Monday, July 2, 2018

The node_modules folder might as well be magick.

My superior at work told me a story of an author who penned an npm package who years later found himself facing some sort of naming conflict with another party. Maybe another was threatening a lawsuit or something. Anyhow, this author just decided to take his package offline and that ended up sabotaging numerous other (thousands) JavaScript applications with other npm packages now dependent on his miserable missing package even though the JavaScript applications themselves had no such immediate ties. (There was a degree of separation, but a dependency nonetheless.) Horrible! npm itself eventually started reoffering the removed thing in order to solve the problem. Roleplaying geeks may recall that in the first edition of White Wolf's "Mage: The Ascension" book back in the 1990s there is some emphasis on the distinction between magic and magick wherein magic implies stage magic and illusion while magick is actually reality shaking. SoundHound's ability to tell me what song is playing in the room I am in and Facebook's facial recognition software seem like magic to me. I don't know how the trick is done and therefore I am dazzled. However, another human being could just explain it to me in a whiteboarding session. I do my job without really understanding how RAM works too because I don't really have to. Somethings can just stay unexplored... like calculus dammit. Anyhow, it's a bit of a fudging to say that the node_modules folder's machinery is magick but it is quite different from something I just don't understand. If I were the richest man on Earth I still couldn't find a teacher that knows what is in the ever-changing ball of yarn and what is in there does actually have something to do with my job and my day-to-day. When Jennifer Granick referenced Frank Pasquale's book "The Black Box Society" here, I think I now know what she was talking about. What to do about the problem? Nothing. If you go back in time to when Microsoft had control of everything and you wondered if Bill Gates could just turn the world off in retaliation if the government attempted to invade his Redmond, Washington headquarters, you will recall how everyone badmouthed Microsoft. Now Microsoft isn't what it was and our own government is spying on us instead of Microsoft and there are other switcheroos too like the rise of the ironically opaque Google which is all about helping you find stuff (don't expect to speak to a human in tech support and expect a bit of a wait while they try to get rid of a dead body at the maps) and the rise of open source orchestrations that can be so very, very bad. Even as Microsoft collaborates with Google and the community on Angular it unfortunately has to collaborate with Google and the community and its old "we are doing things our way dammit" sledgehammer is gone. We all wanted this, and now we have it. It's magick!

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