"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Spreadsheets and Databases

Over on the new Smallthought blog there is a conversation about spreadsheets, databases, and end user programming. I added this in a comment, but want to capture it for my own purposes and your enjoyment...

Databases — I have a friend who made a living for a good number of years on a dbase application he wrote for small businesses. Over the years he added more capabilities. He’d go into a new customer’s site, install it, tweak it, maybe implement some new things, and then take the new stuff back to previous customers that may want it. He had no formal software development education or even formal business education. He was a tinkerer, built his own airplane, his own house, etc.

Another story — a friend, MBA in finance, capable of doing decent things with Excel, tried to implement an Access application to track a small golf tournament he was organizing. Nothing ambititous at all. Access presented him with a number of “formal” database concepts that just did not matter to him. He go some things running but mentally associating various tables and forms was not immediately obvious to him, or to me when I looked at it. Maybe it was just us, but even I did not enjoy trying to get Access to do relatively uncomplicated things.

There is a spectrum of choices between a traditional spreadsheet and a traditional database. Perhaps a more usable system in this space would allow someone to begin working more like a spreadsheet and allow shapes to emerge and be supported more like a database, but not expose that support in traditional database terms. The support for those shapes should be more identifiable by the end user programmer without a 20th century software education.


hughw said...

Hey Patrick, perhaps not *precisely* on topic, but have you ever seen http://www.geocities.com/tablizer/top.htm

tweedledeetweedledum said...

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.