Software over the rainbow

desearch and revelopment

Instructions, Limitations

Instruction set is a recently launched site that gives some instructions every month and asks for implementations in code. Think Sol Lewitt goes 2.0 (sorry I couldn’t resist). It is a beautiful simple idea and It’s stealing me lots of braincycles (see).

I’ve heard raindrops here and there about design by limitation lately. Number of chars in twitter, flickr video length, 1 photo/day in fotolog… There are a couple of limitations in instructionset which I missed at first but on a second thought I found interesting:

  • There’s no clear way to post a result (images, applets, audio…). You can always give a url, but it is not even suggested. I thought it might be an obvious improvement, but after trying to come up with solutions for the 2 first instructions, I’ve discovered that results could be a distraction. Instructions are about language and interpretation. I’ve found myself repeating the sentence, trying to define exactly every word, looking for a fold, or a flaw in which to introduce a deviation… Thinking how they relate to the programming language, how I relate to the programming language (specially with the first one “draw a straight line and follow it”)… I think that this relationship between everyday and programming language is a powerful one to explore.

  • There is no form of comments/discussion other than the description of you implementation. After seeing some of the contributions, I’ve found interesting approaches and I’d like to give feedback, but given the overwhelming noise ratio in today’s software playgrounds, I appreciate that there’s no way to do it. Paraphrasing Cage: just respond with your implementation.

Now, I don’t know if these are intended features or result of an early release, but if one could vote against new features… :)