Monday, November 26, 2007


Reading the Wiktionary definition for automagically left me feeling a bit cold. To me its not a replacement for the term "automatically" its actually one of two things
  1. Its something done by IT that the business doesn't need to care about. As in "don't worry we will do that automagically" this means that actually (as in magic) there is an awful lot of work to be done behind the scenes to make the trick look simple.
  2. Its what vendors REALLY mean when they say "automatically" with respect to upgrades. What they mean is that you have to do a huge amount of prep, it makes massive assumptions on what you have done previously, including often placing impossible constraints and normally it will fail. In other words (like magic) its actually a lie.
These are two very different uses of the term that I've heard and both are explicitly not "automatically" in the true sense of that word. The point of automagically is when its not automatic at all and either you don't care (case one) or its a lie (case two). Now if people agree I'll update the wiki entry but I thought I'd first check what others had seen.

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Andy said...

Reminds me of Arthur C. Clarks third law: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'

Pierre said...

I like this word. I always try to use it in user's manuals or guides, a kind of "signature". Some people spot it. At least, it means they've read the f* manual.

Stoft said...

I use it in the sense of automatic but when the (probably advanced) mechanism of the process is unknown to me. E.g. "Message ID's are generated automagically by the system."

Just like Andy I've also made the connection to Arthur C. Clarke, and it affects my usage of the word.