[squeak-dev] IDE design philosophy -- doing a lot with a little

Chris Muller asqueaker at gmail.com
Wed Jun 22 23:39:37 UTC 2022

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 12:24 PM tim Rowledge <tim at rowledge.org> wrote:

> Yeah, I was just looking into what that change was all about - plenty long
> ago enough to be a mystery. My notes suggest it was fixing duplications in
> the incoming list and so using a Set was pretty obvious. I'm astonished
> it's taken almost 2 years for anyone to notice any problem...

I can't speak for MessageSet, but I don't think there were any duplication
problems with MessageTrace.

> I think the real problem here is trying to use a simple listing UI to
> present too-sophisticated information. A message trace browser could
> probably do much better with something akin to a folding-list UI. Or even a
> cool!Graphical!web! (like
> https://vega.github.io/vega/examples/edge-bundling/ or similar)

It's funny, because what I think is a common issue with UI design
throughout is just how little usability mileage they get.  That "edge
bundling" widget is a prime example.  Supreme sophistication and
(over)engineering relative to the usability benefit it provides to the user
(basically none).

Squeak turning that on its head is what attracted me to it in the late
1990's and early 2000's.  I couldn't believe how fully-capable its IDE was *all
within a few MB of code*, *because* it took the philosophy of using simple
UI components to cover all the necessary use-cases.  And not just for
economy (small dev team), but as a matter of philosophy (which carried over
into the Morphic philosophy of direct manipulation) -- because it's a great
approach for using an interactive environment of live objects.  It's
fundamentally about sending messages, so the tools don't stop you from
doing things you aren't "supposed" to do.  The user is in charge.

Vertical, domain-specific IDE tools can be cool and look pretty, but are a
lot more modal and siloed from other tools than general-purpose tools.
They're good for applications and kiosks that might have low-tech users.  I
believe general-purpose tools are better for high-tech users like yourself
operating a Smalltalk IDE.  I still love Squeak's philosophy.

 - Chris
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