The Art of Unix Programming talks about how applications or systems are made from much smaller components and they are stitched together. Kevlin Henney did a presentation where he talked about the discovery of the pipe (|) character in unix systems. The key idea is construction or assembly from smaller parts and it’s also dangerous. In the context of my local system the unix way is awesome. The stitching of apps together to make systems is useful, helpful, easy, and pragmatic.
The new challenge is that many of the new startups want to do the exact same thing. For example; trello.com wants to integrate with your google drive account. LinkedIn and WordPress want to connect to your Box account to share files. PragProg.com wants to connect to your DropBox account in order to upload your eBooks. EverNote connects to a number of different services. Instapaper and Readability; as well as a number of RSS readers…. It’s just crazy the number of overlapping systems that if they were within the same systems or owned by the same company I would not think twice but since they span companies it looks and feels like a trojan horse.
Let’s not forget the countless numbers of apps that want a facebook or twitter ID before you can login. (read Spotify)
The thing that I realize most is that because I’m connecting all of these 3rd party systems I an on the hook for understanding their individual and collective security issues. For example PragProg mentions that they will upload your titles to DropBox and they go out of their way to say that they are going to be good netizens but I have no way of confirming that this is the case. They wanted and have my uid/pwd and frankly they could do what they want… if they were evil.
So what am I saying? The “unix way” is a pragmatic way to get things done, however, it’s not without risk when you connect disparate entities. So tread lightly and carry a big stick.