Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 150

At IBM, I was lucky enough to work on a few projects with Mike Cowlishaw. For example, when I was writing the OS/2 Gopher client, Mike happened to be in San Jose and saw what I was doing; he got interested and quickly created GoServe, a Gopher server which let me put IBM into Gopherspace and later onto the Web.

Mike’s biggest contribution to programming is the REXX Language, probably my favorite programming language ever (even if I haven’t written a Rexx program in many years). Mike made many other contributions to IBM and the industry – one of them was the IBM Jargon Dictionary, a guide to the vocabulary of IBM. The published version is interesting and has a good deal of subtext – the source version was even more interesting and had an amazing amount of subtext hidden in the comments. Sadly, I no longer have a copy of the source version.

I was amused to find that the glossary on the IBM Archives page on includes many entries from the final edition of the Jargon Dictionary. One of them is “non-concur”:

v. To formally state that one will not support the action (such as a product announcement) of another group. The ultimate threat. Grown men have been seen to cry when threatened with this.

I never was personally involved in a non-concurrence, but I knew people who had been on both sides of them, and it seemed like a thoroughly unpleasant process which made no one happy and never really ended.

When I was preparing to interview with Amazon, my friends told me about the Amazon alternative to non-concurrence: “disagree and commit“, where you can (and should) disagree and argue until a decision is made, but then you must commit to implementing it. It seemed like a much better way to handle problems.

Today, I had an opportunity to choose between the two strategies. I was asked to add some text to a page on that I thought made the page less clear than it had been; I couldn’t even come up with a way to rewrite it to make it useful. I couldn’t make any progress with the person requesting the change; I eventually had to ask my “boss” (it’s a volunteer organization, so there are no real bosses) to rule, and she ruled against me. I could have fumed; I could have non-concurred and gone to the District Director. But I decided that I’d disagreed and that it was time to commit, so I implemented the change and moved on.