Is civility harmful?
Mark Baker has an interesting response to a piece by Elliotte Rusty Harold on Web Services. Mark, despite calling himself a "Tech Curmudgeon", takes issue with Elliotte's use of the word "idiots", and asks "So please folks, try to keep it civil. Comments such as this one only serve to alienate, which is the last thing we need."
I'm not a particularly friendly or polite person, and didn't see Elliotte's comments as anywhere close to out of line. Still, I think I agree with Mark that "Comments such as this one only serve to alienate". Where I part company is that I think alienation is important, and that pretending we like each other more than we really do is likely to produce muddy compromises at best.
In the case of Web Services and XML, it's become clearer and clearer over time that these technologies are barely related and frequently in conflict. Web Services happens to use XML, but they use it quite badly, from the perspective of many XML people. As Elliotte says "Web Services violate the fundamental design of XML". Not only that, but the ambitions of Web Services have been a driving force behind some rather toxic specifications, notably W3C XML Schema. I don't mind saying that Web Services is poisoning XML, turning what was once a simplification into a major new set of complications.
Does that alienate people? Yes! It should. I'd love to get the Web Services folks to rethink their foundations. Failing that, making clear that there are serious points of friction seems like the best course of action - and being civil has little to contribute to that. Forking is not a risk here - it's an opportunity.
Of course, I also found this rant well-worth reading, though it's quite completely over the top. Expecting progress to come in neatly-wrapped boxes with thank-you notes attached seems like a lot too much to ask - and counter-productive, to boot.