This past summer was mostly hot and sunny in my neck of the urban woods, but here, there, and everywhere it was the summer of Wikipedia. In early August, I was reading the latest issue of The New Yorker, and I came across a lengthy article about Wikipedia with the clever title, ”Know It All” (subtitled, ”Can Wikipedia ­conquer expertise?”). Within days, the September issue of The Atlantic Monthly arrived in the mail, and it, too, contained a lengthy article about Wikipedia, which was titled ”The Hive” (and s­ubtitled, ”Can thousands of Wikipedians be wrong?”). While all this was going on, a small storm was brewing on Wikipedia itself over a segment on the U.S. cable TV show, ”The Colbert Report.” Host Stephen Colbert introduced the world to a new word: wikiality, which means reality as defined by a consensus (it’s a blend of Wikipedia and ­reality). He told his viewers to ”apply [Wikipedia] principles to all information. All we need to do is convince a majority of people that some factoid is true.” He then urged everyone to modify Wikipedia’s entry on elephants to include the decidedly untrue assertion that the population of African elephants had tripled in the past six months.

Now, Stephen Colbert has some expertise in coining new words and getting them to stick in the culture. On 17 October 2005, in his very first show, Colbert reinvented the long-lost word ­truthiness—maintaining something as fact without regard to evidence or logic—and by January 2006, the American Dialect Society had crowned truthiness as its Word of the Year. Wikiality may not ascend to such lexical heights, but it may have a longer shelf life than many people think. Its cause was helped by the members of the International Astronomical Union (of all people), who on 24 August 2006 took a vote on a new definition of planet, which to many observers seemed to be a wikiality-like truth-by-consensus decision.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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