the unhappy reality of upgrades

September 25th, 2007

It struck me today that as coders we do what we can to wrap our nasty, complicated code in a neat package that the user will love. They don't realize, and we don't want them to know, just how convoluted and messy the stuff is on the inside. And this holds up for long periods of time. But there comes a time when our neat little illusion cracks up and the ugliness comes into view. Bugs expose it sometimes, but upgrades do this with immaculate regularity.

Why today? Because Wordpress 2.3 was dropped today. The Wordpress people decided to toss out categories in favor of a wonderfully engineered (isn't that what we always believe?) taxonomy system. With the immediate consequence that any code that has anything to do with categories would break. That's two of my plugins. Clearly these guys are not Windows users. Microsoft's Patch and Play strategy with Windows has kept *a lot* of companies happy, as they continually strive to emulate their old bugs to accommodate programs that were written to cope with them. This has seriously handicapped Windows from making progress, because they keep pulling that huge sack of legacy code going back to probably Win3.1 (with Workgroups, yay!).

Posts used to be related to Categories with an in-between table, the classic N:M relational idiom. Now there are 4 tables, all related to each other in interesting ways. It took me quite a while to crack this code. This was introduced to add tagging support, which is quite the annoyance, because I have no interest in tagging. I find it a useless errand. And, of course, for those not tagging from the beginning you always come back to having to post-tag 600 old posts. Forget it.

Tools always help a lot, but it's very difficult to capture all the nuances, and in many cases human review is necessary anyway (particularly when themes change). And this is the sad reality of it. While minor upgrades are now handled routinely, bigger changes will always cause problems.

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