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Software as Gardening

Saturday, April 28 2018

How long do you expect sofware will be around? A few months? A few years? Decades? Surely not forever. Or do you?

Building software is sometimes described as tending to a garden. We create fertile ground to plant new functionality. We regularly revisit older plants to water them, nurture them and check in how they're doing. And above all, we keep an eye out for weeds, removing them before they can flourish and starve the plants we've spent so much time nurturing.

Software is gardening. If we stop tending to it, it withers and dies.

So back to your program. How long can it survive without being tended to? How long will its peer dependencies be around for? How much regular maintenance is needed?

In the end all software is fallible. It all withers and dies. Operating systems are updated. Hardware is replaced. Runtimes make backwards incompatible changes1. Digital decay. Bit rot.

But like gardeners we can embrace this as part of the process. Some crops have high turnover in the short term. Others take a while to grow, but can be counted on for decades. The right fit is dependant on your needs.

This is why I'm picking up Rust. I'm looking to plant programs that last. The Dat protocol is meant for archiving. If we're looking to archive data, it's paramount that our archiving software will be around just as long as our archives are.


Rust

Rust2 is a new-ish programming language from Mozilla. It's been designed to replace C++. A cool benefit it has in this context, is that it can be compiled statically in its entirety. This means the only peer dependency your applications have is the operating system it runs on. And if that peer dependency is the Linux kernel, it'll most likely keep running for as long as the kernel is maintained. In terms of longetivity, that's probably as good as we can get.


That's it for now. Thanks for reading!

References

  1. https://github.com/nodejs/node/pull/8169#issuecomment-244133514
  2. https://rust-lang.org