on graceful degradation & finding love in the strangest places


Part one (the bit about graceful degradation)

I ♥ working in IT. It’s all magic. All of it. Working in IT is a bit like working for a travelling circus. Although I’m just the one putting up the posters, spinning the candyfloss and talking up the freaks, not the one actually doing any of the wowing.

No, the oohs and aahs and all that wonderful gobsmackedness are aimed in the direction of our troupe of nimble young night owls stepping it out on their solitary tight ropes. Their wide eyes full of code, caffeine coursing through their veins. All the incidental and troublesome sounds of the world drowned out, replaced with a sort of sometimes-slamming-sometimes-undulating electronic heartbeat that only they can hear.

Last night I read an 102-page document and, as I did, a warm glow came over me. I was at home inside the language. The acronyms washed over me like a balm. All those cute diagrams with their plasticky torso pawn figures and pointy arrows endeared themselves to me once more (they never fail to win me over!). I smiled to myself with fondness for it all.

And some of my all-time favourite IT-isms jumped out at me. Just some. The following list is by no means exhaustive.

graceful degradation

Well, it’s just poetic. But (unless you work in IT) its meaning* is pretty surprising.

a hybrid waterfall (approach)

This one is cute too. Imagine a literal waterfall hybrid. Imagine crossing a waterfall with something really strange. I can’t. I can’t even come up with something to hypothetically cross it with. All suggestions welcome.

the gypsy period

I like this a lot, and I don’t even want to know what it means. I did google it last night after stumbling across the term more than once. But even Google doesn’t know what the gypsy period is, apparently. I like to think of it referring to a situation or time where people are hanging out just having a damn good time, high on life or whatever else it is they’re high on, untethered and in tune with their surroundings. And most likely wearing loose-fitting muslin outfits (I’m picturing paisley and forest green).


Awesome. I don’t know what this means either, but that’s not really my point. Imagine being able to burst clouds! It’s so frickin god-like. Imagine being able to just thrash the shit out of the sky and bust up all the clouds. That’s some serious stress relief right there.


Okay, so this one’s not so cute. I don’t like extensibility so much but it’s one of the IT world’s pets. So now every time I read the word extensible or extensibility (and to a lesser extent scalability, its slightly better-dressed but still annoying cousin), I take a moment out for my own private amusement and picture an octopus with extensible tentacles. Also I picture the octopus having extra tentacles tacked on so that it eventually has so many appendages it looks more like a sea anemone than an octopus.

Now that I have written all that octopus stuff down I realise it doesn’t exactly paint me in the most stable light. But – whatever gets you through the day, right?

Part two (the bit about finding love in the strangest places)

The subject in (of?) the photos above is a yam. Yip, a yam. Clinging to nighttime normalcy and routine, tonight I decided to lift half a finger around the house and cook a Thursday-night roast. This was one of the yams I cooked and we later ate (splitting it in two and sharing it… it seemed like the only way to do it).

Easily won over by oddly heart-shaped things, I took photos of it. I showed it to Simon when he got home. I just thought it was a pure coincidence that it ended up in our house — some market gardener’s siamese mutant — but it turns out this yam’s path in life was far less accidental than I first thought.

“I saw it in the supermarket and chose it for you because I yam in love with you,” Simon said.

Pun aside, it was one of the world’s sweet things. Even sweeter and more memorable, perhaps, than gypsy periods, graceful humiliations and unusual waterfalls. 


* So, just quickly, to explain graceful degradation. Making software or websites or whatever, you obviously want to write *best practice* stuff, using all the shiny new tools and tricks… but then there’s the small problem of the end user and the technology they’re using (software/hardware/browser etc). It’s sort of like using an iPhone when the person you’re trying to connect with is holding a tin can and a piece of rope, for example. And of course you don’t just want to make technology for the elite. You want to write democratic, all-inclusive software. So you design it so that it gracefully degrades. All the high-specced geeks get their bleeding edge stuff and the guy on Windows 95 and dial-up in a cave somewhere still gets to partake.


3 Responses to “on graceful degradation & finding love in the strangest places”

  1. 1 Simon Sweetman

    I thought the gypsy period was when you got your palm red every 28 days…?


  2. 2 Eamon

    Pure GOLD Ms Sweetman.

  3. 3 katy77

    Ha – thanks 🙂

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