The User Liberation Front

From the beginning this blog had the subtitle “Dispatches from the Programmer Liberation Front”. I have changed it to the User Liberation Front. Really this change has been building for years now. I started out wanting to fix programming, to help realize its full potential, and to uplift our tribe of nerdy misfits. I slowly realized that the heart of the problem is not our technology but our culture itself. Programming sucks because we like it that way. It entertains us with puzzles; it affirms our differences from the outgroup; it rewards us with power and wealth. Enough. I am now an anti-programmer.

The User Liberation Front works to put the power of computers into the hands of users, freeing them from the domination of technologists and corporations. Spreadsheets do this today. We will spread the freedom of spreadsheets to other domains of software, so that, users no more, all can create the software they need.

I am not alone in this. Are you with us?

Roadmap to the Renaissance

How will we escape the current Dark Age of Programming? What will trigger a Software Renaissance? History tells us that major intellectual shifts usually arise not from lone geniuses but from subcultures that suddenly coalesce in a burst of invention and discovery. I have found an interesting book that looks at the group dynamics of such subcultures:  Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics & Creative Work by Michael P. Farrell (suggested by Patrick Collison). From the blurb:

Many artists, writers, and other creative people do their best work when collaborating within a circle of like-minded friends. In a unique study, Michael P. Farrell looks at the group dynamics in six collaborative circles, and gives vivid narrative accounts of each: the French Impressionists; Sigmund Freud and his friends; C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings; social reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; the Fugitive poets; and the writers Joseph Conrad and Ford Maddox Ford.

Farrell presents a systematic description of how such collaborative circles arise and develop. I’ve been trying for years to organize various sorts of groups to advance progress in programming, following the established topography of academic organizations like workshops and working groups. Farrell’s book presents a roadmap to an entirely different terrain: the informal underground rebellions where breaking changes actually happen. Much to consider…
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TFW you reject your own submission

Dear Jonathan,

We’re sorry to inform you that your submission #12

Title: Direct Programming

was rejected, and will not be presented at the LIVE 2018 workshop. Your reviews are included below; all papers were reviewed by 3 people. We had a record 22 submissions this year, and were only able to accept 10, so making the decision was hard.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your submission and we hope you find the reviewers’ comments helpful.

– Roly, Ravi and Jonathan

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