Thursday, February 22

Text::Textile

Want to use Text::Textile for blocks of text with linebreaks, and not insert a bunch of <br /> tags in your HTML? It looks like this is as easy as modifying $self->{_line_close} = '<br />' in sub flavor. It would be nice if this were an explicit option. I will write Brad Choate.

i'd rather be boring than bored

Does it seem like I've been obsessed with software lately? I mean, more than usual?

(...he said to the empty room.)

This is because I have been obsessed with software lately. I sit in front of a computer all day. What else am I supposed to be fascinated by? The squirrels outside my window? The squirrels are fascinating, at least by contrast to the task at hand, and so are the freakshow Boulderites with backpacks and the beautiful dreadlocked girls with flowing skirts walking to the kind of coffeeshop or book store I used to spend all my time in when I lived on student loans and alcohol and frisbee. Even the City of Boulder Parking Nazis in their ridiculous little white city vehicles with the orange flashers on top are more interesting than what I am being paid to do.

But the squirrels come and go, likewise the beautiful freaks, and in the meantime I work with software. And people, of course, but mostly with software. And a lot of it is fantastically bad software. I'll spare you the details, because they don't matter that much and they are boring. It's the same story everywhere. Steve Yegge is right: Most software sucks. And what's worse, Yegge is usually talking about software that people who really care about software, deep down, create for their own day-to-day use. If the software which people live in by choice when they have an idea of what is possible is not what it should be, then the software that most normal human beings are forced to use in a working context might as well be devised explicitly for the purpose of destroying the human soul.

Most software is bureaucracy with the human element mechanized away, and most bureaucracy is a goddamned nightmare to begin with. I don't mean this in quite the way that I think most people mean it: Bureaucracy is a technological problem, and a technological solution - invariably broken and dehumanizing, but what the hell are you going to do about it? - for all sorts of monster problem domains, as much as it is anything else.

So I seek out opportunities to automate, to let the machine iterate instead of my hands and my tired brain. And I think in cycles about what amount to the basic problems of bureaucracy, the ways that the magical clarity and expressive power that once seemed to live in computing have lured so many people into the weird clerical hell of the present technological moment.

As a minor side effect, I am slowly becoming more of a hacker. It begins to seem to me that in any given environment, you can react to stupidity and boredom by becoming stupider or by cultivating a certain kind of intelligence. This is naive, though. On a long enough timeline, stupid wins unless you walk away.