Part of it is the ubiquity, part of it is that it doesn't have the "I'm not good at programming" mental block, part of it is that it's very visual. no hidden state. very easy to find help for. and it encourages goal-oriented work.
@BestGirlGrace Also, I don’t think you can overstate the important of the reactive/interactive element. You fiddle with stuff, and everything instantly updates.
Also, you know what else makes programming in Excel easy? no variable names. The hardest problem in Computer Science, as they say, is naming things.
It’s almost like the spatial pronouns in ASL. Which intermediate computation are you talking about? The one I put over there.
@petra @BestGirlGrace Yeah, I have been wondering if there’s anything beyond excel that would make the transition to more complex use-cases more graceful instead of degenerating into piles of VBA macros, but I’m not sure it’s possible … I think the limited nature of raw Excel might be inseparable from the clarity of raw Excel. I think not being Turing-complete might be key to what makes it so usable.
@petra @BestGirlGrace For most of the use-cases we’re talking about, that would be like recommending a lathe and milling machine for people asking how to fix their car, instead of just giving them a toolbox. You can build basically anything with a lathe and milling machine, including just about any tools and spare parts you might need, entirely custom; being a skilled machinist gives you the kind of dominion over metal atoms as a good programmer has over bits.
…but it takes a lot of skill to get good at it, and indeed an entirely different skillset than the toolbox, and you can do most of what you need more easily and quickly with the toolbox and some spare parts anyway.
@petra @BestGirlGrace So what I was wondering about, is whether there’s any way to go from “something like Excel” to “something more suited to the sort of tasks people end up building hellspreadsheets trying to make” without requiring a fundamental change in every aspect of the model.
In other words: Something about Excel seems to have created a programming environment that is not only highly accessible, but actually useful. Is it possible to apply those lessons to create something similarly accessible, but with enough additional expressiveness that you could do those kinds of things without it turning into a hellspreadsheet?
@petra @BestGirlGrace HyperCard was a software construction kit that was introduced in the 80s that used to come standard with every Mac.It really nailed accessible programming at the time, but was simultaneously powerful enough to use for serious development. It wasn’t updated to keep up with the times as software moved around it, and ultimately died of neglect.
Don't let the name fool you. All the pornography here is legal, and much of it is hand-written. No fascists, no bigots.