A chorus of IT recipes

My all-time favorite scene in The Matrix, if not in all of moviedom, is the one where Trinity needs to know how to fly a helicopter. “Tank, I need a pilot program for a B-212.” Her eyelids flutter while she downloads the skill.

I always used to think there was just one definitive flight instruction implant. But lately, thanks to Ward Cunningham and Mike Caulfield, I’ve started to imagine it a different way.

Here’s a thing that happened today. I needed to test a contribution from Ned Zimmerman that will improve the Hypothesis WordPress plugin. The WordPress setup I’d been using had rotted, it was time for a refresh, and the way you do that nowadays is with a tool called Docker. I’d used it for other things but not yet for WordPress. So of course I searched:

wordpress docker ubuntu

A chorus of recipes came back. I picked the first one and got stuck here with this sad report:

'module' object has on attribute 'connection'

Many have tried to solve this problem. Some have succeeded. But for my particular Linux setup it just wasn’t in the cards. Pretty quickly I pulled the trigger on that approach, went back to the chorus, and tried another recipe which worked like a charm.

The point is that there is no definitive recipe for the task. Circumstances differ. There’s a set of available recipes, some better than others for your particular situation. You want to be able to discover them, then rapidly evaluate them.

Learning by consulting a chorus is something programmers and sysadmins take for granted because a generation of open source practice has built a strong chorus. The band’s been together for a long time, a community knows the tunes.

Can this approach help us master other disciplines? Yes, but only if the work of practitioners is widely available online for review and study. Where that requirement is met, choral explanations ought to be able to flourish.

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