Debugging, and tech manuals

Didn't spend much time at the keyboard today. Chose to watch Picard this evening instead. (Don't worry; no spoilers.) What time I did spend there was mostly consumed by trying to debug my Conky config; yeah, I spoke too soon yesterday.

It seemed like my RSS script was being called too frequently; I'd grabbed the code from elsewhere, and “Too many requests” kept appearing in the window. I decided to switch back to the native RSS support, but that seemed to consistently return nothing. After playing around with Epsi's Lua code for debugging Conky, I confirmed that it too was eliciting the same response from Reddit (in the form of a 429 status in this case).

That's as far as I got because, while thinking about another RSS feed I might inadvertently abuse as part of this debugging process, I suddenly remembered I started reading it back in the late 90s — right around its inception, it seems, in 1997, although I didn't remember that — and then just stopped at some point, I guess; much like Slashdot. I couldn't believe it was still going, and I spent quite a while reading the archives. It, unlike other concepts on the 'net in the late 90s, has held up very well.

I read that, while they weren't struggling (yet), many of their former subscribers cited losing their jobs as their reason for cutting back. Well, I bought a year's subscription on the spot. That sort of experience, of quality, is effectively irreplaceable. I read a comment on HN the other day about that person's work at O'Reilly in its heyday. I bloody loved those books. Unix in a Nutshell? Advanced Perl Programming? All twenty or so of the X Window System bleedin' encyclopedia? With the exception of the latter — which was always scattered around the office as well as any treasure hunt — these bibles never left my desktop; never even got put back up on my shelves.

And, as much as I love Jeff Atwood, Stack Overflow killed them. Not directly, obviously, but as a consequence of us, collectively, failing to value experience, expertise and, just, hard work. The (wo)man-hours that went into these books — as laid out by the commenter — were staggering; far exceeding the most comprehensive entry I've seen in Stack Overflow. I used to believe that reputation systems would save the world; the cream they curated would be indistinguishable from god-sent.

I've come to my senses.

Simply put, I think there's a lot that collaboration — and the tedious grind of peer review and an editing department — bring to the table that reputation systems can't replicate; or at least the ones I'm familiar with. And that's nothing against them; I've seen some brilliant ones, that do indeed curate top-shelf content. But how did we decide they would replace our reference material, our ground truth in technology? Well, I think the answer is that we didn't; we just failed to step in when it became clear that they would perish without adequate investment.

When did this become a rant? I need to hit the sack.

End of Day 33

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