English Like?

Mark Waddingham mark at livecode.com
Wed May 24 11:03:33 EDT 2017

On 2017-05-24 15:45, dunbarx via use-livecode wrote:
> There is a far more important issue here. New learners are far more 
> likely to
> be coaxed into continuing to spend the time and effort, and to put away
> their fears, if they see and use "put x into y". It is why we have 
> stacks
> and cards, and in the olden days, rolodexes. The original HC team did 
> all
> that on purpose.

Which 'new learners'? I can absolutely assure you there is no homogenous 
group there.

At one point after years of collecting surveys and analysing data we 
managed to divide up users and non-users into 7 (or thereabouts) 
distinct groups. Recently, taking a slightly different approach we have 
reduced this to 3 (7 was too fine-grained to actually be able to do much 
with, 3 is more manageable and seems to work much better in terms of 

Why have we done this - because we need to actually *sell* LiveCode - 
nothing sells itself. Market segmentation and understanding your users 
and potential users is perhaps the most significant piece of selling.

( Okay, that's my marketing brain cell exhausted for a while ;) ).

It is quite possibly true that as many people get put off by LiveCode 
because of its 'English-like' language, who get sucked in because of it. 
We have to concede that point - if it weren't (at least in some part) 
true we wouldn't hear such phrases as 'babyish' and 'insult to 
intelligence' that are often heard about xTalks (and LiveCode in 

(Btw, @WilliamProthero: Please don't think I'm singling your comments 
out or taking offense by them - you echo words I have heard many times - 
as have all of us I suspect when we get asked by some - 'so what's 
LiveCode like').

> Remember "for the rest of us"?
> Experienced users are being academic and pedantic to raise this issue 
> as if
> it were something important. We need new users, not old ones.
> No offence, please.

No offence taken - it is a discussion :)

However, it is important to realize that whilst it is not important to 
you (I get you are quite invested in LCS - as am I, much more than is 
ever apparent at times), it *is* important to others (otherwise we 
wouldn't get some comments about the language that we do).

Syntax is an emotive issue (I could beat Python to death with some of 
the decisions they have made about syntax - but yet I still use it and 
slightly enjoy doing so for the purposes I use it for) - but it is not 
the be-all-and-end-all.

I mentioned in my last post about the 'high priest' mentality - let us 
not risk falling into the same mentality but in reverse. The time for 
being an island in our own right passed with the passing of HyperCard. I 
think it is fair to say that, these days the world of computing is 
inordinately larger and much more diverse (look at the rise in the 
HTML/JavaScript world for just one example). There is huge value in 
being 'maverick', but it perhaps makes things much harder than they 
would be otherwise.

In reality the scripting language LiveCode has, whilst one of its 
greatest strengths IMHO (otherwise I can quite honestly say I wouldn't 
be here), is only one part of the ecosystem:

   - we have an interactive IDE which allows to edit and run code 'live' 
(for some definition of live)

   - we have a large GUI framework

   - we have large collections of libraries (script, externals, LCB) all 
giving high-level access to new

   - in order to build and maintain LiveCode we have a large 
infrastructure which allows us to build
     on 7 different platforms.

Furthermore, we all want more features - we all want LiveCode to do 
everything in a way commensurate with how LiveCode 'is'. However, the 
breadth of knowledge that requires is immense - we do quite well as a 
team, sitting here (mostly in Scotland), we also do well as a (small, in 
the grand scheme of things) global community. Our current solution to 
help achieve this 'doing everything goal' is LCB and expanding its FFI 
capabilities - but that is a tool - it still needs knowledge and a great 
deal of effort to use.

We need to attract people from other worlds, and as many as possible - 
in there heads lies so much knowledge about how to use the concrete 
things which do exist in other language ecosystems (whether it be 
JavaScript libraries, Java libraries, C# libraries, ActiveX widgets, the 
list goes on and on) it seems quite sensible to ensure that we can fold 
that knowledge into our own so we can benefit from all that currently 
exists, and not just what a team of a few can generate, or a small 
community can generate.

Pre-7 what I suggested in my previous email was just not possible (in 
terms of a different syntax style) - or, should I say, the cost of 
attempting to do it would be far in excess of its potential benefit at 
the time. However, the main part of the refactor is done, we are in a 
very different situation technically - perhaps it really is something to 
seriously consider *if* the cost of doing so pales in comparison to the 
growth it could engender in terms of the reach of LiveCode.

I think a lot of us get hung up on the syntax (even me - who will always 
be quick to point out that 'syntax is just sugar' in many situations - 
I'm a polyglot when it comes to programming languages but many people 
are not and never will be). I can certainly say that whilst I am in the 
position I am in, I will not see LiveCode Script become some sort of 
syntactic mongrel (indeed the places where it is slightly 'mongrelic', I 
would quite like to have alternative non-mongrel forms much more in 
keeping with the language as a whole). However, again, there is more to 
LiveCode than just the syntax of the language.

Anyway, I shall now get off my (small?) soap-box. Again this is a 
discussion, there are lots of reasons why people don't choose LiveCode 
and we try our very best to determine them, and deal with them. There 
are certainly easier ones to tackle than adding a new 'syntax style' and 
of course we intend to address those first...

However, let us imagine that we were able to demonstrate that a 
significant proportion of people who might use LiveCode end up not doing 
so because of the language itself, and *if* the language had a different 
syntactic style then we would have significantly more users... Then 
surely it is worthy of some discussion and consideration?

Warmest Regards,


Mark Waddingham ~ mark at livecode.com ~ http://www.livecode.com/
LiveCode: Everyone can create apps

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