Cutting the Code

by John Derbyshire

Following my thumbnail review of The Social Network here on the Corner t’other day, I’ve had some irritating emails from readers taking issue with my assertion that creating Facebook was, from the simply technical comp-sci point of view “ferociously difficult.” “Pooh!” scoffed my emailers. “Piece of cake! I could knock out two Facebooks any day, between breakfast and lunch.”

There is a rather obvious response to that, but I’ll eschew it.

My own working experience of code is paleolithic, but I have a number of Zuckerberg-type Aspergery geeks in my circle of acquaintance, and I checked in with them. Every one agrees with me. Sample comment: “Scaling from a campus network to a half billion users? Hoo-ee! That’s like wiffle ball to the major leagues.” Supporting documentation was offered, like this and this. I got offered long technical explanations filled with comp-sci jargon, some of which I understood (“denormalization”? yeah, been there, done that, don’t want to sum 100,000 rows every time the guy needs to know his bank balance, etc.) but much more not (“sharding”? wha?).

Bottom line, from a friend in Palo Alto: “The movie overall has just made Zuck into a god in Silicon Valley. Even the Google guys are envious.”

They should be. And when are they going to get Chrome working properly?

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