"The world's been divided into people who can make software, and the people who use software all day, and basically we think that that paradigm is not a good one. It feels kind of broken," says Lane Shackleton, Head of Product at Coda, where they are building a new kind of document that blurs the line between users and programmers.
A Coda document starts out looking like a familiar online document, a lot like Google Docs. There's a blinking cursor, you can bold and italicize text, add images, and collaboratively edit it alongside others. But a Coda table is much more powerful than a traditional table that you'd find in a typical word processor. Like a spreadsheet, the a Coda table allows you to create complex relationship between pieces of data via a formula language. Upon closer examination, the Coda table is more structured than spreadsheets and more closely resembles a friendly relational database, like Airtable.
If you're familiar with Notion, another augmented document medium, this all may sound familiar. Coda differentiates itself in a few ways. For one, it allows users to build complex (but no-code) trigger-based workflows from within the tool, such as when a table is modified or a button is pressed. For another, Coda really sells itself as an app-builder, in that teams can use Coda documents on their phones as native mobile apps. For example, a bike shop can have its employees easily swipe and snap a photo of inventory directly into a Coda table simply by creating a photo column in that table. Coda takes care of converting that column into an interface that automatically pulls up the camera on mobile.
Coda was inspired by the founders' experience at YouTube, where the company "ran on spreadsheets," but now they dream of building a medium that fundamentally changes how people see themselves, as creators instead of merely as consumers, and reshapes the way teams, communities, and even families collaborate and function. It's a big vision, and Coda has a long way to go.
This episode was sponsored by Replit. The transcript can be found here: https://futureofcoding.org/episodes/041#transcript