A myth of a self governing state

Nicholas Carr has an interesting look at the changes being made to ebay shortly.

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Crowd control at eBay

Personally I think this ideal that people have of romantic anarchism is, like some forms of socialism, something that looks good and paper and would work perfectly if you ignore the human element.

So, it doesn’t work.

People are selfish and self-interested, and any community of any kind that reaches a non-trivial size is going to have elements that will try and manipulate the system to gain an unfair advantage over the competition. As techs we have this fantasy that, with the internet, we’ve managed to discover some hitherto unknown way of governance, ie decentralised anarchy, that works perfectly, solves all outstanding problems in the current system, and will serve as a shining example everywhere.

We didn’t invented anarchy. Anarchy, like chaos, is the natural state of things.  What humans created was society, collectivism, community.  We band together for many reasons, as we are social animals, but the reason centralised authority develops isn’t because some charismatic leader with an army of thugs made us.  (Ok, sometimes that might have been how things started, but it takes more than that to keep a society together).  What draws us together are the benefits of working in concert. We can achieve things that we never could working alone.  The prime benefit of central authority is arbitration.

Some historians and sociologists tell us that people banded together for safety in numbers as it were, to help defend each other against outside predation.  We have central authority for the same reason, to protect us from inside predation.  Make no mistake, we will prey on each other as best we can.  Destroy all central authority and you wont have the cooperative anarchic utopia that some have dreamed of, but rather I suspect we would see form a series of small collective groups band together for protection.  Any group of a significant size would create some kind of leadership. Whether it be one man one vote on every issue, or a kingship, as soon as this happens we have abandoned anarchy for community.

We do this because it works.  I am a staunch libertarian, but even I do not yearn for anarchism. Just a government that arbitrates rather than mandates.

It’s not surprising ebay is to become such a community now.  In many ways, it always has been.  For a long time there has been a central place for appeals and requests for assistance, this idea of self governance was just a conceit, and obviously, not a very successful one.  It’s a pity, but it’s not a surprise.

Collection was modified; enumeration operation may not execute

This was a weird error I came across recently with a very simple solution, that came about because I tried to do something that really I should have known I couldn’t do. Often the way that the most irritating problems look incredibly simple in hindsight and you wonder how you could have been inattentive enough to fall into them.

Personally, i’m blaming fatigue, but I always use that excuse.

This error message, “Collection was modified; enumeration operation may not execute”, comes about in foreach loops.  Generally it occurs if you try and modify a collection’s references while using foreach to enumerate through it.

An example:

// Assume this value has been populated with a series of true and false values
List<bool> booleanValues;

// Attempting to remove all false’s from the list
foreach(bool b in booleanValues)
{
if (!b)
booleanValues.remove(b);
}

This code should generate the error, as it modifies the collection’s references whilst looping, thus disturbing the progression of the enumerator.

The simplest way around this involves using two loops, one to find the necessary values and the other to remove them, as shown.

List<bool> booleanValues;
List<bool> valuesToDelete = new List<bool>();

foreach(bool b in booleanValues)
{
if (!b)
valuesToDelete.add(b);

}

foreach(bool b in valuesToDelete)
{
booleanValues.remove(b);
}

Edit:

If you’re interested in the performance discussion that took place in the comments below, some more good testing and discussion on this was done at Schnieds blog:

http://www.schnieds.com/2009/03/linq-vs-foreach-vs-for-loop-performance.html

Still Alive (or: A Sheep! A Sheep! My kingdom for a Sheep!)

Hey everyone, sorry it’s been a while (a long while) between updates, but I have had a busy time indeed.  I finally tied to knot with my beautiful wife Bronwyn in December.  We had a short signing ceremony on the 21st to get the legalities out of the way and a proper ceremony and reception on the 22nd.

I wrote the ceremony we had myself, cannibalising a wiccan handtying ceremony to be somewhat more personal to us. Everything went far better than we could have hoped.  We were married at her parent’s farm, in a field of wheat grown for us.  It was overcast and had threatened to rain with spits a few times throughout the day.  I walked the loooong mile, flanked by my groomsmen and parents, and waited at the front with my heart in my throat when Bron stepped into the field and started walking down the aisle.

Just as she did, the sun broke from behind the clouds and shone straight down on her.  It looked magical, and more than one of my guests broke out in tears.

For me, that sums up the entire wedding.  I couldn’t have any doubt or worry after that.

The next day we were up early (with pounding heads) and on a plane for Sydney where we spent two decadent weeks on board an American cruise ship, the Celebrity Mercury, cruise back past Melbourne, Hobart and over to New Zealand.  For both of us, the first time out of the country, and an incredible experience.  It was breathtakingly beautiful over there.

They are awfully fond of sheep though.  You might not know, unless you’ve spent time over here, that Australians tend to make jokes about our erstwhile New Zealand cousin’s fondeness for woolen animals, and in return they cast the same aspersions on our good name.  I always thought they were just good-spirited ribbing of the sort both our country’s people are fairly renowned for.

But really, they have a lot of sheep.  Really a lot.  We saw sheep when we first got off the boat in Dunedin.  There were sheep just outside wellington, in all the tourist information centeres there were pictures and postcards of sheep and little stuffed sheep.  There was a chain of shops called “I love Marino” which makes you wonder.

In Port Tauranga, we even saw sheep at the beach!