Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Geekier readers of this blog may be interested my latest post to Platform Wars


Kaunda said...

Okay, so I'm not one of your geekier readers, but this really is interesting to me.

"What can we learn about beautifully combining rectangles and triangles from looking at the treegrid?"

I don't have anything smart in answer, but I find the question very interesting. In Ted Neward's "The Vietnam of Computer Science" I was looking for something more than analogy.

Knowing that I might not know a formal relationship if it hit me in the face, all of Neward's exposition about Vietnam only to suggest that O/R mapping and Vietnam are both instances of running up against the Law of Diminishing Returns didn't seem enough. I suspected that he had a hunch there was a deeper relationship to the two problems.

You question about what we can learn from looking at treegrid suggests there's a formal relationship applicable to other mapping problems.

Woefully unprepared, I'm left with ignorant hunches; still I bet there's something really important here:

"No-one is to be master. Instead triangle and rectangle must subtly interact. They cross-cut, one or the other taking the lead when it comes to particular operations."

Kaunda said...

I'm so out of my element here. I was reminded how much so by the recent discussion at Platform Wars and recalling that I'd confused Dave Winer and Danny Ayers in something I'd written to you before. Oops.

When it comes to programming the machinery of description reveals that measurement, no matter how refined, is approximate. Gregory Bateson noted that description is "digital and discontinuous" whereas the "variables immanent in the thing to be described are analogic and continuous."

The problem of "squaring the triangle" seems to point to difficult facts about description which are radical and therefore solutions to the problem in one area, e.g. treegrid, can inform in other arenas too.

I'm not at all sure that your TCP/IP vs. the dollar is formally similar to squaring the triangle, but I think it might be. At least how to make money on the Web is something people are keenly interested in.

Your insight that TCP/IP and the dollar are different platforms seems very important. And it seems that one person argues in favor of TCP/IP while another the dollar but the really useful solutions are in where:

"No-one is to be the master. Instead triangle and rectangle must subtly interact. They cross-cut, one of the other taking the lead when it comes to particular operations."

Programmers want to make cool stuff. It's interesting how the nature of the work requires thinking carefully about information and communication and so programmers often bring important insights to more general problems like war and peace or money and the economy. Not that they are always good at their forays into strange territory. Again, most of the ideas you introduce me to are ideas which require a great deal of study to understand, study I've not done. Still, what interests me so about your approach is how you map data onto fundamentals.

Bateson with his British education was frustrated in teaching in American institutions with American's over-reliance on induction. You tinker with the best of them, but also wrestle with philosophy and the fundamentals. That combination makes you uniquely valuable in your field.

TCP/IP vs. the dollar seems homologous to the problem of "squaring the triangle." You are able to see the potential for working with "the grain of the Web" and anticipate the dominance of software as a service because you are facile in both deduction and induction.