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Software Development / Tech Culture

This Week in Programming: Choosy Developers Choose GIF

Mar 29th, 2019 12:00pm by
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It’s already been thoroughly nitpicked over the years, but apparently we’re all fighting about how to pronounce “GIF” again on Twitter. It’s only been, what, 32 years now?

While Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch says that she has written the “definitive article” on the matter, which basically says it could go either way, I personally find the argument of web designer Aaron Bazinet, who managed to secure the domain, rather convincing in its simplicity: “It’s the most natural, logical way to pronounce it. That’s why when everyone comes across the word for the first time, they use a hard G.” Bazinet relates the origin of the debate as such:

“The creator of the GIF image format, Steve Wilhite of CompuServe, when deciding on the pronunciation, said he deliberately chose to echo the American peanut butter brand, Jif, and CompuServe employees would often say ‘Choosy developers choose GIF(jif)’, playing off of Jif’s television commercials. If you hear anyone pronounce GIF with a soft G, it’s because they know something of this history.”

McCulloch, however, points out that this sort of variation exists across many parts of language and should be embraced, not weaponized.

The point is, there are lots of other words that now exist in this world that have spellings that simply don’t translate to an expected pronunciation.

Linkerd. Containerd. SQL. These are just a few examples.

Sometimes, I wonder if this is the tech world’s way of sussing out who’s in the know and who’s a n00b — that weaponizing that McCulloch mentioned — by choosing pronunciations that would obviously go against the grain. It’s like Houston St. (for the New Yorker in the know, that’s “how-stin” not the Texas “hyu-stuhn”) or Couch St. (dear Portland…”cooch”? really?) or Manor Rd. (Austin likes “may-ner” here).

If it’s pronounced “container-dee” and “linker-dee” why’s there no visual clue? Why no capital D, at least? And why pronounce it “sequel” for “SQL”?

Because it’s the secret password to get into the cool kids clubhouse… or, rather the result of entering this new era with primarily text-based communication where pronunciation comes second to a word’s creation. In the past, spoken language came first and was then later codified into letters and spelling, but now the tables have been turned and we find ourselves spending decades debating whether it’s “gif” or “jif” because the guy who invented the standard happens to want to pronounce this word a certain way.

Maybe the real solution is to just live our lives forever in Slack and forget about that whole “talking” thing — it’s just a legacy app anyways.

This Week in Programming

  • GitLab Adds Secret Detection, Open Sources ChatOps: Starting off this week, GitLab has announced version 11.9, which adds a couple interesting features such as multiple merge request approval rules and, most notably, that of secret detection. The new feature scans each commit to make sure it doesn’t contain secrets, such as an API key, and when it finds something, it immediately alerts the developer of the merge request, giving them time to invalidate the leaded credentials and create new ones. (More on this sort of problem with GitLab competitor GitHub momentarily, for scope.) The new version of GitLab also helps with the review process by adding “greater controls and more structure with Merge request approval rules.” GitLab had already allowed users to specify when a merge would need approval by someone, and now “multiple rules can be added to a merge request to require individual approvers specifically, or even require a number of approvers from a particular group.” Finally, GitLab has also decided to open source ChatOps, which it calls “a powerful automation tool, allowing you to execute any CI/CD job and receive the status of the job directly from chat apps like Slack and Mattermost.”
  • Meanwhile, Over at GitHub: Speaking of vulnerabilities and code repositories, ProgrammableWeb relates the story of some research that indicates rampant GitHub data leaks of, you guessed it, “API tokens and cryptographic keys in alarming numbers.” The summary report, entitled “How Bad Can It Git? Characterizing Secret Leakage in Public GitHub Repositories,” describes the scanning of about 13 percent of the open-source repositories on GitHub over six months, finding “that over 100,000 repositories suffered leaks of secret information” with thousands of new leaks occurring daily, calling the problem rampant and far from solved. GitHub responds that many of the leaked tokens are likely void and that their own practice “includes notifying service providers within seconds of leaks being made public,” as well as employing “token scanning,” which has “notified service providers about more than 100 million potential token matches for verification and revocation.”

  • Microsoft and Facebook Intro Open Source Python Tools: Two new open source tools have arrived for the Python community this week. First, InfoWorld tells us of Microsoft’s speedy type checker for Python, called Pyright, which is an open source static-type-checking system for Python “that aims to be faster than existing type-checking solutions for Python such as Mypy.” The tool is written in TypeScript, runs on Node.js, doesn’t require an existing Python runtime to function and primarily meant “to be used as a Visual Studio Code plugin, but can also run as a standalone command-line tool.” Microsoft boasts that Pyright is “‘typically 5X faster’ than other Python type checkers that are themselves written in Python, such as Mypy, Pytype, and Pyre.” Next, Facebook announced that it is open-sourcing Python Test Runner (ptr), which allows developers to run Python unit test suites. Python Test Runner “crawls a repository to find Python projects with unit tests defined in their setup files” and then “runs each suite in parallel with configured enabled steps.” It runs on Linux, MacOS and Windows and is available on Github and PyPI.
  • Swift Five is Alive: Next, some news for you iOS devs with the release of Swift 5, which Apple is calling “a major milestone in the evolution of the language.” According to the release, with the stability of the Swift Application Binary Interface (ABI), “the Swift runtime is now included in current and future versions of Apple’s platform operating systems: macOS, iOS, tvOS and watchOS,” with a focus on Linux, Windows and other operating systems as Swift development on those matures. The latest version also includes “a reimplementation of String, enforcement of exclusive access to memory during runtime, new data types, and support for dynamically callable types.” A playground is available to play with some of the new features and an updated version of The Swift Programming Language for Swift 5 is also available and free on the Apple Books store.

  • Should we be scared of corporate-driven programming languages? This is the question being asked by Matt Asay in a recent story on InfoWorld, where he lays out a bit of history about the development of programming languages and looks at the trend of programming languages being driven by corporations. Calling the 1990s “the era of the freewheeling hacker,” Asay paints a picture of a time when “a starving PhD student could improvise a new programming language and within a few years the entire world was using it.” This, of course, in comparison to the 2010s, when “corporate-driven languages rule” and, “as evidenced by the rising popularity of languages like Kotlin and Go, seemingly the only way a new programming language hits the big time is with the generous backing of a megacorp.” Read on for some insightful analysis into what’s going on with languages and how enterprises are still trying to lock everyone in, one way or another, open source or not.
  • A Couple Cool Doodads: Before we leave this week, just a couple more things to point out. First, JAXEnter tells us of how Mozilla has combined Python and JavaScript to create interactive data science in your browser, with a tool called Iodide, which is “an open source experimental tool for scientific communication and exploration on the web.” Then there’s also Pyodide, which “compiles the Python science stack to run in WebAssembly.” There’s a demo you can play around with and a tour, but they note that the whole thing is still in alpha, so buyer beware. The next fun thing we noticed was Codestream, which SDTimes calls the Google Docs for code. Rather than cluttering your code with comment discussions between developers or having to handle everything separately, Codestream “sits alongside the code in an IDE, allowing development teams to easily review and comment on code.”

Feature image via Pixabay.

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