In response to my post on platforms of personal expression (PPEs), how Dave Winer's work on Userland Radio has inspired a lot of my thinking about technology, and why the Holy Grail is turning Grandma into a software developer, Sean, who is an IT veteran and now part of an internal consulting group at a Fortune 50 retailer e-mailed:
Your comments are dead on. A limited range of Internet or web-based services absolutely need to be easy to use. Regarding APIs and ease of use:
1) The "thin client plus USB drive" model has some drawbacks. Personally, I will NEVER use this technology for my diary, for my Quicken data, or for the personal databases I keep. All of this personal stuff is kept behind a firewall on servers and workstations over which I have complete control. I do this for three reasons: a) I don't trust the STORAGE security of web-based services; b) I don't trust the NETWORK security of web-based services; and c) I don't trust the FEDS who may subpoena or otherwise obtain data which is none of their business.
2) So your ease of use ("grandma-friendly") points ALSO need to be applied to software which I use on my personal servers and workstations. And we are being badly served here as well. My example is from the early days of the PC. In 1983, I gave up on MS-BASIC and C-BASIC because they were hard to use, and inflexible. I fell in love with dBASE: it had a simple language, a simple command line, and I could automate relatively complex databases with programs ("scripts") in the same simple language. By comparison, MS Access is horrible. And there is no similarly simple tool I can use today to do the same thing with a server-based database. The closest I can find is Python plus mySQL, and this is nowhere near as "grandma-friendly". So my "next generation" upgrade from FoxPro (which is where I am today) is going to mean that I have to learn mySQL, SQL, python and either tkinter or wxWindows......and then convert fourteen years of legacy dBASE tables, indexes and code!!!!! So your "grandma-friendly" point applies twice: First, the basic tools today are not "grandma-friendly" and second, upgrading from earlier, more friendly tools, from the "PC generation" is going to be doubly hard.
Sean is right. How did the market end up in a place where the big IT vendors no longer seem that concerned with user-friendly databases?