Author Topic: EP398: Subversion  (Read 12711 times)

eytanz

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on: May 31, 2013, 08:36:34 AM
EP398: Subversion

By Elisabeth R. Adams

Read by Christiana Ellis

--

I knew, by his crossed arms, the way he rolled his eyes at himself, and particularly by the pale translucence of all three of him, that I was looking at a classic case of version conflict.

“I said stay away from her,” said one I decided to call Art. Nicknames help. Thick square rims, a jaunty fedora, a crisp T-shirt for a concert by a band that broke up before he hit preschool. He was yelling at a paler self in a white collared shirt and slacks. They were trailed by a bored looking him in sunglasses.

“What seems to be the problem, sir?” I asked. Rule number one: stick to the singular.

“I can’t get him to commit,” said Slacks.

I scanned his chip. Eduardo Martin, 34, programmer. No spouse or kids, but adoption records from the county shelter for two cats. Sealed tax records, a social security number, mortgage history. Subversion Inc. member for five years, currently version 4.1. Definitely the primary.

“And your subversion?”

Art glared at Eduardo, but extended his arm. Eduardo Martin, 34, barista. Same social security number. A different home address. And, most intriguingly, he was listed as version 1.0.

“You see?” said Eduardo.

“Let me check.” I ran through Art’s commit log. “Says you branched off from 2.5, hmm, two years ago. That’s a bit long. Company policy recommends no more than six months between full reconciles. Probably caused some glitch in the occupation and version number.”

“It’s not a glitch,” said Art. “I want to apply for Emancipated Branch status.”

“No, no, no,” said Eduardo. He flailed his arms and paced. He looked even paler up close, but maybe that was the fluorescent shop lights. “You’re nothing without me, nothing!”

“Um, Eddie?” the third Eduardo spoke up. He gently caught his arms before he knocked over a tray of pamphlets. “Calm down, man.”

I had not paid him much attention, as he was clearly a very minor sub. A Watcher. The part of yourself you spin off to be your own lookout. I had one of my own parked in front of my boss’s door, waiting for his meeting to end. It was easy to forget about watchers, if you weren’t careful.

And Eduardo was not a careful man. I searched his record. No fewer than ten versions out, though none older than two weeks. Except for Art.

“Sir, we strongly recommend against having more than four subs at a time,” I said. “Having too many threads often leads to, ah, complicated reconciliations.”

“You see?” said Art. “Accept it, it’s over. Just let me branch.”

“Out of the question!” said Eduardo. His expression froze.

On my screen, I could see that one of his subs had just been checked in, reconciled, checked out again. This one was located at his office.

I smiled sympathetically. “Couldn’t get time off?”

“That’s why I signed up,” he said. “‘I’ just sat through a two hour meeting, and this is the first time anyone even mentioned my name. Best sub I ever made.” He glared at Art.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Listener

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Reply #1 on: May 31, 2013, 12:23:22 PM
This was really clever and really wish-fulfillment-y, the latter at least on my part. I think most of the comments we could make were already made by Alasdair in his outro.

What would I do with this technology? Take the parts of myself that I can't indulge because of Reasons, subversion them out, and let them get done what needs to get done. (Don't worry, I'm not thinking of anything criminal here.) And, I mean, if the author had been an erotica writer, just imagine where this technology could be taken.

Overall a very good episode.

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Void Munashii

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Reply #2 on: May 31, 2013, 02:50:36 PM
     I really liked this story, and would love to have subversions of myself. I could dedicate one to writing, and one to gaming while the rest of me was at work. I know the story was all about the pitfalls of such decisions, but I don't care; I want subversions! Wish fulfillment indeed!

     I would really like to know more about this world. What happens if a subversion is killed? What happens to a strong subversion that has not been branches, like "Art" at the beginning of the story, if the original is killed? What happens to a back-up if the original dies? Can the original be brought back somehow after death? If you are rolled back to a previous back-up, are you still really you, or just a simulation of you?

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TB3

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Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 03:47:48 PM
This story really cries out for a techie joke:
"None of this would be a problem if they just used git!"

It's a very programmer-specific joke, but I think it works in context.  ;)



schizoTypal

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Reply #4 on: May 31, 2013, 05:44:24 PM
I always like a literalization of a metaphorical event.



Kaa

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Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 06:19:33 PM
You know what I absolutely hated about this story? That I've been toying with writing something on a similar theme, but this one is so much better than anything I came up with.

I really enjoyed this one. A lot. It's the age-old question of what becomes of the you that steps into the transporter when the you that appears down on the planet materializes? Are "you" the same "you" "you" were? Or are "you" a different "you"? You know?

Well, at least ~50 years old, anyway. :)

I also took great delight in the descriptions of the different versions of Eduardo. And Christiana did a wonderful job giving them individuality. I hope that if Escape Artists ever produces one of my stories (it could happen if, you know . . . I were to ever submit them), I want Christiana to read it. :)

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flintknapper

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Reply #6 on: May 31, 2013, 08:34:49 PM
Bizarre but fun. The implications made my head spin. Multitasking taken into the future. Good narration to boot too!

My only complaint is I had to get into a rhythm to follow this one. To many similar sounding words used together in rapid succession. I do not know of that makes sense, but it took me the first 5 or so minutes before I started to understand what was going on.



flintknapper

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Reply #7 on: May 31, 2013, 08:37:53 PM
Oh... I guess I am not done.

When I said in the Gun for Dinosaur thread that:  "I love the new stuff. Just when you think it has all been done before, someone runs out of left field and hits you with something you didn't see coming."

A story like Subversion is exactly what I meant.



Cutter McKay

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Reply #8 on: May 31, 2013, 10:35:36 PM
I think Void hit it right on the head for me: One for writing, one for gaming, one for work. Though with my luck, I'd be the one stuck at work while the other me's were having all the fun,  :-\

This story was fantastic, I have no gripes. Well written, well narrated, intriguing, and fun to boot. It reminds me of a Writers of the Future winner from a few years back. I forget the name/author (I'll look them up later and edit) but the story was essentially about how people could "fax" copies of themselves about the globe, so instead of flying to China for a business trip, you would copy yourself, the copy would attend the meeting, upload its consciousness to you, and then dissolve into nothing. The tale was about a copy whose Original died while she, (the copy) was at the meeting. Well, because of the programming, and the laws, she was going to automatically dissolve in a few hours, but she was the last remnant of herself and didn't want to die. Very intriguing story.

Anyway, this was a wonderful story, too. I really enjoyed it.

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #9 on: May 31, 2013, 11:27:44 PM
It wasn't all that for me, unfortunately, though to be fair, I did listen twice to make sure I gave it a fair shake.

For one thing, I don't mind info-dumps. I appreciate the explanation. Yes, they can be annoyingly obvious, slow, and pedantic. But that's what separates the good writers from the bad.

Admittedly, a lot of brain-dumping wasn't all that needed here. But it was a little confusing is spots.

I think the thing that really got me hung up on was the physicality of it. How do these various versions manifest themselves? Are we talking VR? Androids? Real physical bodies? Holograms? There's a hint that it's the last when our narrator mentions that her boss has a shimmer, indicating that it's holographic.

It was an interesting concept certainly, one I can have sympathy for after a recent harddrive crash.

I think his might be better as a read, where things might be a little clearer.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 05:54:15 AM by InfiniteMonkey »



benjaminjb

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Reply #10 on: June 01, 2013, 02:14:22 AM
I'm going to be a slightly sour note here: I think the concept is fascinating and I appreciate the way the world-building isn't dumped on us.

But as a story--well, what's the story? Guy comes in to office, talk talk talk, roll credits. I don't mind action-lite stories or stories where the primary conflict is emotional (as here, where a guy is in a romantic triangle with himself). But a story where the POV character is secondary to the conflict? A story where the conflict itself (for me) didn't raise a lot of emotional stakes because I didn't really know or care about the people in the conflict? That sort of story doesn't really do much for me as a story.

So, that's my take: a great premise but not much of a story. (See also Ken Liu's "Real Artists.")

Or should I read the story again?



Frungi

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Reply #11 on: June 02, 2013, 02:00:53 AM
I loved this story, even though I’m not sure whether it would work for readers/listeners who aren’t tech-minded and are unfamiliar with version control systems. And I always love Christiana Ellis’s readings.



Windup

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Reply #12 on: June 02, 2013, 06:33:02 AM

I didn't connect with this one. Although the premise was intriguing, there wasn't a strong enough sense of what the situation felt like to make it seem real.  What is really going on in your mind when "most of your left brain" is checked out to a version that's at work, or a copy is at home making it with your girlfriend (or some percentage of your girlfriend) while you're at an appointment?  I don't have any idea, and without that, I felt too cut off from Eduardo to care what happened to him. So, a bit of a misfire for me -- better luck next week.

On a side note, when I first listened to the story, I was a nonplussed by how easily the "Emancipated Branch" was created -- a whole new human without any apparent controls, authorization, checks, or court order. Just, "OK, here you go, your Social Security card is coming in the mail..."  Then on some reflection, I realized that is pretty much the way it works right now...   ;)

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #13 on: June 02, 2013, 02:16:22 PM
I loved this story, even though I’m not sure whether it would work for readers/listeners who aren’t tech-minded and are unfamiliar with version control systems.

I think this may have been the problem for me... it had the feel of a joke I wasn't getting. (And I suspect not just people who are tech-minded, but writers as well, since they are also often concerned with version control)



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #14 on: June 02, 2013, 02:37:01 PM
When I turned on my player and saw what this was called my mind went "Yes Subversion is revision control software, it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with... the... hey! It does! AWESOME!"
Also I loved the "He won't commit" pun at the beginning, probably wasn't a pun but I don't care.

And yes, this problem would never happen if they had only used git.

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Just Jeff

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Reply #15 on: June 02, 2013, 04:58:11 PM
I loved this story, even though I’m not sure whether it would work for readers/listeners who aren’t tech-minded and are unfamiliar with version control systems.
Loved the story, but I had the same thought.



Dem

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Reply #16 on: June 02, 2013, 07:04:02 PM
I think I hit the Goldilocks zone - I don't know so much tech I couldn't make it work, and I don't know so little tech I didn't get it. To me, this was a high concept what-if story and never mind the mechanics. What if - we could do this, parcel ourselves out to be in several places at once? Hold and play multiple decks of cards? How would we know if the other players were 'themselves' or sub-versions (The title set me up for something altogether different. Although maybe not, as it turns out), and how would we deal with that? At the moment, we have to deal with our friends'/colleagues' inability to let their phone go to voicemail while they're talking to us. How much more annoying would it be to have 15% of someone there for a meeting or a night out? The social and psychological concomitants are mind boggling, never mind the 'fighting a war while a bit of you stays home to do the washing up' part!

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Frungi

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Reply #17 on: June 02, 2013, 07:12:20 PM
"Yes Subversion is revision control software, it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with... the... hey! It does! AWESOME!"

Don’t you just love it when that happens? ;D



TheArchivist

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Reply #18 on: June 03, 2013, 08:24:29 AM
"Yes Subversion is revision control software, it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with... the... hey! It does! AWESOME!"

Don’t you just love it when that happens? ;D
Hehe ;)
So what does it say about me that I noted all the terminology was correct, but that is not subversion's numbering system! It's more like CVS!  ;D
And the "commit" comment is SO a pun! I love a good pun.

I can see where benjaminjb and Windup are coming from, though. I suspect if I weren't such a geek and squeeing over the puns and VCS references, I might well have felt similarly.
On the other hand, for a not-much-action office encounter narrative it flowed well and is definitely well written. There are cases where a sideways view of the situation allows the reader/listener to fill in the action details in a way that's comfortable for them. In some ways that's not unlike the recent Bujold story, Aftermaths - what you might consider the "real story" is only hinted at in passing while the personal interactions and other "trivia" are allowed centre stage. If done well that can be a powerful technique. In this case Ms. Adams has not reached the dizzy heights achieved by Ms. Bujold, but heck, NEW AUTHOR!!!!, I think we can give her some leeway.



chemistryguy

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Reply #19 on: June 03, 2013, 04:16:35 PM
I think I would have enjoyed the story more if I had a better understanding of the workings, but I can say that about everything else going on in my life.

I'll take, two, please.


adrianh

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Reply #20 on: June 05, 2013, 12:57:55 PM
Quote
You know what I absolutely hated about this story? That I've been toying with writing something on a similar theme, but this one is so much better than anything I came up with.

I was coming here to write exactly this comment. I've a line in my story ideas file that says:

"Version control for consciousness. Who owns what?"

... and this story is much nicer than what was in my head. Bugger ;-)

The author also pulled off the explanation of the world wonderfully. Really excellent example of show-not-tell. Hell - I think it's a clearer description of version control for newbies than I usually encounter in technical documentation!



Unblinking

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Reply #21 on: June 05, 2013, 01:48:10 PM
When I turned on my player and saw what this was called my mind went "Yes Subversion is revision control software, it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with... the... hey! It does! AWESOME!"

Ha, that was my reaction too.  We use Subversion at work, after switching over from Visual SourceSafe some 7 years ago.  Put my head in the right place from the beginning.

I loved this story, even though I’m not sure whether it would work for readers/listeners who aren’t tech-minded and are unfamiliar with version control systems. And I always love Christiana Ellis’s readings.

Actually, I'm not sure it helped me all that much.  I found the rules confusing at the beginning specifically because it wasn't quite like software version control--specifically the detail about x% of his mind going to one version and y% to another.  If you have different versions of software, they're essentially copies, not just fighting for the same resource.

But as a story--well, what's the story? Guy comes in to office, talk talk talk, roll credits. I don't mind action-lite stories or stories where the primary conflict is emotional (as here, where a guy is in a romantic triangle with himself). But a story where the POV character is secondary to the conflict? A story where the conflict itself (for me) didn't raise a lot of emotional stakes because I didn't really know or care about the people in the conflict? That sort of story doesn't really do much for me as a story.

You're not wrong.  But I still liked it.  I liked it in the same way that I like much of the Golden Age SF--it doesn't necessarily connect with me emotionally, but it presents an interesting speculative element and then explores it a bit.  If it ends before I get bored then it's done well, and I didn't get bored here.  It may be because, as I've mentioned before, I like debugging fictional software--doing so fires cylinders of my brain that I find enjoyable. I probably won't listen to it again, but the intellectual charge that the story has given me has been spent (a downside of this kind of story versus an emotional charge which can more easily be revisited)

And I so get why there are rules on the version control.  We've done a project or two at work that violated those, and the merging (aka reconciliation) was a nightmare.  In some cases, a new product line would branch off and be in active development on a separate branch for 1-2 years, and then have to be merged back into the code base.  The length of time separate made it difficult, but as the story also pointed out the independent acquiring of new functionality was a major problem too, especially if both branches had some version of the functionality acquired completely independently.

I don't remember if it said in her bio, but I'm guessing that Elisabeth is a software engineer, yeah?
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 03:04:31 PM by Unblinking »



TheArchivist

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Reply #22 on: June 05, 2013, 02:58:30 PM
We use Subversion at work, after switching over from Visual SourceSafe some 7 years ago. 
Same here, except then I changed jobs and I have to put up with SourceUnSafe again :(

I don't remember if it said in her bio, but I'm guessing that Elisabeth is a software engineer, yeah?
I don't think so. She's an astronomer, but has presumably had some experience with software as a tool for her scientific work.



ancawonka

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Reply #23 on: June 07, 2013, 12:40:54 AM
Well, Eduardo certainly seems to be more of a git user, leaving clones of himself all over the place to mature and take on a life of their own.

But there's no money in that for someone who owns the repository and the data.

Programmer-pedantry aside, this story was a delightful source for mental exercises.  I really enjoyed it.  It was short enough to not need to answer all the questions.  The character of Art was kind of sympathetic for me, and thank goodness the people don't live in a dystopia.

"I cut out the part of me that knows art and writing, and the only job he could get is as a barrista." 

Maybe Eduardo could start dating the part of his girlfriend that is all rational and entrepreneurial, and leave the sensitive arty part to his clone.





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Reply #24 on: June 07, 2013, 02:32:54 PM
Maybe Eduardo could start dating the part of his girlfriend that is all rational and entrepreneurial, and leave the sensitive arty part to his clone.

Ooh, that would be even more interesting, and entirely plausible in this world.  I imagine if that happened it's entirely possible that if both people would then be properly reconciled, their whole selves might both hate each other.



JDoug

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Reply #25 on: June 09, 2013, 07:55:08 PM
Upon re-syncing, it seems that 82.7% of my personality enjoyed this story.



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Reply #26 on: June 10, 2013, 11:57:01 PM
Non-techy listener here, popping in to say I understood this story! There very well may have been things that went over my head, but it didn't effect my enjoyment at all.

On that, I did quite enjoy this story. I thought the situation was well described, and the pacing was well thought out. The information was doled out in just enough chunks that I, non-tech that I am, didn't have to work too hard to keep up, yet I didn't feel talked down to. The plot was simple, but I liked it. Not anything ground breaking, but a very solid piece that was a nice fresh breath of air while I was filing at the office.

The narrator was amazing. She did a good job switching between the two Eduardo's, making them sound different, but still derivative of one another. Very pleased.

A thought. Perhaps the original Eduardo is not really that bad of a guy. I actually felt bad for him. This is my reasoning. He sacrificed pieces of himself for his girl. Literally. The wording on Art's paperwork was "anything to make her happy." That's not the words of a man who doesn't love his lady. Not saying that what he did was right or that he didn't deserve what happened, but he didn't have to. I think, in his flawed way, he just didn't want his loved one to be lonely. I mean, he even made a version of himself to play with his cats all day. That's not the actions of a selfish guy. Just one with wrong priorities.


evrgrn_monster

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Reply #27 on: June 10, 2013, 11:57:28 PM
Upon re-syncing, it seems that 82.7% of my personality enjoyed this story.

Ha!  :D


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Reply #28 on: June 11, 2013, 01:37:08 PM
I mean, he even made a version of himself to play with his cats all day.

Oh!  I forgot to comment on that line.  hilarious that he dedicates an entire carnation to interacting with his cat via laser pointer.



l33tminion

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Reply #29 on: June 12, 2013, 05:47:53 PM
This one was a lot of fun!  Nothing too complicated in the plot itself, but the setting has a lot of depth, and that interacts with the story in an interesting way.

I'm glad this one was neither a dystopian setting nor outright satire.  It was a nice change of pace.



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Reply #30 on: June 12, 2013, 11:36:08 PM
I mean, he even made a version of himself to play with his cats all day.

Oh!  I forgot to comment on that line.  hilarious that he dedicates an entire carnation to interacting with his cat via laser pointer.

That's the subversion I want to be. Surrounded by kitties and being the expert on laser technologies. It's like the best existence I can think of.


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Reply #31 on: June 13, 2013, 01:41:39 PM
I mean, he even made a version of himself to play with his cats all day.

Oh!  I forgot to comment on that line.  hilarious that he dedicates an entire carnation to interacting with his cat via laser pointer.

That's the subversion I want to be. Surrounded by kitties and being the expert on laser technologies. It's like the best existence I can think of.

I love it.  Maybe that will be your heaven after this life!



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #32 on: June 19, 2013, 06:38:12 PM
Just in case anybody was wondering, a new version of Subversion was released by Apache today.
A key feature is automatic reintegration which will solve a lot of problems.

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Unblinking

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Reply #33 on: June 20, 2013, 06:53:38 PM
Just in case anybody was wondering, a new version of Subversion was released by Apache today.
A key feature is automatic reintegration which will solve a lot of problems.

Wow!  If it works as advertised, that's really cool.



Devoted135

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Reply #34 on: June 21, 2013, 02:11:07 AM
I really enjoyed this one! I thought it struck just the right tone of weary-but-not-cynical bureaucrat dealing with a truly interesting case of disputing subversions.

I said that Dead Merchandise was terrifyingly plausible; I'll say it again for this story. I'm curious what it would be like to have allocated my fine motor skills or knowledge of the arts to a subversion, but I'm horrified at the thought of interacting with subversions of people who have only those limited skill sets. I'll take 100% of the people around me, please.



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Reply #35 on: June 27, 2013, 08:03:32 PM
I think the thing that really got me hung up on was the physicality of it. How do these various versions manifest themselves? Are we talking VR? Androids? Real physical bodies? Holograms? There's a hint that it's the last when our narrator mentions that her boss has a shimmer, indicating that it's holographic.

This occurred to me as well, and my brain decided to reconcile it by putting this world post-singularity, in a completely digitalized world.

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Reply #36 on: July 05, 2013, 04:57:47 PM
First post!

I liked it, but didn't love it. While I was listening, I was glad that I had some experience with software development and "version control"--I think someone who doesn't might have a tough time wrapping their head around this story.




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Reply #37 on: July 05, 2013, 06:45:18 PM
First post!
Welcome to the forums!

And now to immediately contradict your first post,  ;)

I liked it, but didn't love it. While I was listening, I was glad that I had some experience with software development and "version control"--I think someone who doesn't might have a tough time wrapping their head around this story.

I'm not a software developer (tried Visual Basic once but learned very quickly that I don't have the patience for debugging) but I had no problem following this story. I mention this because you are not the first one to suggest those of us not in the "know" might not get it. But I think it's a credit to the author that despite being programming naive, I still followed along just fine.

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"Remember: You have not yet written your best work." -Tracy Hickman


CryptoMe

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Reply #38 on: October 19, 2013, 04:08:40 AM
Catching up on summer backlog...

I enjoyed this story, and can really understand the appeal of versions. But I don't think that I would personally go for it. I just don't like to miss out on things. If I felt that I had missed out on an experience (after-the-fact memories just aren't the same) because I sent a version instead, well, that wouldn't sit well with me. Also, I like to commit 100% to whatever I am doing, so having some percentage of me off doing something else would also be psychologically difficult for me. But, I am certain I am not the norm in this....



Anarkey

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Reply #39 on: November 02, 2013, 10:42:24 PM
Yeah, I'm behind.  So sue me.  Just wanted to say that I loved this story.  Like crazy.  On the title alone, I thought to myself, "This story will be really great if it's about version control instead of about undermining political structures.  But what's the likelihood of that?"

Apparently it's my lucky day, because the likelihood was 100 percent.

Yay!

Winner Nash's 1000th member betting pool + Thaurismunths' Free Rice Contest!


Unblinking

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Reply #40 on: November 04, 2013, 03:19:37 PM
Apparently it's my lucky day, because the likelihood was 100 percent.

I don't think that's the case. Likelihood and probability are estimates, given incomplete information, about the outcome.  100% is the likelihood in retrospect that the thing which has happened is a thing which has happened.  But the likelihood at the time given your incomplete information (since you hadn't listened to the story) isn't that.  :)
</pedanticgeek>



hardware

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Reply #41 on: January 07, 2014, 09:56:54 AM
Great story, even a Perforce user as myself could follow it and enjoy it. I guess versioning and the issues that come with it is an intuitive enough concept for non-techies to follow it, which makes me happy, since story definitely deserves to be read. We will expect greatness from an author who got off to this start (no pressure, though  ;)).