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Removed use of gendered pronoun #1015

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@alex
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alex commented Nov 29, 2013

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@Nodejs-Jenkins
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Nodejs-Jenkins commented Nov 29, 2013

Thank you for contributing this pull request! Here are a few pointers to make sure your submission will be considered for inclusion.

Commit alex/libuv@1ff9d18 has the following error(s):

  • Commit message must indicate the subsystem this commit changes

The following commiters were not found in the CLA:

  • Alex Gaynor

You can fix all these things without opening another issue.

Please see CONTRIBUTING.md for more information

@sam-github

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sam-github commented on 1ff9d18 Nov 29, 2013

A single "user" isn't a plural "them". This seems not so important, but would be better "to top sending it twice"

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postmodern replied Nov 29, 2013

@sam-github "one" is the singular pronoun you are looking for.

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dbb replied Nov 30, 2013

"They" has been used in singular form for centuries, and it is still in widespread use today-- probably much more common than "one" except in formal contexts. I think prescription against it in program documentation is unwarranted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

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zedshaw replied Nov 30, 2013

Why not:

The nsent value is returned so the caller can avoid sending it twice.
If you get nsent, then you know data was sent and you can avoid sending it twice.
This tells the caller that the data was sent to avoid double sends.

This is assuming I'm understanding what this thing does at all, either way I think it can be rewritten clearer to just avoid the whole sentence structure at all by changing the writing style to be instructional ("You get blah blah if you see blah blah.") rather than formal ("One gets blah blah if one sees blah blah").

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IreneKnapp replied Nov 30, 2013

Hi, I'm kibitzing. I have nothing to do with this project and really have no business commenting on it.

With that out of the way...

There are strong reasons to avoid gendered pronouns. It seems as though that point has been made already here. I am personally an advocate of singular-they, because language usage is a moving target, and we have to skate to where the puck will be, not where it is now. To many speakers who were educated by the "English is just a different vocabulary for Latin" theory, it sounds wrong. But all the elegant solutions to the grammatical problem (Spivak pronouns are a runner-up) run afoul of that, and this one is simply reverting to an earlier version which has already been shown not to cause significant linguistic friction elsewhere.

To use "one" does really sound very formal and off-putting, and many readers have difficulty making sense of it.

"You" is an option as well, but in this example there are multiple people in context - the ideal user; the reader of the comment; the implementor who wrote it. "You" would probably mean the reader, who is likely a programmer as well, not really a typical end-user.

Rewording without a pronoun at all is an option, but kind of awkward here. It's probably my second choice for this situation after singular-they.

I leave you with a Douglas Hofstadter satire essay... http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html

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fgc replied Nov 30, 2013

In fact a more impersonal comment style might promote better thinking. After all, by the time all this matters, no humans are involved: the runtime won't return nsent to you, me, him, her or they. "It" is up for debate. Read your Dijkstra, think clearer and avoid controversy:

http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/transcriptions/EWD09xx/EWD936.html
http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/ewd08xx/EWD854.PDF

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dogweather replied Dec 1, 2013

The original docs aren't idiomatic English; this sentence reads oddly and the "him" is out of place. It gives the impression that it wasn't written by someone with English as their first language.

"The user needs to know that some data has already been sent, to stop him from sending it twice."

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anklos replied Dec 5, 2013

Could you please also submit a pull request to Oxford dictionary for changing the word "history" to "theirstory"?

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anklos replied Dec 5, 2013

Plus please suggest the dictionary editors to change all the 'he/him' in the sample sentences to 'they'.

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mehabox replied May 28, 2014

Mangina attack!

@alex
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alex commented Nov 29, 2013

They/them can absolutely be used as an ungendered singular. Further, even if they couldn't, that concern would be trumped by the fact that using gendered language is hostile.

@jfhbrook
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jfhbrook commented Nov 29, 2013

Rule 1 of writing: Throw your Strunk & White into the ocean immediately.

@alex
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alex commented Nov 29, 2013

I've now submitted a CLA, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to put in the subsystem part of the commit. Can anyone make a suggestion?

@bnoordhuis
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bnoordhuis commented Nov 29, 2013

Sorry, not interested in trivial changes like that.

@bnoordhuis bnoordhuis closed this Nov 29, 2013
@coderanger
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coderanger commented Nov 29, 2013

+1 for merging this change.

@alex
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alex commented Nov 29, 2013

I'm sorry to hear that. I don't really see why you wouldn't merge it if it's so trivial though. Surely making the library less hostile is worth a few seconds of our time to press the "merge" button?

@rdodev
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rdodev commented Nov 29, 2013

Glad this didn't go through. The White Knights of tech are getting a bit over their heads on this. One thing is to raise awareness of a problem that exists throughout society -- not just tech, a whole different one is to go to the extent of requesting a pull request to remove gendered references. That helps no one. Zero. It does not advance anyone's argument.

@azer
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azer commented Nov 29, 2013

+1 "him" definitely needs to be replaced with "them"

@eevee
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eevee commented Nov 29, 2013

@rdodev I would like to raise awareness of another problem: dismissing attempts to actually change things as "white knighting", with the subtext that there's no genuine platonic reason women deserve to be defended.

Awareness is of little value if no one ever acts differently, and open source is supposed to be about fixing what's broken, right? Patches welcome and all that. Well, here's your patch.

@rdodev
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rdodev commented Nov 29, 2013

@eevee "with the subtext that there's no genuine platonic reason women deserve to be defended."

Are you implying that women cannot defend themselves and need people to defend them? I think that stance is even more sexist that a "him" vs. "them"

@adamv
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adamv commented Nov 29, 2013

@rdodev so you need a woman to submit this pull request to consider it?

@eevee
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eevee commented Nov 29, 2013

@rdodev Are you implying that only women should care about how women are regarded? Isn't that how we got here in the first place?

When the very problem is that there are very few women participating in open source, what do you expect to accomplish by shaming men who try to make the environment more welcoming for women? That in itself is even more offputting.

@ncoghlan
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ncoghlan commented Nov 29, 2013

So you're saying this pull request would have been accepted if it had been submitted by a woman rather than by Alex? Shall we see if we can put that theory to the test?

@jfhbrook
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jfhbrook commented Nov 29, 2013

The White Knights of tech

What white knights? I don't see anyone typecasting women as damsels in distress.

It does not advance anyone's argument.

What argument? It's a small editorial change to reflect that sometimes women want to use libraries too.

Are you implying that women cannot defend themselves and need people to defend them?

That's a total load of bullshit. We should all strive to create the world we want to live in, whether it effects us directly or not. We're all in this together.

I don't even know why I'm replying to this. You do all know that Ben's moved on ages ago, right?

@rdodev
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rdodev commented Nov 29, 2013

No, there's no need for this pull request be it requested from a man or woman. That's the whole issue I have. This PR will not advance women in tech, it will not increase the awareness, it will not get more women in tech or STEM majors. Such a trivial and minor change is about-face and grandstanding. You really want to make a change? Go volunteer at your local high school and get girls excited about tech or other STEM fields. Support groups like PyLadies or Women Who Code, CodeChix who are trying to bring in and support women into the field. But this PR? This PR is political: to be able to say "I stand for women's right in tech" because you changed a gendered pronoun without actual consequence.

@leafstorm
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leafstorm commented Nov 29, 2013

@rdodev Make the change yourself and strip his name from the commit log, then. Being worried about someone's personal motivations in suggesting a good thing isn't a reason to not do the good thing.

@seubert
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seubert commented Nov 29, 2013

This PR and supporting PyLadies/WWC/CodeChix/etc are not mutually exclusive; suggesting so is absurd.

@ncoghlan
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ncoghlan commented Nov 29, 2013

Given that the work had already been done, why click Reject, rather than Accept?

Yes, the change is trivial, but that's a reason for accepting it, not rejecting it.

Why do you consider it more appropriate to challenge how Alex chooses to spend his time rather than challenge the deliberate choice to continue using gendered language when a gender neutral alternative has been offered for inclusion?

@benjaminws
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benjaminws commented Nov 29, 2013

Clicking the 'Merge pull request' button would have taken less effort than it did to click 'Close' and leave a comment, but the positive effect from accepting it had would have been much greater.

@0xabad1dea
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0xabad1dea commented Nov 29, 2013

Hello, I might be a woman. 100% for Singular They. It is perfectly grammatical ("you" works the exact same way) and never socially problematic. I don't see what the problem is and I don't see why @alex and @eevee being proactive is some sort of motivation problem. I would recommend @rdodev consider that change begins with the small things.

@jfhbrook
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jfhbrook commented Nov 29, 2013

I mean, we can't all not be tools.

@jorgenschaefer
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jorgenschaefer commented Nov 29, 2013

While this little change is highly unlikely to have a large impact, it might have a small one–someone might see it and think "oh, someone is considerate of non-males in this male-dominated industry, that's great!" On the other hand, rejecting a simple change that someone wrote for you gives a mild signal that there are quite a few people who still don't care. And those who oppose equality will feel vindicated and supported.

None of these are a big thing. But when choosing between a minor positive signal and a minor negative signal, you chose the negative one for no reason at all. There was no work involved, there was no loss in quality of your code, and it would have been a small good deed. :-)

@mistydemeo
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mistydemeo commented Nov 29, 2013

This PR will not advance women in tech, it will not increase the awareness, it will not get more women in tech or STEM majors.

Speaking as a woman, I frequently see documentation that uses exclusively male pronouns and and know that it's often because doc authors forget/don't consider that they have female readers too. The implication (intended or not) is that the audience of software developers is male. I mentally compare that to how I'm always assumed to be male first on the internet. I'm +1 on this documentation change.

@raganwald
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raganwald commented Nov 29, 2013

Remember that the whole world is watching this discussion, and consider--carefully--the message you are sending, not just with the PR itself, but with the way it is being handled.

@itsjustpiper
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itsjustpiper commented Nov 29, 2013

I've read enough documentation with "he" in it that I'm almost desensitized to it. It's never affected me. It's an honest mistake made by people who haven't really thought about it (and the problem exists outside of technology).

The concerning part here is that when it does affect someone, you're actively fighting against it. It doesn't hurt a single thing to merge this patch, but the damage you do in not merging the patch and defending why you're not merging the patch seems to be digging a hole for yourselves that you weren't initially in. :(

@kaithar
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kaithar commented Dec 2, 2013

@excelsiores Wheaton's Law says hi

@ferrouswheel
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ferrouswheel commented Dec 2, 2013

'female' is not offensive or derogatory, but it is depersonalising when used in isolation to refer to women ("those females"), or a single women ("that female"). You can say they are female, but to use it as an identifying noun is removing the humanity from the individual.

The scale of offense is similar the original pull request drama. It's not actually a big deal, it's just words, but it is callous to not understand why it makes people feel belittled and sit righteously on your side of the fence without bothering to consider things from a different point of view.

@ThisIsSoGood
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ThisIsSoGood commented Dec 2, 2013

I would like to inform people here that GitHub has decided to close the GitHub repository @excelsiores created to point out the problems that lead to this kind of long flamewars.

Unfortunately over there at GitHub office they only support freedom of speech as long the speech is a match to their own opinions.

@CodeAngry
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CodeAngry commented Dec 2, 2013

@ThisIsSoGood Freedom of speech exists only for the politically correct. Otherwise, no such thing! So, as long as you say the 'right' things, you're in the clear. ...And I Stared his repo.

@AmyStephen
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AmyStephen commented Dec 2, 2013

@ferrouswheel -

Thank you for sharing that point of view.

I can assure you, when I used the word female and I can only assume that when @mistydemeo used the word female, neither one of us intended to dehumanize those of our gender or ourselves.

My usage, and I assume the usage of Misty, related to the definition of the word as given by Webster to depict a population composed of members of the female sex <the female population>. Nothing more, nothing less. In fact, the first definition for women, provided by Webster is an adult female human being.

However, I will adapt my usage of language away from female if some find it offensive and your polite explanation is appreciated. In exchange, I ask that we all remember we are part of an international community with many languages, customs, different generational experiences and perspectives. It's always good to assume the best of one another, which I am certain your tendency is to do, as well.

@kaithar
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kaithar commented Dec 2, 2013

@ThisIsSoGood @CodeAngry With the qualifier that I've only read the gist version that was linked from that reddit thread...
Given that said repo appears to have been both horrifically sexist and a perfect demonstration of the kind of nonsense being berated, I'd say it's quite appropriate for it to have been closed.
There's not even an attempt to hide the stupid "women's rights are oppressing me" narrative. I'm not even sure where to start listing the offensive remarks, it's that bad.

It's not respectful, it's not constructive, it doesn't serve a justifiable purpose. It might be a pure troll, but I'm not going to assume @excelsiores wasn't serious.
Just because you have free speech doesn't mean you should open your mouth, particularly if you're going to utter such drivel as it may be a woman's choice to take a lower-paying job with more flexibility. while linking to an article dealing with the fact a pay gap does exist but is more complex than any simple statistic.
Why, exactly, should we be taking it as fact that women choose to have lower paying jobs to get extra flexibility? Because they want a family? Because women can't take the pressure like men?
Give me an argument in favour of this view that isn't sexist or insulting, an argument that has some kind of credible statistical support, or GTFO civilised company.
If you can't make the same argument after doing s/women/men/g on it, you've failed.

There are complaints that the tech community is hostile because exactly because of things like https://gist.github.com/rlemon/7758759 being defended. What kind of reaction, exactly, do you expect to get from a woman new to tech if she encountered that as an example of coders and their opinions of women?

@ThisIsSoGood
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ThisIsSoGood commented Dec 2, 2013

@kaithar You are hilarious. "Why should we be taking it as fact that ..."

This whole shitstorm started after the original patch author claimed that it is "fact that using gendered language is hostile".

@bartoszmajsak
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bartoszmajsak commented Dec 2, 2013

And now imagine all these keystrokes be turned into some useful code... Some people have too much time to spend on nothing really valuable.

@SomeKittens
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SomeKittens commented Dec 2, 2013

@bartoszmajsak I'm glad those who thing this is an enormous issue aren't writing my code. Their priorities are all screwed up.

@kaithar
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kaithar commented Dec 2, 2013

@ThisIsSoGood that has nothing to do with what I said, or are you trying to make a connection between gendered language and sexist pay inequality?
I'm not going to waste my time with further analysis, but at first glance your reply appears to be a false equivalence fallacy. Certainly has all the hallmarks of a troll.

If you haven't something sensible to say, please let the adults talk.

@azat-co
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azat-co commented Dec 2, 2013

this is getting interesting: witch hunt, bad Joyent, etc.

@joemcmahon
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joemcmahon commented Dec 2, 2013

@kaithar - since @ThisIsSoGood appears to have joined GitHub solely to post on this thread, I'd say you can safely conclude troll. I recommend blocking anyone who has no repos and no activity to improve your day.

@kaithar
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kaithar commented Dec 3, 2013

@joemcmahon yea, that hadn't escaped my notice :(

@SaltwaterC
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SaltwaterC commented Dec 3, 2013

The only actual tragedy here is what @bnoordhuis said: "I'm probably going to step back from libuv and node.js core development.". I kinda see this "probably" as something that's going to happen, unless someone changes the laws of physics. Thank you Ben for all your hard work. You will be missed.

Hey, community, thanks for the neutrality in the docs and all the fuss, but in this case YOU are the assholes from the 4th slide. If this is your solution to the humankind problems, then I'm totally underwhelmed. For those who don't understand the tone of this message, I am not against neutrality in docs, or women in this field, but you people need to learn how to deal with this shit in a way it doesn't have consequences like these.

For some halfwits posting on this issue: yay, a victory for feminism. Cool story bro. A defeat for tech at the same time. Does Pyrrhic victory rings any bells? Did this victory of yours produce any relevant outcome that's at least on break even with the consequences?

As for @isaacs (and the rest of the Joyent who caused this), thanks, that's really mature to support #38. Closing comments over "irrelevant" issues. This issue right here is fucking relevant. Next time when I'll have an issue with the networking stack from node I guess I'll need to thank the lords of grammar and weep for joy that I live amongst linguists who care or understand these cultural issues that mostly exist for native speakers instead of having a dialog with people who actually write some fucking code that gets the shit done.

I'm out. I'm too angry to continue in a relevant way, to put it gently.

@joemcmahon
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joemcmahon commented Dec 3, 2013

Somewhat off topic, really, but agreed, there are standard English ways to
say the same thing/

  • "We check to see if the data has been sent so we don't send it twice."
  • "Check to see if the data has been sent; don't send it again if so."

It isn't necessary to use a gendered pronoun to be able to communicate the
concept - in fact no pronoun is needed at all.

The discussion, however, is about the social procedure, not the patch. Had
it been rejected with "bad English, not acceptable" then it would have been
about the wording.

If there was a full-up style documentation guide, I'd suggest constructions
similar to my second example would be clearest and would eliminate any
personification and gendering problems.

At any rate, I'm pretty sure the dead horse has been flattened out to a
nanometer-scale paste by now, and further discussion here is probably of
minimal value.

@kaithar
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kaithar commented Dec 3, 2013

@SaltwaterC

The only actual tragedy here is what @bnoordhuis said: "I'm probably going to step back from libuv and node.js core development.". I kinda see this "probably" as something that's going to happen, unless someone changes the laws of physics. Thank you Ben for all your hard work. You will be missed.

Agreed

@joemcmahon
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joemcmahon commented Dec 3, 2013

The saddest thing about it is that no one asked him to leave. No one
wanted him to leave. They just wanted him to listen.

It is very difficult and painful to be on the receiving end of a situation
like this; I hope that he changes his mind and decides that he can come
back and use what happened as a way to learn about the issue, instead of
depriving the community of a good contributor because of one bad choice.

On Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 6:42 AM, kaithar notifications@github.com wrote:

@SaltwaterC https://github.com/SaltwaterC

The only actual tragedy here is what @bnoordhuishttps://github.com/bnoordhuissaid: "I'm probably going to step back from libuv and node.js core
development.". I kinda see this "probably" as something that's going to
happen, unless someone changes the laws of physics. Thank you Ben for all
your hard work. You will be missed.

Agreed


Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com//pull/1015#issuecomment-29714639
.

@thestinger
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thestinger commented Dec 3, 2013

@joemcmahon: If you don't want someone to leave the community, you don't make a post on your corporate blog implying they're a sexist asshole for sitting on the other side of you in an age old English grammar bikeshed.

http://www.joyent.com/blog/the-power-of-a-pronoun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

I would be surprised if someone didn't leave the community after an attack on their character made by Joyent. Expecting a contributor to keep on going after abusive treatment like this is ridiculous.

Joyent is risking a libel lawsuit when they lie like this on their blog:

but to characterize it that way would be a gross oversimplification: it's not the use of the gendered pronoun that's at issue (that's just sloppy), but rather the insistence that pronouns should in fact be gendered.

Ben never said this, or implied it.

@SomeKittens
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SomeKittens commented Dec 3, 2013

Congrats all, you've killed the goose that laid the golden egg for the benefit of exactly zero actual people.

@isaacs
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isaacs commented Dec 3, 2013

I can pretty well guarantee that ALL the opinions expressed here are woefully uninformed. Continuing to comment on this thread only is doing harm.

Everyone. Please. Just stop.

@mojombo Hey, can you try to encourage your team to take the isaacs/github#38 feature request seriously? The inability to close threads is doing active harm to open source projects, and you're seeing it here. I've offered to pay $1000 out of my own pocket if you can deliver this feature by the end of 2013. Surely someone at GitHub wants an extra Christmas bonus!

@isaacs
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isaacs commented Dec 3, 2013

I'm going to delete all comments after this one. You've been warned. Stop posting here. Take it to personal email if you want to keep debating things.

@isaacs
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isaacs commented Dec 4, 2013

@eteled START

@eteled
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eteled commented Dec 4, 2013

This issue is monitored by @eteled. Any further comments on this issue will be automatically deleted.
Only repo collaborators can START/STOP etelde.

@isaacs
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isaacs commented Jun 9, 2014

@eteled STOP

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eteled commented Jun 9, 2014

This thread is no longer monitored by @eteled.

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