Lengthen Your Line — Why I Oppose Software Patents

Tonight iA announced that they will drop their controversial patent application for the “Syntax Control” feature of Writer Pro. Upon learning of the surprising good news, I was reminded of an anecdote from Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams.

Hyams, a journalist and a devoted martial arts student, compiled the book from unexpected life lessons he learned while on the mat. Despite its short length, it is rich with practical wisdom. It’s not a book about feats of the body, but a work of deep gratitude for the teachers who helped him become a happier person (I cannot recommend this book enough; it’s wonderful).

This is one of my favorite stories:

I will remember one of my initial sessions at [Ken Parker’s] dojo in Los Angeles where I was practising kumite (sparring) with a more skillful opponent. To make up for my lack of knowledge and experience, I tried deceptive, tricky moves that were readily countered. I was outclassed, and Parker watched me get roundly trounced.

When the match was over I was dejected. Parker invited me into his small office; a small sparsely furnished room with only a scarred desk and battered chairs.

"Why are you so upset?" he asked.

"Because I couldn’t score."

Parker got up from behind the desk and with a piece of chalk drew a line on the floor about five feet long.

"How can you make this line shorter?" he asked.

I studied the line and gave him several answers, including cutting the line in many pieces. He shook his head and drew a second line, longer than the first.

"Now how does the first line look?"

"Shorter," I said.

Parker nodded. “It is always better to improve and strengthen your own line or knowledge than to try and cut your opponent’s line.” He accompanied me to the door and added, “Think about what I have just said.”

Software developers: lengthen your line.

|  26 Dec 2013