Saturday, August 23, 2008

97 Things -- The Strength of Communication

Some things you just connect with right away.

I stumbled onto a new project by Richard Monson-Haefel and O'Reilly in a series called "97 Things" where they have created a site for axioms based around "97 Things That Every Software Architect Should Know":

http://97-things.near-time.net/wiki

Software architects and developers are encouraged to submit their best advice for the project and possible inclusion into a final book. The writing style is an axiom with a 250 to 500 word description, long enough to explain the axiom, short enough to be right to the point.

This is a great idea, and a great way to handle it.

There is a huge amount of knowledge and experience out there buried in the rank and file, that hasn't made it back to mainstream. Software developers learn a lot from hard fought battles, but little of it returns to the overall industry.

This idea taps all of that potential and opens it up to an industry that is hungering for information. We get tutorials, reference books, and textbooks, but that type of information is rather limited. It tells you what things are, but not how to utilize them. You get to understand the parts, but not how to apply them.

We're looking for higher-level understandings. Things beyond technology and syntax. Things to makes our lives easier. Things to make sure that we'll be able to finish our projects as successfully as we start them.

There already has been an explosion of bloggers pushing the established topics, feeding the front line programmers and software developers with alternative viewpoints. This trend is clearly going to continue. But I also expect that the more traditional media will come to understand that although the web has replaced the older technical book markets, there are new ones opening up that will be based on distilling a wider range of less formal information. A kind of grassroots movement for utilizing and understanding the impact of technologies.

We're coming to another fork in the road for software development; a time where we can jump up a few steps and new technologies can spew forth at an astonishing rate. If we're to breakout of our current limitations, these new offerings have to build on our real experiences, and for that we have to leave the comfort of our cubicles and spread our ideas far and wide.

What is known out there, and what is currently talked about is only a fraction of what is really happening. It's not the loudest that we need, its the masses that should be feeding their input back into the process. We need to find a way to conquer the complexities that cripple our systems. We need to find a way to make massive systems simple again. Only then can we reach further into the potential of our machines.

It is up to us, the people building with these technolgoies, to make sure that the future generations fix the current problems. Too often history is forgotten, and the bugs of the past revisited. Too many technologies fail before they even leave the drawing board. Without feedback, nothing changes.

Contribute, its the only way that you can ensure that your underlying dependencies are going to get better and easier, not bloated and ugly.

ADMINISTRIVIA: On a minor, unrelated note, but I keep forgetting to mention it, I've tied my bookmarks to a FeedBurner/Blogger RSS feed called "Way Overflow". So, like Raganwald's feed, if you subscribe you can see what I am bookmarking. The only difficult bit is that the name, unfortunately, needs quotes to find it in an app like Google reader because it matches soo many different entries as a string. Maybe I'll rename it to something else?