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June 5th, 2002

From The Dead Letter Department


I’m getting rid of lots of paper. Where I can, I put the nuggets of wisdom online. These minimal notes are from the two-day seminar given by Philip Greenspun at Caltech several years ago.

He used the WimpyPoint system to do the slides. Looks like his slideshow is protected, so I can’t provide the real url.

And Now, Assorted Notes:

One so-funny it’s sad thing was his mention of a tenured professor in Computer Science who in conversation asked him “what’s Oracle” and “what’s an RDBMS”

“No matter how good your user interface is, it’s better to have LESS of it”

“Q: Why is the war between Linux and BSD so intense?”
“Because there’s so little at stake.”

He dismissed graphic design almost entirely, at one point saying “Add a look and feel if necessary.”

On documentation manuals, and on why systems have to be made plainly learnable in and of themselves, he asks: “How much did you pay for your car? Have you read the owner’s manual?”

“The war (to build database-backed websites/communities) is won or lost on developing a data model, and specifying legal transactions.”

The standard SQL thing of ACID:
A – atomicity
C – consistency
I – isolation
D – durability

In building websites, the eternal tension is: “The wisdom of 50 years of software engineering” vs. “The Schedule”

The value of a toolkit (such as ACS) is that it requires less customization. It’s going to be better than a roll-your-own solution madly hacked in anticipation of an impossible rollout deadline.

At the time I thought this was interesting, but now I have a lot more respect for this statement… “SQL is actually very subtle.”

And lastly, on the myriad technologies available to the aspiring webhead: “Not everything you can learn is worth learning.”

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