"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Less Bigness

Dan Cresswell wonders...

I just wonder if our systems would be less big and less complex if we admitted we don't understand all things and stopped making so many incorrect assumptions about how things should be done?


PetrolHead said...

Oh and of course, excuse my bad english ;)


Neel Krishnaswami said...

Hi Patrick,

Something I've wondered about before is that bigness is a vicious cycle. If you're a programmer working on (say) a ten million line system, then of course you don't know how the whole thing works, because the time to learn it all is utterly infeasible.

So when you run into a problem, you don't know whether someone else has solved it before or not, and often you end up re-implementing a solution. So the app has multiple incompatible implementations of the same thing, which feeds the problem of the system being too big to understand.

The question of how we communicate the design solutions we've built to the other programmers is a really deep and interesting one. That's because it's a semantic question: we need to ask the system, and have it tell us, whether (say) a message bus has been implemented already. And what's more, often we really want to take something that exists already and generalize it, so the query engine has to look for specializations of the semantics, too.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.