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03 July 2005




Business, Politics and Blogging

I read on mnot's blog that neo-con comedian (neo-concom?) Dennis Miller entertained the troops at the JavaOne conference. The point was made that business and politics do not mix.

The reason is simple: the downside far outweighs the upside. As I said in comments:

  • If you tell me your politics, and they match mine, it is no more likely that we will be able to do business than if you hadn't told me.

  • If you tell me your politics, and they don't match mine, it is less likely that we will be able to do business than if you hadn't told me.

The same applies to religion, sexual preference, or any other potentially divisive topic.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I am reminded of a time when I was confronted by some unwelcome political views in a business setting. It was an internal company mini-conference on the subject of security. This was around about the time of Gulf War 2, just when the US was lambasting various European nations for failing to see the imminent threat that Iraq's WMDs posed to all of us. One of the conference delegates drew an analogy between the EU and our customers. Apparently they both were disorganised, inconsistent and fundamentally dysfunctional; the former for their attitudes to Iraq and the latter for their attitudes to security.

Although I could see the point about our customers, it was obscured by the fact that I disagreed with the analogy. I realised at the time that if the analogy was one that coincided with my own political views I would have considered the primary point more carefully, rather than being distracted by an unhelpful analogy.

In retrospect it might seem obvious that security-oriented technical people often come from a military or spook background, and hence likely to be more conservative politically. However, I think there's a contrast to be made here with the broader technical community. But first, let me diverge slightly.

The Accidental Blog

I subscribe to several blogs that I happened to come across whilst researching some technical subject or other. When finding a reference to some technical material on a blog I like to delve into the archives and see what else the blogger writes about. If I think the blog is interesting, I'll often subscribe without knowing anything else specific about the blogger. (mnot is actually in this category for me, perhaps I am in the equivalent category for you?)

So one of the interesting aspects of blogging is that you find people willing to reveal more about their personalities or interests than on a vanilla website, mailing list, newsgroup or any other online presence. A lot of bloggers post about strictly technical subjects, but sometimes they reveal glimpses of their personalities that might not have been exposed otherwise.

Here's the point

Of the bloggers that I have discovered by following links to their technical content, and that choose to reveal aspects of their political orientation, it is very rare to find one who I disagree with, particularly on the subject of the Bush administration.

There's obviously ESR, but after him the only other one I can think of is the hardware review site Tech Report, which I stopped reading after they started posting this sort of nonsense. On the flip side, there are plenty of nerdy bloggers whose politics are compatible with mine.

It's worth pointing out that I've noticed plenty of nerdy bloggers whose taste in music, film or books differs from my own, or that hold different religious beliefs or that admit to watching Big Brother (OK I made up that last one).

Because I respect these people for their technical insight or prowess I am more inclined to consider their views on other topics. In fact, I have changed my views on non-technical topics based on posts to (mainly) technical blogs. But often a blogger's political views are not known to me at the time I choose to subscribe to the blog, and it is striking how often these views turn out to be compatible with my own.

OK so this is hardly a random sampling technique, and hence by no means is this a statistically valid observation. But it does suggest there may be some coincidence, if not causality, between technically-oriented folks and those that oppose the Bush administration (for example). I am not trying to say that there is general consensus amongst the technical community on political subjects, just that there is a higher degree of opposition to Bush administration policies and actions than might be found in the general populace.

So what do you think? Is there some coincidence here or is it just wishful thinking on my part? Or something else?


Posted by
2005-07-03 18:02:57 -0500

You might not know this, but 98% of all technical professionals are islamic extremists.