Unintended consequence and path dependence

In To understand the command line… (highly recommend to read thoroughly), the author quoted Rob Pike, who wrote about the dot files convention in the early days of the Unix environment:

I’m pretty sure the concept of a hidden file was an unintended consequence. It was certainly a mistake.

Coincidentally, it’s been said in a comment of the article What No One Told You About Z-Index, that early CSS design decisions is, in fact, driven by how Netscape’s layout logic in the Mozilla code base had worked at the time.

I wouldn’t know if the statement about CSS history is true or not. However, it’s true that many of the cornerstones we have on web development, like some of the designs of the DOM, CSS, HTML, are unintended consequences, amplified by path dependence.

Mozilla, just like Netscape, or Bell Labs, does not float in the haven, where the developers have infinite time and knowledge to foresee everything. We have our partners and schedules to answer to, too. However, I do feel that working in Mozilla as a web developer is a privileged role, that we should, to the best of my knowledge, avoid unintended consequences, like what Rob states vividly above.

The Death of Aaron Swartz

Upon reading Lessig’s post, Prosecutor as Bully, quote:

Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.

One word, and endless tears.

All I think of on the US government and the prosecutor Carmen Ortiz is how Les Misérables describes the 19th century France and the inspector Javert. The preface of the novel Hugo wrote in 1862, quote:

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, …; so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Hugo’s prophecy may live longer than everyone have thought of, ever.

洪朝貴老師整理了不少關於 Aaron Swartz 身亡的報導與反應,其中,他引用了 Lessig 的「檢察官罷凌」:



讀到這裡,我心中對美國政府以及檢察官 Carmen Ortiz 的想法就跟小說《悲慘世界》中所描述的 19 世紀法國以及 Javert 檢查官一樣。在小說開始的序中,雨果在 1862 年寫下: