving up on aD" statement should be taken very much in the context of my lack of interest in ACS 5 Java and aD's coming abandonment of ACS 4.x Tcl.

ACS 5 Java will attract new people to the aD world.  Overlap with the crew here might be minimal, hard to say, a lot of us have no need to drop our existing Tcl efforts and many may just ignore it, especially if some of the more interesting parts are proprietary rather than Open Source.  But there will be an ACS 5 Java community.  My hope is that aD learns from past mistakes and that the ACS 5 Java community, with its many new faces who haven't been burnt by past aD decisions, will be managed in a better way.

Posted by Mike Bruce on
"Hmmm...I think this is the longest thread we've ever had on  Let's funnel this energy into the OpenACS4.x project!"

OpenACS is a project I have a huge amount of enthusiasm for.  I've been trying to get it in use around where I work for quite a while, but the effort doesn't seem to be working.

I would actually volunteer to help out in development but it seems like you have enough people helping out as it is.

Posted by Eve Andersson on
Just FYI: ACS5 isn't a total rewrite of ACS4 Java.  Unlike the ACS3 to ACS4 transition, which was huge (mostly new data model), the transition from ACS4 to ACS5 is going to be pretty gentle.
Please join Richard Buck, Dave Menninger and other members of the ArsDigita community as they host a conference call focused on the technological direction of ArsDigita.

TIME: 1:00 P.M Eastern Standard Time

Please dial 1-800-370-0740 10 minutes before the event to join in and listen.Richard and Dave will be discussing several key issues and your participation is encouraged. There will be a portion of the call devoted to answering your questions.

For more information or if you have any questions or concerns, please contact

We're looking forward to having everyone there.

30: Todd, et al., (response to 1)
Posted by Dave Menninger on
The "banning" policy will be made explicit.  Just trying to get input from a few others before finalizing it.  BTW, it'll be posted on the ArsDigita site, not here.
Posted by Don Baccus on
Eve - thanks for the clarification.  Sounds like table structures etc  won't change much, only that much of the PL/SQL API will be pulled into a Java abstraction layer, if I understand correctly.  That's very reasonable.
Posted by Janine Ohmer on
I generally try to stay out of the real flamefests, but there are a
few things here which I think can be said constructively.

Jim's posts over at were flames, no doubt.  And
they were, as others have pointed out, broad generalizations with
no facts to back them up.  But I think the fact (ok, my impression)
that his remarks have been received fairly positively by the
community at large indicates that he has done a pretty good job
of capturing how the community feels.  Not necessarily in the
specific points he raised but in tone and meaning.

Those who have pointed out that aD has a business to run and
should be making decisions for that business, not for the benefit
of the community, are also right.  But that doesn't mean that
members of the community can't disapprove of those decisions,
and express their frustration.  aD is then free to incorporate or
ignore that feedback, as they see fit.

My personal feeling is that those of us who came to aD because
we believed in Philip's philosophies feel that a sort of "bait and
switch" has taken place.  Let me explain:

We came to use the ACS and to be contributing members of the
aD community because we were enchanted by the "keep it
simple" approach to software design, and the innovative,
non-corporate way the company was run.  We saw that lots of
people were joining the community without a lot of programming
experience and were able to learn how to work with the ACS and
build their dreams, and it was good.

aD has never really been truly Open Source in a bi-directional
sense, but back then it was accepted that the company was
small and overworked, and that they didn't have time to accept
fixes from the masses.  We shared fixes among ourselves on
web/db, and occasionally one could develop a direct relationship
with a developer who would accept simple patches and
incorporate them with their own work.

I don't know what made Philip decide it was time to go for IPO
gold.  I do know that he lost at least one good person over it, and
that many of us in the community were a little concerned about
how things might change.  But we tried to look at the positive
benefits VC could bring.

So, what has happened in that last year or so?  The toolkit has
become more complex, but quality has not improved much.  It is
still exceedingly difficult to get fixes into the toolkit, but harder to
develop those one-on-one relationships with developers (there
are more of them, and most don't hang out in the bboards).
Folks without prior programming experience have a much harder
time using the toolkit.  And now there are layoffs, and talk of
proprietary modules.  A reader of Philip's book today would
hardly recognize aD the Company at all.

arsDigita has come a long way... opinions clearly differ on
whether the changes are positive or negative.  I think Jim's
posts, though crudely phrased, served the important purpose of
expressing some of the anger and disillusionment that's
hanging around out here.

For the record, though, as an aD partner, I don't feel that we've
been treated like sh*t.  Ignored, yes, but not mistreated.