Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The rest of us need to be smarter

Note: This blog is deprecated. @synthesize zach has moved to a new home, at This blog entry can be found on the new blog here. Please update your links.

This made me simultaneously amused and angered. There’s probably nothing more to be said that hasn’t already been so in comments there and on Reddit. Still, I can’t help but put my $0.02 in.

I don’t know anything about construction, except that it’s hard. To build a house, you need to pour concrete, nail boards together, put up drywall, and a bunch of other things. That’s all hard. If only I had a robot that could do all those things for me... I still couldn’t build a house. Why? Because I also don’t know anything about architecture or structural engineering, or plumbing, or electrical engineering. I’d be lucky to build something that didn’t fall down, and it almost certainly wouldn’t be fit for habitation.

When people say “programming”, they think of the mechanical act of typing stuff into a computer. But that’s really only a tiny fraction of what a programmer does. If you don’t have a reasonable understanding of the innerworkings of computers; if you don’t have the capacity to break a large problem down into ever smaller problems; if you don’t have the ability to visualize every minute detail of a solution; no programming language will enable you to write decent software. That’s all there is to it.

Do you guys remember HyperCard? AppleScript? Prograph CPX? Dare I say it, Visual BASIC? All attempts to make a programming language for non-programmers. And every time one of these hot new “languages for the rest of us” come out, I polish up my résumé. Because once everyone realizes that’s programming is still hard, I get a bunch of new job offers. Best case, all it means is we’re momentarily awash in software written by people who have no business doing so.

That’s not me being elitist. I want to live in a world where everyone has the capacity to create great software, I truly do. I just don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

> those who know it have little interest in simplifying it as it devalues their own knowledge.

Bitch, please. The guy that’s able to engineer a programming language which enables non-programmers to create great software will instantly become ludicrously rich, not to mention ushering in a golden era of information technology. If you believe for one second that some of the smartest people on the planet aren’t working on this right now -- haven’t been working on this for decades -- you are sorely mistaken.

Do you have any musician friends? Go up to one and tell him you tried to play guitar today, and it was hard. Why don’t they make instruments that are easier to play? Let me know how that works out for you.

Any four-year-old of even average intellect has sufficient command of their native language to successfully convey any idea of which they conceive. That no four-year-old has ever won the Pulitzer Prize is proof of the failure of the English language. Clearly what is needed is an easier to use spoken language.


  1. @Bradley Thanks, man. You're the only one that truly loves me. :)