The Stack Overflow Podcast

Tim Berners Lee wants to put you in a pod, a web pod.

Episode Summary

This week we chat about SOLID, a project involving web creator Tim Berners-Lee. The idea is to provide individuals in Britain with a secure portal on the web that can store critical health data and give the patient the ability to move or share it securely. It involves some cool approaches to encryption and that old dream, The Semantic Web.

Episode Notes

You can find out more about Sir Berners-Lee's work on Solid here.

Other topics discussed in this episode: 

Docker puts a limit on free containers. That has to be good for the environment. But is it also good for Docker and the future of its products? Sometimes, forcing yourself to make something worth purchasing  helps drive innovation. 

The Tao of Programming isn't new, and some of its technical references are a bit out of date. But it's still good for a laugh and little bit of enlightenment-lite.

Are you interested in putting on your own drone light show? Intel offers options to fit a range of budgets

This week's lifeboat badge goes to JCL for answering the question: C# compiler: CS0121: The call is ambiguous between the following methods or properties.

Episode Transcription

Sara Chipps Do you think you could tell like a coder fridge from a non coder fridge? 


Ben Popper The one that's full only of Solid is the coder fridge.




BP Are you struggling to deploy cloud native applications to a hybrid cloud? Do you want to become familiar with Kubernetes and Istio? IBM cloud has a set of free, hands on training, ebooks, and an always on free tier services to help you learn. Visit to learn more, that's 


BP Hello, everybody and welcome to the Stack Overflow podcast. I'm Ben Popper, Director of content here at Stack Overflow with my wonderful co hosts, Paul and Sara. 


Paul Ford Hellooo, Ben. Hellooo, Sara. 


SC Heeey!


BP So we have a cool news story here. The headline is, NHS Data: Can web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee fix it? NHS data is the National Health Services in Britain. And so what they're saying is we want to share health data with people. But we want to make sure that it's private to them, it's secure. And then if they want to, they have control and they can like let somebody else in a caregiver, a next of kin, a doctor, whatever that may be. So can you two walk me through a little bit of this? Like, why is this complicated on the web? Would we be better off just doing this with an app? And like, I mean, I like that it's for the web, because that makes it the most accessible, right? But what are the complications here in terms of security, privacy, and sort of empowering the average person to do data sharing in a good way?


SC So this is something that people have been trying to do for the past 10 years, not specifically around health data. But the idea of decentralized data storage by empowering people to store their own data is not a new one. I think the problems that have come up in the past are user experience problems. Because if you know how to store your own data locally, that's one thing. But if you're the average person that hasn't spent a lot of time doing that, then it gets really difficult. And also you know that your data is important, but you don't know why sometimes, you know, that could be the case.



PF Back up to just like the infrastructure we're talking about here. So the idea has long been when you publish something on the web, you are publishing it on the web, you are kind of identified with it, you might own that server, and so on and so forth. And it's you would assume that everyone could read it, unless you put it behind a password or something like that, right. And so what things like Solid do is they say, What if we could make stuff public, but only to certain communities using different, you know, encryption style technologies. And you would have control that you could kind of pull back at any time over who could get access to this stuff. And Solid actually stands for social linked data, right. So the idea is that you would have all your your data, you could host it, it could be out there in the world. But at any point, you could say, only the people who have these magic keys can look at it. And when I don't want them to anymore, I will take away the magic keys. I can take away the magic lock. I give away magic keys, but I can change my lock can change it anytime. And so what Solid is is a stack of things, like web things like just like HTML and GIFs and PNGs or web thing. It's a stack of things that allow you to do that and sort of implement this standard. So it's very, very high level and very abstract. And so it's not, I mean, look at Tim Berners-Lee is involved with it. So that's someone who is very used to thinking about web standards. The great thing I don't know, if you saw there, there was one point where he was on TV, and he just identified himself as web developer. [Ben laughs]


SC I love that.


BP Sir web developer. 




PF So you know, I think we're, what we've got here is something in the space of blockchain tries to do this. I feel that Oh, what's that company that has like does chat on the blockchain that everybody has an account on and you have to... Keybase! Really feels like this is in the in the Keybase zone. Yeah, that makes us more about web standard. It's more like a standardized decentralized way of building solid servers, so that people could own and control their own data. And then they could share it with organizations like the National Health Service in the UK, which, you know. So sometimes I'm a hyper early adopters, so I got into solid early days. I'm like, oh, let's see how this works. And I got it a little too early before anything worked, so.


BP You're like, ''Is there anybody here to share my data with? Anybody? Hello?'' [Ben laughs]


SC ''Who wants my health data?''


PF I just gave everybody my health data. I was like, here, take it, take it. And they're like, wow, your blood pressure, huh? And so, but the core concept is is wise and I think that it's an interesting update of what the web is and what it's about. 


SC I think like a practical is that--if you think about practical scenario, right, like it may be a like, I have a blood pressure health website. And you know, I want to understand better what your blood pressure has been over time. And so you have your local health data and you can decide you want to give me access. And like that practical scenario is a great one. I think one risk here too, is I'm like, number one, upload my health data, give me some special recommendations, right. So there's like these websites running around, that'll take your data from, like 23andme and tell you vitamins what vitamins to take. And like, I'm number one, like, just, like, give people this data. 


PF 'Cause we did it too, and it's just, you know, yeah, turns out I'm extremely Irish, and it's very disappointing when you get that data back and it's like, now you're just kind of a completely what you expected. No surprises.


BP I do think that I have experienced this thing recently, because I moved where I realized how difficult and and sort of my you know, head exploding, the frustrating is to get your medical records. So like, I wanted to transfer some medical records for my kids to a new doctor in a new place so they could go to school. It is next impossible.




PF It's not supposed to like--it's one of those things where you call and it's just not supposed to happen. Like the doctor is like, it's not ''Oh, transfer your medical records. Nobody's ever thought about that before.''


BP They can't print them out to you. They can't fax now. 


PF And it's all in epic. It's all in one giant--


SC It really depends on the provider, I think, because I've had some like emailed to me. And then I've had the ones who are like, it's completely impossible.


BP So then I think this would be awesome. So it's like, I have my own little storage container for my health data. And then I could be like, you're my new doctor? Here's the key. Like to me that I already see immediate value in that right? 


PF Well, and so the big I mean, the big idea was Solid right is you'll own it, it will be secure. And then it will use these standards to encourage data interoperability, which gets us back to [Paul makes horn noise] the Semantic Web, RDF. And the idea that like, instead of having one centralized database owned by a very large organization, and then you would you would basically, I mean, this is, if you play this out, it's like, oh, well, we could also create our own little Facebook using this technology, where just my just my friends and family are involved in there's no ads, and I don't tell anybody--


BP A solar panel on every roof and a server in every basement, you know, that's the future. [Ben & Sara laugh]


PF And look, it's funny, because the web was like, hey, let's get the data out in the world, so everybody could share it. And then centralization shows up. And like, you know, Tim, Tim Berners-Lee is always gonna go back there, which I really respect. Like, I'm going to go back and figure out complicated things about data interoperability, ontologies, and making sure that people have secure access to their own data, and then can decide who to give it to, which is the opposite of the dynamic of the web today. So. 


SC Yeah, and the thing that works out great here is that the NHS is its own centralized source. So if we can figure out a way to make it easy for their patients, to access their NHS data, and easy for doctors to update on NHS data, that's like a big solve there, where in the US, everything is so fragmented. You know, you couldn't do something like that easily. 




PF I mean, you know, if you look at the the big 4,5,6,7,8,9 consulting firms, what do they do a lot of? Its ETL, extract, transform and load like, yeah, we have to move everything from this financial system to this one, or this medical system to this one, and that's a team of 150 are just rolling for 18 months. 


BP Yeah, yeah, there's this thing that I had before called MyChart, which actually had this but right, it wasn't interoperable. You couldn't you didn't own it yourself. You only owned it through--


PF No, MyChart is a product of Epic, which is the giant Healthcare Management record system, which drives people bananas, like, it's, it's really, really popular. And it's really--epic is like the classic, they sold it to the hospital systems. And now the doctors have to use it. And it's like now that doctors don't make money anymore. Like it used to be you go into doctor and you'd be like, I'll be back. I'm leaving for golf. And I have five diamond rings, you'd be like, cool. And now you go to a doctor. The only way you can tell the doctor is real anymore, I've made this joke before is that they they complain to you about how doctors don't make as much money as they used to. Like it just feels like within 10 minutes of every legitimate doctor conversation. And they'll be like, yeah, you know, being a doctor isn't what it used to be. 


BP Do you also see a lot of fake doctors? Have you been there?


PF And they're just like, ''I am so excited to give you health care, Mr. Ford'' and then they pull out a saw.


BP So this, we talked about this with Holly Cummins, and I sort of thinking about it. The headline is software developers scramble as Docker puts limits on container use. And that sort of brought me back to what she was saying that like 25% of, you know, the web projects that people spun up in the cloud, are just sitting unused, sort of like running in perpetuity. When you see a headline like this, what does it make you think is this just a move by Docker to sort of like convert some unpaid users to paid or, you know, is this sort of endemic of like, people are, so easy to containerize and spin things up now then allowing it to just go to waste? 


PF Parrrttty's over! That's it. [Ben laughs]


SC Yeah. Also freemium, it turns out isn't free for everyone. Yeah, it's like free for everyone besides the company. So sometimes it's like, actually this premium thing. 




PF You know, they're like, ''Hey, whatever you need to do, we got you, we got your back.'' And then it's just this giant trash heap of leftover containers. Like it's bad for everybody, right? Because nobody, nobody takes care of that free commons, they just dump containers into it, right. And they, nobody takes care of that here. And nobody, everybody forgets it exists. So the right thing to do for their point of view is like, let's just clean this up. You know, we're still gonna give people lots of nice stuff. I have to say, like, GitHub, to me is always the golden example here. Because somebody was talking about the GitHub API the other day, and there's this project called Gitenberg, which I would advise people to check out, they moved all of the Project Gutenberg etexts, it's about 50,000 into GitHub as version controlled etexts. Because that's going to be manageable. So it's an experiment, but it's an interesting one, I was like, '''what would it take to download 50,000 repos?'' Turns out, it's like a couple lines of code. And then you iterate. And I ran it on a 12 core machine. And GitHub was like, go to town, man, they've never complained about their API limits in my world ever, right? And that's because that's a paid service. I've paid for it for years. And, you know, occasionally, I just need to go a little bananas. And they're like, yeah, cool. I mean, I'm sure if I did that for like, nine straight weeks, they'd reach out and be like, hey, you gotta calm down. So I feel like that, having that paid tier and really crafting and building. Like a free tier is very important. But having that paid tier is really critical for building like, I want Docker to have a paid tier that works for--


SC Yeah, it also looks like Docker sold, they're sold off their enterprise business, and now has a much smaller team, which is definitely interesting. So that may also account for the amount of support they're able to give their free customers. 


BP So I guess, you know, when you think about freemium is this, even for services like Gmail, which was the first thing to come out of the gate and say, like, there's, you know, you don't have to do anything, there's no limits. And then eventually, some people do hit that limit, you know, and have to start paying, my wife and myself included. But has that forced us to change our behavior or just made us? Like, give a tie every month? To the big G? You know, like, I'm not sure. I don't know if I clean up my act enough.




SC I think it depends on how important it is. Yeah, like you might rethink like, how many, like speaking of Docker, like, you might rethink this, like your grad project that you put on Docker and haven't touched in a while. 


PF I mean, that is the thing, right? It's like domain names. How many do you want to own? I think paying the type to Google to me, Google is a funny one because you can't give Google enough money that they will ever care about you. Right? Like it's just it's impossible. Like I pay them what 25 bucks a year, 50 bucks a year from my email, for my personal email. We give them thousands of dollars as a company. I always just think it's them doing me a favor. I don't, look you got to keep it tidy. Nobody needs a million hard drives sitting in it and honestly it's bad for the world it's bad for all your crappy containers to be sitting there in a data center burning, you know, taking apart guy's face. It's somehow it hurts dolphins. We know it somehow it hurts dolphins.You know, shut it down, get your stuff organized, throw some stuff away. Go for Marie Kondo and your containers. Does this app I built that you know, ranks Pokemon bring me joy? And if it does, it's, it's probably worth $1 a year. 


BP Alright. Have you guys ever seen this the Tao of Programming, is this new or is this old? This camp popped up? And I wasn't sure if this was something that just circulates every once in a while or if this is actually new. 


PF There's a lot of these there's programming, Cohen's, there's the Tao, you know, what happened is just like in the in the 80s, the nerds just I think they just it took so long to compile. 


SC They were bored and had acid.


PF Yeah, there's a lot there's there's the Cohen's that from the the MIT AI lab. There's stuff like this.


SC Like this one's a chill one. Some of them say things like manifesto and things like that. This one is just the Tao, that's nice.




BP Yeah, yeah, this one's pretty chill. 


PF Yeah, well, I love it. Because actually, what happens is the age very poorly. So this like, ''thus spake the master programmer'' We don't use those words anymore. Right. And then, ''when you have learned to snatch the error code from the trap frame, it will be time for you to leave.'' And it's like, yeah, okay. None of that is--or that's okay. We learned apparently, because, and it's time for us to leave. We know what an error code is. Have you ever, ever run across a trap frame Sara? 


SC No, what's a trap frame?


PF Oh, That's always a good sign when you're hitting old Channel Nine with your search. But here we go trap frame versus task struct on Stack. 


SC That's a Stack Overflow question!


PF Mmm what a surprise.


SC The CPU's about context switch while trap frame holds userspace state saved in TCB, after exception or IRq have arrived. Alright, those are a lot of, those are a lot of--


PF This is when you had to worry about the hardware when you were like hitting alt tab. You know, I know When's the last time you hit It just brings back thoughts. 


SC Not that long ago, actually. You're just not in the Microsoft world as much as--


PF I'm not, you are. That is true. I rarely architect successful workloads on Azure. That is not something I do a lot of. Wow. Boy, they like the word Azure over there at Microsoft. That's a good word. What a word of power. Used to be Windows. It's not anymore. I'm in Channel Nine. I'll be frank. I don't think I've seen the word Windows once. I'm looking. There's like a million things have.


SC Yeah, Microsoft is cooler with Azure.


PF Wow, that's amazing. Microsoft's done with Windows, they really are like, it's just Azure. 


BP I mean, I think that's probably true, right? That the cloud business is bigger than the like PC business by a mile. And even like the, you know, the industrial enterprise PC licenses. 


PF Now its future growth, right? Like I'm sure, I'm sure they're still roughly for like literally every ant in an anthill is using Windows 10 on it's Ant OS. 




BP That's true. That's like how Amazon all the revenue comes from selling stuff. But all the profit comes from AWS. 


PF Yeah, that's right. 


SC Yeah. Which is nice. I was I saw a great tweet yesterday, from saying that someone needed to build a operating system as intuitive as OSX or os 10 or Windows. That is not the Mac framework, which is wack operating system, which is very interesting. I think Linux has tried to do this.


PF I mean, uh, you know, I'm, I'm on Ubuntu 20.04. Yeah, it's still it's that there's stuff that still needs to get worked out. Boy, is it good overall, it just has little surprises. Like if you turn on icons on your desktop, you're gonna regret that, you're gonna, you're gonna say to yourself, why did I do that? Because you'll be dragging something and the whole system will freeze. And then you have to go onto your phone, in the simulated Unix environment and SSH into your desktop machine to restart the window manager. And it's just sort of like, you know, when is this done? Am I gonna literally be like 90 years old going ''Hold on a minute.'' I think the answer is true. I think i think i think it's a yes. Like, I think Sara, you're gonna be SSH into your desktop machine when you're like, 84 years old. 


SC Yeah, the last time I did that was like a year.


BP So you can access your health pod and look up which vitamins are supposed to take.


SC My health pod. 


BP Sara, I heard that you loved the light show where the drones made beautiful stars in the background. Do you want to know how they did that? 


SC Oh, my gosh, that was everything. Right? Yeah. Well, I mean, I know how they did it. But I want to know who coded it and in what? Well, okay, also, I want to know how they did that. 


BP It'll be weird if it was like batch scripts, right? Like, that'll be really confusing.


SC Yeah, really confusing.




BP It's Intel most of the time. And they have like, this amazing crew that goes out and does this. And it shows off a lot of cool stuff. So Sara, I just want to put this out there. I don't know, you know, like what your budget is like these days, but you can get them to come to you and do a 200 drone show for only 100,000 bucks. A good option for solid 2d shapes and imagery. So that will get you a boat with one sale. 200 grand will get you 300 drones a boat with three sales and 500 drones you'll get high resolution 3d five sail boat. So for your next birthday party.


SC Wait, I don't understand. Are they giving me a boat free with the drones?


BP They're showing you like it's an example of like how complex of a picture the drones could create. [Ben laughs]


SC Oh, I thought I was getting a boat.


PF I did too. I was like, oh, wow, that's weird. It comes with a boat?


BP It's actually a great deal when you get to keep the boat with the drones on it. No, the drones can either do like a small sailboat what looks like or like, you know, a big, you know, carrier, but it has a lot of cool LIDAR and like, sort of like, networked communications between them. So this was always a fun thing. When I was at DGI we would always play around with this stuff. They only ever did theirs in China because Intel there were sort of like they had like corner their respective markets. But yeah, it's definitely a fun space. 


SC That's so great, it was so neat!




BP Alright, yeah, it's that time of the episode, we're gonna shout out a lifeboater. Somebody who answered a question with a score of negative three or less and got it all the way up to a score of 20 or more. Today goes to JCL for answering the question: C compiler CS 0121. The call is ambiguous between the following methods or properties. Make sure you don't reference that binary output in your project references. 


PF I don't understand anything that's happening but good job!


BP It's happened to him in the past with resharper Well, I'll put it in the show notes and you can learn. Well, everybody, thanks for listening. I'm Ben Popper, the Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. You can find me on Twitter or email us podcast@StackOverflow. 




SC And I'm Sara Chipps, Director of Community here at Stack Overflow. If you're looking for some holiday gifts this year, check out


PF Jewelbots! Yes, check out Jewelbots! I'm Paul Ford, friend to Stack Overflow, check out my company Postlight. We are not currently a licensed Jewelbot reseller but we're working on it. [Sara laughs] It's a very exhaustive process. 


SC There's a high.


PF Yeah, check out those jewelbots. Alright friends!


BP I will be participating in the Stack Overflow secret unicorn and now this.


PF Ah, Jewelbots!


SC Yeahhh!