Distributed ID Generation and Bit Packing
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There are two ways for programs to collaborate: they can communicate their shared state or they can partition the work so they don’t need to know each other’s state. As I’ve been rehabbing the code for my mailing list archive Chibrary I ran into this issue, and the design constraints made for an interesting puzzle. I need to generate unique IDs in multiple programs at once, and they need to be short enough to fit in URLs.

Writing is nature’s way of letting you know how sloppy your thinking is. Guindon

At more than 3,000 words, this is an unusually long blog post for me. This problem has a lot of considerations to balance (and you’ll see a lot of parenthetical caveats). I like to work through problems by writing out my thoughts, constantly tinkering with possibilities and revisiting ideas in light of new constraints or insight. I thought my (heavily) revised notes might make for an interesting post as I attack the problem from several different approaches and end with a solution that nicely connects theoretical and practical considerations. As a bonus, maybe someone will tell me I’m approaching this all wrong or ignorant of a known best practice for this sort of thing before I go live. With that preamble rambled, let’s dig into the problem.

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