Creative Problem Solver. Programmer. Bodysurfing. Sometime Comics.
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Roach Motels and Floppy Idioms

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe

– Carl Sagan

Yesterday in the hallways of chat of the IndieWeb people were comparing an upcoming Facebook API pondering a “data roach motel.”

The history of companies providing an easy to use and free API as they roll something out, then gradually lock it down is a long one. Twitter’s closure of their free API usage is a recent infamous example. Software becomes dependent on the API and when denied it (because of price) the software dies.

Wikipedia has a rather good entry for roach motel. It reminds me of “moxie” in that it has become an idiom and has a somewhat ambiguous state in the culture as a trademark.

I remember the tv commercial very well from childhood. But do younger people know it? No. Is it a salient metaphor? Does the idiom work?

Kill roaches without poison odor or mess
“Kill roaches without poison odor or mess” is a rather grisly line
Roach Motel
Famous tagline: “Roaches check in, but they don’t check out”

It had me ponder:

Might be time to redo the xkcd comic about dependencies in open source but for obscure idioms and pop culture used in tech jargon

It also had me thinking of the floppy disk icon, which is often the icon used to indicate one can “save” a document. Here’s the emoji: 💾, which of course has an entry on

A 3.5-inch floppy disk, a data storage format popular in the 1980–90s but largely preserved as a Save icon in computer programs. Shown with its silver shutter positioned up and in a black housing with a white label, accented with blue or red.

To which James replied:

Challenge: write a blog post of those idioms.

I like the idea of such a thing, though such glossaries likely exist. One of the earlier examples I think of is The Jargon File, which has passed around computerdom for many decades. I think the ESR one is just one.

For today I’m content to have mentioned Roach Motel on my website.

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