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Created November 5, 2012 05:04
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Ryan Dahl on Software

I hate almost all software. It's unnecessary and complicated at almost every layer. At best I can congratulate someone for quickly and simply solving a problem on top of the shit that they are given. The only software that I like is one that I can easily understand and solves my problems. The amount of complexity I'm willing to tolerate is proportional to the size of the problem being solved.

In the past year I think I have finally come to understand the ideals of Unix: file descriptors and processes orchestrated with C. It's a beautiful idea. This is not however what we interact with. The complexity was not contained. Instead I deal with DBus and /usr/lib and Boost and ioctls and SMF and signals and volatile variables and prototypal inheritance and C99_FEATURES and dpkg and autoconf.

Those of us who build on top of these systems are adding to the complexity. Not only do you have to understand $LD_LIBRARY_PATH to make your system work but now you have to understand $NODE_PATH too - there's my little addition to the complexity you must now know! The users - the one who just want to see a webpage - don't care. They don't care how we organize /usr, they don't care about zombie processes, they don't care about bash tab completion, they don't care if zlib is dynamically linked or statically linked to Node. There will come a point where the accumulated complexity of our existing systems is greater than the complexity of creating a new one. When that happens all of this shit will be trashed. We can flush boost and glib and autoconf down the toilet and never think of them again.

Those of you who still find it enjoyable to learn the details of, say, a programming language - being able to happily recite off if NaN equals or does not equal null - you just don't yet understand how utterly fucked the whole thing is. If you think it would be cute to align all of the equals signs in your code, if you spend time configuring your window manager or editor, if put unicode check marks in your test runner, if you add unnecessary hierarchies in your code directories, if you are doing anything beyond just solving the problem - you don't understand how fucked the whole thing is. No one gives a fuck about the glib object model.

The only thing that matters in software is the experience of the user.

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Bottom line is - someday I hope someone writes a better OS than Unix. I pray to God everyday that my Ubuntu Desktop machines boots up, because it's not a given lol. I think ultimately open source software mostly sucks, but that's another thing altogether.

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If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

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While it is pleasant to imagine our world is made of sterner stuff than software, I've stepped through enough buildings with lead-laden plumbing and asbestos-lined walls, yes, even in the 21st Century, and no, they weren't condemned, that I do not believe the two disciplines are all that far off. They merely both have the ability to construct a pleasant-seeming facade.

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alevosia commented May 5, 2020

What about developer experience?

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the computer revolution hasn't happened yet.

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lastmaj commented May 27, 2021

I think this is painfully true (and hard to swallow)

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KulaGGin commented Jun 6, 2021

Uncle Bob disagrees:

The only thing that matters in software is the experience of the user.

That's not the only thing that matters. There are many other things that matter: how long does it take you to deliver this software, how clean the code is, just 2 examples.

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