This shouldn’t be so @#!&! hard

So as is typical in Utah I moved into my house with an unfinished basement and now to "save money" I am finishing it myself. That's a bit of an overstatement. I am actually watching other people, mainly my brother-in-law, finish it. I am amazed at how much time a little experience can save. Sure it isn't hard to frame up a room. It isn't hard to sheetrock. What is hard is all the little details that one learns only from experience and from hanging around a bunch of guys that usually smoke a lot of pot, but that are really good with their hands. The last time I did anything - put in a sprinkler system and built a huge deck - I spent months with my brother (both of us are engineers) figuring out all the details. We made specific plans. We calculated loads, water pressure. We did it all. You know what? My wife still gives me crap about that. For all of our upfront planning we still didn't do any better than the guys that smoke all that pot.

Why should you care?

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a lecture given by Adam Bosworth at the recent Mysql conference, and a week ago I had the chance to attend a presentation given by Aaron Skonnard on the upcoming features in Indigo/Windows something or other services. I have also been reading through Wiley's book on learning objects as well as perusing I find the debate between simple and complex, upfront and just in time design everywhere. Simple designs allow more individuals to participate. HTML is popular because it is easy to use and does not require an advanced degree to understand. Bosworth talked about the importance of RSS and how it is the html for data. I agree. It is simple and easy. It lets many people participate. When I was at the lecture given by Skonnard he asked what eBay, Google and Amazon use for data exchange. I said RSS (you can see it here). Everyone laughed, but I wasn't kidding. Skonnard's lecture was aimed at a group of individuals for whom it is important to have lots of layer that contain security, and interop, and bla bla bla. Lots of stuff. Yes, in that realm all those layers are important. For the few that build systems that get stock quote or weather reports (the archetype web service applications) I am sure that all that stuff is important. However, all that code will just drown the rest of us. Here's something that will surprise you, engineers don't like to read docs. They like to code. If they liked to read/write docs they would be english majors. I admit to having read a couple of rfcs in my life. They suck. You have to consume unhealthy amounts of caffeine to keep your eyes open. Guess what. The longer the docs are, the more training sessions you have to go to, the fewer people there are that will use your stuff. That's just how it is.

Did I mention that Indigo won't ship for a year and since it is M$ it probably won't show up for a few years and it will have been re-branded several times. The big company way is lots of code, lots of layers, lots of stuff to make hard things really hard. That way they can keep out the small guys who can't afford to pay for all the testing and the interop conferences and deal with all the support required to keep all those layers running. I won't say that such systems are never needed. They are. If you are building skyscrapers or bridges or big expensive things then you need a bunch of engineers with plans and designs and stuff. If you are finishing your basement, putting in a sprinkler system, or building a deck then smoke all the pot you want and you can probably still get it right without all the complex design. Most of us are finishing basements not building skyscrapers.

So does this have anything to do with learning objects? Yup. It does. In my previous life I worked on an LMS. I never read the SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model or is it Stupid Crappy Overly Retarded Mess) docs. I doubt anyone has read them all. No one likes to do data entry so all those IEEE metadata fields will never be filled out. There are a couple of companies, probably paid by the DOD that will build SCORM compliant systems. I think they do it as a weapon. To heck with encryption, just make your stuff SCORM compliant no one will ever be able to figure it out.

More later, I have to go work on my basement.