Subject: Re: funding indirect services
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 10:20:07 -0400


Rich Morin wrote:
> Crispin Cowan wants a "short, pithy paragraph describing the proposed
> work that makes it blindingly obvious why one would want such a widget,
> and if it's an infrastructure thing, how we might get there without
> breaking the world".

Sounds reasonable to me.  Actually wise.

> I don't feel capable of all that, but how about this:

If you are taking on a project that is unable to be clearly defined,
then I have little confidence that you will succeed.  Successful
projects tend to have simple clear definitions at their beginning, no
matter how much they grow beyond that.

Perl: "Build a report generator."

Linux: "Learn about how 386 memory management works by building a Unix
  kernel."

Emacs: "Build an extensible text editor."

Samba: "Be able to share files with Windows workstations."

Slashdot: "Build a Geek-friendly discussion board."

Debian: "Build a good package management system."

Bigger projects have certainly been started, for instance Gnome, KDE,
the GNU project, etc.  However they again have had simple definitions
that could be pointed to.

GNU: "Build a totally free replacement of Unix."

KDE, Gnome: "Build an integrated desktop for Unix similar to what
  people expect from Windows."

>    Meta is a unified interface for system information, where both "system"
>    and "information" are interpreted very broadly.  It maps documentation,
>    system state, and other useful information into a single "name space",
>    easing the creation of powerful support tools (e.g., system browsers
>    and administrative tools).  Initial versions of Meta will concentrate
>    on package management metadata and assorted documentation resources.
[...]

Way too grandiose.  I barely know how to get started with that.

What I hear is, "Create a format and associated tools for information
about other things."  Since this kind of thing is "meta-data", call
this the "Meta" project.

Essentially it intends to be the classic solution to translation
between several formats.  Instead of defining n choose 2 translations
between different formats, define a new format that can hold all of
the relevant information of the other formats, and define translations
to and from the other formats.

Now my personal opinion is that this is the kind of project that just
lends itself to vague generalities, and if it descends into that pit I
have little confidence that it will escape again.  But that may just be
my own cynicism...

Cheers,
Ben