On the Meaning of Entrepreneur

20 May 2015

There has been and is a lot of confusion over the English word entrepreneur. Now, I say English word advisedly, because, though entrepreneur was derived from a French word spelled exactly the same way, a word is not merely a sequence of symbols, but such a sequence in association with a concept or set of concepts, and the English word entrepreneur doesn’t have quite the same meaning as the French word.

The French word means contractor or, more generally, one who undertakes.

We didn’t need a new word for contractor; it would be contemptible affectation of one sort or of another to introduce a longer French word for such purpose. In fact, there was some attempt to engage in that sort of affectation in the 19th Century, first in the entertainment industry.

But the sequence entrepreneur was reïntroduced to English in the mid-20th Century with the intention of identifying a narrower concept that meritted a word of its own. That concept was of a person who attempts to create a market where one does not exist — offering a new sort of product, or offering a sort of product to those who have not been purchasers of such things.

The entrepreneur is not merely a small business person, nor an active business person, nor an independent contractor, nor some combination of the three. The entrepreneur is an economic explorer, seeking to cultivate new territory — typically with pecuniary profit in mind, but sometimes just for the satisfaction of having brought a market into existence.

Whatever the motivation, it is in the rôle of attempting to create markets that the entrepreneur is the great hero and the entrepreneuse the great heroine of the market economy. And some unconscious sense of that heroism has passed through our society, causing business people aren’t such explorers to want to label themselves entrepreneur. The word has become diluted in general use, and many people are using it as if, well, it meant no more than the French word from which it were derived. Economists with a fair understanding of the market process shake their heads in dismay. We need a word for those heroes.

Look and Feel

7 May 2015

Some time within the next few days, I’ll be testing a revision of the visual theme of this 'blog. Things may, at various intervals, get literally ugly. Please bear with me!

If-and-when the revision is completed, on some displays the look-and-feel of the 'blog may seem perfectly unchanged (though that won’t quite be true); but, on wider displays, better use will be made of available space.

If you find that there is a persistent problem with the rendering of this 'blog, then please contact me! Please describe the problem clearly. And, as precisely as you practicably can, please tell me your

  • device (eg, a Dell Inspiron Mini 1012),
  • display-size in pixels (eg, 1024×768),
  • operating system (eg, 64-bit Fedora Core 21, or 32-bit Windows 7 Starter),
  • browser (eg, Opera 12.16)

(If you don’t know some of that stuff, then just tell me what of it you do know.)

For now, I am concerned with how the 'blog is displayed on devices whose display-widths are at least 760 pixels. Later, I will attempt to address how the 'blog is rendered on the lower-resolution displays of some mobile devices.

[Up-Date (2015:05/10): The revised theme is now installed and selected. Again, please let me know if you have problems, and in such case please provide the information listed above.]

Not Following the Script

13 April 2015

I frequently run across the problem of websites whose coders silently presume that all their visitors of interest have Javascript enabled on their browsers. Yester-day, I found this presumption affecting a page of someone whom I know (at least in passing), which prompts me to write this entry. (The person in question did not generate the code, but could suffer economic damage from its flaw.)

The reason that one should not presume that Javascript is enabled on the browsers of all visitors is that Javascript is itself a recurring source of security problems. Careful users therefore enable Javascript only for sites that they trust; very careful users enable Javascript only for sites that they trust and even then only on an as-needed basis; and paranoid users just won’t enable Javascript ever. Now, in theory, the only visitors who might interest some site designers would be careless users, but we should look askance at those designers and at their sites.

(And trusting a site shouldn’t be merely a matter of trusting the competence and good will of the owner of the domain. Unless that owner is also owner of the server that hosts the domain, one is also trusting the party from whom the site owner leases hosting. In the past, some of my sites have been cracked by way of vulnerabilities of my host.)

A designer cannot infer that, if-and-when his or her site doesn’t work because Javascript is not enabled, the visitor will reälize that Javascript needs to be enabled; many problems can produce the same symptoms. Most of the time that sites don’t work with Javascript disabled, they still don’t work with it enabled. Further, the party disabling Javascript on a browser might be different from the present user; the present user might have only vague ideas about how web pages work. (An IT technician might disable Javascript for most browsers of users at some corporate site. Some of those users, perhaps very proficient in some areas but not with IT, may be tasked with finding products for the corporation.)

The working assumption should typically be that Javascript is not enabled, as this assumption will not be actively hurtful when Javascript is enabled, whereäs the opposite assumption will be actively hurtful when Javascript is not enabled.

The noscript element of HTML contains elements or content to be used exactly and only if scripting has been disabled. That makes it well suited to for announcements that a page will work better if Javascript is enabled

<noscript><p class="alert">This page will provide greater functionality if Javascript is enabled!</p></noscript>

or not at all if it is not enabled.

<noscript><p class="alert">This page requires Javascript!</p></noscript>

(It is possible to put the noscript element to other uses.) So a presumption that Javascript is enabled certainly need not be silent.

However, in many cases, the effect got with Javascript isn’t worth badgering the visitor to enable Javascript, and the page could be coded (with or without use of the noscript element) so that it still worked well without Javascript. In other cases, the same effects or very nearly the same effects could be got without any use of Javascript; a great deal that is done with Javascript could instead be done with CSS.

Am I Very Wrong?

24 February 2015

Kindness come too late may be cruelty. I wonder whether I am too late.

In the Spotlight

18 December 2014

The most effective way to hide some things is to shine a light directly upon them. People will then not believe what they are shown.

καταγέλως μῶρος

17 December 2014

There’s a recurring joke that proceeds along these lines:

What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks just one language? American.

Sometimes, the reference is instead to the British. But let’s consider the reality that lies in back of this joke.

The vast majority of people who are bilingual speak English as their second language. Why English? At base, because of the economic significance of those who speak English, especially of those for whom English is their native tongue. This significance originates in the past scope of the British Empire, especially in North America. The American economy was once the world’s largest — at the present, the matter is muddled — and the combined size of the American economy with that of other primarily Anglophonic regions still exceeds that of the Sinophonic[1] or Spanish-speaking regions.

If no language had something like the economic significance of English, then most people who are now bilingual would instead be monolingual. As it is, they had good cause to know English, but it wasn’t their first language, so they learned it as their second.

Thus, mocking people for being strictly Anglophonic generally amounts to mocking them for having been raised amongst the peoples of the linguistic group that has the greatest economic significance. It would be actively stupid to mock them deliberately on this score, and doing so thoughtlessly is not a very great improvement.

(I’m certainly not saying that there are no good reasons for those who know English to learn other languages.)


[1] It may also be noted that the differences amongst what are called dialects of Chinese are often greater than the differences amongst what are regarded as separate languages. These variants of Chinese are labelled as dialects as part of a more general effort to create an illusion of national unity. Mandarin is a widely spoken language, but Chinese is really a family of languages.

To Write, or Not to Write, That Is the Question—

16 December 2014

I wonder whether I’m engaged in soliloquy. Some people have accounts on this 'blog, allowing them access to restricted entries, but I don’t know that anyone is actually logging-in and reading those entries.

Fated

30 November 2014

Off-and-on, I work on the plans for a couple of pieces of serial fiction. And thus it is repeatedly brought to my attention that, for the stories really to work, a profound necessity must drive events; essential elements must be predestined and meaningful.

This characterization contrasts markèdly from my view of real life. I think that people may be said to have personal destinies, but that these can be unreälized, as when we say that someone were meant to do or become something, but instead did or became something else. And, if I did believe that the world were a vast piece of clockwork, then I’d be especially disinclined to think that its dial had anything important to say.

Fifth Rejection and Sixth Attempt

30 November 2014

My short article was rejected by one journal yester-day, and submitted to another in the wee hours of this morning. And, yes, that’s just how the previous entry began.

This time, an editor at the rejecting journal informed me that an unnamed associate editor felt that the article didn’t fit the purposes of the journal. I got no further critique from them than that. (It should be understood that, as many submissions are made, critiquing every one would be very time-consuming.)

With respect to my paper on indecision, I had some fear that I would run out of good journals to which I might submit it. With respect to this short article, I have a fear that I might run out of any journal to which I might submit it. It just falls in an area where the audience seems small, however important I might think these foundational issues.

Fourth Rejection and Fifth Attempt

11 November 2014

My short article was rejected by one journal yester-day, and submitted to another in the wee hours of this morning.

At the journal that rejected it, the article was approved by one of the two reviewers, but felt to be unsuited to the readership of the journal by the other reviewer and by the associate editor. Additionally, the second reviewer and the associate editor suggested that it be made a more widely ranging discussion of the history of subjectivist thought, which suggestion shows some lack of appreciation that foundational issues are of more than historical interest, and that the axiomata invoked by the subjectivists are typically also invoked by logicists. (I say appreciation rather than understanding, because the reviewer briefly noted that perhaps my concern was with the logic as such.)

I made three tweaks to the article. One was to make the point that axiomata such as de Finetti’s are still the subject of active discussion. Another was to deal with the fact that secondary criticism arose from the editor’s and the objecting reviewer’s not knowing what weak would mean in reference to an ordering relation. The third was simply to move a parenthetical remark to its own (still parenthetical) paragraph.

The journal that now has it tries to provide its first review within three months.