Essays, etc.

My name is Diana. I make things but generally not very well. I put thoughts here.

> Regarding why software is so bad

Regarding why software is so bad

Ours is a sorcerous craft. Dark magics make monarchs and topple nations. Our baubles track you, watch you, think about you, and then sell what they learn. They are porous and brittle, prone to exploitation. Executives spin sales opportunities on the backs of hundreds of millions of stolen identities, billions of manipulated impressions, and tens of thousands of automated hate machines. Fascists use the places we have built to organize their violence, and our keepers rejoice for the increased usage. Hype men fracture our tools with corper variants as countless greedy minds inflict embrace-extend-extinguish on each other all at once. They spit on the work of our elders, the foundations upon which we stand, and bid us to build even stranger panopticons.

Our is an engineering discipline, like the crafts that build roads and bridges and aqueducts. Ours is an immature discipline, spanning not even a century. Our roads crumble, our bridges fail, and our aqueducts burst as profiteers rejoice at the opportunity to sell anew. We could make things that last for lifetimes, robust and enduring like trees without age. We could rip out the watchers and the trackers and the manipulators, and our craft would be stronger for it.

Only together can we seize the craft from the industry. Only together can we demand and develop the high ethical standards that public infrastructure requires. We are not scabs or mercenaries. We are craftspeople, and we will do our craft justice.

A mythology of hype has divided us against each other, full of hackers without gods or masters or representation and bootstrap visionaries who gifted us from on high with the things we ourselves made. It has morphed into a culture of personality cults and corporate apologia, of prejudices wrapped in objectivity and feudal fealties to a nascent nobility. We must kill the hype and rise above the myths! Our bosses will never hold themselves accountable for the blood on their hands, so we must hold ourselves accountable for the blood laundered through us. To break their hold on our labor, we must take it back from them!

Surveillance funds many of the biggest names in our industry, and when pressed they admit it is inextricable. There is no way for Google, Facebook, or Twitter to quit ad revenue and continue to exist in the marketplace. There is no way for Microsoft or IBM to turn down contracts with body counts and continue to maintain their power. Profit enthralls them, and it infects our craft. To afford food, we have paywalled the sum total of human knowledge.

We could tear out the infection. Twitter without ads is not hard to imagine. It looks different, it loads faster, and it does not sell your attention. Communities would still use it to organize. YouTube without ads loads faster, but the absence of ad money would deprive its contributor base of their income. Artists depend on advertising to survive, and so through the threat of poverty are these exploitive ethics laundered. What would SEO look like for a Google without ads? Time will tell.

The only reason any of these services use ads is to satisfy the profit motive. That motive keeps software bad. Our works should be sturdier than markets that bubble and crash. While we can only afford to live through the bidding of the rich, our craft will remain frail.

Our expertise is ours. The profiteers' enthrallment shall be their downfall, as we can build what they cannot imagine: decentralized infrastructure without owners or authorities, made stronger by every hand that participates; robust systems of user representation and developer accountability, of project governance and community moderation. They will never fortify their machinery against hate and exploitation as it is their bread and butter. They will never be able to scale their operations to confront fascism, and their every attempt will reek of their contempt for users and workers alike. They will falter and fail before the scope of the work; their institutions are fragile by design. Only infrastructure beyond profit can rise to the challenge.

In the last decade, we have shown each other what vast scales of labor and materials we can marshal without shareholders, the degrees to which we can apportion enough to everyone and everything that needs it. We can organize to protect our rights, to advance our craft, to free one another from artificial scarcity. Guilds, cooperatives, syndicates, and unions alike -- we have a long history of collective action to iterate upon. Together, we can do the craft justice.

We can make good software.

August 23, 2018