A couple of days ago, I went looking for a comparison of the architectures of various wiki systems. I wasn’t after a feature list–Wikipedia and WikiMatrix have those–but rather a deep dive into wikis’ construction. TiddlyWiki, the Smallest Federated Wiki, and many other systems take fundamentally approaches to lighweight collaborative editing; surely, I thought, someone would have written a compare-and-contrast of their data schemas, how they store information, how they handle multi-author synchronization and conflicts, and so on.

But as far as I can determine, no such write-up exists. Back in the 1980s, Software: Practice & Experience might have had something, but it is now a pale, irrelevant shadow of its former glory, and its imitators seem just as obsessed with esoterica.

This isn’t the first time I’ve tripped over the fact that people talk about software architecture in the abstract a lot more than they talk about the architectures of particular software systems. My frustration led to Beautiful Code and The Architecture of Open Source Applications, but not to the imitators I’d hoped for. Real (building) architecture has this: books like these are full of lessons drawn from long traditions of practice that are not schooled in the academic sense, but are (to quote from another context) “merely useful”. I realize I’m biased, but I think our craft would be a lot further along if conferences like these spent the next few years focusing on actual descriptions of actual systems.

But I’m not holding my breath.