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
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
a few months back. The singularity is, of course ultimately a cyborg
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
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
This is an old one from the same source, about the new “patronage
economy” which in many ways defines what’s going on at
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
That’s all I have at the moment. If you have links or thoughts to share,
I’d live to see them!