From Greg Brockman on Twitter:
Web programming is the science of coming up with increasingly complicated ways of concatenating strings.
Meh. everything you do on a computer is reading and writing strings of bits from and to some device.
I think he’s saying more than that. Web programming is about building an HTML page by concatenating strings, not just in some ultimate sense but in a very proximate sense. Also, attempts to hide this fact sometimes make the task more difficult.
I would argue that modern web development is much more than creating a HTML file with some values filled in. For this stock Perl/PHP with no libs will do. Novel ways to ‘complicate’ things such as framework deal with getting data from the database or interactively manipulating a tree and associated style information. The result of these manipulations can indeed be represented by strings but that’s old news.
If I query a db run some code on the result and finally dump them to json I’m not really building a string. I’m manipulating some data that can and must be represented by a string.
Sure, there’s a lot more than building HTML strings, but that is the core activity.
Frameworks are great, as long as their abstractions don’t leak: you don’t need to debug into black boxes, you don’t need to improve performance, you don’t have to worry about security implications, etc. Not everyone needs to understand all the details, but someone needs to, ideally at least one person in each team.
I’m pretty sure that most of what I do involves manipulating a tree of DOM objects in the browser rather than concatenating strings that describe those objects. I guess the server-side stuff is string concatenation though.
In the vein of “attempts to hide this fact sometimes make the task more difficult”, at work I’ve bitched heavily about how much of a Rube Goldberg many of the frameworks we try to use are when it comes to just making a simple snippet of html.
I think you could carry this a little farther and say that “Programming is the science of coming up with increasingly complicated ways of managing electricity.”
Sure it is, but it seems somewhat far reaching to reduce such a revolutionary technology to such a triviality.
Chris B: Greg Brockman’s quote is not as reductionistic as saying programming is about managing electricity. Web programming is fairly directly about building up HTML strings. Web programming is closer to string concatenation than, for example, image processing is to manipulating bits in a JPEG file. A Photoshop user doesn’t need to know the JPEG file format the way a web programmer needs to know HTML.
Event-driven string manipulation, seems a bit more accurate to me.
John D. Cook
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