Shirky on Small Programs

A friend with whom I used to work at Intel sent me this link to an article by Clay Shirky about “situated software”. Basically it seems like it is saying “Developers are putting too much effort into thinking through issues like scalability and generality and should instead hack out something that fits the bill right now with no thought to the future.” I really am not sure I see the dichotomy the way he does. There are apples and oranges and this seems to me to be the long way of saying “apples are not oranges.” There are small scale, non-ambitious projects and there are large-scale ambitious projects. Is he saying there shouldn’t be the latter? I have to say that I’m less taken with this article than my friend. I have written very ambitious scalable large systems and knocked out quick projects with a target audience of just me or me plus a few others. I’m perfectly capable of telling which one is which, and see no reason to advocate one over another. If your project is of an ambition and scale that matches the target, nuff said.

In a larger sense, Clay Shirky remains a puzzlement to me. He’s someone who is cited as a smart deep thinker sort. However, whenever I read one of his pieces, I invariably disagree. Perhaps I’m so damn dumb that his brilliance escapes me. More and more, as I read some of our well known pundits – blogosphere or not – I’m thinking a lot of emperors are underdressed.