Posts tagged Division of Labor


Chapter 9: Build Systems

:: Build, Meta, Developing, Division of Labor, In The Large

In my various professional endeavors, I had to deal a lot with build systems: programs like Unix Make, Common Lisp’s ASDF, or Google’s Bazel, but also package managers like rpm, dpkg or Nix, with which developers describe how to build executable software from source files. As the builds grew larger and more complex and had to fit a wider diversity of configurations, I particularly had to deal with configuration scripts to configure the builds, configuration script generation systems, build extensions to abstract over build complexity, and build extension languages to write these build extensions. Since the experience had left me confused, frustrated, and yearning for a better solution, I asked Ngnghm how Houyhnhnms dealt with these issues. Could they somehow keep their builds always simple, or did they have some elegant solution to deal with large complex builds?

Once again, Ngnghm wasn’t sure what I meant, and I had to explain him at length the kind of situations I had to deal with and the kind of actions I took, before Ngnghm could map them to processes and interactions that happened in Houyhnhnm computing systems. And his conclusion was that while Houyhnhnms computing systems certainly could express large builds, they didn’t possess a “build system” separate and distinguished from their normal development system; rather their “build system” was simply to use their regular development system at the meta-level, while respecting certain common constraints usually enforced on meta-programs.


Chapter 7: Platforms not Applications

:: Meta, Application, Autistic, Platform, Extension, Language, Expertise, Economics, Incentives, Division of Labor, Specialization

My previous discussion with Ngnghm left me baffled: I could somehow understand that Houyhnhnms don’t have the concept of an Operating System Kernel; and I could vaguely guess how each of the many aspects of a Human kernel could correspond to a family of software patterns in a Houyhnhnm computing system, at various levels of abstractions. But while I could visualize these patterns individually, it was less clear to me what the big picture was when these smaller compile-time, link-time and runtime abstractions were put together. So I decided to approach their software architecture from the other end: what do end-user applications look like in Houyhnhnm computing systems?

I was baffled again, but not surprised anymore, to find that Houyhnhnms don’t have a notion of application. Granted, there are simple cases where Human applications have direct counterparts in Houyhnhnm computing systems. But in the general case, Houyhnhnms don’t think in terms of standalone applications; they think in terms of platforms that they extend with new functionality.