Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coderless Apps, the Android Version

Lambda-the-ultimate has highlighting App Inventor, a tool for developing Android apps. The claims are impressive to say the least:

You can build just about any app you can imagine with App Inventor. ...

To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app's behavior.

This is the classic you-can-write-software-without-programming model which comes up every few years, if not more often.

I'm still not buying it.

Programming is a lot like writing in that there are two pretty distinct stages. First, you need to understand basic syntax so you can be understood. In the case of programming, you need to learn where to put all those curly braces or parenthesis, so the computer can parse your code. In the case of writing, you need to learn spelling and punctuation so that people can parse your text.

The second stage involves learning to write or code well. That is, how do you solve a problem, or write a story, in an efficient and elegant manner.

The first stage may seem tricky, but it's really the second stage that one spends years mastering.

To write software, like writing a novel or a blog entry, you're going to have to master both of the above stages to some degree.

I'll give you that App Inventor may make learning the first stage easier. Heck, it may cause the first stage to disappear almost entirely. But the second stage - learning how to problem solve in an efficient manner, that's still going to be required.

I could be cynical, and say that App Inventor is going to be a flop, and that to write software requires learning to think in a new way. Just like learning to write or paint requires a new thinking model as well. But, I'd rather be more optimistic.

If have success with App Inventor, it's not because no programming experience is required. Nope, it's because you've actually become a programmer. Congrats.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree, but something about this and 'languages' like scratch interest me. I want to try them only to understand them.