Interfaces, systems, engineering, and API's

In today's NY Times there is an article on the recent terminal building collapse at Chas. deGaulle airport outside Paris. ("Architect Starts Study of Failure in Paris Airport", Craig S. Smith, NYTimes, Wed, May 26, 2004, p. A13) [registration req'd.]

Orcmid and I have been discussing how semantics and syntax are combined in programming interface definitions. In terms of that conversation the following excerpt from the Times article is relevant.

"It's at points of contact where two systems are fitting together that human error occurs," said Henry Bardsley, a structural engineer in Paris. "That's one of the consequences of specialization in collaborating teams of the work of a large project." Engineers said mistakes are more likely when different construction companies are responsible for different parts of the building.

I discovered the ease of making such interface errors during the Class project when we (the system software team) and separate scanner team interpreted the rotation information for images in the TIFF files differently (180 degrees differently). And I think this socio-technical fact about interface interpretation is relevant to the current attempts to build interface definitions for web services, syndication, etc.