My concept of the value and power of the internet rests largely on the idea that it is basically many small pieces loosely joined. That idea embraces the use of small, single-purpose widgets that can stand alone, which makes it easy to build and test the widgets. Then it combines them by being joined, but they are loosely joined– there are not lots of dependencies on other included pieces.
The joining makes the overall result very robust and powerful. The small pieces make it very flexible and easy to manage.
That works for the internet itself, and works very well.
But we seem to have major difficulty making the same model work for other systems. I used to think it was just me and my own limited skills at programming and system design. (The “pieces+joined” is almost the antithesis of “system design” but that’s another story….)
And then I came across this gem on today’s O’Reilly’s “Four Short Links.” Jeffries’ experience struck me as my life on a pretty much daily basis.
So why does the internet work but when Jeffries– or poor slobs like me– try to work with the same model, we end up neck deep in yaks? I don’t have a ready answer for that but one possibility that immediately comes to mind is the use of standards. The internet, and it’s child the web, work because there are clearly articulated and enforced standards that you have to follow, else your application won’t work.
But the likes of Google App Engine and python (substitute your favorite environment tools here), don’t follow the same clear articulation of standards. Depending on what gib repository you use or what options you use when installing python and it’s many libraries or your own development structure, using someone else’s sample code may or may not work right. You are just as likely to end up with a room full of yaks as a working tool.
“We want to see what people do with this kind of technology when we leave it up to them,” Frauke Zeller, one of the creators and an assistant professor in professional communication at Toronto’s Ryerson University, told the AP. “It’s an art project in the wild — it invites people to participate.”
And as hitchBOT itself said, “I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!”
I fully expect that hitchBOT Jr. will rise soon. After all, that is the pattern of the humans who originally brought hitchBOT to our presence.
Thank you hitchBOT for your wonderful journey and thanks for what has been and what will become!
TechCrunch today pointed to Ethereum and Augur which started my latest tech exploration and, of course, led to Bitcoin. In spite of it’s widely recognized role in the underground ‘Net world as a means to conduct financial transactions securely and without regulatory oversight (think Silk Road, marijuana stores circumventing US ban on access to traditional banks), Bitcoin relies upon some very interesting and capable technology approaches. Deeply rooted in the open source world, Bitcoin is fully de-centralized relying on peer-to-peer technology and top security.
From what I can see, Ethereum is sort of the “meta” version of Bitcoin. It seeks to provide a framework of decentralized connectivity and strong security upon which tools like Bitcoin could be readily built. And Augur is one of the first efforts to do that. In Augur’s case the industry is prediction markets.
My exploration has just started but this whole world of open-source, highly secure, decentralized operations strikes me as one of the fundamental economic shifts ushered in by the Internet (noting that “the Web” is only one part of “the Internet”).