Spreading Smalltalk

goran.hultgren at bluefish.se goran.hultgren at bluefish.se
Tue Apr 16 11:15:39 UTC 2002

I haven't followed the thread, but I can always dump a few thoughts...
Beware, braindump starts here.

David Salamon <david at myth.sdsu.edu> wrote:
> On 4/15/02 3:08 PM, "Bryant PW (Philip)" <PWBryant at equiva.com> wrote:
> > Lol.  I recall that Smalltalk needs women thread.  (For those of you that are
> > out of it lol stands for laugh out loud.)
> > 
> > Let me ask this:  How did it come to happen that nearly every Computer Science
> > major is now required to take java programming?  How could we get more
> > Smalltalk in universities?
> > 
> > Secondly, what do the young kids do?  What are they interested in?  Take a
> > look at ezboard.com.  Hello?  THE INTERNET??  Wake up and smell the java, it's

That's funny. Ezboard is written in Smalltalk I think. :-)

> > everywhere.  And if you need some pre-built piece of functionality, a couple
> > of searches will turn up some open source java, perl, or php code that does
> > nearly what you want.  Not much going on in Smalltalk.
> Much of the java/php/pearl on the internet can be taken and run with out any
> programming knowledge experience, the interest they make comes from bulk
> quantities. Because Smalltalk application are the minority, that I think
> incorporation of Smalltalk based scripting at its core, to familiarize its
> usurers with Smalltalk, is essential.
> (I'm thinking similar to Squeak's Celeste email client, where single input
> blocks of code used to filter email).
> Just a thought,
>     David Salamon
> [I wanted the Squeaklist's thoughts on this as well, so please forgive the
> duplicate email if you're on both].

The question about why Smalltalk is not more popular has a few historic
reasons I think:

1. There where no free or cheap Smalltalks around for a long time. A
shame. That is probably where the ball was dropped.
2. The "development model" is different. People need to learn a few
things before they understand the image-concept etc. If we could let
users write simple scripts in textfiles and run with it like
perl/python/ruby etc. it would probably help them "get into it", and
then they would eventually fire up an image and learn more. Smallscript
does that now, but hey - proprietary, non x-platform etc. Not really a
mass contender IMHO. There where ideas in the Squeak community along
these lines - and you can actually already do it even if startup time is
3. Squeak (being the largest "free" Smalltalk) suffers from poor
documentation. Compared to Python/Ruby it seems very disorganized. In
reality the code is probably just fine, but good reference documentation
etc. has been lacking. I think we can do better.
4. Even though the syntax is great (I do NOT argue for changing it) it
might "scare off" newbies initially. On the other hand - a good tutorial
can teach the syntax in about 3 minutes so I don't really think it's a
problem. Might be just a myth.

Of course there are a number of other reasons Smalltalk isn't so
widespread, it doesn't matter. The question is what to do about it.
Personally I think these things are good to do:

1. Polish the webpresence for Squeak. The website doesn't look so
"cool". This takes time and dedication...
2. Produce good reference docs by integrating some form of documentation
tools in the environment. Otherwise it will always be out of synch. This
isn't that hard to do - there are already numerous tools for producing
HTML docs (Dandelion etc). The docs should of course be accessible
inside Squeak and not just as HTML - that is more of a poorman's
solution that "needs to be there" so that people can browse around and
take an interest.
3. Add more examples (and perhaps functionality) on simple Smalltalk
scripting. There are numerous very good webframeworks available for/in
Squeak and they should be able to attract people. Perhaps killerapps
such as them should be presented more agressively on www.squeak.org.

Enough rambling, Göran

PS. It's funny to see how the scripting languages get closer and closer
to Smalltalk. Perl -> Python -> Ruby (which is practically a Smalltalk
in disguise). Nice trend. DS

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