Rocket Discover: Avoiding Infinity

Have you ever bought a product or service based on a claim that you get something unlimited? Often we prefer the concept of unlimited because it gives us the right to complain if we find ourselves…limited.

The reality, however, is that when people promise you unlimited, what they really mean is that they promise to give you as much as you want so long as it is practical to physical or budgetary realities.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”  – Albert Einstein

Take, for example, the concept of unlimited emails. Unlimited emails can be promised because the likelihood of someone on a low budget having the patience to create enough emails to cause difficulty is extremely unlikely.

In the early days of computers even numbers had limits that where easily reached. An 8-bit computer implied a limit of 255 (28 -1 for zero). This was a very easy number to reach if a programmer wasn’t careful. Today, numbers in computers still have limits, but they are so high that it isn’t as much of a concern (currently 18,446,744,073,709,551,615).

PacManThis limit to the size of numbers in early computing resulted in interesting situations, the most famous of which is probably in computer games.

What this points out is that a responsible programmer should never assume that a person would never attempt something beyond the scope of the programmer’s imagination. A programmer should always set a limit.

One very good (and recent) example of setting a limit is the 140 character limit on tweets. Though the original reason for the limit was technical, the limit seems to have kept the application purpose-focused.

In Rocket Discover many limits are set that are considered unlikely for people to ever reach or need. However, if these things where not limited, there will occasionally be one person in a thousand who does push the envelop and may cause the application to run too slow to be practical.

It is better to warn people when they are approaching a limit so that they can start making alternative plans, or rethink how they can best use the software. And do this well before the hard limit is reached.

Hopefully these limits will keep Rocket Discover focused on its purpose: discovery. Much the same way a 140 character limit has kept tweets as tweets, instead of monologues.

Rocket Discover

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Douglas Maclaine-Cross

Lead Front End Developer at Rocket Software
Douglas has been a developer for over 15 years. Early in his career he was instrumental in the production of many UK tourism portals for Wales, Lincolnshire, Birmingham and Yorkshire. From 2009 until 2014 Douglas was project leader and architect for the Web Editor project. Now Douglas is proud to be a member of the Rocket Discover team; making a tool that can truly improve the world we live in by empowering decision makers.

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2 Responses to Rocket Discover: Avoiding Infinity

  1. Rick August 19, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Very good point

  2. Guy August 19, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    very interesting

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