Making Squeak more accessible and used - reversing the trend

Brad Fuller brad at
Wed Jan 31 02:05:01 UTC 2007


I've been wondering how to show the power of objects and the power of an
environment like smalltalk to everyday users. Probably the best way is
to provide features within the environment that they can really use
every day - right out of the box. The idea is secondary to my
(motivated, but not much action) desire to make Squeak available and
usable to everyday users.

Today, popular applications are vertical and on disparate OSs. There are
some applications that talk to one another using different forms of
communication, depending on the OS. Some mainstream type apps are cross
platform - like firefox, Thunderbird. But, this bandaid is not the
vision Alan, Dan, and the rest of the Xerox PARC Learning team had for
the personal computer and dynabook. I'm sure they can be improved, but I
really like their ideas. I know I'm preaching to the choir!

It would be nice to reverse the trend, or at the very least provide a
usable alternative. The world missed a great opportunity in the early
80s. Today people really can't customize their environment to their
needs - and the dynabook vision was just that. I want to see that work.

If the squeak community could provide leadership by creating and
producing significant features that most people need today, we might get
the ball rolling for users to start using squeak and for developers to
see the richness of the environment - and thus start the development
cycle to provide more features for everyday users. (apps like seaside
are doing significant work in this area for developers.)

I believe the top applications used today, in popularity order, are:

1. Email (including calendaring)
2. Web
3. Word Processing
4. Spreadsheet
5. Presentation

Maybe I missed something, or maybe I'm wrong -- this is off the top of
my head. Sounds right, though. (4 of these apps are in the MS Office
product and 3 in the OpenOffice package.)

If we could concentrate on the first two that included critical modules
that provided the popular features of an email app and a web browser (so
users could mix and match and see the greatness of objects working in
the environment), I think we would have gone a long way to starting this
re-revolution. And, nothing is stopping us from creating new features
that would be a boon to productivity. Just think of the cool things
people could do if the basic building blocks (and examples of how to
utilize them) were present in squeak? They may do things with email and
browsing that we never thought of. And, we would be teaching them the
power of the environment.

Maybe this is a wild idea. But, I actually believe this has been already
cited - most likely in this mailing list. It seems extremely doable.
There's nothing technically hard about it. It's more of a coordination
issue and, of course, a time issue (maybe we can come up with something
to help the time issue for developers.)

Crazy idea? Is it worth trying to get some people excited about this
idea and creating some of these modules? Maybe you have a better idea to
show people the power of the object and a real workable dynabook?

How could we get this rolling? A dedicated team? I can certainly provide
time for the management of the project(s).

what do you think?

brad fuller

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