Crack for Engineers

I can’t help it. I just love big, complicated systems that let you get really precise about what you’re talking about. Types, classes, ontologies, schemas, normalization, denormalization, XML, RDF, XSLT, Java, … It’s all so cool. I can happily spend hours scribbling pages of hierarchies, interfaces, specifications, file formats, and the like.

But at the end of the day, I have a pile of hand-written notes and no code. All those fancy systems I love to study are not that useful when it comes to actually doing something useful. When I want to get something done, I hack up a Ruby script. It’s not elegant, but it works.

AltLaw makes a particularly tempting target for my engineering fantasies: all that unstructured data with so much potential structure. But to get the site to actually work, I use a flat index that stores everything as (gasp) strings.

Perhaps I’m learning the virtue of the “worse is better” approach to engineering. The only problem is, “worse is better” is worse fun.