dan at danshafer.com
Thu Aug 15 10:14:01 EDT 2002
Richard Gaskin wrote, in part:
At 4:50 AM -0400 8/15/02, use-revolution-request at lists.runrev.com wrote:
>But as Apple discovered, a $99 scripting tool does not appear to be viable.
I'm not actually convinced Apple learned this. I think what Apple
learned was that, for a multi-million-dollar *hardware* company that
found itself more or less accidentally in the software business, a
$99 scripting tool isn't a viable product.
And I doubt there are a lot of people in the world, let alone in
xTalkLand, who would argue that Apple is a great marketing company.
Historically, in fact, they are quite poor at the real guts of
marketing: figuring out what customers want and then making it
available broadly at an affordable price.
>In addition to the costs associated with all other software development
>(mostly r&d and marketing), the support costs for scripting products are
>much higher than with nearly any other type of software. Even Metrowerks
>has relatively lower support costs, as they support only the IDE itself and
>not the language; the vendor of a proprietary scripting tool must support
>Further, the casual user more inclined to buy a non-professional license is
>likely to require more support than someone with more experience and a more
>disciplined approach to programming.
This might be a viable argument if RR provided any support for the
product, but in an era of Web/Internet/user-supported software, there
is no real reason why it is necessary for a buyer of a low-end
product to expect or receive tech support at no additional cost from
the publisher. One of the things I think Open Source and Web sites
have conditioned people to -- other than the unfortunate sense that
everything should cost nothing! -- is that support from fellow users
is at least as good as, if not better than, what the company would
provide at a fee.
I don't believe support needs to play a role in crafting such product
policies a we are discussing here unless the publisher wanted to make
it an issue.
>And perhaps most significant of all is the role that personality types play
>in all this.
<There followed some good stuff about programming mentality which
I've ommitted for the sake of reducing clutter but which I recommend
While you are certainly right in your basic position, I would
challenge your underlying assumption that programming is programming
is programming and that merely reducing the price of a tool will
create more programmers. On the contrary. When HyperCard was in its
heyday and I was traveling the world promoting my books and speaking
to user groups, I found literally thousands of people who had
"accidentally" backed into becoming scripters because of the
wonderfully seductive nature of the beast.
And this wasn't true only of HyperCard/HyperTalk. Other tools
produced similar results, though perhaps not on the scale of HC.
Bonnie Nardi, who joined Apple's senior research staff for several
years, wrote a book called "A Small Matter of Programming" that
investigated how untrained users became programmers in many senses of
I studied this phenomenon closely for some years. I came up with the
phrase "Inventive Users" to describe the "next layer" of
programmer/scripter types who were not professional programmers, did
not engage in programming for a living, and who were really intent on
solving problems they or their colleagues or family members had. I
published the "Inventive User Letter" for a brief period before the
channel of distribution for it went away. I believe Apple studies
prove that a huge proportion of the folks who bought HyperCard or
used it did some measure of scripting.
FWIW, my conjecture is that if Apple had left HyperCard with Claris,
it would have been improved and extended so well that it would *be*
what RR has become (at least conceptually), but with more market
muscle behind it. Before Apple re-seized HyperCard from Claris, I saw
demonstrated fully color versions of the product running on Mac and
Windows. I had copies of these things (though they were time-expired
and have long since disappeared). They weren't done yet, but they
were clearly proof that the product was viable.
So, apologies for the long-winded reply here, but I think it is
important as we debate the potential resurgence of xCard/xTalk
products that we not make the mistake of thinking that Apple has
"been there, done that" and that it didn't work. Apple hasn't been
there, didn't do that, and really doesn't know what would or wouldn't
work if they gave it a legitimate shot.
This is why I'm encouraged by what I see and hear of RR so far. The
company's fortunes ride not on selling more overpriced, feature-laden
computers to an elite group of users (including me!) but on making
this product work. They have some ways to go but their progress so
far is remarkable. I am encouraged each time I do something in RR and
I get goose-bumps at the prospect of being able to rely on such a
wonderful product as HyperCard-on-steroids (legal ones, of course!)
once again for things my wife, my friends, my children, my
grandchildren, and I want our computers to do but for which no
software company is going to provide a solution.
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