Sep 13, 2008

Malik's Laws of Home Construction

One of our architects posted a link to Malik's Laws of Service Oriented Architecture which argues that building reusable services/software is futile. I responded with this version that substitutes "brick" for "service" throughout:

Malik's Laws of Home Construction

  • No one but you will build the bricks you need in time for you to use them
  • If you build a brick that no one else asked for, you will have built it for yourself
  • If you build a brick for yourself, you will optimize it for your own use
  • It is therefore the optimal brick for you to use
  • It is very unlikely to be the optimal one for anyone else to use
  • No one besides you will use it
  • You will not use anyone else's

And so forth. Notice that Malik is 100% right in the context of primitive (mud brick) construction and 100% wrong in the context of modern (real brick) construction.

Also notice that customers never clamor for a transition from the mud bricks they're used to. The statement of work invariably specifies more of the same, meanwhile complaining bitterly of labor costs, weathering, and roofs collapsing on their heads. As if this were a law of nature instead of a shortcoming of the mud brick approach to architecture.

The  transition from primitive to modern is a slow and evolutionary process that isn’t even mainly technological. Its mostly about trust building, which only begins when a pioneer takes the risk and their customer starts telling their friends. I’d like us to be that pioneer (and yes, I know about pioneers and arrows).

DNI Open Source Conference 2008

I attended the DNI Open Source Conference yesterday but left right after the keynore, as soon as I realized that "Open Source Intelligence" is not at all what we mean by "Open Source Software". We mean pipes. They mean contents. And I find DNI's meaning deeply disturbing.

Part of it was the keynote speaker's "double humped camel" analogy where the gap between humps was the budget cuts of the 1990s. He followed with a "moment of silence for 9/11 victims" which I realized was a triumphant celebration of his camel's second hump in politically-correct disguise.

DNI's meaning of "open source" is basically anything that's not nailed down (as distinct from "closed source" which is). He alluded to that meaning in "there’s real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open".

He's not talking about software. He's talking about sifting thru mountains of irrelevant information about people's daily lives to draw half-baked conclusions from anything they find there. Airline records. Credit card records. Speed cameras. Street cameras. Anything that's not nailed down.

And that scares the bejezus out of me. Obviously because of the police state implications but also because of the dubious quality of this information. Yes, its free, and worth every penny. Arithmetically better refining of exponentially lower-quality data is just not as effective as putting boots on the ground to develop quality intel resources.

Didn't 9/11 teach us what comes from relying on high-tech SIGINT at the expense of low-tech HUMINT? Especially with even more second-hump resources to get in each other's way?

Grumpf. Oh my country.