Who’s Your Coding Hero?

Jeff Attwood asks, “Who’s Your Coding Hero?”. Not everyone has one, but you’re lucky if you do. For me, there’s no question about it: Philip and Alex rule. After seeing him speak (to an audience of perhaps 30-40 people!), I realised how much more there was to the web. The things you hear about Web 2.0 today, he was on to a decade earlier.

Here was a presentation where the form really did matter. Why? Because he delivered it using WimpyPoint, his own online presentation manager (familiar idea?). So what’s WimpyPoint all about?

WimpyPoint is a replacement for desktop bloatware such as Microsoft PowerPoint. You can build a slide presentation in WimpyPoint from any Web browser anywhere in the world. WimpyPoint will hold onto your presentation in a professional maintained and backed up relational database management system (Oracle 8 ). You can forget your laptop. You can drop your laptop. You will still be able to give your presentation anywhere in the world that you can find a Web browser.

That’s the thing I remember the most about his presentation. His quick dismissal of a desktop solution for presentations, as if it was the most insane thing anyone could think of doing. He also created the first well-known mashup, the Bill Gates Wealth Clock, and saw the point of publishing a book online. One of my favourite bits of tech writing ever is his intro to HTML:

[Y]ou already know how to write legal HTML:

My Samoyed is really hairy.

That is a perfectly acceptable HTML document. Type it up in a text editor, save it as index.html, and put it on your Web server. A Web server can serve it. A user with Netscape Navigator can view it. A search engine can index it.

On Java and Flash:

Maybe you have infinite money and can buy the book plus a raft of multimedia authors. It still might be worth remembering what brought users to the Web in the first place: control and depth. Software such as Java and Flash enables you to lead users around by the nose. Flash them a graphic here, play them a sound there, roll the credits, and so on. But is that really why they came to your site? If they want to be passive, how come they aren’t watching TV or going to a lecture?

It’s not surprising, then, that Joel Spolsky has cited Greenspun as a major influence. I feel extremely fortunate that people like Greenspun and Spolsky, who can certainly walk the walk, are willing and able to talk the talk.

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