Using computers more freely and safely

May 29, 2023

I love the idea of situated software from this talk:

One coping mechanism is an idea from almost 20 years ago called situated software. This is software with a few users who know each other and share a social context or situation. The idea is analogous to local government: services with few stakeholders are often better able to meet the needs of their stakeholders, particularly when everyone knows everyone and there's a certain level of social accountability.

Which is originally from Clay Shirky

We've been killing conversations about software with "That won't scale" for so long we've forgotten that scaling problems aren't inherently fatal. The N-squared problem is only a problem if N is large, and in social situations, N is usually not large. A reading group works better with 5 members than 15; a seminar works better with 15 than 25, much less 50, and so on.

The software powering this blog, I would argue, is situated software. My github is full of personal-only use software built in ways that are not sensible for large-scale use, and that I update very infrequently. (I think I'm lucky that none of it has taken off!)

This blog software, for example, is incredibly unclever: every 20 minutes a cron job syncs my notes to the web from my personal laptop. Oftentimes that means it syncs partial entries or things I didn't mean to push up to it, but since it's just for me and I made it in a few hours, that's fine enough. I know what the sharp edges are so there's no need to sand them down.

Simon Willison wrote a bit about something like this when referring to this news.yc thread (his blog post is here but I think he tooted about it more than that, unfortunately his blog posts don't link to his toot threads)

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