friendly software

daniel berlinger had the same reaction i did to joel spolsky's latest article, "biculturalism". joel says:

Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers.

to which daniel responds: while there certainly are two lines of thought, there are those of us who prize both. joel's example of command line unix programs is really an explanation of where "unix culture" was five or ten years ago. but modern unix systems wrap command line programs in more user-friendly interfaces in recognition of these values of "windows culture". and the next generation of windows software aims to make windows applications and data more programmer-friendly, in recognition of these values of "unix culture".

so increasingly the unix and windows worlds are both recognizing the value of software being both user-friendly and programmer-friendly. making software programmer-friendly is largely an exercise of faith. one programmer puts a lot of time into creating programatic "hooks" in the hopes that other programmers will come along and make some use of those hooks. but that doesn't always happen. sometimes other programmers don't come along. but the unix faithful go on believing.

if unix is faith, windows is reason. if you want your software to be used by many, windows is your platform for better or worse. joel labels apple's user-friendly version of unix as "heretical", but is there such thing as a "heretical" way to do windows software? i say no, because the basic rationality of "how many users?" is the primary measure of value in the windows world. we unix geeks can say "microsoft is evil" all we want, but this doesn't change the fact that most people are using windows.

but as i pointed out before, the faith of "unix culture" and the reason of "windows culture" are increasingly mixing. about 700 years ago, a similar mixture of faith and reason in europe brought about much of what is now western civilization. and for all its faults, i'd say it was a pretty good product. we're not quite there yet in the software world, but i look forward to a day when we can stop talking about user-friendly or programmer-friendly software, and just talk about friendly software.

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