Thursday, July 16, 2009

Criteria for Good/Bad Software

Evangelism and advocacy by techies for what is good software has been ill defined over the years. I believe I have the criteria statement:

The network is the computer, and software is bad if it gets in the way of user access to the network-as-computer, and good if it enables, and only augments with unquestionable enhancement, user access to network-as-computer.

"The network is the computer" has been a reality for a long time. Microsoft has been the main block to that reality. Our language for advocacy was to tout "open source". I think "open source" misses the point just as asking if someone is a monk to determine if they are religious. Yes, Irish monks once saved western civilization just as GNU software saved computers, but the good guys list is much longer and inclusive than that.

Cisco, IBM, Sun, Linux, Apache, Mozilla, Apple and Google have all been operating in ways that allowed the torrent of functionality coming from a global-network-computer. There is a mixed bag of proprietary, capitalism, and non-profit open source in that good guy list. The important distinction is just like all the stuff in a functional mechanic's toolbox: the tools are not designed by their manufacturer to undermine one another. The Sears screwdriver is not designed to f*ck up the functionality of the Snap-on wrench. We do not ask Sears to give away their tools, and Sears wants to make as much money as possible, but their tools do not destroy other tools and ultimately the mechanic's effectiveness.

Microsoft does disable other tools, and suppresses the torrent of functionality coming in from the network-as-computer. If the legend is true that Bill Gates was slow to realize the relevance of the internet while at the same time setting an agenda for his software products, that in of itself indicates my contention. The network was the computer at the moment Bill Gates had no appreciation of it, which means Microsoft wasn't working on the only computer that mattered -the global computer. They continued to curse customers with a lone Personal Computer.

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