Some years ago Richard Gabriel, a demigod in the LISP programming world, wrote a thoughtful essay on why the LISP language (mostly) has failed to catch on as a software development environment — and why a number of similarly beautiful concepts have likewise not succeeded. Instead of mathematical correctness and completeness, the Real World seems to reward the 90% solution: unaesthetic approaches that (mostly) work and that are also cheap and fast.

Gabriel's essay is titled "Worse is Better". It came to mind recently when I found a description of the game "Advocacy" on http://www.plover.com/~mjd/advocacy/ — which happens to be a page by Mark-Jason Dominus, author of the delightful "How Regexes Work" (see RegExplanations, 6 Dec 2003). "Advocacy" players take a horrid situation and come up with reasons why it's actually great. Some examples from past competitions:

  • My style is terse. Maybe it is minimalist. Sentences have four words. Some have fewer. None have more. (I count contractions twice.) This beats ordinary writing. It's much better. Here's why ...
  • The volunteer firefighters in our fair city wear uniforms made of aluminum foil and crepe paper. These are the best firefighters' uniforms yet devised because ...
  • In my country, our political leaders and representatives are selected by means of a nationally televised staring contest. All the appropriate candidates are herded into a gigantic plaza and, at noon, begin staring at one another. The last one to blink gets to be Ruler of the Free World for the next six months. This system is obviously superior to public elections because ...

This also reminded me of the classic bumper sticker:

Imminetize the Eschaton!

... which (as I interpret it) is a call to make things as bad as they can get, and quickly too, so that an ultimate collapse will happen — followed (presumably) by a transition to a far far better state than we now experience.

Or, as the Discordians might more simply say:

Hail Eris!

... as they spread chaos for its own sake.

TopicProgramming - TopicScience - TopicHumor - TopicRecreation - 2003-12-23

(correlates: RegExplanations, AnnotationPunctuation, GoingSolo, ...)