Good stuff, faster

There's something in the combination of the following:

  • Programming is too slow.

  • Programming is too hard.

  • Many materials can produce art in the same medium.

Programming is too slow

I'm making a game and I have an idea. "What if the player could climb around the outside of the machine?" I spend an hour writing the code. The idea doesn't work. I think, "Maybe the player should jump between checkpoints on the outside of the machine, rather than move one step at a time. That would make it less fiddly during a shootout."

But the spark is gone. The thought of putting fifteen minutes into another idea that doesn't work is not enticing. I get the drain. The feeling of disappointment. The feeling that the exciting future of the cool idea of an hour ago isn't going to materialize.

Prototyping is a way out. Make the idea is the quickest way possible. On paper. In Figma. In a no-code UI builder. Try ideas fast enough to stay ahead of the drain.

— © Ariel Schrag

Programming is too hard

I very deeply want everyone in the world to be able to make software. The way software works defines the way the world works. Anyone who can't make software is disenfranchised. This is the reason I spent six years helping people learn to program.

But programming takes too long to learn. And even when someone gets good, it's a pretty slow way to build software. The only reason it’s feasible is that a piece of code can be written by one person and run by many.

But what would it be like if it was worthwhile to build software for just one user? Yourself. To make that possible, building software has to be way easier.

Many materials can produce art in the same medium

To produce a piece of art in the medium of film, an artist can use a script and actors. Or they can use a series of sequential drawings.

To produce a sculpture, an artist can use scraps of wood and half-empty cans of paint. Or they can use a block of marble.

A long time ago, people thought you had to make software using 0s and 1s.

Later, higher level languages were invented and, after being scorned, became dominant.

Later, some tools didn't require the software maker to use code for the whole application they were making. The spreadsheet and Visual Basic let them use a GUI for some parts.

Later, some tools didn't require the software maker to write any code at all. SquareSpace lets the user build a website without programming. Airtable lets a user build an application without programming.

At every stage, people have said the same things. "It won't work in practice." "It will only work for small niches." "You'll always have to write some code." "It won't work for heavy duty applications."

An army retreating into the sea.

Artists have always known that you can pair a medium with many materials. Software makers seem to doubt that. They seem to think that you can only use code to make software. They seem to think that, in the future, most software will be made with code.

They're wrong.