[asterisk-dev] Insulting source code comments in main/channel.c

Kirill 'Big K' Katsnelson kkm at adaptiveai.com
Tue Dec 1 03:00:33 CST 2009

On 091123 1039, Vlasis Hatzistavrou (KTI) wrote:
> Indeed it is wise not to take offense only if _no offense was intended_. 
> But can you really be sure about the intentions of the writer in that 
> particular sentence of comment in the code?

No. A text is different from its writer. Without mind reader and a time 
machine, you'd never know what was on the mind of a person when they 
wrote something. The text, having been written, leads its own life; its 
meaning is as much a matter of reader's interpretation as that of 
writer's intention. The point is, there is hardly any meaningful text 
counting more than 3 words in length that cannot be read as insulting by 
someone, and I doubt you could find a shorter one either.

> If the original writer had no insult in mind he could have used a ":)" 
> or even a ":P" 

Do not mean to be insulting, but that would be a confession of unskill. 
Most of the human literary history there were no typographic signs 
meaning to convey emotions; that has been achieved solely by placing 
right words in  a specific order. Using these signs is up to a writer, 
but I do not think it is prudent to judge writer's intentions from the 
absence if these.

> So, it is up to each reader to decide if he is offended or not. 

That's what I am arguing for.

> Therefore, some people _were_ actually offended by the literal meaning 
> of the sentence, 

But I beg to differ as to the existence of this mythical single "literal 
meaning of a sentence." Meaning is not contained in a sentence, and does 
not exist separately from interpretation, ergo depends on a particular 
one being applied. Having spent years in strong AI, I've come to learn 
that in a hard, very untheoretical way.

> Please tell me with all sincerity, if such a remark about a group of 
> people being silly was done against any other group (for ex. various 
> minority groups), would there not be a storm of reactions from all 
> directions, even if the comment was _clearly_ with good intentions?

It depends. That hypothetical setting is way too general to make any 
meaningful assumptions.

> So, why not in this case, too?

Because every case is different from another, albeit you can find an 
example one which is, under some formalization, comes close enough 
practically to some one that you are questioning. It has though to be 
also specific enough.

> Don't we have the _same_ right to feel offended?

"Right" is a legal term, and chances are slim that there are any lawyers 
on this list who'd want to advise you or anyone on legal matters. I 
think the answer depends on your jurisdiction, but I am not a lawyer.

> Or do we have to twist the meaning of a sentence until it does no 
> offense and we brush it off, just to feel magnanimous, aloof, 
> untouchable by petty remarks, to say "It's only a flesh wound!" like the 
> Black Knight, or whatnot?

There are different average standards of what is considered offensive in 
different historical ages societies and. A Spanish grand of the 16th 
century would certainly and immediately kill one who'd dare ask him "do 
you want fries with that."


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