The Law of Software Development

By James Kwak

I recently read a frightening 2008 post by David Pogue about the breakdown of homemade DVDs. This inspired me to back up my old DVDs of my dog to my computer (now that hard drives are so much bigger than they used to be), which led me to install HandBrake. The Handbrake web site includes this gem:

“The Law of Software Development and Envelopment at MIT:
Every program in development at MIT expands until it can read mail.”

I thought of that when I heard that Facebook is launching a (beyond) email service.

(The side benefit of this project is that now I get to watch videos of my dog sleeping whenever I want to.)

10 responses to “The Law of Software Development

  1. Pogue should have mentioned whether he was talking about DVD-R or DVD-RW.

    The rewritable variants are vastly more perishable than the write-once variants.

    http://www.thexlab.com/faqs/opticalmedialongevity.html

  2. That law is originally due to Jamie Zawinski (rather famous software developer known for his work on Netscape Navigator and contributions to Mozilla and XEmacs). In its original form:

    Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.—Jamie Zawinski

  3. James, you remind me of myself when I’m drinking and thinking of past things. I’m mean, I’m not criticizing you, please don’t take it as criticism. But watching videos of the dog that passed away…. Don’t torture yourself man. Wait some time and when you and the family is ready, get a new dog. Should probably be a different breed unless you’re super-sold on that breed. Let the kids choose one from a set of breeds you like.

    We got Pogue’s book on the i-Pod because Apple’s manual is so crappy. He is “da man”.

    You know if Apple gave a damn about customers they would include a charger cord with that damned thing to hook into the wall instead of making you shop for the charger cord separately, but Mr. “I’m an assh*le” Steve Jobs couldn’t bother to show he’s customer service inclined. He’s slowly but surely going the way of Bill Gates.

  4. Mr. Kwak,
    There is a super good story they’re running on PBS NewsHour today with the former “NOW” host David Brancaccio on a show called “Fixing the Future”. James you need to try to download that or catch the show. That looks really good and shows some promise for the future. Catch this link people. Nov 18 (Thursday)
    http://www.pbs.org/now/fixing-the-future/index.html

  5. Hey Mr K,

    Great contributions!

  6. @Ted K
    It looks like programs need to expand until they can delete uploaded Youtube videos which are seriously off topic.

    As for James’ original point, most applications today are Internet Aware and use the Internet in their base functionality (which is what was meant by the original email capability) The next level is for them to be mobile and location aware, and it is already happening.

  7. Shrub already handed them out to all his war + torture buddies, as well as Greenspan – and Daddy Shrub gave one to the teabaggers’ favorite faux-economist (Hayek) and to Darth Cheney, so I’d say the reputation of the medal is pretty much already in the sewer.

  8. Bruce E. Woych

    facebook launches beyond e-mail…

    I was browsing through some tech books at B&N’s and came across some works assessing the questionable fields of cyber space tech wars and the current trends in development. The book has no axe to grind and was written well before the facebook attempt to dominate the media with multimedia dependency. Here’s what was so interestin in the text that applies:

    The two greatest “vulnerabilities of the future” involve what is categorized as consolidation and convergence. Consolidation is the process we all look forward to in facilitating easy operation under one command network. The problem here is obviously that it also places the entire menu on one table to be infiltrated or manipulated. Convergence, on the other hand, is just exactly what Facebook is “selling” to dominate the market and bring everything possible into one network user friendly conveyance (conduit so to speak). The more the merrier! And of course this practically makes old fashion e-mailing obsolete! Too much time, less direct interface…etc.; and I think you get the picture.

    Now it first occurred to me that this is much like micro and macro economics…but then I realized that it is precisely (in the field) like too big to fail!

    So are we on another monopoly trail down the primrose path of self destructive dependencies?

    Isn’t this just another brand media Octopus looking to knock out variations and dominate our choices with their market offerings? And is this going to set us up for I.T. crisis of authorization for the systemic network and future of “ownership” wars in essential services?

  9. Facebook is recreating AOL. A gigantic walled garden that becomes “the internet” for most of the people with computers. Look how AOL ended up.

    And Handbrake is a great little program. I’ve been using it to rip my DVD collection to the 2TB of network storage I now have on my home network. A very convenient way to watch movies.

  10. The Library of Congress has a very helpful page

    Personal Archiving: Preserving Your Digital

    Memorieshttp://www.digitalpreservation.gov/you/