Technology The Sometime Arrogance of 'Gurus'


written by Mike Sterling for Canadian Community News

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We all know that technology is moving very quickly.  If you develop technology, you feel it more acutely.  In some ways I feel the arrogance of it all.  It's a creeping awareness.

Committees develop standards and they impose rules on new technology.  This is particularly true in the underpinnings of technology.  The Internet has built up a gigantic mass of data and programs written in a dizzyingly complicated array of languages and features far exceeding the capacity of every library in the world combined.

People use the tools that are developed.  The standard 'makers' don't like the old 'stuff' so they write standards for all these languages used for the Internet and by developers, phones, PCs, MACs and all the 'Internet of Things'.

The Problem is lots of developers have created working technology BEFORE this and that standard was conceived.  Giant applications have been built pre many of these standards. 

The powerful standard committees even use an obscure word 'deprecate' to disguise what they are doing.

They describe what they are up to as 'deprecating' a feature that was used in the past. (and sadly now)  They mean they are not supporting what the industry did consider standard in the past .... too bad for us!  Instead of "Cut off their heads!", they just deprecate us.  They have even warped the words meaning to suit.

The other day I read something that involved the Internet.  Everything was working fine for many years for an unknown developer. 

Over time two large programs were themselves deprecated.  That means that sometimes the very neat and tidy things this  man did no longer work.  This happens all the time.  These programs and technology platforms were created by industry giants via some standards committee.

It would be like going to the hardware store and asking for a 1/4" wrench.  The industry likes metric, but still supplies the 1/4" wrench because people, nuts as we are, still have 1/4" nuts to turn.

The features and programs I'm talking about don't need to be described, the wrench/nut analogy is enough.

Ok, so I go to the Internet itself to find or hear the complaint by a developer. 

I find a web site that is a users' group of people and standards makers who look in and ask questions and other people respond with comments and solutions.

Some poor guy asked a question about a feature that had been deprecated..... grrr.  He was very reasonable and open.  He described the problem clearly.

He said I need this feature.  It's worked for years and years and I've built a business on it.  "Can you help  me Mr. and Ms. Expert Guru?", he asked.

The Gurus responded in a number of ways all arrogantly.  Here is a summary of their responses:

Why are you using that feature instead of this other feature that the committee says to use?

It's dumb, another Guru says!

It's like the Guru is explaining the virtues of the metric system to an intelligent person, who already knows all about it. 

The poor guy does not want to start over again and build a whole new widget with metric nuts.  He has a  machine that has 1/4" nuts all over the place.  When he built his application, he built it the only way he could using the standards of the time.

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

I don't understand your problem at all, but I'll give you some advice, replies another guru.  He says!  "Give it up and go modern".

So, you've gone through 10 years and more of using this feature?  "Suck it up and re-write all your applications."  Wow.... arrogant. 

He'd be glad to do that, but it stops him dead in the water to do so.

All these comments were terribly arrogant and show an awful fault in these standards groups who fiddle and play around for years.  Incidentally, the big companies don't send their best to work on these standards.  Often they are told to make sure that their own company comes out with an advantage over their rivals so the standards are in essence politicked.

Ed Catmull

One of the most productive computer scientists and a real Guru is a guy named Ed Catmull  Take the time to look at his bio.

He refuses to let these standards people slow down his creative progress.  He tells them that he will develop much of the key technology in a language that was stable.  If they wanted to put his 'stuff' in their new programs, that is ok.  Go ahead and translate, if you want.

He just could not waste his time on all these changing standards that would 'deprecate' his fundamental work anyway.

All this stuff slows down progress and should not be tolerated.

The odd thing about the advice that the Gurus gave, directed the poor guy with the original question to a program that had also been deprecated.  They did not, however, know that as proven by their advice.  Grrr......


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