Martin Fowler: “Will DSLs allow business people to write software rules without involving programmers?”

Martin Folwer: BusinessReadableDSL:

I do think that programming involves a particular mind-set, an ability to both give precise instructions to a machine and the ability to structure a large amount of such instructions to make a comprehensible program. That talent, and the time involved to understand and build a program, is why programming has resisted being disintermediated for so long. It’s also why many “non-programming” environments end up breeding their own class of programmers-in-fact.

That said, I do think that the greatest potential benefit of DSLs comes when business people participate directly in the writing of the DSL code. The sweet spot, however is in making DSLs business-readable rather than business-writeable. If business people are able to look at the DSL code and understand it, then we can build a deep and rich communication channel between software development and the underlying domain. Since this is the Yawning Crevasse of Doom in software, DSLs have great value if they can help address it.

With a business-readable DSL, programmers write the code but they show that code frequently to business people who can understand what it means. These customers can then make changes, maybe draft some code, but it’s the programmers who make it solid and do the debugging and testing.

This isn’t to say that there’s no benefit in a business-writable DSL. Indeed a couple of years ago some colleagues of mine built a system that included just that, and it was much appreciated by the business. It’s just that the effort in creating a decent editing environment, meaningful error messages, debugging and testing tools raises the cost significantly.

Related:

The Fishbowl: Dear XML Programmers…

defmacro: The Nature of Lisp

Services that can make a difference

Adam Bruckner’s service that helps homeless individuals get photo IDs.

Philadelphia Unemployment Project service that helps city residents get to work in the ‘burbs.

Inquirer: “Witness the world of college admissions at perhaps its greatest point of divergence.”

Inquirer: “Toward college without a map Lack of counselors leaves students adrift.”:

In Philadelphia, former school district CEO Paul Vallas tried to give students a fairer shake by covering the cost for them to take on-line and face-to-face SAT classes from private companies.

But the classroom SAT prep was halted in 2006 as a budget deficit opened, and the online course was dropped this year, also for lack of money.

Top city and school district officials said last week that, despite budget restraints, they would restore funding for SAT prep classes. They are also planning a call-in center for students to get help on college admissions.

…Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said last week she was stunned upon arriving in June to find how little time counselors spend on college and career guidance and is redirecting their priorities.

The dearth of services is painfully apparent to Philadelphia Futures and White-Williams Scholars, nonprofits that help promising district students get to college.

“Students in the comprehensive high schools must badger their overworked counselors for everything they need in the college admission process,” said Joan Mazzotti, executive director of Philadelphia Futures.

“They do not have the luxury of being badgered by their counselors.”

Overbrook High Principal Ethelyn Payne Young said the outcome was obvious.

“Some of them end up maybe not going anywhere [to college] or not going to where we know they really could go. . . . When you don’t have enough resources, enough manpower to touch every kid, you lose some. You lose many.

Tech layoffs soaring

The troubles in the economy come closer and closer to home. Via TechCrunch: “Tech Layoffs Surge Past 100,000” – but hey, at least you’re not a journalist or auto worker – because if you were – it would be your fault right? (without context – that sarcasm wouldn’t make any sense – I don’t mean that AT ALL – but some pundits seem to think that’s the God’s honest truth). The economy is hurting everyone across the board far and wide. In an age where information flows as freely as air – this crash wasn’t avoided and solutions are not forthcoming from our common conversation.

Then again, we can just blame it all on the invisible hand of the economy, right?

Recieved my Villanova University welcome packet last night

This is happening real, real fast. Kinda scary, but overall really exciting. I’ll post an update soon, but in short – I will be attending Villanova University next year part time.

NPR is in trouble

Blame it on changing technology, blame it on the journalists, blame it on shortsighted management, blame it on missing that oncoming glacier, blame it on the economy (everyone is WAY to concerned with throwing stones right now if you ask me) everyone is feeling pain right now and many institutions people rely on are being shook.

NPR: NPR Cuts Jobs, Cancels Programs.

The Greatest “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding” talk about community, tech and open source EVER (A repost and re-tweet)

I shared this previously, but it is worth a repost (many reposts), via Jay Rosen (as does title!). I’d say my entire career has been formed by this effect one way or another. And I am thankful.

When we think about the problems we face today, here is how the Internet provides a participatory platform to help. There’s nothing in here that refutes human nature – it just celebrates an important facet of it: When we gather around communities of interest we care deeply about – we look out for others within that community of interest. The Internet changes the stage for which we can connect across those passions.

YouTube: Cay Shirky on Love, Internet Style:

Jim Carrey profile in The Atlantic

The Existential Clown: Why Jim Carrey makes us uncomfortable:

Jim Carrey will loom large in our shattered posterity, I believe, because his filmography amounts to a uniquely sustained engagement with the problem of the self. Who knows how the self became such a problem, or when we began to feel the falseness in our nature? “There’s another man within me, that’s angry with me,” wrote Sir Thomas Browne in Religio Medici, three and a half centuries before the scene in Liar Liar where the hero stuffs his own head into the toilet bowl. Other clowns have risen since Carrey first stormed the multiplexes with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective–Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Seth Rogen–but for more than a decade now, he has been the go-to guy for high-concept metaphysics, for Hollywood’s sci-fi of the self. How about … an insurance salesman who discovers that his whole life is an elaborate fiction created by a malign TV producer?! Or–yeah!–a mendacious lawyer compelled to tell the truth for 24 hours?! Or even a blacklisted screenwriter (The Majestic) who loses his memory and wakes up to find that everybody thinks he’s a war hero?!

High School Dropout Epidemic

NYTimes: States’ Data Obscure How Few Finish High School:

…many states use an inflated graduation rate for federal reporting requirements under the No Child Left Behind law and a different one at home. As a result, researchers say, federal figures obscure a dropout epidemic so severe that only about 70 percent of the one million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later.

Python, Java, and Netbeans links for December 11th, 2008

Thanassis Tsiodras, Dr.-Ing.: The Knight’s Tour in Python. Discussion at Slashdot.

Ted Leung: Python in Netbeans

Thinlet in Netbeans: thinnb

NetBeans Wiki: Getting Started With Python in the NetBeans IDE 6.5

NetBeans Python IDE download

ars technica: Getting a grip on Python: six ways to learn online

Artima: Python and the Programmer: A Conversation with Bruce Eckel, Part I

Elliotte Rusty Harold: Java is Dead! Long Live Python!

/var/log/mind: Java : the perpetually undead language

Bonus link 1 – start it simple: Bokardo: What if Gall’s Law were true?

Bonus link 2 – fight your fear: iBanjo: Programmer Insecurity

Bonus link 3 – Code less: willCode4Beer: Code Reduction or Spartan Programming