RIP, Sir Terry Pratchett

66 years old. Far, far too soon.

One of the few authors for whom Kate and I have tried to maintain a complete collection. We've never quite been able to keep up, because this brilliant, funny, angry man was simply so prolific.

He is one of my favorite authors to read; I did so in small doses because even the lightest-seeming book contained themes that deserved weeks or months of reflection.

He was a giant, and he will be missed.

Pratchett Himself
Terry Pratchett kindly posed with his hat for us.

Hit the dog park this morning with Kate. Spent most of the walk getting her reaction(s) to the new book, so it's already a pretty good day

It's difficult, I've found, to figure out what you've got when you finish a big story (and this one is big) – it's like working as a blind sculptor: you know the shape of the thing as you perceive it, but really have no idea if it scans as intended for anyone else.

Kate's approach to reading something new is always as a reader, first and foremost – for the enjoyment of it – and after having put parts of this thing through so many technical feedback loops and workshops, getting a "reader reaction" from someone was so incredibly helpful (and gets me past the post-completion "I suspect this thing I made is terrible" funk.)

The upshot of the conversation was "the story is doing all the things I want it to do," so I'm happy.

Technology

I've been thinking about this more and more as I consider the idea of friction — of resistance — in my life, and how to eliminate it.

To paraphrase and subvert the standard definition, technology is the collective term for techniques, methods, and/or processes that make an activity easier. Cooking has tech. Hunting has tech. Manufacturing, from machinery to millinery, has tech. Scientific investigation has tech.

Basically, if it's something humans do, we've come up with tech that makes it easier to do.

Sometimes, we iterate on that tech endlessly (see: ways to kill each other), sometimes, we figure out the best option right away and leave it (see: the wheel and/or lever).

Sometimes – the majority of the time, probably – an attempted improvement to existing tech fails to make The Thing easier (whatever The Thing is). In those instances, the iteration is discarded or is itself iterated on until is does improve The Thing.

This is so obvious it seems silly to say; if you do a thing that makes the existing tech worse, that is failed tech. (Maybe not a failed attempt, if it teaches us something, but it is failed tech.)

In short, good technology – functional technology – reduces friction: it makes the effort required for A Thing, less. If it doesn't do that, it is not technology.

By this definition, DRM – Digital Rights Management – as it is implemented today by various media industries, is not technology.

It's not a failed iteration of technology; if DRM were completely successful in its purpose (it isn't), it still fails to meet the one criterion for technology: it does not reduce friction for whatever Thing it affects. In a perfect world (which, again, this isn't) it might theoretically achieve a state of adding no additional friction, but it will never make friction less.

It is, in short, doing nothing but making things worse.

Today, it makes it harder to get to your stuff. Tomorrow, that difficulty increases, and as time goes on, so does that difficulty, until we reach a point where The Thing no longer works because of this anti-technology.

Until we reach a point where we've lost years or decades of our culture because we let our Things be locked in vaults we didn't control, to benefit people who only exist to sell keys.