David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Broken Technology

The RSS feed for this blog seems to have broken when I posted the new design. When I go to my iGoogle page, the last article for this blog is still the entry from April 14, “Infoquake” Reviewed on Fast Forward. Which means there are certainly a number of readers who have no idea that I’ve redesigned the website, and who will just assume I’ve fallen into a crack in the Earth somewhere until they decide to come browsing this way again. This happened the last time I redesigned the site too.

Broken computer monitor in the woodsI’m unclear why this has happened. The URLs for the feeds should still be in the same place. All of the articles that were in the old feed are still in the new feed. I did mess around in the database and fix a number of GUIDs (Globally Unique Identifiers, for those non-geeks in the audience) that were pointing to a temporary address. But that should only have affected your feed reader’s ability to mark the entry as read or not read.

At least you can delete and re-add the RSS feed to your feed reader. The syndication for my Amazon blog broke altogether several months ago, and my message to the Amazon technical support staff seems to have fallen into a crack in the Earth somewhere. Now I’m stuck adding new entries to my Amazon blog by hand.

Why is so much technology so goddamn fragile?

I joke about this all the time with my web programming customers. Chances are that if you see something drastically wrong with the website I’m managing — layout all fucked up, images floating all over the place, everything completely unreadable — it’s the fault of a single misplaced comma somewhere. Other industries don’t have this problem. I mean, if you’ve got a single board nailed crooked in your house, the whole thing doesn’t fall to pieces.

This fragility is one of the whole reasons why it makes sense to move websites to CMS’s like WordPress or Drupal, or application frameworks like Ruby on Rails. Setting up a framework takes the gruntwork and repetition out of web programming, and it insulates you from fucking up the whole website by sticking a comma in the wrong place. Mostly.

The reality of the matter is that web technology is still on a very low rung of the evolutionary ladder. We’ve got application skeletons and frameworks galore, but you don’t see a lot of application musculatures or nervous systems. Most software can’t repair itself — and even when it can do rudimentary repair work, like replacing accidentally deleted files or Windows Registry entries, it’s not smart enough to know when it needs repairing. My Firefox browser is now smart enough to automatically restore all of my tabs when it crashes, most of the time — but about 20% of the time, the browser still isn’t even smart enough to know that it’s crashed, and I have to open the Windows Task Manager and manually kill the process that’s not responding.

And so I find working on web technology really fucking frustrating because it’s fucking broken so much of the fucking time. The web is full of dead links because the mechanisms for propagating electronic changes of address are sucky. Pages break on different browsers and operating systems because nobody — not even Mozilla — implements all the W3C standards correctly, and it’s quite difficult to make a website degrade gracefully.

I get a little melancholy when I start to think about these things, because I realize that I’m not going to live long enough to see the really cool stuff. None of us are. Technology can be maddening and frustrating today, and it’s going to remain maddening and frustrating for a long time to come.

Comments RSS Feed

  1. Tim of Angle on April 21, 2008 at 3:32 pm  Chain link

    This post came through just fine on the RSS feed.

  2. David Louis Edelman on April 21, 2008 at 3:35 pm  Chain link

    Seems to be working fine for some people, not for others… What kind of feed reader do you use, if you don’t mind my asking?

  3. Bob Nolin on April 22, 2008 at 8:55 am  Chain link

    I’ve had no interruption of feed service. I’m using the reader built into Safari, on the Mac. At least, I think that’s what I’m doing… This RSS isn’t real simple to me. Heh heh.

  4. christopher on April 22, 2008 at 8:36 pm  Chain link

    i’ve also had no interruption. i use bloglines.

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