The App that Waits Within

The fifteenth anniversary of an infamously unsuccessful metaphor reminds us that there's art in app design. Every possible statue lurks within a block of marble, but only a talented sculptor can release a good one; likewise, every application is an act of deciding what to carve away, letting the user clearly see and perform the task at hand.

Too many programmers equate complexity with style: a user interface doesn't get better by being "richer" (to use a word that's often abused). Bill Machrone once pointed out that even a command line is a metaphor: when I type something like the old DOS command "copy c:filename.ext d:" to duplicate a set of bits from one device to another, there's a lot of irrelevant detail being excluded from what I have to think or do.

Some people are still equating the cloud with mere migration of what they know to a new, more scalable environment. That's not artistic vision. It's like Michelangelo drawing a picture on the side of a block of stone, failing to see that there was a three-dimensional figure inside the stone and waiting to be revealed. If all you do is migrate familiar development skills to a virtual machine, you won't get the power of connection and collaboration that the cloud is waiting for you to unleash.

Dare to devise the metaphors — the meta Force? — of the cloud.

March 29, 2010