Lets Talk About the Future of Programming


OLC attended Thought Machine NYC’s event, Let’s Talk About the Future of Programming held at Etsy on Thursday, April 4, 2013. Eli Goodman and Dan McCormick gave a presentation about what they thought needed to be done to further facilitate programming for programmers and future programmers.

 “Why are we doing this?” Dan McCormick asked. “Eli and I tried to distill it into a simple idea,” he said. “I tried to avoid creating traditional websites. Fortunately, a lot of frameworks have solved the tediousness and frustrating aspects of building. We want to translate your ideas to reality. Code is a form of creativity and expression. If we think of writers and word processors, you know, 50 years ago you had to write it by hand or type it on a typewriter. If you missed a paragraph, you’d have to start all over again, but with word processors, it’s made the act of writing easier. This made two things happen: more writers and writers write more. This leads us to Adobe Photoshop and photographers. We’ve been able to take a great leap forward. We’re in a unique position as coders. As developers, we can write our own tools to make our lives easier. We want to make this part of the conversation. Some people have already caught on to this,” he said.

“Who is this for?” Eli Goodman asked. “It’s not for people who can’t code,” he said. “We’re sorry, but this is for people who understand the frustration of coding. It’s for professional programmers. Basically you feel confident in creating code. It’s to make good programmers more effective. It’s increasing the speed and accuracy of your decision, increasing our ability to manage ideas once they’re already in code. Make it easier for what’s in your head to be transferred on to the screen. We come from the world of web programming.... If we make programming easier, maybe there’s a chance that it’ll trickle down to people who can’t code,” Goodman said.

“What are our inspirations?” McCormick asked. “One of them is frameworks. It’s a direction we want to promote. Now it’s infinitely easier to understand them. The other thing is, make it easy to do the right thing. Another area I’m excited about is prototyping tools. Handcraft is a website that makes it easy to collaborate with other people. Once you’re done with your prototype, you have HTML, CSS and Java that can be fed in easily. Another is Backlift, a front-end Java component that figures out the behind-the- scenes backend. The final one is called Dreamer. It’s a prototyping tool for restful web services. Another area is IDEs [Integrated Development Environments]. There’s a few cool things you should know about,” he said. “Bret Victor is one of them. He paints a picture of future IDEs. He actually shows the values of your code in real-time. There’s a Kickstarter project called LightTable influences from Victor’s blog posts. Collaboration is something important that might not come to your mind immediately. If you think about it, any question you might have can be answered on collaborative websites like GitHub.”

“What do we want to happen?” Goodman asked. “We want things to get made,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want us to write some code and actually make things. I would love it if we can create tools, plugins and environs. There’s another thing that contributes to cording and it’s ecosystems. These are things that make it easy for me to express myself. Another thing is metaphors for what code and data is. The ability to think about code makes it possible to create programs in a different way. Networks of people are really important too. It makes your life as a programmer easier. Philosophies also help create practical ways to think about code. It’s good for people to express themselves.

Having good philosophy about your code brings people together and have them believe in it. We want to provide inspiration for you. It’s also connecting people together and shining a light on people that can move the needle forward,” Goodman said.

“How can we do this? Blog. Dan and I are trying to write more philosophical essays and connect people through meetups and make programs through hackathons,” Goodman said. “It might lead to project groups. That’s a logical step. At the end of the day, we’re here for you. This is our service to you.”