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Noah Brown
Noah Brown

ClownTown [NEW]

One of them from Facebook was "clown town" or just "clowntown". While there might be several uses, I tended to think of it as an adjective sometimes, almost like calling something "goofy" without calling it straight-up "stupid". Of course, there was also "clowny", with its trailing "y" suggesting adjective use (downy, cushy, wobbly), but that's language for you.


In particular, "clowntown" made it out of the spoken realm and back into the computers in the form of command-line arguments you could pass to certain tools. By using them, you were affirming that whatever you were asking it to do was in fact broken, crazy, goofy, wacky, or maybe just plain stupid, but you needed it to happen anyway. It was a reminder to stop and think about what you were doing, and why you had to resort to that flag in the first place. Then, when the fire was out, you should go back and figure out what can be done to avoid ever having to do that again.

I should also mention that we had other flags which were even scarier than the sort that you might hide behind the --clowntown flag. I think one of them was something like --i-want-to-cause-a-sev. It was the kind of thing we put in place to let us deliberately do something ridiculous like "move every machine in production to a new version of a package RIGHT NOW", even though thesystem in questionhad been designed to never let you do that in normal operations.We'd rather write the tool, gate it strongly, and never use it than find ourselves in a situation where we actually needed it but couldn't make it happen, especially if the system we replaced would have allowed it (by being relatively unsafe overall).

"As messy as Twitter was pre-[E]lon, it is a veritable clowntown of politics and toadyism and psychological abuse now," Dave continued, joking that he's now "afraid to get in my Tesla with what I learned this week." 041b061a72


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