What If Programming Was As Easy As Creating A PowerPoint Presentation?

from the we'd-have-lots-of-really-really-bad-programs? dept

For years, people have been talking about tools to make programming easier. Ex-Microsofty Charles Simonyi (often credited as the creator of the WYSIWYG word processor) is the latest to work on this problem. Since leaving Microsoft last year, he’s formed Intentional Software with the idea of making tools so easy that anyone can create or modify an application. He compares it to people creating a PowerPoint presentation. I’m sure the programmers out there (and many non-programmers) are already groaning at the idea – but the article does make some good points. Programmers, today, do have a number of tasks that they’re not often very good at. They need to understand what their client needs, they need to design the program and then they need to program it correctly. Doing all three at once is quite difficult. Simonyi’s idea isn’t to get rid of the job of programmer, but to reduce it to where they just have to focus on the design of the program. The tool is supposed to help make sure the software actually does what is needed, and lets the client adjust and modify the design to make sure it fits their needs. Interesting ideas, though, it still seems like the complexity associated with software would make this very difficult to pull off. Even more to the point, we already hear complaints about just how bad most people are at using PowerPoint for presentations. Imagine just how bad all the applications that come out of a “PowerPoint-for-software-applications” would be. Instead of all these “PowerPoint is Evil” stories that show up every few months, I’m sure we’ll see the same thing for whatever Intentional Software’s tool is eventually called.

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Comments on “What If Programming Was As Easy As Creating A PowerPoint Presentation?”

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LittleW0lf says:

Re: No Subject Given

This is essentially what happened with Visual Basic. There are tons of crappy Visual Basic programs out there.

And what is so bad about this? (I never thought I would be a VB Apologist, but what the hell…) There are plenty of crappy C/C++/Java programs out there too. Visual Basic fits a niche, like php/perl/c#/delphi/c++builder, and it is useful for those who are interested in prototyping or rapidly releasing code. And the fact that it has a nice interface for visually designing applications, something that is far more difficult to do in code (for a beginner.)

The role of a programmer is usually a moving target anyway, different people have different opinions about the role of a programmer. While I agree with you, that a programmer should be able to interpret the client’s needs, this is often difficult to do (even with, as another Anonymous Coward points out, surveys and interviews, as the client will often provide “non-answers” to survey questions and be wishy-washy to the interviewer, because if they say exactly what they want, and then decide later to change their requirements, it is easier to blame it on miscommunication than to admit they changed their mind.) VB and other programs provide a rapid prototype for the client, so they can spend more time nitpicking what they see than trying to coerce requirements from them.

The problem is that once they see the prototype, they want that as their final product and don’t want to spend the money required to move the prototype over to the final version.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

Seems to me this could be accomplished better with a requirements gathering form or questionaire. What you really need is someone who understands what the client needs and also knows how to implement it. Giving more power to someone who only knows what the client wants is no better than giving all the power to someone who only knows implementation.

Anonymous Coward says:

user customizable == screwed beyond all belief

whenever a program provides the user with an opportunity to customize a program, the user inevitably produces something completely unusable except by themselves.

It’s an unfortunate fact, but most users posess the design astetics of a drunken monkey.

…and that’s what we’re really talking about here; allowing the user to lay out the screen (and some of the logic behind it) so that all of the important corporate data fields and requirements are captured.

LittleW0lf says:

Re: user customizable == screwed beyond all belief

t’s an unfortunate fact, but most users posess the design astetics of a drunken monkey.

And it is also an unfortunate fact that we, as programmers, have to use our mental intellect to figure out whether they like blue over green, and would prefer to have the button appear in the bottom right corner instead of the bottom center or left of a window. If we don’t get it right, we spend money and time fixing the design so that they like it.

I actually like the idea of giving the user the ability to customize the program so that it is unusable for anyone except themselves (so long as they don’t call me for support,) because it would cut down the number of late hour “honey-do” layout fixes we tend to get…

bastard sam (user link) says:

No Subject Given

There’s only one problem with this idea.
If non programmers wanted to do programming, they would use the existing tools out there to do it.

Microsoft has been persuing this idea for years. It doesn’t work. It’s been proving consistantly not to work. The reason microsoft isn’t doing it at hte moment is because it doesn’t work.

Don’t get me wrong, if this guy has the money to throw at it, or he found a VC gullible enough to throw some money at it, more power to him.

But it won’t work. Businesses don’t want to have anything to do with their custom applications. That’s why the companies that need programmers hire programmers. And that’s the way it should be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: grow up

It strikes me that Intentional Software has itself aligned with all the right technologies. To put it another way, they are assembling a mighty squad of 800lb gorillas in the form of ApspectJ, Eclipse,… you name it.

Therefore I for one am certainly not going to say it can’t do exactly what it wants. Ie succeed, I guess. My money’s on gorillacom…you’d all better watch yourselves!

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