October 31, 2012

A Response About Ephemera From a Software Developer

Filed under: Software Blog — marcstober @ 5:36 am

The cover story of the Ideas section in this past Sunday’s Boston Globe talks about how academics use ephemera—for example, handwritten notes in the margins of books—and whether anything like it will survive from the digital age.

Those of us who create digital information technology, software engineers, understand the problem well and have our own solutions. Most software code is still written in simple text files, or encoded in open formats like XML. Every computer language has a way to insert comments, so its author can explain what they were thinking. We use version control so there’s a record of earlier drafts of our work. And we often publish our work as open source on sites like GitHub so that those who come after us will be able to use our work.

Why don’t other fields do the same?