Editing class method sources in single place

Blake blake at kingdomrpg.com
Thu Jan 31 11:27:38 UTC 2008

On Wed, 30 Jan 2008 22:59:54 -0800, Jason Johnson  
<jason.johnson.081 at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Jan 31, 2008 3:58 AM, Blake <blake at kingdomrpg.com> wrote:
>>         You say this almost like it's a bad thing. It's only bad when  
>> people do (a), and if they do (a) anyway,

> I think doing (a) is a bad thing.  Anyone can do (a) to a new
> technology (I know I have, even to Smalltalk once upon a time), and to

Indeed, we agree.

> me that means they are not ready to look at it.  Moving the wall only
> changes what they complain about.

Also agreed.

> If one is too accommodating one
> ends up changing Smalltalk to be source file based instead of image
> based so newbies understand what's going on better.

Squeak isn't source file based, and I doubt any form of presentation could  
make it so. (Though, I guess maybe if you had the Smalltalk OS, it would  
probably host something like a source-file based scripting system. Or  

I'm talking presentation and navigation. And it's come up as I've wended  
my way through the Laser Game tutorial. It actually inspired me to try to  
come up with a modification that would make building tutorials a lot  
clearer and easier.

> That sounds to me like an indication that the Smalltalk browser needs
> some of the keyboard shortcuts your other environments have.  I
> suppose you achieve some of this by simply dumping a bunch of methods
> in one text area, but wouldn't it be better to attack the root of the
> problem?

Well, look, I'm not one to turn down hot keys. I think Bert and I must  
operate in very different ways, and it wouldn't surprise me to find that  
there are many different styles of coding. (Or maybe there are just two:  
Bert's and mine.<s>)

But the "root of the problem" is visual as well as tactile. It's all very  
well to have all the source code available all the time, but much of the  
time, I don't want to have to care. And the remainder of the time, I don't  
want to see all of it, all the time. I want to see what =I= am working on.  
More importantly, when I'm teaching, I want students to see =THEIR= code  
most of the time: I'd like to be able set it up so that the debugger  
wouldn't go in to the base classes unless asked, because that stuff can be  
very confusing to a beginner.

One of the most important lessons in programming is that, when you're  
programming and there's a bug, it's in your own code. Not in the library,  
not in the compiler, not in the operating system. (If that's not the case,  
you need a new library/compiler/OS.) I love the encouragement to explore  
in Smalltalk--I just want to be able to turn it off sometimes.

One nice thing about the debugging stack is that it allows you to flip  
through the code very quickly. There's a clarity that's not available in  
the usual object soup.

I recall a study (by IBM, I think) where the amount of code one could see  
at once was postiively related to productivity. (And yet, I'm the only  
coder I know with a propensity for conserving vertical space.) I do know  
that if I'm in method A and it calls method B, and method B is right  
there? I'm golden. As a corrolary to "the problem is in your code",  
there's also, "the problem is mostly in the code you just changed". I  
could see a browser where the methods highlighted their latest changes,  
like a mini-diff--something also good for pedagogical purposes.

None of this is actually opposed to the Smalltalk philosophy, which  
encourages the writing of small methods precisely because they're easy to  
understand. Great. Now let me see more of those little methods, without  
the real estate needed to make every browser window as effective at  
browsing the entire universe as it is browsing my code.

By the way, it was my experience with the laser game tutorial that brought  
a lot of this home (both doing it and watching others). For example, it  
doesn't leap out at you from a screenshot of a method, whether that method  
is class- or instance- side. It was always something extra to  
check--whether that "class" button was a slightly darker shade of green.


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