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[REBOL] Personal Programming and Rebol Promotion

From: nick1:musiclessonz at: 16-Dec-2007 13:21

Hello Everyone, I've been actively watching the Rebol community for several years, but generally keeping my mouth shut for the most part (except for writing the tutorials at http://musiclessonz.com/rebol_tutorial.html and http://musiclessonz.com/rebol.html). I'm not a Rebol guru, but I do use it regularly, and rely on it for critical computing activities in my life. All of my daily business operations rely on Rebol scripts (and several significant apps) that I've written over the years. Rebol has repeatedly satisfied all of my needs, and I wrote my tutorials a few years ago because Rebol had a enormous positive impact on my productivity, and I wanted to share the possibilities I'd discovered with others who were potentially in my situation. I've never considered myself a really knowledgeable coder, even though I've been involved with computers personally for almost 3 decades and worked in the industry for 8 years (mostly in IT service, I owned several retail stores, and did some successful work in the web development industry in the late 90's). I make my living in the music industry, but still use Rebol regularly. To me, it seems obvious that Rebol's greatest strengths are perfectly suited to people like me. It's a uniquely productive and useful tool for those who aren't programmers , and I feel a strong need to communicate my perspective and positive hopes to this group, and to RT. It's been bothering me for years :) I learned C-64 assembler as a pre-teen, studied Lisp and C in college, completed commercial work in VB, PHP, PERL, etc... Some of the code I wrote 10 years ago still plays a critical role in the significant daily commercial operations of a company for whom I developed software solutions. But even with that, I never considered myself a real programmer . I mostly write scripts to satisfy my own personal and professional needs, to help me stay organized, and to manage daily operations in my music instruction business, and on my web sites. For my needs, I LOVE Rebol. It serves as my desktop development solution, as the scripting language for my online needs, and I even use it to manage data on my new Pocket PC (Windows Mobile) phone. It seems to me that the benefit of Rebol's strengths have been missed or misunderstood by the world - even by Carl and RT. Rebol's strengths lie in its simplicity, right? I keep coming back to it again and again because it's just so freakin' easy to use and so productive. I'm frankly stumped by why that point isn't at the heart of every marketing message from RT, and a basis for use among this community. It seems instead that Rebol has tried to best other competing development environments... I've been watching the mailing list, Carl's blog, and other Rebol channels for a number of months, fully aware of the sense that Rebol has reached some sort of "dying" point - a point at which it seems obvious that our community has basically been left behind by the mainstream industry. I guess that must have to do with the upcoming release of R3 - it's easier for everyone to think of R2 as past history, and to consider the idea of having newer, better things to look forward to. But I've been watching for years, thinking that Rebol is missing it's niche - a niche for which it's already PERFECT. A niche for which it seems to have been created, but to which it doesn't seem to have been targeted in terms of marketing and promotion, even in the most basic way... To me it seems that Rebol is the perfect language for use by "common man". Not for developers, but for average computer users who want to use their computers for personal needs. People buy commercial applications to suit their needs - operating systems, web browsers, financial management packages, and such software products do their main computing work. Most average people will never consider writing a browser application from scratch - that's pointless. But everyone - everyone - would like to have more control of their own digital world. Computing devices have taken on a central role in the lives of most humans. To understand and be able to do simple personalized things with those devices, to be able to create little apps and scripts for desktop machines, web sites, phones, etc. that are personally useful - that's an interest I see in people all around me. There are numerous scripting languages and development environments which enable that possibility, but NONE that are as EASY and as VERSATILE as Rebol. That's Rebol's strength. It's easy enough for AVERAGE PEOPLE to learn and use productively, right away. As it exists right now, in R2, there's nothing else I've found that holds a candle to it in terms of combining ease and SCOPE of use. That's why I love it. Rebol's not perfectly suited to every development need - nothing is - but it's easy to use and it works to satisfy so much of the scope of common use that average people may experience. It seems to me that RT and this community have always been focused on making Rebol more perfect and acceptable to other developers. I don't see that happening, and I think it misses the boat anyway. From my perspective, it seems so clear that Rebol should be presented to a much larger group of AVERAGE computer users. To enable a simple solution for computing among the masses. Rebol may not ever compete with the likes of Python and other scripting languages whose designs are made to satisfy the existing expectations of the professional programming crowd. There will always be shifts and trends in the commercial development arena, based on the need to stay in line with the most popular design trends. Rebol may not be in line with those trends, but it embodies something much more useful to average users: a dialecting design that makes simple work of complex tasks. To me, it makes sense that this is the key for average computer users. Immediately accessible power, with a simplicity that's unmatched anywhere else. That's Rebol's niche. That may not appeal to professional "programmers" who are entrenched in mainstream trends and group work requirements, but I believe there is a much bigger community of "normal" people who want something more natural in terms of controlling their computers, which I really believe is what Rebol provides. I believe that there is an enormous community of people who don't know that something like Rebol even exists, let alone that they might want or need it. Most people have the sense that coding of any sort is just something they'd never want to touch. It seems to me that Rebol was designed to speak to those people, and not just to provide some sort of easy teaching language experience, but to actually scale into productive use. It seems to me that perfecting that scalability has maybe become the focus of RT, and is certainly an interest of professionals among this community. But to me, it seems blindingly obvious that if we want a bigger community, and a healthy Rebol future, we should be focused on evangelizing to average users, so they can see the light and the potential personal benefits of this fantastically versatile little computing tool. I think it's possible to attract an enormous crowd of average people - regular computer users - for whom Rebol can actually make a significant difference in life. For those people, current and historical language trends don't matter at all, and Rebol is already great as it exists in its current state. I've recently been making videos of my absolute beginners tutorial, just to walk people through the text in a way that's more likely to be accessed, on YouTube. The videos are very quickly improvised, they're not at all well produced, and not very well spoken (lot's of "um"s and ah s), but they're the kind of thing I would've loved to have had when I was learning Rebol (I really enjoyed watching video presentations from previous years of Devcon - watching video is just more fun and accessible than reading text). So far, I've uploaded 62 videos, about 8 hours of clips. Those 8 hours provide a real intro to Rebol for average people, and they're getting watched (with probably more realistic, interested views from people in the outside world than the web site has received). I'd love to see a realization occur among this community, and at RT, that there's still some absolutely enormous potential for Rebol. I think Rebol has a phenomenally useful niche among the biggest crowd of computer users around the world - average people. I think it's even conceivable that Rebol could potentially become a popular mainstream application among average users, just because it's so astoundingly useful, and so dramatically simple to use. If promotional efforts were made to open peoples' eyes simply to its existence, and to the potential it enables in the experience of the average computer user, I think Rebol could be the outstanding success it deserves to be. I'm going to continue to do what I can, and hope that others, especially RT, may see Rebol's potential for use among average users, from THEIR perspective, and put the necessary energy into promoting with that perspective in mind. We all know Rebol is great, and I think there are many, many other people who may not have ever considered even looking at a "programming language" who may think it's great too, if they just knew that it existed, and understood what they could do if they looked into it. My 2 cents is that the efforts of RT and this community shouldn't be focused on appealing to existing programmers, but rather to exposing the idea and the potential of personal programming to average users. I hope this doesn't come off as some wackadoo rambling post - I'd just love to see the Rebol community grow, and become useful to others, the way it's been useful to me :) I see the idea of exposing Rebol to the mainstream user crowd, and promoting the idea of personal programming with Rebol (with the same flair that Apple presents MAC as a sleek solution, for example), as a plausible path to creating significant success for Rebol. I have some more specific ideas, if anyone's interested...