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_why oh _why (debu.gs)
21 points by jbrhee on Apr 20, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 6 comments

Raises interesting questions about preservation and archival. Would be interested in hearing more on the angle of open-sourcing as a means for increased productivity.

It may be old news to you, but Kai Krause's "Software is merely a Performance Art"[1] treads much the same territory, framing software as an ongoing framework to influence future generations.

Open source can be a solution, but it's limited by bitrot; what it runs on, and who or what is capable of interpreting it.

I feel there needs to be something else, haven't quite found out what that might be.

[1] - http://www.edge.org/response-detail/10113

Since _why's stuff was open, he addressed bitrot in his (brilliant) novella. The article treats it some; the open-source remarks were about the code that you don't see, that suffers from being under lock and key as well as bitrot.

Yes, bitrot is _addressed_, but not resolved.

That's the source of my frustration whenever the open source solution is brought up. It only works when there are hands present to maintain the source.

Which is much more effort than, say, writing a book and leaving it some place to be rediscovered. Only the popular or the intensely niche seem to survive.

Well, the Urbit essays (linked in the article) are one attempt to resolve it, but bitrot still remains unresolved. I don't think I wrote anything indicating otherwise. If it doesn't see the light of day, it dies; bitrot is a slower death, but open source is a prerequisite to software not just disappearing into the void. I'd really like to have presented a solution to bitrot, but I don't have one.

First off, even a book can suffer from irrelevance, aside from being burned. If twas not for the rosetta stone, vast carvings of hieroglyphs would have remained largely locked to us.

But more importantly, I think _why's most recent incarnation is a nod to a perceived solution. It's perhaps not 50 million years, but the persistence of the internet and the protocols surrounding it may give us hope that document stores can still be read in 100 or 200 years. Maybe the code wont run, but we have the logic and the ability to decipher the language. Now, I'm just going to go scribble out a Fortran to Python generator so we don't lose all those handy formula translations :)

EDIT: I also bought a house from a former book collector inheriting a great many old books. Aside from a 1787 edition of Virgil's Aeneid, I can tell you, my ultimate frisbee stat collector from high school has an analog in the book world. I'm staring at Oliver Onion's Poor Man's Tapestry, what a world shaker.

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