Invitation for technical discussion on next-generation Thunderbird (Semantic Desktop: AA vs. Groove++)

Phillip Hallam-Baker phill at
Sun Apr 30 17:37:29 UTC 2017

On Sun, Apr 30, 2017 at 12:56 PM, Paul Fernhout <
pdfernhout at> wrote:

> On 28.04.2017 09:49, Gervase Markham wrote:
>> On 25/04/17 04:26, Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
>>> The following is why I feel TB:NG should be designed to support billions
>>> of messages of a wide variety of types.
>> This really sounds like architecture astronautics.
> Or you could perhaps more charitably call my hope for TG:NG as a sort of
> FOSS Groove++ plus more? :-)
> Ironically, Joel Spolsky who popularized that "architecture astronautics"
> term used as his example unified messaging platforms like Groove:
> ure-astronauts-scare-you/
> "When great thinkers think about problems, they start to see patterns.
> They look at the problem of people sending each other word-processor files,
> and then they look at the problem of people sending each other
> spreadsheets, and they realize that there’s a general pattern: sending
> files. That’s one level of abstraction already. Then they go up one more
> level: people send files, but web browsers also “send” requests for web
> pages. And when you think about it, calling a method on an object is like
> sending a message to an object! It’s the same thing again! Those are all
> sending operations, so our clever thinker invents a new, higher, broader
> abstraction called messaging, but now it’s getting really vague and nobody
> really knows what they’re talking about any more. Blah. When you go too far
> up, abstraction-wise, you run out of oxygen. Sometimes smart thinkers just
> don’t know when to stop, and they create these absurd, all-encompassing,
> high-level pictures of the universe that are all good and fine, but don’t
> actually mean anything at all. ... Then they’ll build applications like
> Groove that they think are more general than Napster, but which seem to
> have neglected that wee little feature that lets you type the name of a
> song and then listen to it — the feature we wanted in the first place. ..."
> While Joel does make a good point on ungrounded thinking to the exclusion
> of in-the-trenches doing, there were some responses by people who see all
> that differently though, including the (then) makers of Groove:

​I think he is completely wrong.

First off, anyone who is making an argument in those terms is probably not
that interesting in understanding the other point of view. In its day, the
Web was an example of architecture astronautics. We delivered. That does
not mean that everything the people involved did since was a good idea but
it does mean that people like Spolsky can lay off the ridicule. ​I am not
aware of any major contribution Joel has made to the field. Being project
manager for an already successful product and starting a blog are not
exactly in the Turing award class.

More importantly, PKIX/X.509, the beast that I and others spend a great
deal of time trying to keep running is vast and complex. The main reason it
got that way is Spolsky-ism. Every single time there was an opportunity to
step back and work out a generic mechanism for doing something, people said
'keep it simple', just do the absolute minimum. As a result, PKIX has eight
different assertion formats, SAML has one.

​Architecture is hard. It actually takes a great deal of expertise to
understand the genius in Tim's Web architecture. Making things that simple
is really hard. But getting the architecture right saves time in the end.
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