As Users Become Programmers

Dick was interviewed by Tom D’Auria of IMI TechTalk,
on KFNX News Talk Radio, Sunday, August 1st. The conversation was about
how programming is becoming less complex and how computer software is
being fashioned directly by users, instead of professional programmers.
These are Dick’s notes from the interview.

What users are becoming what programmers?
30 years ago slides were made for executives by graphic artists. Those
slides were on a carousel that went “kachunk” every time the slide
changed in the projector. Powerpoint allowed anyone to make slides.
YouTube allows any fool to make and post a video, and they all do. Today
Google Apps gives anyone a free website and free email, Google App Inventor lets anyone build an Android App without programming. Microsoft has Kittyhawk which will allow non-coders to create dot net , Silverlight, and XAML products.

The trend is that building gets faster and easier, so more people can do
it, which extends the number of useful projects which extends the value
of the coding suite and the hardware.

What is driving this trend?
As we move from Enterprise software to open source software, to create
revenue we have to give customers what they want, not what the
programmers say they want. In large projects there has traditionally
been a formalization of project management and project. There is a
“cutoff date” after which the customer is can’t suggest improvements.

Let’s see, our understanding of what we want is dynamic and enterprise code development methods are static.

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with code developed with this model.
It is almost universal. The reason given is usually “stupid customers”
and this new programming paradigm lets those stupid customers have
exactly what they want. It works quite well, actually. So this is
primarily about software quality and value to the user.

Second, If you want people to use your software, you have to make sure they can use it.

A key part of having Android surpass iPhone could be having any user create the apps they want to use on their phone.

What experience do you have with user programmed software?
Quite a bit actually. 30 years ago, I was the king of “desktop slide
making” selling a box that would make a roll of film you would take to
the drug store and get your slides back in a carousel, an early
technology that was wiped out by powerpoint and the computer projector.

In 1995 I hand coded a large website that was used for marketing my
company. I remember my triumph at learning how to code curly quotes. I
stayed up for nights on end tracking down and fixing typos and thinkos.

More recently I’ve put up two Google apps websites, dickdavies.com and saleslabdc.com, in less than four hours each, and two blogs, blog.saleslabdc.com and Through The Browser, in about ten minutes each.These are all free. I even get free email accounts with them.

I use them to touch over 100,000 people twice a week, which takes less
than an hour. I am not sending email blasts, readers have opted in to
read my posts.

What about quality of communication if we let amateurs create the code?
Theodore Sturgeon, the great science fiction writer, studied the history
of our species at length, and gave us Sturgeon’s Law, “90% of
everything is Crud.” If anything, it’s getting a little bit better as we
have more people playing.

Code has never been very good. We talk about which code is awfuller.
This could change that discussion to, “Which code is more useful to me?”
which may be a more valuable conversation.

What will happen to IT professionals?
The reason the best got into the trade was they were the best problem
solvers. There is always need for competent problems solvers. I just
read a book The Science of Liberty by Timothy Ferris, that shows how the
founding fathers, the guys who wrote and signed the Constitution, were
practicing scientists and problem solvers.

We know about Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, but I read a great
story about George Washington and James Madison down in the swamps of
Jersey discovering what causes swamp gas during a lull in the
Revolutionary War.

The louts who say, “I won’t open port 80 no matter what the mission of
the company is!” have ROAD status. That’s a military acronym for Retired
On Active Duty, but they can do that anywhere. No reason for IT to get
all the credit.

I had a chance to meet with the head of strategic planning for one of
the largest government contractors last year. He said they were getting
out of IT services. Not much goes wrong when you are looking at other
people’s websites. They going after more real science and engineering

Last week I related that story to the sharpest pricing mechanic I know,
who is at a mid-tier government integrator. He said, “That’s most of the
IT contract work in the government!” Welcome to the new world.

How can people find out more?
Sales Lab give a lot of presentations on this new economy, and we put
them all on the web. I learned that from Tom Peters. He must have a
million slides on the web. If you are interested in our view of where
things are going, go browse www.saleslabdc.com/resources. That will get you to two blogs, two websites, and over 20 presentations.

Tell us your reaction. Please comment about you see the paradigm shifting (below)

On Wednesday, August 18, Sales Lab will be hosting two free shows,
How To Scale Your Organization? Build Borrow or Buy? 7:15 am in Rockville http://build-borrow-buy.eventbrite.com, and
Front End Selling, Noon, Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria http://frontendselling.eventbrite.com.

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