March 14, 2006
A changed landscape
Dave Winer: "The goals have been accomplished. Billions of Websites now no longer seems an outrageously ambitious goal. We're pretty close to a billion, I suspect. The goal was also to create tools that would make it easy for everyone to have a site... That's done." I don't use Dave's tools (tried them, they didn't work for me), but I don't doubt that without his contributions I still wouldn't have a Web site and nor would I find the Web half as useful as I do. "Content management for the rest of us", together with the ecosystem-enabling protocols and formats that underlie it, has opened up the Web as decisively as Visual Basic opened up the Windows desktop. There's a long way to go -- too many of the tools and platforms are tied into the today's straitjacketing chronological structure -- but the underlying concepts and protocols are now there, it's just a matter of finding the right content structures and realising them in code. That's what the so-called Web 2.0 apps seem to be pioneering -- content structures aligned around photography, calendaring, etc. instead of diarising.
Hollywood actor in liberalism shocker
I never in a million years thought I'd find it worth quoting George Clooney, but by jove, he puts it well: "Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, 'We were misled.' It makes me want to shout, 'Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic.'"
Curse of television sf strikes again
Alan Robson: "You can always tell when a TV show is going down the tubes. The characters stop having conversations and they start making speeches."
March 08, 2006
An industry of roles, not of men
Douglas Reilly writes about coming out as a cancer survivor in the software industry. What caught my eye was Douglas' remarks on the obligations that potentially debilitating illness imposes on software developers. Make certain that source code is where it should be, document and explain any oddities, mentor a successor... generally, make sure you are not indispensable.
Good advice, of course. But as a software developer, you should be thinking about this stuff all of the time. Don't wait until you have cancer. As Douglas says, "Might the guy in the next cubicle walk out in front of a bus? Might the gal across the hall have a massive stroke?" You can argue that it's not economic to prepare for such unlikely contingencies, but there is one almost-inevitable contingency which will have pretty much the same effect: you move on to another job. Is it okay to leave your source code on Floppy #391 of 4107 hidden in a filing cabinet labelled "Beware of the Tiger," or to expect your colleagues to figure out by themselves why you embedded a Fortran interpreter into your button control? If not, why leave it to the last minute to clean up your mess? And don't give me any guff about handovers: the handover is when other people close the gap between what you thought you shared and what you actually shared. It's a bug fix for poor on-the-job communication.
I suspect that analogous comments apply to any profession where knowledge is important and bodies are not interchangeable. Perhaps in those other professions this stuff goes without saying. It's certainly a sad reflection on software development that we can't take this as a given.
God loses faith in Blair
Terry Jones: "A high-level leak has revealed that God is 'furious' at Tony Blair's attempts to implicate him in the bombing of Iraq. Sources close to the archangel Gabriel report him as describing the Almighty as 'hopping mad ... with sanctimonious yet unscrupulous politicians claiming He would condone their bestial activities.'"
March 07, 2006
D'Artagnan defeated by French policeman
Okay, it was in a court case over a name change rather than in a dazzling rapier duel, but it's still delighfully ignominious: "Aymeri de Montesquiou Fezensac d'Artagnan, a French senator and president of the Company of Musketeers, denounced the [police] officer as unfit for such a glorious name. The policeman's grandmother, who died last year, was not a member of the French aristocracy, Senator de Montesquiou Fezensac d'Artagnan argued. She spelt her name with a capital 'D', whereas the French nobility always used a small 'd', his spokeswoman said." Quite the parvenu, then.