A Small Matter of Programming by Bonnie Nardi
This community is a big tent. We welcome folks from all backgrounds, and all levels of experience with computers. Heck, on our last episode, we celebrated an article written by someone who is, rounding down, a lawyer! A constant question I ponder is: what's the best way to introduce someone to the world of FoC? If someone is a workaday programmer, or a non-programmer, what can we share with them to help them understand our area of interest?
A personal favourite is the New Media Reader, but it's long and dense. An obvious crowd-pleaser is Inventing on Principle.
Bonnie Nardi's A Small Matter of Programming deserves a place on the list, especially if the reader is already an avid programmer who doesn't yet understand the point of end-user programming. They might ask, "Why should typical computer users bother learning to program?" Well, that's the wrong question! Instead, we should start broader. Why do we use computers? What do we use them to do? What happens when they don't do what we want? Who controls what they do? Will this ever change? What change do we want? Nardi challenges us to explore these questions, and gives the reader a gentle but definitive push in a positive direction.
Next time, we're… considered harmful?
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Producing this show takes a minor mountain of effort, and while the countless throngs of adoring fair-weather fans will surely arrive eventually, the small kilo-cadre of diehard listeners we've accrued so far makes each new episode a true joy to share. Through thick and thin (mostly thin since the sponsorship landscape turned barren) we're going to keep doing our darnedest to make something thought-provoking with an independent spirit. If that tickles you pink, throw some wood in our fireplace! (Yes, Ivan is writing this, how can you tell?)
Also, it doesn't hurt that the 2nd bonus episode — "Inherently Spatial" — is one of the best episodes of the show yet. It defrags so hard; you'll love it.
Bug report: Frog Fractions. Oh the indignity!
Hey, it's The Witness in our show notes again.
Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is the better game, even if it spawned Only Up and other copycats that miss the point. The Looker gets the point.
Getting Over It is a triumph that emerged from a genre of games that are hard to play: Octodad, QWOP, I Am Bread
Braid arguably spawned the genre of high-minded & heady puzzlers that all try to say something profound through their design.
Cookie Clicker and Universal Paperclips are good incremental games.
Jump King and Only Up are intentionally bad. Flappy Bird was accidentally good. Surgeon Simulator and Goat Simulator are purely for the laughs. Stanley Parable, like Getting Over It, brings in the voice of the creator to (say) invite rumination on the fourth wall, which is what make them transcendent.
Here's the trailer for Bennett Foddy's new game, Baby Steps.
So on the one hand we have all these "bad" and """bad""" and sometimes badgames, which actually end up doing quite well in advancing the culture. On the other hand we have The Witness, The Talos Principal, Swapper, Antichamber, QUBE, and all these high-minded puzzly games, which despite their best efforts to say something through their design… kinda don't.
When comparing the "interactivity" of these games, it's tempting to talk about the mechanics (or dynamics), but that formal definition feels a little too precise. We mean something looser — something closer to the colloquial meaning when "Gamers" talk about "game mechanics".
Silent Football might be an example of "sports as art". Mao is a card game where explaining the rules is forbidden.
The Partially Examined Life is one of Jimmy's favourite philosophy podcasts.
Two essays from Scientific American's 1991 Special Issue Communications, Computers and Networks are referenced in the first chapter, one by Larry Tesler and one by Alan Kay. The other essays in this issue are also quite interesting to reflect on from our position 30 years hence.
Apple's Knowledge Navigator video, and HP's 1995 video, are speculative fiction marketing about conversational agents.
Rewind.ai is one of those "Computer, when did I last degauss the tachyon masticator?" tools. (Oh, Lifestreams…)
S-GPT is Federico Viticci's iOS/Mac Shortcut that strings together ChatGPT and various Shortcuts features, so that you can do some nifty automation stuff via a conversational interface. It feels like similar things could be built — heck, probably already have been built — with "If-Tuh-Tuh-Tuh" or Zapier.
When Ivan reaches for domain-specific terminology, LUT, Arri Alexa, and Redcome easily because, like, he wishes he had occasion to use them.
To hear the story about the Secret Service busting down young Jimmy's door, listen to his episode on the Code With Jason podcast.
C Is Not a Low-level Language — a fantastic article about the illusion that our source code closely matches what actually happens during execution.
What Follows from Empirical Software Research? Not much, according to Jimmy in this delightful article.
Jimmy likes to reference Minecraft's "redstone" which acts a bit like a programming system, so here, have a video about redstone.
Ivan saw this video via Mastodon, about someone making a "real" camera in Blender, and… just… 🤯 — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE9rEQAGpLw
Jimmy's orchestra struggled with an inappropriately formal approach to Coldplay's Viva La Vida.
Knuth's up-arrow notation
One meaning of "end-user programming" is about allowing people to build their own software. Another is about modifying existing software, and here are two interesting links related to this second meaning:
sprout.place is a lovely website where you decorate a little virtual space together with some remote friends. It's like a MySpace page mashed-up with a Zoom hang, but better.
Geoffrey Litt is a researcher who has tackled both meanings of EUP, but his work on the second meaning is especially interesting. For instance: he worked on Riffle, which explored the consequences of putting the full state of an app inside a reactive database, which is especially interesting if you consider what can be done if this database is available to, rather than hidden from, the end user.
To the best of our recollection, Jonathan Edwards has advocated for "end-programmer programming" as a helpful step toward end-user programming.
Get in touch, ask us questions, please no more mp3s ahh I can still hear the bones yuck:
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