Friday, November 15, 2002

Joel Spolsky and Leaky Abstractions
If this article is the norm for Joel Spolsky's blog, I think this blog should be read by every programmer, no matter what level. Joel says something very true here about the Internet and the facade we've built around it. The Internet, like much that has to do with computers, is based on a set of abstractions. (Joel defines an abstraction as a "simplification of something much more complicated going on under the covers.")

As it turns out, a lot of computer programming consists of building abstractions. What is a string library? It's a way to pretend that computers can manipulate strings just as easily as they can manipulate numbers. What is a file system? It's a way to pretend that a hard drive isn't really a bunch of spinning magnetic platters that can store bits at certain locations, but rather a hierarchical system of folders-within-folders containing individual files that in turn consist of one or more strings of bytes. (Joel Spolsky, "The Law of Leaky Abstractions")

Joel's point is that though abstractions are used to make these technologies more usable, sometimes the reality behind these abstractions leak through. (He brings TCP-IP and Net problems that can arise because of the fact that TCP, which is billed as being so reliable, is built on top of IP, a very unreliable technology.) Hence Joel's Law of Leaky Abstractions: "All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky." And we should expect that leakiness in our daily lives, especially when it comes to the Internet.

(Ah, Hal (Helms), I think we've found another reason for that 70% failure rate for software projects that you always talk about.)

This article is just sheer fun -- well written, thoughtful, and how well it describes the often complex and zany world of computer programming and the Internet! But I'll just give you the link and leave you to enjoy it. Comments are appreciated.

(Thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden and his blog for pointing this source out to me. Read Patrick's comments at: (entry for November 13, "Why Systems Fail."))

posted @ 02:43 AM EST [link] [1 Comment]

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

“Welcome to my blog,” said the tall woman in the corner. “Come and have a seat.”

She was wearing a long, elegant evening dress and a smart blue hat with hints of raven hair sticking out. In the room were some cozy chairs, a round table with some snacks and drinks, and lots of comfortable pillows and footrests. A place to sit and talk, a place to rest and relax. Already, several people were seated in some of the armchairs, talking or listening and nursing their drinks.

The image of the room fades away now, and you are startled to realize that indeed, you are sitting at your computer, reading Judith Dinowitz’s blog. Is she the woman in the corner? Are you seated on one of those comfortable chairs, munching some peanuts and drinking some soda or beer? Indeed, is this where you’d like to be?

I hope that this blog becomes like that portrait -- a comfortable place where it’s easy to talk, easy to think, where ideas are fired off quickly and easily and nobody feels like they don’t belong. They can join in the debate and come out of it strengthened and with new thoughts and concepts that they can incorporate into their daily lives.

Now I know you think that I’m taking this a bit too far. I mean, isn’t a blog really just someone’s daily rant? Their online diary – one voice talking in the corner, sometimes politely, sometimes shouting epithets into a cold, dark world?

That might be the vision others have, but I’m hoping for something a bit different. Sure, I’ll be firing off opinions – but they’re opinions that are built on seven years of experience working in the ColdFusion field, first helping my husband Michael on the House of Fusion mailing lists and then as an editor on Fusion Authority. And while you may not agree with what I have to say – sometimes you’ll love me, sometimes you’ll hate me, sometimes you’ll say I’m crazy and sometimes you’ll think I’m right on – I hope that what I bring to this forum is well-considered thought based on my experience, and that you’ll respond. In fact, I invite you to respond to my blog. You can post comments and thoughts either directly on these pages, or by email to me ( I always want feedback, and if I find what you say worthwhile, I may even comment back on these pages.

So let me introduce myself. I’m Judith Dinowitz. Though I’ve been doing editing and writing for years, this is my first experience doing a blog. It’s an experiment, one which I’m very excited about – the chance to stretch myself as a writer.

I hope we can engage in a conversation that will help us each to learn and grow, as people and as professionals. For life is experience and change, and the only way to live it is to forge ahead without fear and live it to the fullest. “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the key is not to be afraid at all.” (Rabbi Nachum of Breslov)

So I’ll leave you with the image of that warm, happy room and hope that you’ll join me here again.
posted @ 01:51 AM EST [link] [2 Comments]

ColdFusion-Related Websites:
House Of Fusion
Fusion Authority
Hal (Great Library of UDFs) (Great CFC List)
CFComet Events and conferences
ColdFusion Training by Adam Churvis

MX-Related Blogs:
Todd Rafferty's Blog
Sean Corfield's Blog
John Dowdell's Blog
Jeremy Allaire's Blog
Matt Brown's Blog
Greg Burch's Blog
Mike Chamber's Blog
Waldo Smeets' Blog
Bob Tartar's Blog

Blogs on Programming:
Joel on Software

Fun and Interesting Blogs on Anything:
Peter David: Writer of Stuff
Glenn Hauman's Blog
Malibulist Blog (A Bunch of Interesting Writers)
Boing Boing
Brad Delong's Website (Economics and other Topics)
Theresa Nielsen Hayden: Making Light
Patrick Nielsen Hayden: Electrolite
Neil Gaiman's Blog
Wil Wheaton Dot Net

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