David Mandl on Sun, 25 Aug 2013 09:38:35 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> "Modern Computer Systems Are Complex - Film at 11"

Hi Keith--

Thanks. That article was years in the making, meaning I'd been
developing those ideas for a long time before I finally got the
opportunity to get them down on paper.

Those are good analogies, and I've thought about various others. Most
important, to oversimplify slightly, people get lazy, bored, and
complacent over time, and their "product" suffers as a result. One of
my thoughts on 9/11 was that those things will happen just because
it's impossible to be vigilant every minute of the day. Condeleezza
Rice gets a memo saying "Bin Laden Determined to Attack the US" and
basically ignores it because she gets memos like that all the time.
She "knows" deep down that Bin Laden isn't going to attack the US, and
that response works 99.9% of the time. Programmers know (or should
know) about weak points in their code and just tell themselves, "Ah,
it's OK," and it *is* OK until...

Computer systems do decay over time, because people take shortcuts or
patch things together in sloppy ways, or because one guy who worked
on the system didn't really know what he was doing, so the pieces of
the system that he wrote are precarious, if anyone can even understand
them. I really think many computer systems are just too big and
complex--there's pretty much no guarantee that something won't blow
up one day. Or it's guaranteed that something will, but people assume
that it'll be something small and harmless.



On Aug 24, 2013, at 6:21 AM, Keith Sanborn <mrzero@panix.com> wrote:

> Both are good articles. IMHO, yours is the better one as it speaks
> from grim experience rather than making a pastiche of famous names
> and sexy quotes. I had read your piece when you first posted it.
> It squares clearly with what I know from small experience using
> assembly language years ago and from many cautionary tales I have
> heard over the years: the uncommented code is not worth writing.



Dave Mandl
Web: http://dmandl.tumblr.com/
Twitter: @dmandl
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