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04:35 pm, 29 Dec 06

end-of-year reflections

Some more personal reflections on the year. Back to tech after this.

1. I find myself increasingly unable to get riled up about anything related to technology. I see so many people who seem so passionate about such seemingly-trivial things -- I think of people who wear daring fireball t-shirts as a canonical example, but also for example the this week's blogger-lynch-mobs regarding Google "tips" or Microsoft's "free" laptops (or for that matter, the users who are demanding an option to revert to the previous version of the LJ "update journal" form) -- and wonder helplessly what is going through their mind much like I do religious fundamentalists.

The strange part is that I think I really do still care about technology, but I feel the world of technology has somehow diverged into old-world and pop culture, and the pop side is the side that gets upset about these things. Here are two opposing takes on that: one is that the bar for people to get involved always lowers with time, so it's inevitable that the general trend is toward noise (see also eternal September or PHP); the other is that as stuff like the internet becomes more and more a part of our culture the interesting work is often interesting for social reasons and not technological ones. (I think of Greasemonkey as an example of the latter: no slight on Boodman but the implementation is way less interesting than its ramifications.) On the other hand, I've recently read some papers from OSDI and it's heartening to see people are still doing interesting, difficult, and creative new work. I still mourn the loss of sweetcode.

2. Another effect of the above is that I find it difficult to get excited much about making websites or client applications, which unfortunately/apparently is what most developers do these days.

3. I was talking to someone (Meena?) recently about the success of projects and how I've come to recognize how much more important the less-technical factors are in their success. By this I mean that I can now appreciate how a good product manager (to use one role as an example) or lack of one can really make or destroy even projects that are primarily technological. When I explained this to (whoever -- maybe it's relevant to this that I forget who it was) observed that this seemed like a total reversal of my previous attitudes about this.

4. According to my RSS reader, I subscribe to on the order of ten tech blogs that still update. My top three favorites are: Valleywag (I know it's unpopular) because I think through their jeering it helps keep my perspective honest; RedHanded, for his creativity; and most of all Freedom to Tinker.

5. I (strangely to me) have a new respect for C++ in a very practical sort of way, as a compromise between all sorts of real-world concerns: programmer speed, executable speed, portability, and library support. It's become my first choice for hacking. I guess this fits into the above's more holistic perspective.

6. I still really like Google, though I also think the company is losing its spirit due for the inevitable reasons (growth, changing conditions, etc.). I'm glad I could be here to participate in it "before".

7. I've been lucky to now have met most (all?) of the people I've looked up to as programming role models since childhood. Who now do I want to meet? (Ack, gotta run right now, so I'll cut this off by saying nibot_lab is a good candidate.)