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Comment Oh, not again. (Score 1) 432

People who are in love with this utopian vision of anonymity-free forums are always amazed to find out that not everyone shares their opinion.

People are assholes to each other offline despite knowing each other's real names (and addresses, and mothers, etc.).

People are assholes to each other online despite knowing each other's real names too. You can feel pretty secure being an asshole when you know for a fact that your target lives a continent away, or in another city. Unless you actually break some kind of harassment or hate speech law, what are they going to do?

The kind of person who would actually travel a vast distance to beat up someone who pissed them off on a forum would obviously have a field day with real names, and I doubt the reciprocal revelation of their own name would do much to deter them.

Some people don't want to connect their real names to their forum nicknames, not because they are ashamed of anything they say or think that there's anything wrong with it, but because they're aware that they might attract serious meatspace trouble for it anyway. Or because -- like me -- they just don't want everything they've ever said online to be instantly and trivially linked to their real names with a single search.

Finally, some people don't like to use their real names because the names themselves reveal things about them which invite additional crap from assholes: gender, nationality and race. The internet allows people to present a neutral public face to strangers, and thus communicate on a more level playing field than is ever possible face-to-face. I consider this to be one of the best things about the internet, and I'd like to cultivate it, not eradicate it.

Comment Re:who uses it? (Score 1) 117

A big shiny button is good for the shop. It increases the likelihood that people will buy more things. Not by buying things by mistake, but because they don't have the opportunity to reconsider purchases after seeing the intimidating total cost of all the items in their cart at checkout. Instead of confirming that you really want to buy something, you buy it right away and have the opportunity to cancel later. I imagine it has the same psychological effect as opt-out vs opt-in checkboxes.

I wouldn't mind having something like this for purchases which have an extremely low unit cost, like individual songs, or micropayment donations, because I don't want an elaborate confirmation procedure for that -- but in a shop with books or electronics? No way!

Comment This is why I'm not that early an adopter. (Score 1) 1231

There are problems to be ironed out in every new release; it's inevitable that when many people suddenly start using the software on a wide range of hardware combinations, all kinds of previously unnoticed bugs are going to be found.

All the people I know who download and install the latest release the second it becomes available are very enthusiastic fans who are prepared to fiddle around and fix things and file bug reports. I don't really feel a burning need to upgrade as soon as I possibly can. I order a nice, packaged DVD and wait for it to arrive. By the time it does, the most egregious problems have usually been fixed. I've never had a show-stopping upgrade problem. The worst I've had to do is regenerate my xorg.conf (but that's so minimal now that it never happens anymore) or make sure that I had actually rebooted properly after the upgrade.

Comment Re:What's the deal? (Score 1) 423

In South Africa some university courses are structured around textbooks and some forgo them completely and only have custom lecture notes (which are either given out by lecturers or have to be written down by students during lectures).

I have never heard of lecturers checking whether students have the right edition, though -- that's shocking. Our first-year maths course used a book which had recently come out in a new (bugfix) edition, and nobody cared if you had the old one. If the lecturers assigned problems from the book, they gave section numbers as well as page numbers so that people with older books would be able to find them.

The books were still heinously expensive, and this is even worse in a developing country. :|

Unless something has changed, I don't think there's anything stopping students here from sharing textbooks in lectures and having secret illegal photocopies at home.

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The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford