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  • Been home for a few days, but wishing I was back on the beach.

  • Southwest Airlines and Technical Debt

    Michael Tsai on Southwest Airlines and Technical Debt

    This is a really interesting take on how technical debt directly contributed to Southwest’s terrible week.

    From Zeynep Tufekci’s article on the NYT:

    It’s been an open secret within Southwest for some time, and a shameful one, that the company desperately needed to modernize its scheduling systems. Software shortcomings contributed to previous, smaller-scale meltdowns, and Southwest unions had repeatedly warned about the software. Without more government regulation and oversight and greater accountability, we may see more fiascos like this one, which most likely stranded hundreds of thousands of Southwest passengers β€” perhaps more than a million β€” over Christmas week. And not just for a single company, as the problem is widespread across many industries.

    This problem β€” relying on older or deficient software that needs updating β€” is known as incurring technical debt, meaning there is a gap between what the software needs to be and what it is. While aging code is a common cause of technical debt in older companies β€” such as with airlines, which started automating early β€” it can also be found in newer systems, because software can be written in a rapid and shoddy way, rather than in a more resilient manner that makes it more dependable and easier to fix or expand. As you might expect, quicker is cheaper.

    I think what’s so insiduous about technical debt is there’s not always an obvious, clear measurement that you’ve taken on too much. Every software system has some amount of technical debt, but it’s a challenge, even for experienced software engineers, to guage the level of debt. It’s not equivalent to the physical world where you can see if something is crumbling or has some other type of defect.

    In some cases, software’s technical debt may be obvious, for example if its running on hardware or software that is no longer available or updated by it’s developers. COBOL running on a mainframe is a good example.

    However, as Tufekci’s article states, even newer software can suffer from technical debt. On the contrary, it is possible for old software to be well maintained and have an acceptable amount of technical debt. For example, many modern operating systems (such as Linux) are decades old yet remain well maintained and cutting edge.

    It’s likely that Southwest runs on programming languages and operating systems that are actively updated, but the debt lies in the software that they’ve written and runs their business. This is probably the case that a lot of companies in the 10-20 year old range fall into, and they would not be unique if they had technical debt that has gone out of control.

    It’s an industry problem. We lack the tools and techniques to appropriately guage tech debt in quantifiable ways. How much technical debt is too much and how much impact it may have on a business boils down to opinion. Different engineers will debate with each other on this topic. There’s no standard, industry bechmarks or regulations to turn to, unlike other fields of engineering.

    Perhaps our field will develop such standards, but my hunch is that software is unique enough from other engineering disciplines that we may never be able to develop such standards. I’d like to be wrong about this.

    Does anyone know of productive cases of measuring tech debt? Or systemic ways to keep it within a maintainable limit?

  • Currently reading: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson πŸ“š

  • Went to the far end of La Chiva beach today.

  • Hope to see this sentiment more in 2023!

    Bring back personal blogging - The Verge

  • Finished reading: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin πŸ“š

    Loved this book! Unique in a number of ways, especially as tale about video game development.

  • MalecΓ³n Esperanza, Vieques

    🫑 2022

  • I’ve heard most of these stories in isolation, but haven’t read anything that summarizes the downfall of the whole industry like this. I do wonder where things go from here. I hope there’s a silver lining. I really like technology and the web. Maybe we can find a way to build exciting, useful things while the tech giants crumble around us.

    The End of the Silicon Valley Myth - The Atlantic

  • Isabel Segunda, Vieques, PR

  • La Chiva, Vieques, PR

  • Daring Fireball: Kansas Governor Imposes TikTok Ban on State-Issued Devices

    There’s two things here for me:

    1. Why so much fear around TikTok specifically? In theory their privacy risks are the same with any app or social network. I don’t think they are unique in this regard.
    2. I think this is another reason we should really strive to move social networking to open and decentralized protocols and solve the problems inherit to this model. The risks of centralized aggregators is too great.
  • Twitter rival Mastodon rejects funding to preserve nonprofit status

    Good for you Mastodon!

  • Made braciole this Christmas Eve. Came out great!

  • Not so Hotlanta

  • Visiting Savannah for a few nights.

  • Why Car Centric Cities are a Great Idea via Kottke:

    I was skeptical but if you listen carefully, there are some really solid ideas in this video on why designing cities around lots of cars makes sense.

  • Spotted this post by @steve@s.yelvington.com about how the Web wins over something proprietary:

    Bit of online history:

    Ziff-Davis was a publisher of magazines, mostly about photography, then computers when they came along. They ran some groups on CompuServe and other pre-Internet online services.

    Recognizing that online experiences would be the Next Big Thing, and also having learned that the existing options like Prodigy sucked, Z-D embarked on a huge project to invent something new. …

  • I set up a new Mastodon account @dfj@hachyderm.io since there’s a lot of tech folks over there, including a few coworkers.

    I’m up to 4 accounts: I’ve long held @dfj@toot.cafe but use it seldomly. This blog publishes @dfj@doug.pub, I even tried hosting my own instance for a while

  • After all these years, I continue to love Adagio for TRON - Remixed by Teddybears on the TRON: Legacy Reconfigured album. I find it hard to find more electronic music with this sort of sound (RIP Daft Punk), but maybe I’m not looking in the right places?

  • Trying out a few Advent of Code problems in Kotlin this year. UntitledImage

  • I really enjoyed My secret life as an 11-year-old BBS sysop on Ars Technica.

    I’m just young enough that I missed this era of computing, but I have a lot of nostalgia for the online technologies that came just after this: Prodigy, AOL, and web message boards.

  • Some photos from tonight’s dog walk.

  • Florida swampland, taken while visiting over Thanksgiving.

  • Orion flying beyond the Moon