Archive for February, 2004

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About Software and Wooden Chairs

Rajdeep Singh Chimni (my friend and senior from college) wrote this interesting viewpoint about writing / coding software. I liked it so I thought I’ll share it with my blog family.


It is still possible to take pride in your craft while writing business applications. The problems you work on may seem mundane to you compared to creating video codecs or something, but to your clients they are real world problems with real payoffs if they are solved. It doesn’t take long to see that building software, even when it is software with zero new engineering challenges, is hard to do successfully. Most of your peers are failing at it to greater or lesser degrees most of the time.

You can be better than that. You can apply your understanding of abstract systems and logic and try to solve the hard problems. The catch is, most of the hard problems are not pure engineering problems, but rather involve issues of user interaction, and coping with changes well. Any fool can write a simple web application, but writing one in a way that lasts, that is easy to maintain, that gives as much control as possible to your clients, and scales well when needed — that’s hard, and it takes some discipline.

The reward is that most people are genuinely thrilled when you solve something for them that seemed difficult, especially if you can do it fast (perl), cheap (perl), and better than they were expecting (you).

Sorry, I guess I’m getting a little preachy in my old age. If you really can’t take pleasure in improving the way you do things at your job, maybe you can still have fun surprising them with a cool application of AI to a categorization task, or an OpenGL graph on their reports. But I think the craftsman approach has something to offer, and I look at it this way: if you have to spend all day making wooden chairs, you might as well make the best damn wooden chairs anyone has ever seen.

Thanks Chimni- BTW I have taken the liberty of adding a title to your writing.

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Darwin | Swarm Intelligence – The socialization of the enterprise leads to intelligence rising to the top

While reading the article mentioned in the previous post I stumbled upon this interesting piece by the same author. Is swarmocracy the most democratic process in action?
Coming to think of it… swarmocracy (as the author describes it) can thought to related to evolutionary algorithm method of problem-solving. Self learning systems are also probably a close relative.

I would love to get some feedback/discussion regarding this. Please feel free to add in a comment / mail me : c_sayan at rediffmail dot com

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Darwin | Wicked (Good) Wikis

This is nice look into wikis and how they are similar and yet different from blogs. Of course not to forget the biggest wiki project : Wikipedia.

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I am just back from a 15 day whirlwind visit across West Bengal covering Calcutta, Shantiniketan, Durgapur and Asansol. I was visiting my relatives after a gap of 7 years.
It was a nice visit and apart from the fond memories I have also brought back plenty of gifts and a budding paunch too (from endless amounts of sweets and fish).

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Strait Times | Homing birds are just streetwise

Pigeons may appear dumb but are turning out to be really street smart. This sheds a little more light into the homing instinct of birds and even migration.

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CNET News.com | Spyware cures may cause more harm than good

This interesting point had come up in the recent Palm Users Group meet I attended. Everyone at the meet suspected that a number of anti-spyware programs are themselves spyware.

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Wired 12.02 | The Computer at Nature’s Core

Prof. Channel argues that computing or making choices lies at the heart of all the matter around us.

This reminds me of the scence from Matrix where the Oracle says that “you always have a choice. One cannot look further than a choice which one cannot understand.”

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Wired 12.02 | Living Machines

What Wired writes may often sound wierd but they have an interesting knack of predicting the future. This article explores the dividing line between the non-living and the living.

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Wired 11.10 | How Ravenous Soviet Viruses Will Save the World

Drug-resistant bacterial diseases are straining the defenses based on many decades of research into anti-biotics. Help maybe at hand from decades old forgotten research into bacteriophages.

Footnote: I just finished reading ‘The Future of Life’ which mentioned that most of the world’s antibiotics are produced from a single class of fungi. This makes it even more important to protect the ecosystems which are natural reserves of disease busting solutions whether its viruses or plants.

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USA Today | For Google, many retailers eagerly jump through hoops

The Google ranking of a business can be the thin line between make and break for small businesses.

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