The Internet of Useless Opinions

Hacker News is one of the few sites I go to daily because I find majority of the submissions are of high quality. I seldom comment for various reasons (maybe I should expound that in another post), but I do enjoy reading interesting and insightful comments about how things work, less-well-known history and intellectual debates.

As with all other Internet forums, there are trolls, fanboys, fanatics and so on, so I see all sort of opinions. Strangely I never seem to have problems with opinions even if they seem most estranged, irrational, absurd or irritating. Those are, after all, opinions. And in my own humble opinion, the value of opinions from some random stranger on the Internet is close to zero. And yes, you SHOULD stop reading now if you don't know me.

I seem a bit cynical, but in fact I'm pragmatic. Anyone who wants to steer the world to his or her own direction should be busy doing things to make that actually happen. Being vocal on the Internet without actually doing anything is cheap.

I don't judge people from what they say on the Internet, of course. But sometimes when I read opinion like "We should do X because of Y", I do wonder if that person has ever done serious work in the field. To avoid having a straw man argument, we'd better have a look at concrete example.

Whenever a security bug related to memory safety shows up in system software written in C, there are people who claim "we should expunge all C code and rewrite everything in memory safe language because C is unsafe". Technically speaking I agree with them wholeheartedly. I'm not being sarcastic here -- I try to use the right language for the right work in my day job, I've learned more than a dozen of languages over the years. C is terrible language, we do need better system level language(s). But basing argument for replacing C just on the language itself misses the whole picture. C has paramount tooling support, it has the right level of abstraction to work with a machine, the list goes on and on and on. Throwing away decades of effort is just unrealistic. Guess what, people who care have already rolled up their sleeves and started publishing code. Not sure how much of the code is written by the most vocal people on the Internet, though. And I believe if those people who have done the real work are to make the case, they would have used different argument than just "because C is bad".

My wisdom over the years is, people who care are too busy to express opinions on the Internet; those who are very vocal tend to be doing disservice to the things they try to promote. All in all, the Internet is just teeming with useless opinions.

And I admit this piece is my humble contribution to the pool of useless opinions on the Internet. Anyone who takes my words seriously is just wasting his or her time.