Sunday, March 20, 2005

The cult of complexity

Just the other day I noticed that someone posted a review on which criticized Liberty BASIC for being a beginner's language. Excuse me? We are talking about BASIC aren't we? Beginner's All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code? Did I miss something?

This reminds me of a software developer I met a few years back at a developer's conference. He asked me about my product, and I gave him a demo. His reaction was "Why would anyone want to use that?" He missed the point entirely. Not everyone has spent the last decade or more of their life developing cutting edge software 40 or more hours a week. If you have to compete with other people, you may well be forced to master the latest and greatest bells and whistles. He forgets that there are scores of people who need to get something done quickly and easily.

Anyone who programmed in BASIC 20+ years ago will agree that Liberty BASIC has more bells and whistles than any BASIC did back then. I'm actually dissatisfied about that. We should be trying to make programming simpler, not more complicated. There is a certain level of sophistication which adds value, but then there is a line which get crossed where things get very murky. Does that new feature make programming simpler, or harder? It can be hard to tell. The more stuff you have to remember, the harder it is to see the forest for the trees.

Aside from getting work done (unless you're programming only for enjoyment), programming is more about becoming smarter and not about proving how smart you are.