[TUHS] Discuss of style and design of computer programs from a user stand point [was dmr note on BSD's sins]

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Sat May 6 01:20:02 AEST 2017


On Thu, May 4, 2017 at 7:14 PM, Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:

> some of those Berkeley flags (not specifically for cat, but almost
> certainly including those for cat) were really quite useful.


‚ÄčAmen!!! I think that this is key point.   What is in good taste or good
style?  Doug's distain for the results of:
               less --help | wc
is found in bad design, a poor user interface, little fore thought,  *etc.*
  Most of what is there has been added over Eric Scheinbrood's
original  more(1)
I do not believe are used that often, but some of them are of course, and
you can not tell who uses what!! So how do you decide what get rid of?

How do you learn what people really need --    IMO: much of that is
* experience *and this thing we call 'good taste.'  As opposed to what I
think happened with less(1) and many others similar programs (programmers
peeing on the code because they code and the source was available -- I can
add this feature to it and I think it is cool.  As opposed to asking,
what do really get and not having a 'master builder' arbitrating or vetting
things).

The problem we have is that we don't yet have a way of defining good taste.
  One might suggest that it takes years of civilization and also that
tastes do change over time.   Pike's minimalistic view (which I think is
taken to the extreme in the joke about automobile dashboard on Brian
Kernighan's car) sets the bar to one end and probably one of the reason why
UNIX had a bad reputation, certainly by non-computer scientists, when it
first appeared as being difficult.  Another extreme is systems that put in
you a box and never let you do anything but what we told you do; which I
find just as frighten and frustration builds there when I use them.
Clearly systems that are so noisy that can not find what really want, or
need is another dimension of the same bad design.  So what to do? [more in
a minute...]

Larry is right.  Many of the 'features' added to UNIX (and Linux) over time
have been and *are useful*.   Small and simple as it was (and I really
admire Ken, Dennis and the Team for its creation), but in 2017 I really
don't want to run the Sixth Edition for  my day to day work anymore - which
I happily did in 1977.     But the problem is, as we got 'unlimited address
space' of 32 and 64 bits, and more room for more 'useful' things, we also
got a great deal of rubbish and waste.    I am interpreting Doug's point
about less --help | wc is that is that are so many thorns and weeds, it
hard to see to see the flowers in the garden.

I'd like to observe that is that most college courses in CS I have seen
talk about how to construct a programs, algorithms, structures - i.e. the
mechanics of some operation.   But this discussion is about the human
element.   What we feel is good or bad and how it related to how to use
the program.

I think about my friends that have degrees in literature, art and
architecture.   In all cases, they spend a lot of time examining past
examples, of good and bad - and thinking and discussing what makes them so.
  I'm actually happy to see it was Professor McIlroy that is one of the
folks taking a stand on current craziness.   I think this is only going to
get better if a new crop of students that have been trained in 'good
taste.'  So, I wonder do any of the schools like Darthmouth and the like
teach courses that study 'style' and taste in CS.   Yes, it is a young
field but we have been around long enough that we do a body of work good
and bad to consider.

I think there is a book or two and a few lectures in there somewhere.
Thoughts?

Clem
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