On Forests and Trees

When an English speaker is drowning in details that make the big picture hard to see, she might complain, “I can’t see the forest for the trees.”

image credit: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho (Flickr)

It’s an odd expression, partly ironic and partly humorous. When I hear it, I sometimes think of my sister, who, after moving from Indiana to Utah, complained that the mountains were getting in the way of her view. (Her tongue was firmly in her cheek… :-)

The expression also describes an important problem of software engineering–one that a lot of engineers don’t understand well enough. It’s a problem with generalization.
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Convoys as a model for distributed architectures

It occurred to me this past week that convoys–especially the kind where truckers form and manage ad hoc communities through chatter on CB radio–are an excellent model for the sort of distributed software architecture that cloud-native software demands. In part 2 of my series of posts about how to “cloudify” your code and designs on Adaptive Computing’s website, I discuss the lessons that programmers ought to absorb from their role models in big rigs. Head over there and check it out.

Convoys require frequent, real-time, adaptive coordination by many independent actors. Photo credit: Sangudo (Flickr)

Stay tuned for further installments of this series each Friday. As I said in Part 1, I believe that a competence with cloud–cloud-oriented programming, if you will–will be a checkbox on future tech resumes.