Links on the Art of Techology

I have a collection of links that I'd like to share with you. I hope you enjoy and find them as enlightening as I have. Some of these are dated but, I've been milling through them for a while and I feel like they're worth sharing. In three parts:

Computer Programming and Hacking

There's a long tradition of computer scientists and eminent developers thinking about their software development as an Art. Donald Knuth's major work is called "The Art of Computer Programming," and literate programing is fundamentally an artistic rather than a technical idea. The idea of the "lazy programmer" from the Perl world has some obvious artistic implications (hell, Perl's license is called the "Artistic License"), and the Extreme Programing (XP)/Agile Programming world is very much about addressing programming as creative challenge rather than a purely technical challenge.

I particularly like the contrast of the first two articles with the third. While I'm not sure it's particularly conclusive in the brief overview and with such a small sample, the insights about the ways that programmers approach problems is pretty useful. Makes me want to get the book.

I may not be a programmer in the conventional sense (or even any of the unconventional senses that I'm aware of) but there are two things that I know for sure. First: functional programming makes sense to me in a way that nothing else ever really has, and secondly that I am fascinated by the different ways that people use and manage projects with Git.

I think functional program makes sense to me because little blocks that "do something" matches the way my brain is shaped in some useful way. Every introduction to object oriented programming I've ever experienced starts with like 50 pages (or equivalent) of crud about data structures and types . Which I'm sure make sense if you know what's coming next, but if you're a programing n00b: less than helpful.

Also, regarding the use of git: it's fascinating how many different ways and different work-flows people manage to squeeze out of software like this! What he's doing makes sense, a lot of sense on paper, but most people don't publish long-running branches in such an organized manner. Sure there are "vendor branches" for release maintenance, but branches in git tend to be much more ad hoc from what I've seen. Anyway, good one for the file.

I've been looking over weppy for the past few weeks, along with the bindings for a couple of weird databases (of the NoSQL variety, loosely), as part of a brief attempt to learn how to think like a web-developer. (It's hard more on this later.) I find myself both incredibly enchanted with the prospect of some of these frameworks (particularly the python ones), and yet at the same time very unsure of what they represent in terms of the Internet. Frameworks aren't going anywhere, and I think by some measure they are "getting better," I do think they make it awfully easy to avoid putting in the time to "get it right," which might not matter most of the time, but when it does oh boy, does it.

Academia, Anthropology, Literature

I wrote a series of articles on the future of publishing and I found myself returning again and again to these two essays as a source of inspiration, and I haven't quite gotten them out of my head.

I'm not sure if I agree with this consensus, but it seems pretty clear that multi-media websites, twitter, and "blogs" (by some definition of the term) are acceptable replacements for journalistic publishing (newspapers, magazines). These essays, engage literary publishing, and force (particularly the second) us to think about the economics of booksellers, including branding, brick and mortar shops, which I think is incredibly important.

In the piece on Cyborg Anthropology, Amber Case discusses looks at the Singularity from a much less technical perspective. In a lot of ways this reminds me of my post on the Dark Singularity from a few months back. The singularity is, of course ultimately a cyborg problem.

Aaron Swartz's piece on the academy... I don't know that he's wrong, exactly, but I think I would avoid being as unilateral as he is. On the one had disciplines exist mostly to organize education not research, and if I were going to make a conjecture: we see more disciplanarity and sub-disciplining in fields with substantive funding outside of the academy. Doctors, lawyers, psychologists, biologists, chemists, have teeny-tiny little sub-fields; and by contrast you see a lot more interdisciplinary activity in the academic study of anthropology, literature, mathematics, and, say musicology. Interesting, nonetheless.

The Industry of Technology

Two posts here from James Governor of RedMonk that have guided (at least topically) my thinking in a couple of areas recently. This is particularly noticeable if you look over the recent archives. The first addresses Flash and the business of advancing the platform of the web. My trepidation with regards to flash is mostly the same as my trepidation with regards to all web technology. When you get down to it, my grumbling all goes back to the fact that the web is developing into this thing that is all about media rich software, and less about hypertext, which is where my heart has always been. My argument keeps going back to "take the applications off of the web as we know it, and use a platform that (like GTK+ or QT) that's designed for applications, and create a hypertext experience that really works." But it's nice to have articles like this one to pull my head out of (or into?) the clouds to remind me (and us?) what's really going on in the industry.

This is an old one from the same source, about the new "patronage economy" which in many ways defines what's going on at RedMonk. I particularly enjoy how Governor contrasts the New Patronage with other popular web 2.0-era business models. I do worry, looking at this in retrospect about the ways in which such patronages are stable even when the economy is in the crapper (as it were.) I'm not sure if there's an answer to that one yet, but we'll see. I guess my questions, at this juncture are: first, does patronage-type-relationships give "start ups" another funding option which is more stable than venture capital. Second, doesn't the kind of organization and work that's funded by these patronages subvert the kind of work that they depend upon (i.e. big high-margin businesses?)

That's all I have at the moment. If you have links or thoughts to share, I'd live to see them!

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