January 29, 2010


It’s hard to read some­thing so incred­i­bly naïve and not want to comment.

You can browse the Inter­net, or check your mail, or take notes, or lis­ten to music, but when you’re out of lit­tle but­tons to press then you’re out of things to do.


Some of the biggest com­plaints come from pro­gram­mers that say the closed sys­tem means peo­ple won’t be able to sat­is­fy their com­put­er curiosi­ties. To which I again say: Good! Then they’ll have to sat­is­fy their curiosi­ties about emo­tion­al matu­ri­ty and social inter­ac­tion and pos­si­bly even think­ing about mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.


But how­ev­er will chil­dren learn how to pro­gram? Sim­ple: We will make them appli­ca­tions that teach them how to pro­gram. Every kid wants to make video games and Google, so it’s not like hav­ing a closed sys­tem will make them for­get that such things are possible.


(I reach this part in the post when I start won­der­ing whether it’s a mas­ter­ful­ly dis­guised par­o­dy piece, and I check some oth­er posts. It seems not.)

And because the iPad is so ele­gant and makes ele­gance so rel­a­tive­ly easy, these apps will be ele­gant. We won’t get a row of advanced text edi­tors too com­plex for peo­ple to understand.


The open sys­tems will still exist. Cer­tain­ly peo­ple with cer­tain apti­tudes will always pre­fer some­thing that puts the pow­er in their hands. But they don’t have to be the default. Not when those open sys­tems risk con­fus­ing and alien­at­ing peo­ple who just want to check their mail. We lose noth­ing by hav­ing closed systems.


I’m not ded­i­cat­ing exten­sive time to rebut this, but I have to won­der which brows­er Rory is using, which blog­ging sys­tem he’s post­ing with, which web serv­er deliv­ers his writ­ing, which lan­guage specs define the struc­ture & style of his site and which oper­at­ing sys­tem got him this far. Chances are that almost all of them are open in some way, whether Libre or Gratis or exten­sion lev­el or UI lev­el or API lev­el or hard­ware lev­el. We got this far because of open­ness and pro­gram­ma­bil­i­ty, some­times push­ing down exten­sive tech­no­log­i­cal and eco­nom­ic bar­ri­ers raised by closed-ecosys­tem builders to do so.

Being pissed off because you don’t grok the pro­gram­ming that makes your trin­kets work is no rea­son to slap the orig­i­na­tors in the face and gen­er­alise them into a group with “obses­sive-com­pul­sive prob­lems mixed with an anti­so­cial attitude”.

(It may how­ev­er be time to analyse your own appar­ent­ly sim­i­lar issues.)

When tech­nol­o­gy seems rosy it’s a rea­son to push hard­er for the next expo­nen­tial improve­ment, not grab the near­est elit­ist-woven com­fort blan­ket and call it a day.

Posts like these are the ones we look back at in ten years and cringe. I hope so anyway.

posted by Andrew

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