2 : CRAFT & IoT
The world wide web is perhaps one of the largest examples of such organic craft development. And in thinking about the health of the internet, perhaps we also need to think about how craft structures like medieval cathedrals have been preserved and developed over the centuries. One central feature of this has been the social institutions which sustain and support craft structures like cathedrals: the guilds of craftsmen, cathedral chapters, the fraternities of laymen. Perhaps we need to build similar sustaining social structures to ensure the future health of the web, and to maintain its craft character in the face of commercial industrialisation. These craft characteristics are particularly evident with legacy code. Nowadays, few projects are greenfield sites. You will probably inherent some code and other materials from earlier parts of the project. In the case of large systems, this code may be large and may relate to an operating system or computing technology that is no longer supported. Michael Feathers calculates that in many development efforts the amount of legacy code may overwhelm the new code by factors of as much as 100:1 and even 1000:1 (Feathers, 2013). Yet the legacy code still works. An immediate instinct may be to just rewrite it. Yet often this legacy code works perfectly well, and rewriting it runs the risk of breaking interdependencies elsewhere. The programmer is faced with exactly the same dilemma as the medieval mason. Do you change one bit of the building and risk another part of it falling down? For the medieval architect Lorenz Lechler, the test of any method was a pragmatic one: will it stand up and stay up? In programming, the â€˜wtfâ€™ factor (how much swearing will a change to a programme cause?) represents a similar pragmatic response. These craft perspectives will become increasingly important as the Internet of Things gains more traction. The way in which objects will become connected to the network in the home and elsewhere will be just as piecemeal and haphazard as a medieval cathedral. When we hook up our networked mirror, we will find it knocks out the networked scales. And login issues will mean that the scales will only show my sisterâ€™s weight and not mine. The risk of the tower of devices tumbling down will be very high. Medieval cathedrals suggest, however, that this does not mean we need a managed and heavily regulated approach to using the Internet of Things. The experience of the medieval masons shows how, by keeping things simple and interconnecting design in an open way, large networks can be organically built up. Sometimes the choir will come crashing down, but generally the organic craft-based effect will be spectacular.
A publication by UnBox in partnership with Mozilla's Open IoT Studio.