Programming could be much much easier most of the time. This unnecessary difficulty wastes the effort of professional programmers, but worse, prevents many people from programming at all. The problem is a nasty hairball of culture and technology and money that is not easily untangled. I’ll try to address this essay to a general audience. Continue reading “The problem with programming and how to fix it”
Here is a brief description of my latest work in progress, which I am submitting to PPIG.
To make programming more accessible to regular people it may help to make it less abstract and more concrete. Towards that end I am taking another run at the old ideas of macro recording and Programming by Example. Many such efforts abstracted user actions into conventional code. Instead I co-design the PL and UI to be analogous, so that programs and users have much the same capabilities, and programs look much like recorded transcripts of user actions. Conscientiously following this design principle leads in the opposite direction of current PL trends, towards a deeply imperative semantics and a de-emphasis of functional abstraction.
Any attempt to make programming more concrete faces two challenges: loops and conditionals, for they necessarily deal with hypothetical situations. My approach is to extend the direct manipulation metaphor onto template states that prototype iteration, and example states that witness alternative cases.
This submission is a demo of early-stage work lacking evaluation, and indeed it is submitted in the hope of receiving guidance on an appropriate evaluation methodology.
As always, comments and criticisms welcome.
Here is the abstract for my next talk:
The need to think abstractly makes programming difficult, especially for normal people. To make programming more concrete I propose to represent programs as data structures reifying their execution. Programming shifts from editing textual abstractions to direct inspection and manipulation of concrete executions. Reified execution also helps ground abstraction through a new testing mechanism: interventions. An intervention tests and overrides behavior at a specific point within a reified execution, replacing hand-coded tests and mocks. Intervention points are stable because programs are edited structurally, not textually. Interventions also provide scaffolding that assists program development through refactoring-like steps of gradual abstraction.
Update Here is the video I submitted to LIVE’17.
Sean McDirmid and I are organizing the LIVE Programming Workshop at SPLASH. Please consider submitting your work – deadline is Aug 1.
I’ve assembled a gallery of notable/interesting user interfaces for programming, as inspiration for the next Subtext. [Google Slides]