Wednesday 24 January 2007

Why "Super Users" are the new programmers

Like Rod Boothby, I've also been thinking about Jason Kolb's argument as to why users are not programmers - Kolb says:

"I think you would find that a very minimal percentage of people would count "macro writing" or any type of "programming" as part of their repetoire, and I think many of them will recoil at the thought of writing an entire application."

and Boothby responds:

"Jason's skepticism is reasonable, if you assume that customized applications require users to write procedural code. What if, however, they did not have to write code?"

I'd like to suggest, as a counterpoint to both positions, that the line between simple macro writing (or recording), "scripting" (particularly Web-based applications) and (for want of a better word) real programming is a lot smaller than it used to be. This is important because even if the tools are available to create drag and drop Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 applications, it doesn't mean that every user will want to or have the analytical skill to create their own applications. However, what these new tools will do is further shift the power to develop out of the IT department and further into the hands of advanced users.

In doing this "super users" will be able to create far more powerful and wider reaching applications that they have done in the past. For example, the clever spreadsheet "macro" that they shared with a few users on the network drive will suddenly be available to everyone on the company intranet as an enterprise tool.

But this will in turn create all sorts of risks. However, as we've seen with other social software applications it is the actual social nature of Web 2.0 applications that provides a safety net for avoiding problems and continuous improvement. So here's the catch for organisations that want the kind of drag and drop programming championed by Boothby - Enterprise 2.0 is a complete package - you still have to implement the "social" bit too to get the benefits of the technology. If not, you better restrict them to the IT department.

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