Changing the way programmers program

I was fortunate enough to attend a very interesting talk by Professor Brad Myers of Carnegie Mellon University on the topic of natural programming. Natural programming is a broad term and there can be a lot of spurious claims about what is natural so Myers actually narrows what the term means by using user studies on programmers. By doing so, he was able to actually observer the real behavior of programmers instead of naively relying on what intuition might say otherwise.

Myers managed to cover a lot of ground (it is a shame that the lecture was not recorded but fortunately a lot of the topics he touched on can be found at the CMU HCI! website). Here are some of my thoughts on some topics which really intrigued me. Hopefully I provide enough context so that people who did not go to the talk can actually understand what I am trying to say.

HCI is a broad topic and not everything about it interests me. There are certain parts of it that strike me as being too vague but there are other parts like improving the programming environment that seem really interesting and doable. The topic of natural programming is becoming more important because (based on the data Myers showed) in the next couple of years, everyone who uses a computer will undoubtedly be doing some form of programming no matter how simple.

The computer has become powerful enough that it will be able to support a lot of things that people did not think were possible many years ago. It is visionary research like this that will help us make full use of future computers. I'll definitely be monitoring what Myers's group can come up with next.

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