Moving to Freedom, .Org

Everything is broken, and no one knows why

Or: Things Fall Apart

Penguin Pete shares his new motto: “Everything is broken, and no one knows why.”

I subscribe to Pete’s blog even though he rarely posts these days and when he does, he’s usually misguided if not flat wrong. And I’m guessing he’s responsible for much more than his share of broken things.

But he’s entertaining. Writing about his crude workaround for a problem with a web site, he says, “There’s no point to spending more time on this than that. They’ll just figure out how to break it more later.” His despair and resignation makes me smile, because I’ve experienced it, and certainly caused my share of it with all of the brokenness I’ve perpetrated myself.

And there is this:

Penguin Pete’s Law Of The 2010s: For each thing that you can fix, there are three more people who are working in the background to break it in three new, unique, unexpected ways.

I’ve worked for many years on large, expensive installations of enterprise software, and they’re full of glitches and fail, supplied by the vendor and by us, the tinkerers of the software. Explaining the software to someone means delivering a litany of problems and workarounds. The vendors have created an impenetrable barrier around themselves, so there is little hope of getting a fix for anything other than the worst bugs. And for my own infractions, well, I’ve moved on to new ones. I don’t have time to correct the old problems.

This is the world we’re building with computers and code. Ice cream castles in the sky, poised to tip and fall onto the sidewalk.

And speaking of things falling apart, via Jason Kottke, I recently learned about the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows bridge in 1940:

Read all about it at Damn Interesting: “The Fall of Galloping Gertie.”

And now I’m just copying Jason’s curation efforts, since this is the same excerpt he provided:

After opening, the new bridge shortly came to be known as “Galloping Gertie,” so named by white-knuckled motorists who braved the writhing bridge on windy days. Even in a light breeze, Gertie’s undulations were known to produce waves up to ten feet tall. Sometimes these occurrences were brief, and other times they lasted for hours at a time. Numerous travelers shunned the route altogether to avoid becoming seasick, whereas many thrill-seeking souls paid the 75-cent toll to traverse Gertie during her more spirited episodes.

(I should note the curator rant was another Kottke pointer. I’m selling at 25% off today. You’re getting “once removed” curating.)

So there you go.

It all falls apart. Everything goes to hell.

But it’s fun while it lasts.