Rebuttal: The difference between curmudgeon and curmudgeon [@shrdlu]

[This was originally published on This is a rebuttal piece to “The difference between curmudgeon and curmudgeon.” (May 27, 2011) by shrdlu, which is itself a reply of sorts to my reply to Bill Brenner’s “Take the word curmudgeon and shove it” rant. Blockquoted material is from @shrdlu.]

“It’s about maturity, which is a very different beast.”

According to the dictionarymature is defined as “fully developed in body or mind, as a person: a mature woman“. Suggesting that less-than-polite replies to someone in the industry is immature is presumptuous. Being mature and taking shots at someone are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I argue that a mature person can very well reply to someone in a variety of ways, and a so-called immature response is simply one of those choices.

“In my more than 25 years in the industry, I’ve seen the attitude promulgated that if you’re smart and have skillz, it’s okay to be an asshole. That it’s somehow okay to hurl insults under the guise of “educating” someone and that they should be grateful for it. That caring about something gives you permission to display your bad temper for all to see, because you’ll make up for it by doing something really cool.”

In your 25 years, apparently you didn’t learn logical argument as you heap a load of extra caveats and definition onto a term that no one else has brought up before. I even went out of my way to define exactly what a curmudgeon was, at least in the context of these articles, and you ignored it completely. That is immature if you ask me. Instead, you describe an egotistical asshole, not a curmudgeon.

It is also amusing that you throw out your “25 years” as a way to command respect, and berate people who think that because of their time in the industry they are “entitled” to insult others. Is it fair that you say tenure does not give them the right to insult others, but want people to respect your opinion and your right to insult them based on your tenure?

“There are plenty of egotists in the industry who think they’re entitled to a free pass on manners, and when I’m hiring, I steer clear of them, because there are just as many genius-level hackers who can also manage to behave themselves and work cooperatively with others without starting brawls.”

Apparently, as a manager, you are unable to understand that people can be very different on and off work. You imply that somehow, someone who shows the levels of immaturity that you assign to curmudgeons couldn’t possibly behave themselves or work cooperatively. This is baffling to me, as I could provide a list of managers I have worked for that will tell you otherwise. Each of them knowing full well who I was off work, what I wrote and how I behaved.

Your comments also remind me of those insipid and ignorant managers who made absurd claims like “I only hire whitehats!”. Because they shoved their head in the sand and opted not to consider what an employee may do outside of work, they somehow thought their hiring practices were solid and they couldn’t possibly hire a person that leads a dual life. It’s amazing how many of those managers were employing what many now call ‘gray hats’; white hat by day, black hat by night.

“Nobody would call Jayson Street a n00b or naďve, and yet he also tries to help wherever he can without being a jerk about it.”

Did you say something about 25 years? This comment suggests you have been in the industry for a year or two at most. I personally think Jayson Street is both naďve and a n00b. There, your article is factually incorrect. Before you go off on some silly notion that I am the only one, let me stop you in advance from embarassing yourself. There are a lot of people in our industry that think the same. Many are not vocal about it because Jayson is well-liked for being a “nice guy”, but not well respected because of his past actions (e.g., some of his presentations, the ‘Dissecting the Hack’ fiasco, etc.).

Like many people, your judgement is clouded because you like him as a person, not because you are objectively evaluating his expertise.

“There is absolutely no need to sully enlightenment, integrity, openness and honesty by adding rage (and let’s call it what it really is: a temper tantrum).”

There is a distinct line between throwing some snarky comments, showing a healthy level of disdain, and a temper tantrum. Your blurring of the lines is self-serving and undermines the point you are trying to make. If I throw out a few tweets with curmudgeonly remarks, or even ones that would qualify as rude or filled with mock-rage, it isn’t a temper tantrum of any sort. It may be something as simple as mild annoyance or creative writing to make a point.

“Every honorable goal that security professionals have – be it research, defense, development or education – can be achieved without stomping on fellow humans in the process.”

That is certainly a good point. But you also forget about what happens in our industry when we forgo those negative emotions and actions. It makes us unwilling to look past “he’s a nice guy” to see “he doesn’t know jack shit”. That in turn leads to a common acceptance of a person that would otherwise be considered a charlatan by most people’s standards. A bunch of nice people in a group doing nothing but patting each other on the back and lobbing compliments to each other isn’t conducive to a critical and skeptical body capable of honest peer-review with integrity.

“Age does not confer the right to bully others under the guise of “educating” them; nor does any level of experience or knowledge. No matter how much you’ve contributed to the state of security (or think you’ve contributed – watch that ego again), you still don’t get a pass on any bad behavior, and your lack of social skills is not a badge of honor.”

In so many words, in your article, you have called curmudgeons (by your skewed definition) immature, assholes, ill-tempered, egotistical, uncooperative, combatative, ugly, childish and a bully. Remind me again what your entire article is ranting about? Oh, that’s right.. curmudgeons that you brand with the same traits exhibited by yourself. I don’t see any difference between your claims of their actions and your own as far as criticism and bullying.

Now, based on the above.. am I a curmudgeon (my definition, not yours) or an asshole for pointing all of this out?

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