Myst and its sequels have always been my favourite video games. I’m not much of a gamer and Myst is a unique game and even now, at the 25th anniversary of the original, there haven’t been many successful imitators.

Part of what made Myst so engrossing is the care that Cyan put into building a world. Riven felt like a place people could live in and Uru, Cyan’s ambitious project to create a multi-player online puzzle platform, took that to another level.

I’ve recently reread the novels and replayed the games and, now, as a queer adult, there’s a lot…

A friend recently brought a rant about checked exceptions in Java to my attention. He vehemently disagreed with the author: he thought checked exceptions were good while the author thought they were bad. My feelings on exceptions are very complicated, so I’m going to try to spell them out here.

First, I’d like to point out the name: exceptions. I think that’s important. They are outside of normal program flow. In Java, there’s an Integer.parseInt method that throws NumberFormatException. This is Totally Bat-Shit Insane™. If a user gives me a string allegedly containing a number, I totally expect it to…

What does it take to be a member of a community? I use OSS; I evangelise OSS; I’ve contributed patches to OSS; and I’ve released OSS. By any reasonable, definition, I can self-identify as part of that community. However, there is no process by which the community indicates that I am a member.

If one thinks of an actual community, it’s often much the same. You are pretty free to move into a neighbourhood. I am gay, so am a member of the LGBT community and get involved in various things.

However, part of what makes a community is self-determination…

I love reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I have to say it is one of the best books I have ever read as it has allowed me to reconcile many of my feeling about the value of technical things.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all dealt with bad and good instructions in our lives. We live in a world where we are expected to read directions every day. Everything you buy, from electronics, to soap, to drugs, to food, comes with instructions.

Good instructions go unnoticed and bad instructions draw attention to themselves…

A friend, who is a TA, messaged me asking about whether it was okay that one of her students was considering a JavaScript course on CodeAcademy. She felt that concerned that JavaScript was a bad language to learn.

I’m happy to have a long argument about why and how bad JavaScript is. There are certainly worse languages. I’m looking at you PHP. There are languages that are probably better, but I don’t think it matters.

If you have the kind of mindset that makes it easy to pick up a programming language, picking up the next programming language will be…

There was a period were I was dealing almost exclusively in bioinformatics and was not dealing with computer programmers. After switching back after my trip to a different wold view, I’ve had many enlightening moments about computer programmers, including myself. Now, I don’t apply this to computer scientists as researchers; they are mathematicians and should do many of the things that regular programmers shouldn’t. I’m talking about people who write code for a living. …

For a long time, I hoped there would be the One Ring of programming languages: a language that would be good at nearly everything. Ah, to be young and foolish. In fact, the opposite is probably true; each different domain calls for a different language. But…why? What is a programming language?

In my mind, a programming language is three things: syntax, a library, and idioms. Let’s start with the syntax, which, in my opinion, is the least important. This is how we express the ideas in a language. It tends to be the part of the language people fixate on…

I read this book called Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. It’s actually an interesting read in it’s own right–the Ancient Egyptians and Mayans had comics that follow much of the modern form. Anyway, there’s a part where he talks about the development of the artist and how that relates to the final product. It reminded me immediately of programming…and possibly everything else that requires skill. Bad programs suffer the same categories of deficiencies as bad comics.

He describes all artistic work as having 6 layers:

  • Idea/Purpose
  • Form
  • Idiom
  • Structure
  • Craft
  • Surface

He then goes through people who stop progressing at…

And you’re a bad programmer if you think otherwise.

I’m beginning to understand that other people like writing code. Debugging is a nearly universally despised process, though it is utterly necessary to creating a program. I think a lot of programmers seem to relish the actual process of writing code. I don’t loathe writing code, but it’s not something I want to do. I mean, if I could lie back and have the computer scan my brain and write the code for me, I’d do it without much hesitation. We can get into all kinds of holy wars about the…

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the visual effects team had an adage: if you can’t make it good, make it blue. For many of the complicated visual effects, usually rifts in space, it was hard to produce something that looked reasonable, but making it blue makes it some how more convincing. Indeed, there are many episodes with rather questionable effects that look much better in blue than, say red.

Software, I think, deserves its own version of this: if you can’t make it useful, make a framework. So many programs that are hard to do well, are simply turned…

Andre Masella

I make Flabbergast(@co_0nfig), a loom, and bread, not in that order. Views are those of my past-selves. Full of caremad.

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