The More Anything Changes, the More it Remains the Same

The More Anything Changes, the More it Remains the Same

I hired 10 software engineers in Pune, India. Pune is the university town where I finished my Masters in statistics. I have happy memories of this town.

(Shaniwar Wada Fort, Pune, India)

We are developing apps that create data. We, of course, want to retrieve the data that we create. We develop apps for mobile phones that use open source software, with strange names such as PHP, JSON, JavaScript and more alphabet soup from Android, Bootstrap, C, C++, HTML, JSON, JAVA, JAVASCRIPT, MySQL PHP, SQL, Web Browser, WORDPRESS.

The software engineers use these names as if they are people, and talk as if their language was used by Shakespeare.

Listening to them, I imagined the following conversation between two neighbours with high tech kids:

A mother wants to brag about the brilliance of her son to her neighbour.


“Have you seen JSON?”

“Why? Is he lost?”

“No, I’m talking about JSON.”

“Yes, I understand.
Isn’t that your son? I saw him yesterday.”

“No, you can’t see him.”

“What are you talking about? Is that a spook?”

“No of course not.
JSON works with some script.”

“Is he religious?”

“No. I think he is an atheist.”

“Then why does he read the script?”

“He works with some things stored somewhere.”

“Now you are really confusing me.
Why are you speaking in riddles?”

“Someone told me yesterday that JSON works with some databases and uses some mysterious language that marks up everything.”

“This sounds really scary.”

“I thought so first, too. These people use all kinds of markup language when they speak to each other.”

“What are you talking about?”

“There is some data somewhere about us, where we live, what we eat, what we like to buy, what we don’t like to buy, what movies we go to, and everything else about us that is stored by some company, and they make a ton of money using all this information about us. The company is called something BOOK.”

“That’s not ethical, is it?”

“I don’t know. What are we going to do? I’m told that they use humongous databases stored somewhere, no one knows exactly where, they say in clouds, but don’t you think all that data will become wet?”

“Can you please tell me which clouds? That one or that one?”
(Pointing to the clouds in the sky)

“I don’t know which one, but Jason told me that it is true.
To read the information about us from the databases in the clouds, they use the same kind of a markup language.
As if it is not enough, they have to use some home presentation because you can’t see it clearly from the clouds.”

“Do you mean a presentation on my home TV?”

“They have a presentation, and for that presentation, they use my language.”

“Why only yours? Why not also mine?”

By this time real Jason walks in, and says to his mom and the neighbour,
“Mom, we are using HTML, which is a markup language. We use PHP, which is a server-side scripting language.
In order to explain all of this, we need to use JavaScript. And for the database, we use MySQL. We can see all of this on a web browser. You named me Jason, but we use JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) without an ‘A’.
I am sure I explained to you both very clearly what we do. I have to go now because my colleagues are stuck in some doodoo of JSON (of course, not of your Jason but of our JSON).”

Footnote:
Android, Bootstrap, C, C++, HTML, JSON, JAVA, JAVASCRIPT, MySQL PHP, SQL, Web Browser, WORDPRESS.

Shaku Atre
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