Saturday, June 02, 2007

unreasonable acts and impossible things

Part 1. Unreasonable.

There's a programme on the TV here in the UK called Grumpy Old Men, it's supposed to be funny and sometimes it is, a bit. I have a few problems with it though, these men aren't old, heck most are little older than me, and that isn't old - believe me! More importantly they're not grumpy, they're perhaps slightly intolerant (esp. of fools) and wonderfully unreasonable.

As George Bernard Shaw apparently said - "Reasonable men adapt themselves to their environment; unreasonable men try to adapt their environment to themselves. Thus all progress is the result of the efforts of unreasonable men."

One of those grumpy old men is Bob Geldoff for f**k's sake - so what do you expect?

Now I make no personal claim to have made any great progress in anything but I do want progress to happen - with a passion. So like very many people who work in IT, rather than doing the reasonable thing with the money I earn, like buying expensive toys and exotic holidays, I write software to give away, experiment with stuff, and generally try to disrupt the very "ecosystem" that pays my wages. (OK, so I buy toys and take holidays too - sometimes).

Unreasonable behaviour can of course irritate others, it's not the purpose, but with so many reasonable people about the eventual conflict is inevitable. Maybe one day I'll figure my own way of dealing with this, but for now I simply draw on the lessons of great unreasonable folks of the recent past - Forty-Second Boyd and Grace Hopper are wonderful examples from the US military.

So what's this blog post all about? Yes, I know, I'm drifting. Trouble is that for the last 4 months the Wepoco project has been moving far too slowly as the team tries to find a way of integrating dreams of a low-cost hi-tech distributed delivery of weather services to millions of poor farmers with the reality of a bureaucratic network of state controlled weather services. So when I got a chance to spend a day immersed in geeky wonderfulness there really wasn't any contest. So on Thursday 31st May 2007 off I went to London for the Google Developer Day.

The Wepoco website uses Google Maps. It was pretty much my first attempt at AJAX programming and I'm quite proud of it. What's there today is no longer just my work, other members of the team have contributed the graphics and server-side code and helped in various ways. The website is far from perfect and has all sorts of problems that we're working on as time permits - but most importantly it's been a great way of learning what is possible on the Web in 2007. We've also found out things that aren't possible. For example it's hard to created printed documents from the web graphics, there's no easy way of showing animated maps and it hardly works on a slow dial-up line in Nekemte. This gave me several questions that I hoped I might be able to put to the Google team in London and, perhaps, they might even like to help with the project. I'd heard about Googlers having 20% of time for open source projects.

(to be continued....)

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