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Why is JavaScript not compiled to bytecode before sending over the network?

Really?

Please use comments for improving or clarifying the provided answer, in a civil tone. Personal attacks and accusations are not cool. Rudeness is not cool. If you feel that the answer or comments are rude or abusive then please flag them for moderator attention, otherwise vote for the answer on its own merit. – maple_shaft♦ 2 days ago

How in the hell do people get into a fight over the relative merits of how javascript gets compiled?


Why I am asking this question

  1. Without access to the comments, there isn't any accountability. How would the community evaluate the merits of locking unless the comments were visible? Are we just supposed to trust moderator judgement?

  2. What harm was brought to the community by these comments? Was it a bar fight, or just simple disagreement? Did someone use one of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television? If there is no harm, are we guarding against potential future harm?

  3. Locking comments alone (without locking the entire post) is a new capability. Are we using it sensibly? In the past, there was a measure of restraint around locking, because doing so freeze-dried the entire post. Now that restraint is gone; it becomes much easier to simply stop conversations in their tracks.

  4. There is a larger picture here. The way people interact on these sites has now become an obsession at SE corporate. Is there an actual civility problem on Software Engineering that needs to be addressed?

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    I think that @EricLippert has a passionate view on the question and people were being pedantic about his tone. It wasn't helpful. – maple_shaft Dec 13 '19 at 20:03
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    Well, that's usually what editing is for, but I'm not going to be the one to edit Eric's answer to sanitize it so that it doesn't offend anyone's sensibilities. Folks can deal with it just the way it is. – Robert Harvey Dec 13 '19 at 20:07
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    People totally overreacted to that answer, which I thought not only answered the question but also gave some insight into the standardization process, which gives more context to the answer. Can't say more than that, I'd probably break some rule(s) saying what I think. :) – MetalMikester Dec 16 '19 at 12:16
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    you talkin' about Shaft? – Ewan Dec 18 '19 at 16:38
  • @MetalMikester: They say "you don't want to see how sausage is made", but I can tell you that the vast majority of standards committee meetings I've attended are good-faith arguments about the relative merits of minutia that the vast majority of programmers would find uninteresting. Knowing what not to have an argument about is a valuable skill that not all committees have. :) – Eric Lippert Jan 2 at 22:00
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First off, I asked to have a number of comments deleted on my answer, and I appreciate that they were deleted in an expeditious manner.

How in the hell do people get into a fight over the relative merits of how javascript gets compiled?

I can lay it out for you.

A number of commenters were "responding to tone". I noted that responding to tone is very low on the "hierarchy of disagreement" and that I would not be responding to comments on tone, only comments on the factual accuracy of the answer.

Rather than agreeing with me that commenting on tone is generally unhelpful, a number of commenters then doubled down. In their continued comments on my tone, they accused me of being:

  • like a serial harasser of women
  • "tone deaf"
  • a lying, disingenuous corporate shill
  • and so on

This time no one compared me to Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebbels, but I have had people responding to tone compare me to those people as well.

Now, first off, there is never a call for any ad hominem personal attack. You can disagree with what I say, and you can think that I say it in an inelegant or counterproductive way, but suggesting that I am like those guys who serially harass women because I wrote one sentence that someone read as strongly worded is not in the spirit of this site.

Second, suppose someone told you that you were a disingenuous lying corporate shill. Would you trust that person to be a good judge of what the right "tone" is for this site? I wouldn't.

I do confess though that I found all the "You sound too hostile, you lying jerk!" comments hilarious. But as unintentionally funny as they were, I also felt like they should be deleted as they were not in the spirit of the site; I want to discourage that kind of behaviour, even if it does secretly amuse me.

So I asked for the comments to be deleted. Since they were arriving faster than I could ask them to be deleted, I am glad that the moderator went the extra distance to lock the post.

Without access to the comments, there isn't any accountability. How would the community evaluate the merits of locking unless the comments were visible? Are we just supposed to trust moderator judgement?

The moderator made the right call. Now, as for the question of "how do we hold moderators accountable?", that's a great question. Who reviews moderator decisions? I don't know. I'd be interested to learn more.

What harm was brought to the community by these comments? Was it a bar fight, or just simple disagreement? Did someone use one of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television? If there is no harm, are we guarding against potential future harm?

Ad hominem personal attacks are unwelcoming and defeat the purpose of the site.

Locking comments alone (without locking the entire post) is a new capability. Are we using it sensibly?

In this particular case I believe so. As for the broader question, I don't know; that would fall under the earlier point about determining whether moderators are behaving appropriately.

Is there an actual civility problem on Software Engineering that needs to be addressed?

I do not enjoy being accused of being like the Nazi propaganda minister in return for spending my valuable time answering user questions.

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    Sounds like the comment purge was entirely justified. I can think of an almost unlimited number of things that are far more worthy of negative attention than your tone. I continue to be surprised by the behavior I see on the Internet. There's no shortage of outrage; apparently people can now be offended by almost anything. – Robert Harvey Jan 2 at 21:29
  • @RobertHarvey: Thanks. I should note that there was one comment on tone that gave helpful advice, which I followed. – Eric Lippert Jan 2 at 21:30
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    My perspective was different when I was a moderator. As a mod, I could see deleted comments. – Robert Harvey Jan 2 at 21:34
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I think maple_shaft's answer is good, but I'd like to add to it.

First, I don't totally buy into the "comments are ephemeral". However, they do have a specific purpose - to address questions, concerns, and other feedback on the post they are attached to. They aren't for discussion of other (related) topics or half answers or unrelated questions.

Comments on that particular post were drawing a large number of flags, which is why I went for the new comment lock. I believe at one point there were three different flags related to comments on that post and several earlier flags related to comments had already been cleared. It was clear that people needed a chance to cool down (which is why I applied a timed lock rather than a permanent lock).

Going back a little before, I think that there were some earlier issues with both the question and the answer that should have been addressed. There were (are) some tone issues with the question itself, which led to issues in tone across the answers and comments. However, I still haven't seen a good way to edit the question and its answers for tone in a way that makes sense - the ripple effect would be pretty big and I just don't know what the edits would look like, much less have the time to make them and clean up more comments. It's a case of not wanting to invalidate not only answers, but comments on various answers.

I don't think that there's a broad civility problem on Software Engineering, but minor instances do pop up from time to time. And this is just an example. The hotness of the question didn't help much, either - most instances are quickly and quietly resolved.

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    Thanks for your thoughtful answer; I appreciate it! – Eric Lippert Jan 2 at 21:23
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Not sure I know how to answer what goes on in the hearts and minds of other human beings, so I can only speak to the events themselves.

We happened to get a direct answer from possibly one of the best inside sources of direct knowledge on the very question. Eric Lippert showed up to give a first hand account of the rationalization that went into design decisions with Javascript decades ago. He speaks with authority and certainty on the subject because he IS an authority on the subject (or at the very least he was). Merely stating the facts would have been a good answer, but oftentimes as is common in many engineering decisions and tradeoffs, the choices that are made are sometimes subjective, up for interpretation, or based on gut feelings and other emotions and politics at the moment.

Is it any surprise that Eric Lippert would answer with passion on the subject knowing that there was likely some level of subjective reasoning and conjecture that went into the decision?

I think sometimes people see passion and it makes them uncomfortable. Passionate people can be misunderstood to be rude or have a "tone" problem. Other people I think just get off on being contrarians and get a warm fuzzy feeling inside by standing up to an authority or subject matter expert and throwing a pedantic jab or technicality in their face, just because they can, because it makes them feel a tiny power trip. The ego is a fragile thing.

Without access to the comments, there isn't any accountability. How would the community evaluate the merits of locking unless the comments were visible? Are we just supposed to trust moderator judgement?

Comments are inherently meant to be an ephemeral attribute of an answer. The conversations of which are meant to clarify and improve upon questions and answers. By themselves they are not supposed to have any real value, so it is somewhat meaningless to put a power check on the moderators' ability to delete them. I suppose flagging for additional moderators might be the only check against a moderator on a comment deletion binge.

What harm was brought to the community by these comments? Was it a bar fight, or just simple disagreement? Did someone use one of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television? If there is no harm, are we guarding against potential future harm?

I won't go into the specifics of the comments but there were some borderline libelous conjecture by some, and just plain unhelpful pedantry by others. It robbed from and distracted from an otherwise great answer from an excellent first hand source.

Locking comments alone (without locking the entire post) is a new capability. Are we using it sensibly? In the past, there was a measure of restraint around locking, because doing so freeze-dried the entire post. Now that restraint is gone; it becomes much easier to simply stop conversations in their tracks.

That was the point. Comments are abused constantly with banter, back and forth, and extended chat sessions. That is why we have chat rooms, so that stuff doesn't pollute the Q&A with unnecessary information.

There is a larger picture here. The way people interact on these sites has now become an obsession at SE corporate. Is there an actual civility problem on Software Engineering?

I think there is an Ego problem with human beings. We don't like being judged. We take down votes and close votes personally. We all do, nobody is above it. The best of us though, after we lick our wounds, we will try to learn from our mistakes and become stronger, smarter people. Stronger smarter people make for more useful questions, answers and content.

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    I never really bought into the "ephemeral comments" thing. I think it legitimately started that way as an escape valve explanation for why unsuitable, damaging comments can be removed without warning and without explanation, but it turned into a proxy for shutting down conversations. Comments are useful for all sorts of things that we now consider verboten: leaving links to supplementary material, posting short answers that wouldn't meet most sites' exacting standards for answers, and yes, meaningful dialog (really, the only way to get an answer to some underspecified questions). – Robert Harvey Dec 13 '19 at 20:03
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    Alas, we've nerfed comments to the point where they really have become useless. – Robert Harvey Dec 13 '19 at 20:04
  • @RobertHarvey "only way to get an answer to underspecified questions" Which is exactly what I meant by improving the quality of questions. As for posting helpful links, that has the problem of link rot. – maple_shaft Dec 13 '19 at 23:08
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    The comment section grew for a reason: the answer starts out to snuff any desire to ask questions like this. The contents of the answer is great, but when you come to a community, you have to abide by the rules regardless of who you are or what your passion is. The correct action would be to edit out the portion which criticises the question as it has no bearing on the subject. But apparently it's OK because it's Eric Lippert, and if anyone doesn't like this, it's his "ego" problem. Do you really want every answer start out like this? If anything makes StackExchange unwelcoming, it's this. – Malcolm Dec 16 '19 at 15:28
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    If comments are meant to be ephemeral, they should all be removed after a certain time. Currently we often end up left with extremely confusing one-sided conversations when comments get deleted, which just makes the experience frustrating. – Chris Cooper Dec 20 '19 at 10:52
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    @Malcolm: I'm not sure what "ego problem" you're referring to, but I do not appreciate being psychoanalyzed by non-psychologists who do not know me. I frequently push back on vague questions, particularly "why not" questions in an effort to make questions more precise and therefore more answerable. Helping people write more precise questions and avoid vague, unanswerable questions is helpful for both the asker and the answerer. – Eric Lippert Jan 2 at 21:28
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    @maple_shaft: thanks for your thoughtful answer and your mod work. I lol'd at "or at least he was". You speak the truth; my knowledge of modern JavaScript is sadly lacking! The language is not that different than it was in the 1990s but the way it is used is utterly changed. We had no idea that enormous frameworks were going to become the norm. – Eric Lippert Jan 2 at 21:39
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    @Malcolm: To address your points more directly: my intention is not to "snuff out desire", but rather to encourage the questioner to reflect upon whether the question as asked can be answered. I had a sailing enthusiast acquaintance once who would make small talk at parties by asking "do you sail? WHY NOT?" which was funny because of course we are not required to list well-thought-through reasons why we don't sail. A "why not" question presupposes that the way the world the asker thinks it ought to be is so obviously better that we need to provide reasons why it is not their way. – Eric Lippert Jan 3 at 1:17
  • @Malcolm: To answer your question "do we want every answer to start out like this?" No, we do not. Discouraging vague questions and encouraging careful patterns of thought and research before asking the question is a one way to try to prevent answers from starting out by pushing back on the question. I would like very much to not have so many questions that would benefit from this sort of pushback. – Eric Lippert Jan 3 at 1:19
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    @EricLippert You help write better questions in a very unhelpful way then. Firstly, the correct way to do that on SE is add a comment suggesting how the answer can be improved, or, better yet, edit the question yourself. If the question is vague indeed, downvote or close vote it. Your answer isn't the place to do that. Secondly, I'm very surprised by your comparison. It's obvious why most people don't sail, it's completely non-obvious why JS doesn't use bytecode like many other languages do to everyone who doesn't have the domain knowledge like you do. Why do you not see that? – Malcolm Jan 3 at 14:06
  • The only thing that's clear here is that there are some economical, historical, and architectural reasons, perfectly valid, but impossible to know without becoming an expert in this domain. Or unless it's easily found on Google, in which case the question should simply be closed, but the community doesn't agree with that. Thirdly, you've demonstrated yourself that the question is perfectly answerable, so the point that it isn't is kind of moot. – Malcolm Jan 3 at 14:10
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To provide additional context:

In addition to some inappropriate comments attacking StackExchange members, there were also comments (and answers) which attacked other standardization members (i.e., members who were not participating in the stackexchange topic at all).

One user:
A) Made ad hominem comments on other answers.
B) Included some ad hominem attacks within their answer.
C) Reverted an edit on their answer which remove these attacks.

Since the user was unwilling to accept an edit, I (and probably other users) flagged the answer for moderator attention.

Of course, this behavior by itself would probably not have required locking answers (a single user's behavior could be dealt with individually), but it does provide a hint as to how heated the topic became.

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  • That answer was quite something, indeed. – Eric Lippert Jan 3 at 1:23

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