Coding matters: The good, the bad and the ugly

Silhouette of a cowboy against a setting sun.

I'm presenting the XML and Schemas course this week as a favour to a client. I suspect I'm one of a small minority of people with a fondness for XML. (Although I can't say the same for schemas.) Probably because I learned to use it for documentation, which I enjoy, rather than data files like web services.

Between the course and the Easter weekend, there wasn't something particular that I wanted to share with you this week. But there is always something in the tech world that is worth a mention. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad and sometimes it's just ugly.

The Bad: A POPI disappointment

POPI isn't specifically a tech thing, but privacy certainly matters more in our everything-online world than it did in the past. (It is a crime in SA to open another person's mail, but it's been a while since that was anyone's main complaint about the Post Office.)

Remember the frantic activity when the POPI Act took effect in 2021? Many consultants emphasised the importance of POPI compliance by pointing to the potential penalties. Breach of the POPI Act can carry a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment or fines up to R10 million.

Last week the Information Regulator issued a media notice. The Regulator described the notice as special because, for the first time, it released the outcomes of its investigations.

I think the most despicable of all the reported breaches was the one by SAPS. I wrote about this last year. SAPS officials leaked details of the Krugersdorp gang-rape victims across social media.

If ever there was a case deserving of a serious penalty, surely this is it. The outcome? The SAPS must issue a public apology, internally investigate, and train its officers on POPI. That's it. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.

The Ugly: A ban on ChatGPT

Since last week, Italy has banned ChatGPT for privacy concerns and Germany is considering it. The US has expressed concern about it, although they don't even have the equivalent of GDPR or POPI. Even our Information Regulator has stated its intention to "investigate" the issues around AI.

The whole issue of AI is bound to get messy and ugly for a while. Despite the wide-spread use of computers for at least two decades, the IT industry has never embraced the importance of ethics in computing. This is our fault. The lone voices calling for the adoption of an ethical standard, such as auditors and doctors have, have been just that: lone voices. If we had acknowledged this need, we would have been more ready for the many ethical challenges of AI.

The Good: Exercise, programmer-style

Are you spending too much time at your keyboard and not enough time exercising? For programmers, this is no longer an excuse. You can have programming fun and get a good workout. You might even develop some dance rhythm.

How? Watch the YouTube video "I made a FULL-BODY keyboard!" by Everything is Hacked.

I try to avoid the YouTube rabbit-hole. And I shouldn't encourage you to watch videos at work. But we all need to experience something good and positive and fun at least once a day.

What was your good and positive and fun this week? I'd love you to share your comments.

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