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A Small Matter of Programming by Bonnie Nardi

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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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If, with the warmth in your heart and the wind in your wallet, you so choose to support this show then please know that we are tremendously grateful.

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.

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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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