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Let Joe Average Help You Code 319

Posted by Zonk
from the that's-a-lot-of-monkeys-and-a-lot-of-typewriters dept.
ploose writes "Apache co-founder and CollabNet CTO Brian Behlendorf says that programming should be opened out to non-developers. Bring them into a development community with proper feedback forums and bad code will get flamed anyway, so it doesn't matter what they write. From the interview: 'Mashups are really Excel macros 2.0 - with the rise of Web services, the more vehicles that are out there that expose data through programmable APIs, with Office 12.0 and Firefox with AJAX, the more people you'll see create applications. The line between hardcore developers and the average Joe will start to get very fuzzy.'"
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Let Joe Average Help You Code

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  • Welcome to 1982 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:12PM (#14820025) Homepage Journal
    Anyone remember back when every PC owner was expected to know at least a little BASIC? Back then computers were used for custom programs just about as much as they were used for shrink-wrapped applications. And if you didn't have the skills to write your processing program in BASIC, you could always hire someone to do it quickly and cheaply. (Program requirements weren't exactly high back then, so finishing a program in a day or two was quite common.) The question is, what happened to those days?

    I suppose part of it was that shrink wrapped software got better. Where as you originally might have had trouble finding the software you needed, today you can get software for just about anything! The other part of the problem was that programming became far more complex of a task. Instead of just taking data in and spitting out a report, it now has to provide a cool GOOEY interface (MMmmm... chocolate), and real-time interactivity. These types of features are not so easily grasped by the average person, and require training to master. Thus programming has been squarly placed in the hands of experts.

    If Brian Behlendorf wants non-developers to write code, he's better have another BASIC up his sleeve. (AJAX BASIC? Hmmm... I might have code like that lying around...) Because I don't think I could possibly take another round of Fourth Generation Languages [wikipedia.org].

    P.S. Excel VBA was a lousy attempt at getting non-coders to program. Don't do that to us again. Please. Make it truly home and SOHO focused like BASIC was.
    • Exactly, as first I was thinking, well MS Access is a good example of a very user friendly IDE where just about anyone can create a reasonable front end for a simple database. But then I remembered that I've tried to show several non programmers how to make a simple form or even a query, and most just don't get it.
    • Man, I would kill to get a simlple BASIC interpreter that has I/O functions that could handle NTFS. I deal with lots of data sometimes, and I don't want to write a VBasic program with a GUI so that I can run the program, then click a button to execute the code. Command line works fine for me, but I want it to be simple and fast to code. No, I don't want to fuss with declarations most of the time, and no, I dont' have time to learn a whole new langauge and mess with a compiler. I just want to write (essenti
      • I don't think I'd ever worry about speed now - I learned to count on 700ops/sec (550/sec on the PC), and that was fast enough for my needs in 1982.

        Remember when we used to insert pauses or slow down programs with a loop like this:

        10 FOR I = 1 to 10000 STEP 1
        20 NEXT I

        For really fast computers:

        10 FOR I = 1 to 10000 STEP 1
        20 LET TEMP = SQR(5000)
        30 NEXT I

        These days we'd hang any programmer we found pulling that stunt. ;-)

      • what about vbscript? vbscript is pretty straightforward and can do those things..
      • I dont' have time to learn a whole new langauge and mess with a compiler. I just want to write (essentially) a script and have it run. Why does everything have to be so @$%%ing complicated.

        It's only complicated because you seem to insist on using a language which fell out of general favor about 20 years ago.

        I think something like Python would meet your needs quite nicely. The drawback is, you'll have to learn its syntax. It's honestly not that big a drawback, if you already understand basic principles of
      • Perl or python will work just fine as a basic replacement for those types of projects. If you don't like Python or Perl you also have Ruby and PHP to choose from. Under Linux I believe there is even a handy dandy version of basic that works just fine.
        Yes you would have to learn a new language but that isn't all that hard. Once you learn one language learning a new one is pretty simple. Depending on how long it was since you used basic last it might not be much harder to learn Python than to remember Basic.

        I
        • Depending on how long it was since you used basic last it might not be much harder to learn Python than to remember Basic.

          That's very true. I just went over to the Python page and it look slike what I need. See, make a foolish state ment on /., and the masses will quickly point you to the answer! I suspect that most versions of BASIC that are out there and useful now would have syntax different enough from what I learned 25 years ago that it would be just as easy to learn the new syntax and command strucu
      • Command line works fine for me, but I want it to be simple and fast to code. No, I don't want to fuss with declarations most of the time, and no, I dont' have time to learn a whole new langauge and mess with a compiler. I just want to write (essentially) a script and have it run. Why does everything have to be so @$%%ing complicated.

        Sounds like you want Python. Very simple language for beginners to use, interpreted so no compilation step, and yet very powerful so you can grow into full-blown software engin
    • Re:Welcome to 1982 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hackstraw (262471) *

      I thought that was already the idea behind OSS, GNU, sourceforge, etc.

      Its open source, anybody can help, its just that much of the code of interest already has a group of developers and the codebase is so large and many times the bugs are so numerous, that even a decent coder is uninterested in fixing them.

      But, in theory Joe Average is welcome already...

    • If Brian Behlendorf wants non-developers to write code, he's better have another BASIC up his sleeve.

      Couldn't Lisp be the answer? For simple spreadsheet expressions the syntax would be at least as simple and easy-to-learn as Excel macros.
    • (Program requirements weren't exactly high back then, so finishing a program in a day or two was quite common.)

      I'd phrase that as "programming tools were miserable back then, so taking as long as a day or two for simple processing programs was common".

      A day is a ton of programming time with (vaguely) modern languages and libraries. Really a lot of the "advanced document processing" that people need is one-liners in awk, and much of the more sophisticated stuff (that might need to operate on CSV and do DB-s
    • When they said that Cobol was so like English that
      just anyone would be able to code in it.
    • Program requirements weren't exactly high back then, so finishing a program in a day or two was quite common.

      Yeah I remember. Many of the programs were relatively simple, the kind of things we today would do in Python. But the major factor that complicated coding was the GUI and event based programming (they go together). No GUI back then, if you programmed something and you actually had visual fields etc you thought you were so cutting edge. Programming was challenge / response with no looking for events

  • Many of the eager and excited hacks are by beginners, I think (^_^)

    I'm still a beginner in python and I always intend to be a beginner
    in one subject or the other. Maybe someday I'll be a beginner in the
    apache project.

    But alas, if he wants to collect patches from my mom, he better get ready
    for a logic bomb.
  • by bratboy (649043) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:17PM (#14820086) Homepage
    This is a fantastic way to achieve negative productivity. I know, let's put a thousand monkeys in a room with a thousand IDEs - that ought to get us some code! Most non-programmers are simply not trained to think in a rigorous way. Hell, most programmers aren't trained to think rigorously. That's why it's so hard to find good ones.
    • Doesn't anyone respect the field of software engineering? I would like to see a bunch of dummies come in off the street and put chemical processing equipment together.
      • Maybe the idea is that some parts of coding in a project don't need the super-brains of software engineers. Just like putting together chemical processing equipment.

        I would imagine that most of the physical labor of building a chemical processing facility is probably done by people who are not chemical engineers. The guy who welds a pipe to a vat does not have to be a ChemE - he just has to know how to weld to the standard specified by the project definition. (in fact, I wonder how many ChemEs COULD do a
    • Whassa matter? All you "citizen journalists" who relish tearing down the walls between 'old' and 'new' media, 'fan' and non-copyright-infringement fiction, and who enjoy 'empowering' 'musicians' and 'artists' with [your] software get kinda touchy when the job security seachange is on the other foot, eh?

      "Art" is easy, of course, if you have the right software. But programming is "rigorous" and non-programmers need not apply. But... but... wait! I thought "code is poetry?"

      This is all quite amusing; thanks
    • This is a fantastic way to achieve negative productivity. I know, let's put a thousand monkeys in a room with a thousand IDEs - that ought to get us some code!

      Where do you think Usenet postings come from?

      Some of it is really good and the rest of it is what Spafford called "a herd of elephants with diarrhea".

    • I know, let's put a thousand monkeys in a room with a thousand IDEs - that ought to get us some code! Most non-programmers are simply not trained to think in a rigorous way. Hell, most programmers aren't trained to think rigorously.

      That's also called "Open Source Software". Honestly, I have yet to see any OSS source code that wasn't a rats nest of crappy code with very little to no documentation. Maybe the Linux kernel source is better; I dunno, I've never looked at it. I specifically remember looking at

    • I don't think that opening up is always a good idea. The top programmers get diverted from writing good code into marshalling a bunch of monkeys. Then when you trash somebody's crappy contribution you start a flame war and that sucks up even more time and top programmers' efforts. Not only does code quality go down, but quality of the mail lists etc goes down too.

      A small amount of good code is worth a lot more than volumes of crap.

  • In the Web 2.0 world, it's appropriate of course for Johnny not only to program, but to do it collaboratively, too.

    ...none of us is as dumb as all of us!

    Joe or Josie Average can barely walk and talk on a mobile phone at the same time. If you want to make toys for them to play with and create "neato thingys" great, but keep them out of programming before it dilutes the talent pool even more. I can just see these "average" programmers being duped into creating the next generation of malware.

    • Joe or Josie Average can barely walk and talk on a mobile phone at the same time.

      I agree 100%. This is why they make "hang up and drive" laws.

      but keep them out of programming before it dilutes the talent pool even more.

      And I kind of disagree here. I think having a lot of crappy programmers out there will dilute the talent pool - but that's a good thing for us.

      Let's say ABC Corp. wants to hire a new programmer, but back in 1990. Odds are (because the pool isn't so diluted yet) they can find a

      • Not too long ago I was thinking about going back to school and getting a Comp Sci degree, since that was what I was basically doing anyways. And found out my university had changed their core programming language from C to Java. I bailed.

        Computer Science doesn't teach you how to program. CS teaches you how to think like a computer scientist. The core language taught is immaterial. For example: Big O notation is the same in C or in Java. Data structures don't conceptually vary. Doubly linked lists ar
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:19PM (#14820108) Homepage
    The article links to another article, Why Johnny can't program [bricklin.com], which is really good. That article has a good concept: That what we call "programming" is actually a hierarchy with shades of gray. C++ is programming. But is writing an Excel macro programming? How about programming a VCR? What if I write requirements and then code-gen a class hierarchy or a database schema? Programming is more than just writing code.

    But the ZDNet article has the highest hype per paragraph ratio of anything I've read for a while. Web 2.0? Is that the buzzword replace Internet2? "Programming collaboratively?" And of course, AJAX & web services will make everyone a programmer. Some editor just linked a bunch of articles on similar subjects, threw in enough buzzwords, and jumped to a conclusion. Yes, everyone is now a programmer. "Sure grandma, I can set the clock on your microwave for you. I'll be right over."

    • But the ZDNet article has the highest hype per paragraph ratio of anything I've read for a while. Web 2.0? Is that the buzzword replace Internet2?

      The Internet2 [internet2.edu] is a real network. Perhaps you're thinking of DHTML?
    • But is writing an Excel macro programming?

      It depends. Simply recording a set of steps and attaching that to a button hardly counts as programming.

      But, I, for example, created an Excel "macro" that spawns a Powerpoint application/presentation, copies in a template slide, then changes some text on the slide. It then populates the slide with a bunch of squares made up of 2 triangles, where this is a main number in the square (representing "current value"), and each triangle of the square is colored red, yell
    • The article links to another article, Why Johnny can't program, which is really good. That article has a good concept: That what we call "programming" is actually a hierarchy with shades of gray. C++ is programming. But is writing an Excel macro programming? How about programming a VCR? What if I write requirements and then code-gen a class hierarchy or a database schema? Programming is more than just writing code.

      I have clients that talk about programming their computers with Microsoft Office or progra

  • Just out of curiosity...any developers want to comment on the efficiency of the proposed method? I mean...wouldn't that eat up a LOT of time to sort through the code and see what is useable and what isn't? And in that timeframe...wouldn't it have been quicker just to have the developer write the code himself?

    • In the context of a proprietary project, it might be the case that having neophytes mess about in production projects might be beyond the ability of a development shop to manage - provided they are not willing to share the responsiblity of reviewing code with the community surrounding the project.

      We are, however, talking about FOSS projects - where the price of admission is free and very community oriented. If such a project is big enough to attract a large audience - it will invariably have a good size su
  • Already fuzzy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XMilkProject (935232) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:20PM (#14820117) Homepage
    Most of the developers I work with in contracting positions know less than the average Joe, even an excel macro would be stretching their abilities. Yet they all have Senior Programmer II titles or some such thing.

    It started with VB, and will continue... More and more of these non-programmers start thinking they are developers, and getting hired into positions they don't belong in.... and America's corporations are paying for it in cold hard cash and wasted time.

    Hopefully there will be a new paradigm in developer evaluation sometime in the near future, so that there will be a clear metric to determine a persons ability, and thus hire-ability.
    • Most of the developers I work with in contracting positions know less than the average Joe, even an excel macro would be stretching their abilities. Yet they all have Senior Programmer II titles or some such thing.

      It started with VB, and will continue...


      What's wrong with VB or other high level languages? At one time assembly was the only way I could get programs to run at reasonable speed on limited hardware. But those days are long past. There is no reason not to be able to do "rapid application developmen
      • VB is a high level programming language in the same way that "a/s/l u want 2 cyber" is high level romantic language. Both express the necessary concepts in a quick form that doesn't require a lot of subtlety, but you're only successful by lowered expectations in both cases.
    • If I had to interview people for a developper position, here's what I would do : I would ask them to write a "sort" function, preferably in whatever language they would be assigned to work in. And then I would review their code with them, not really paying any attention to whether the thing actually works or compiles or not. What I would ask them is "tell me why your code works". From there:

      - VERY BAD ANSWER : "It works because look, I wrote a quicksort"
      - QUITE BAD ANSWER ": "It works because it compil
  • ...it is with 'joe average' using only the tool he knows. For example, companies that use spreadsheets where they should be using databases. Heck, using spreadsheets with macros for 'code' even. You want joe average involved? Make him work with a DBA for the storage, but let him work on the 'interface' to that data using whatever tools he is comfortable with. That would be great because mr. average is definitely the expert in making an interface that makes his own job more efficient, but having the rig
  • by LetterRip (30937) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:21PM (#14820134)
    [QUOTE]The line between hardcore developers and the average Joe will start to get very fuzzy[/QUOTE]

    Not really - the hardore devs will be far more productive and be able to implement complex programs requiring algorithmic insight, the joes will be able to to implement stuff that requires simple logic and interfaces. Of course there will be lots of useful stuff that a joe could do, it just won't be the same kinds of stuff that the hardcore dev will be doing.

    LetterRip
  • Duke Nukem? (Score:2, Funny)

    by nmccart (952969)
    So, with 1000 open source programmes working at 1000 dummy stations, they should be able to produce Duke Nukem 3D?
  • I'm sure we all remember the Simpsons episode where his brother thinks that an "average guy" can design a better car then the "eggheads" he has working for him?

    I don't expect the results from this venture to be as good as that.

    Nuff said,

    =tkk
  • Fantasy. (Score:3, Funny)

    by torokun (148213) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:23PM (#14820157) Homepage
    99% of users don't even want to open the help. This guy's smoking some collaborative utopia crack.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:25PM (#14820193) Homepage
    It is announced that the role of the "programmer" has ended. Either the new stuff is just so simple that anyone can do it without any training at all, or the machine will program itself as it learns what you want to do.

    This has been going on since the beginning of 4th generation langauges, which came about in the late 1970's. There were actually some reasonable achievements which have been utterly lost now. But nothing that would replace programming completely.

    While there is lots of benefits to including users into a project to make sure it remains useful and usable, this doesn't mean trying to help non-programmers join in the programming effort. It isn't the programming training they lack, it is the programming orientation towards thinking about the problem they lack.
    • I seem to remember in the early hype about OOP that OOP would end the role of the programmer. OOP was supposed to lead to a utopia where the end user would be grabbing and assembling objects to customize their environment and that the distinction between programmer and Joe Public would blur.

      It seems to me that the actual effect of OOP was to raise the bar. Joe Public seemed to have a much better inuitive idea of procedural programs.

      BTW, I've always seen the distinction between programmer and public as b
      • I seem to remember in the early hype about OOP that OOP would end the role of the programmer. OOP was supposed to lead to a utopia where the end user would be grabbing and assembling objects to customize their environment and that the distinction between programmer and Joe Public would blur.

        No, that was 4GL. OOP was supposed to make programming more structured, easier to manage, and quicker to code. While many programmers will swear up and down that it has achieved these goals, researchers were never able t
        • Joe Public was able to create some rather complex database applications with the Paint Feature in Advanced Revelation. It seems to me that many of the DOS based 4GLs were starting to live up to their promise. The hype of 4GL was only a little bit beyond its reach.

          The advent of OOP was accompanied with a large number of business articles about how OOP would re-engineer the whole world. There were quite a few books like Taylor's Business Engineering with Object Technology that were promising a complete tran
    • Heck, COBOL, with its friendly verbose english like keywords, was at one time (before most of you were born, when COBOL was a new thing) touted as a tool that would allow end users to create their own applications....
  • The line between hardcore developers and the average Joe will start to get very fuzzy.'"

    No, it most certainly will not get fuzzy.

    Billy G has tried for years to get the average office worker capable of making their own macros, then blobs of VB script, now inline .NET snippets - Much to the dismay of those of us who need to make everything magically better when an "average Joe" actually tries using some of these features and blows away the entire 2005 regional accounts receivable ledger.

    Like it or not,
  • Too many cooks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DoctorSVD (884269)
    Anyone who has done serious development knows that this is nonsense. Large software projects depend critically on skilled developers to provide a sound overall design - you can't just throw more people at the problem. The book "The mythical man month" argues this point quite convincingly.
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @03:27PM (#14820218)
    Our organization currently has a headache when non-developers make an Access database, get their department relying on it, and then leaving the organization. When things break, the developers get sucked into having to maintain this monstrosity.

    We're trying hard to disavow them completely, but it's hard to say no when the customer insists its part of a vital healthcare function. For those, we've sometimes rewritten them using a real SQL back-end, web browser client, and code we can support and maintain.

    Making tools to let non-developers do things isn't necessarily bad, it's just that there has to be clear expectations as to support. Writing web applications isn't the same as typing up a Word document or making an Excel spreadsheet with a couple macros. It's easy for non-developers to quickly get in over their heads.
    • I've dealt a lot with this sort of circumstance. The best approach is to begin implementing a facade pattern, function by function, until the whole amorphous mess is inside it. At this point, some stuff is pointed at Sql, some is pointed at Access, or what have you.

      Next, you get everything pointed at Sql. Once that is done, take some time and get unit tests around the functions; this will help you in the next step. Document the functions while you write the tests. Finally, break the facade back into multi
    • The real software developers are the architects and the engineers. Are you going to see a skyscraper designed and built by amateurs? Probably not. Are you going to base your shipping company's transportation infrastructure on automobiles that were designed, built, and maintained by amateurs? Definitely not. However, that shouldn't keep amateurs from believing that they can (and should) take part in some DIY home remodeling and automobile maintenance.

      The same thing applies to code. I know that the st
    • Exactly!

      When I was still in high-school, I had done some programming and as my mother needed to port an old dBase address database to Windows, I did it for her using Access.

      Well, this thing still works and is in use. However, when I look at it ... ::shudder:: ... there are some very stupid rookie mistakes in there, that will make maintenance difficult.

      Example : Children, ages & name (the database was for an organisation of parents) .. As people have different amounts of children, I just put in four colu
    • don't disavow, take ownership.

      Thats how I decided to handle the very issue this time. I have fought it many times.

      This way, you can have a plan of action on upgrading them and bringing them under the wing of IT. With a plan, you can budget more effectivly, as well as go to whoever does budget approval with a list of databases that take time from your scheduled work.

      Also, creating a central data repository and training people on a method to use data from it may lesson your headaches. This also requires thin
  • Maybe we should let Joe Average try his hand at other things, too, like air traffic control or surgery. Hell, we already let him pretend to be president.

  • There is no fuzzy line between programmers and people that can put together some basic Excel macros. Or more specifically, there's no fuzzy line between Application developers and people that can write macros. Writing a macro, for a real programmer, is trivial. Writing an application, for someone who only knows how to write excel macros, on the other hand, is an impossible feat, for the most part.

    Application development isn't just understanding some basic logic and a few commands. It involves understanding
  • There's a HUGE community of visual basic developers. All they do is pass around their ignorance. The community doesn't weed out the weak when the whole community is filled with the weak. I should know. I was a member of that VB community for 10 years. In my spare time I learned much more and moved on. But I'm not going back and helping out that poor community. The best learn more and move on. Darwin doesn't apply.
  • by Eccles (932)
    I can put on a bandaid and apply antibiotic ointment, but I don't claim I'm a doctor. I know what hearsay is, but don't claim I'm a lawyer. I framed my basement over the last few weeks, but I won't be building houses any time soon.
  • The line between hardcore developers and the average Joe will start to get very fuzzy.
    And thanks to Mathematica, the line between mathematicians and the average Joe is starting to get very fuzzy.
  • I say the coding by the common man wouln't be any worse then engineers codeing. Wich in my opinion is only worse then my spelling and grammer. ...
    DUCK
  • Although there will always be a need (or at least a desire for easy top level tools that user-persons can control, edit, and use), I don't think critical systems should have engineering input from inexperienced individuals of any job function. These individuals should spend their time better defining and documenting what they need to be done for them, not how something should be done.

    It seems to be a cyclical thing - where some particular language/technology/idea is going to revolutionize business process
  • I know an accountant. This guy is not a programmer by any manner or means.

    Yet his spreadhseet are filled to bursting with simple summation formulae, and more advanced results. He even has a few if statements sprinkled in for good measure. He also records macros, carefully and with thought applied.

    He also codes a lot in Access databases, regularly dipping in and out of the raw SQL. On occassion, he will even dip out to the command line, to what he refers to as "DOS".

    After several years, he tried to get into
    • What you say is true, but there are two fundamental problems:

      1) These types of users sometimes attempt to create a fully realized system. Then when it gets beyond 40 users, and it starts tanking (recent real world example), then what happens? Either they're just hosed, or they have to call in the big guns - real Application Developers. We usually find its easier to start from scratch than attempt to work through the code to figure out what exactly it does. I can't tell you how many of these I've seen in a p
  • by turgid (580780)

    programming should be opened out to non-developers.

    Isn't that what PERL is all about?

    /me ducks.

  • Joe Average can suggest ideas for a program, but there's no way in hell that I'm letting him work on it himself. I have a hard enough time helping those who are supposed to be CS/CE majors understand basic Java programming at my college.

    Even at my internship I see terrible programmers, I'm updating a simple calendar program used internally. The code is done so horribly, with super redundancies and back assward logic, that I'm not sure how it got put into production in the first place. I've wound up just rew
  • I think the idea is NOT to make so-called "average joes" into programmers like today's programmers by giving them a copy of intelli-j or whatever.

    The thing to do is to have really good tools that allow domain experts to "program" for their needs, and thus take out the middle man-- you, the grumpy "rigorously-thinking" programmer.

    Honestly, I can't believe the arrogance of some of the comments I read on here. Some of you asshats think you are god's gift of logic to the world.

  • line between hardcore developers and the average Joe will start to get very fuzzy.

    no, its still there. plain and clear. hardcore programmers write the API, and the script kiddies still write lame little "hacking" utils that really dont do much of anything useful.
  • The line between hardcore developers and the average Joe will start to get very fuzzy.

    But if your job or your life depended on it, I think the logical choice would be to go with a hardcore developer.
  • The line between hardcore developers and the average Joe will start to get very fuzzy.

    Says who?

    The line might change into one between software engineers and 'casual' programmers. The last group are people who previously would not write computer programs, but are now also able to create quick solutions to practical everyday problems. Which is definitely a good thing IMO.

    On the other hand there are what I would call software engineers: people who know how to design and construct software in a well-structured
  • I never understood this backwards idea that as time goes on everyone will be a programmer! (when really, there was a time all computer users could program...)

    Has everyone become a mechanic? Has everyone become an electronics repairman?

    The point is most people can hardly turn their computer on. It's getting *harder* for them to use computers as they become more complex. Computer programs have also become much more complex. Therefore computer programming is becoming more and more specialized. Now you hav
  • that programming should be opened out to non-developers.

    Gee, are we suffering a programmer shortage? Is anyone being paid big bucks and stock options to jump companies this year? Were recruiters lined up at your door and ringing your phone off the hook with job offers last time you were looking for programming work?

    I don't think we need more programmers yet.

    But this would be great fodder for Dilbert -- Scott Adams are you listening?

  • Man, if Linus thought Dijkstra hated him, imagine what Dijkstra would have thought of Mr. Behlendorf.
  • I think it's good that this pontif of Mozilla code has deigned to allow mere mortals to contribute. The author of the article is likewise to be lauded for his gracious treatment of the average user. Unfortunately, both of them are so far up in their ivory tower that they've lost touch with "the average Joe".

    Joe User doesn't even know how to make an Excel Macro.

    Joe User thinks computers are "magic".

    Joe User and all his buddies laugh beer out their noses after one of them gives the local nerd a wedgie

  • ...and you'll get a lot of idiotic code. Hell, it's hard enough finding trained programmers who don't write idiotic code, I can't imagine untrained "Joe Users" using consistent design patterns and not reinventing a lot of square wheels.

    In order for bad code to get "feedbacked" into good code, it will have to be read and understood and commented on by people who have the skills to have written it in the first place. Who is going to do that to "Joe Users" code when they could be more productive writing fres
  • How about asking me first?!?!
  • Yes! YEs! YEs!

    Everytime somebody writes some VBA or Excel macro code, another consultant gets a BMW.

    All you GOOD programmers out there-- think back to the first year of programs you wrote back when you were not much more than an average Joe. >

    For all the Joe's out there: Anybody can carve a steak, but that doesnt make you a brain surgeon. Anybody can write one or two lines of code. But somewhere around 4 lines, things start to break or act funny if you don't know exactly what you're doing.

  • >> programming should be opened out to non-developers

    Anyone who worked in a large software company (such as Microsoft, for example) knows this is already so. There are tons of people who can't write good code to save their life and have only one skill - they excel at brown-nosing. And they do pretty well. They do drain life out of those who can code, so if their percentage increases beyond certain threshold those who can code leave for greener pastures and projects fold.
  • Visual Basic was supposed to do exactly that. And, to some extent, it did. Many little but important business applications were written in Visual Basic.

    Microsoft managed to extend it into a monster, but that's Microsoft. (Visual Basic, like FrontPage did not come from Microsoft; those were acquisitions.)

    It's amusing that the Wikipedia article for "Mashup" begins with "To meet Wikipedia's quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup."

  • Ok...The average Joe can't program a VCR perhaps thats why we now have DVD's.
    As development gets dumbed down, it lets guys like me kludge together stuff but, for the average person, they have no interest in programming anything.
  • Back when computers were new to the desktop people would spend all day long f**king around with them trying to get something to work to produce results that could have been done by hand in a shorter period of time.

    Managers would spend all their time dinking around with their computers instead of managing. It gave the illusion that they were busy, busy, busy, but in reality the amount of work that was actually getting done was dismal. I saw more than one perplexed manager get dumped this way.

    I don't think
  • No matter how "easy" you make something, people will inevitably figure out a way to not have to do it. As has been pointed out by other posters, there's a certain capacity for programming that the "great programmers" seem to have but the wannabes don't. So what if more people begin to use application scripting or visual markup languages? Who cares?

    There's some special characteristic of natural languages that make them more expressive than the artificial formal languages used in science. Although the nat
  • The problem is there are too many "Average Joes" *now* who either think they can write programs, or who think they can manage programmers. Many of these people are so totally clueless it's pathetic. Part of the problem is Microsoft who leads the way by its terrible example:
    * Ship a program with known bugs, and act surprised when the customer finds it. Gives them more time to figure out a fix, you see.
    * Deadlines and ship dates are made by the Marketing Department, or Customer Service, not Engineering.
    * The
  • Why would any good developer want to waste his/her time rereading/fixing/suffering from the same garbage over and over and over and over and over again. Because that is what you are going to get when you let a bunch of non-developers 'help' you with a project.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @04:51PM (#14821211)
    I have worked at Fortune 100 IT departments before, and it's obvious that the dream of the senior managers is to see if they can dumb down everything to where anyone off the street could do the job just as easily as they could carry boxes or push a mop. They have been trying to do this for a long time, and for the most part it does not work. There are some tasks which are simple and repetitive that can be pushed down to a lower level, and that would be the realm being talked of - mashing, macros and all of that. But most work you need someone who knows what they're doing. It is easy to write 200 lines of spaghetti code that perform an application, but once you get to 2000 lines, never mind 20,000 lines, you need to know what you are doing. You need, at the very least, the kind of programming practices mentioned in Code Complete.

    Behlendorf is a smart guy, and who knows what spin the reporter put on his comments. I'm sure Behlendorf is happy to see mashups and people getting into programming with a more simple programming language then, say, assembly. But this concept in the mind of a pointy-headed boss can lead to unpleasantness. I worked as a sysadmin once in a level 2 environment where they were trying to or thought they had made an idiot-proof wrapper around everything for us, but the idiot-proof wrapper itself had problems, so we not only had to deal with broken systems, but with the broken idiot-proofing they had tried to wrap around the systems.

    SQL was designed originally so that even non-technical managers could use it. I have worked with SQL for many years, and still have to look for examples on Google whenever I need to do a LEFT JOIN or something like that. The concept of "anyone can program" can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

  • We already have to put up with people who don't know about code telling us how to code - they're called "Project Management", "Quality Assurance", and "Marketing". Being a software developer is becoming more and more a position that diplomacy skills are required because of the techno-jargin that the aforementioned groups latch on to.

    I remember when the Marketing team would tell the Project Management team what they wanted, analysts would spec it out, and developers would write to the specs. Then Quality

  • I think that many people who are programming today, and even leaving code long term deep into production systems, should be kicked out of the field, when they don't really know what they're doing and have had a two years training of "programming-is-a-bit-like-spelling-out-a-cooking - recipe" style Java drill.

    Programming requires an intellectual discipline, and an understanding of abstract mathematical concepts that is just not anybody's. Then we'll see systems working much better.
  • >> programming should be opened out to non-developers. ..and from the same think-tank: Brain Surgery kits could be sold at Home Depot
  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @06:47AM (#14825380) Homepage
    What I would really like is another layer That would take fuzzy specs, let me take an example quote:

    "Give the salesmen the opportunity to plan their visits and handling of their district/area of responsibility."

    To beat that into a real detailed spec of WHICH inputs should the salesmen give, WHAT views should they see and HOW they should be able to plan. I don't mean as actual code, but I mean down to the level of layout, fields, options, formats, formulas, filtering options (browsing, drop-down, freetext, radio-buttons, checkboxes), default filters, grouping, flags, stoplights, escalation, reports and so on.

    Project managers don't seem up to that job, a lot of that is minute detail and not really manager-level anyway. But if someone could do that job and give me a proper spec, the actual coding would go a lot quicker. In my experience half the time is either spent a) beating it out of the customer or b) the customer coming back saying "that's not how we want it to work".

    That should be exactly what these types of programmers are good for - they understand basic UI concepts but don't know how to build a proper back-end. If they could work that out in detail (if you have some good UI tools perhaps design the UI itself, but not one line of code), then you'd free up lots of programmer time that actually know how to program.

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