Squeak UI and toolkit commentary: (was: Re: Who has no job? (was Re: O'Reilly Squeak book?))

Cees de Groot cg at cdegroot.com
Fri Apr 19 12:55:58 UTC 2002

Jim Benson <jb at speed.net> said:
>I have the exact opposite answer as to what Cees de Groot gave as comments
>to your commentary.
Cool, a discussion :-)

>As an example, most people that I know want to be able to sit down and type
>in a letter, then print it out using their machines.
Hmm. Let me start by disagreeing with your very first sentence in a basic way.
I hope you won't find me a troll for it, but I do have a different opinion. 

Most people who are sitting behind Word and send off the end result to someone
else don't "want to be able to sit down and type in a letter, [...]". They
want to communicate something to someone else, and if you ask them they really
don't care whether that's done by typing and mailing a letter or some other
convenient method (like communicating with brainwaves, etcetera).

It just *happens* to be that for *some* forms of communications, firing up a
wordprocessor, printing and folding the result, and handing off transport to
your national postal service, is the most convenient way. 

Don't mix up end and goal. It's better for innovation :-)

>Do we need paper? Uh, yeah, thank you for asking.

Again, it's a convenient tool. But it wouldn't help progress a lot if we'd
stop there. I'd rather have that stuff coated with half black/half white
magnetic spheres that looks like paper, feels like paper, probably smells like
paper, but has some possibilities for interaction and won't fill my filing

>So what's the deal with Squeak? Conceptually, you could just dismiss these
>arguments with a simple wave of the hand, "Yeah, it *could* look (or act)
>this way if you wanted it to; it's pretty close as it is", and just move on.
>You can also scream and shout that "Squeak is the best" as loud as you want.
>You can also say that current WIMPs suck, and that Squeak is "the way". So
>the few hundred of us (who can't really even agree between ourselves) "know"
>better than the 100 million on the outside with their own machines. You
>might find this surprising, but the outsiders aren't buying in.
I'm not surprised at all. It's a typical bell curve effect. Some people are
thinking very hard about better ways to do it, some don't know how to do it,
and the vast majority just does not care too much and take what is there. But
we're treading here into a discussion on whether democracy works as a
technology judge (and whether democracy works at all :-)). I am on the "one
million flies" side of that discussion, by the way.

>I'm not against any of those things, most all are obviously good ideas. I
>think there are different issues here. My first question would be, "Why do
>you care what others think about Squeak?". I think this time would be better
>off spent making Squeak better for the people who use Squeak. What does
>"mainstream" mean -- and why in the world would you devote any energy to
>getting it?
It's called evangelism. We think we've got something worthwhile, so it is not
more than logical, us being the goodhearted altruists we are, that we want to
tell everybody about it so that they may see the errors of their ways. 

Of course, the hard part is to make it mainstream-suitable without cutting
away the unique features of Squeak (and thus pruning it to a sort of
VisualBasic on steroids, or whatever).

>However, since they don't really effect my work (other than those modules)
>I say "go nuts, have some fun".
Please note I have the exact same stance on using Squeak to write business
software. Although it is likely to have to do less with going nuts and having
fun than the croaking and water-shy landturtle that was walking around on my
screen when I demoed Squeak this morning on my kids' school.

>The world Squeak lives in is alive. Squeak builds live objects. Squeak
>consists of live objects. Squeak is live objects.
Cool description, I like it.

>This is not to say that the cult of dead are not useful. Eventually when you
>get down to it, the bits are the bits, and the dead are very good in dealing
>with the bits. They are useful for writing a VM, or some type of device
>interface if need be. 

If you relegate the CoD programmers (like that term as well ;-)) to these
corners, you might just as well replace them with automatons. 

Furthermore, the Squeak VM is written in Squeak. Various parts of the
operating system have been written in Squeak. I even think there's a TCP stack
in Squeak. It seems that people are bringing the bits alive :-)

>Also, for many of the same reasons, to think that
>Squeak is some modern day cure all for every computer problem that comes
>along is rather misguided.
That would indeed be the case, but of course that shouldn't keep anyone
from some healthy evangelism. I do happen to think that in the long run a
Squeak-like environment would be way more productive than anything that people
have now, and I'm not going to shut up about that. 

(one of the main reasons is that objects are simpler. It's just so hard to
take them apart, store the data someplace else, retrieve it, try to make
half-living zombies from them, and try to work with them that you actually
need monstrosities like Word and Excel to do these tasks).

Anyway, my personal stance on the whole issue basically boils down to
that the current state of Squeak, with a GUI far removed from the usual
business, forces you to think about how to solve problems. There's
a gigantic conceptual difference between a StackMorph and a standard
on-screen form. If you start providing the 'easy way out' to serve
more mainstream programmers, I'm afraid that they'll be allowed to stop
thinking and do what they've always done, without having to reflect on
their work and the alternatives that Squeak offers. They'll end up writing
exactly the same software, but in shorter time. The end result will be just
a gain in marketshare, but not a gain in mindshare.

Cees de Groot               http://www.cdegroot.com     <cg at cdegroot.com>
GnuPG 1024D/E0989E8B 0016 F679 F38D 5946 4ECD  1986 F303 937F E098 9E8B

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