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Possibility Bias: Why We Like APIs


... yes the name is something I just made up.

This is post no. 47 for Kev Quirk's #100DaysToOffload challenge. The point is to write many things, not to write good ones. Please adjust quality expectations accordingly :)

"It's really good that X is open source. That way everyone can add features to it!"

"... why can't it frobnicate greebles though? Commercial Product Y can frobnicate all the greebles for me."

"Well, sure. But they'll do it the way they want to. You should use X so that you have the freedom to do it your way!"

"... it... still doesn't do it though?"

"But it could!"

"Possibility bias"?

Imagine that your favorite proprietrary walled garden chat app suddenly had an open API. Anyone could write alternative frontends. Construct fancy chatbots. The possibilities are endless!

Same with data we could theoretically scrape from places. It feels good to imagine all the fancy ways you could aggregate them. Or... if only you could get Linux running on your toaster.

When trying to share this excitement with non-programmer friends, there is a sudden distance though between "it is now possible to do this in theory" and "it actually works". Yes, your toaster could run Linux if you reflash it after some soldering. It, however, doesn't currently toast anything. It could do it much better if you spent the time to do the boring part & actually wrote code to do toasting well; this is, however, a lot more boring than getting Linux print "hello world" on it.

As an end result, if your goal is not just to expand the possibilities of doing things but actually do them, sometimes, the Free Software option is... not quite there yet.

This often changes later. Changed by, sometimes, not even the same people who wrote the original proof-of-concept.

Yet, it still seems to be an easy mistake to make.

... comments welcome, either in email or on the (eventual) Mastodon post on Fosstodon.