Ward Cunningham podcast: Smalltalk, little languages, XP, typing and future of software

In a recent podcast interview, the father of Wiki talks about little languages, scripting, social software and organizing for collaborative development. Ward Cunningham is currently the Director of Community Development at the Eclipse Foundation.

Ward discusses an evolution from using compilers for custom languages, to OOP and Smalltalk, extreme programming and agile development. He also discusses social software, global collaboration, static and dynamic typing, Eclipse and his personal approach to software development.

Playing time for the MP3 audio interview is 20 minutes.

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Is there a transcript?

Am I the only one who is perturbed by the number of potentially interesting items only available in low-information-density formats like audio and video?

Even given that the audio is in a format I can play, 20 minutes of my time seems a high price.

Whiners galore

I am on the only one that is perturbed by whiners, or as a pre-emptive strike, category/type theorists.

Other problems with audio

Technical content on the Web is visible to a varied audience. Listeners will wish to skip lightly over the material with which they are familiar and slow down and concentrate on that which is new and interesting. Their needs cannot be met by re-writing the talk, because their needs are different, one from another.

With text the problem barely exists. One reads at ones own pace, speeding up and slowing down out of synchrony with other readers. If there are some section headers one can rapidly scan the talk and focus on the new and interesting

One of the problems with the documentation of computer programs is the lack of context. The writer plunges straight into how the code works. If you have a question about what the code is trying to achieve you are often out of luck. Where fundamently does this problem come from? One point to watch is audio formats. If you listen to recorded speech it is painful to sit through a lengthy introduction in order to reach the meat of the talk. If however you need that background it is painful to be dropped right into the meat of the talk without the necessary context. A piece of written text can be quickly scanned for background, context, content, and each reader can spend his time efficiently. Notice though that if you approach the task of writing with the mindset appropriate to an audio format, you are acutely, and falsely, aware of the need to avoid introductory comments that delay your audiences access to the main contents.

The post-Gutenburg world will not be a productive one.

Maciej has similar things to say

If you have four minutes ... this podcast says it all, IMHO.

Transcript not expected

I too, am put off by audio/video presentations that don't have a corresponding text. There are several Knuth videos that I would love to see a proper paper for, but alas. As a counter-example, it's great to have both the SICP videos and the book online. There's a lot to be gained watching the students struggle with certain concepts that you just don't get from the book.

However, in this case there really is no cause for complaint. The audio interview was really just an "extra feature" that occurred at a conference. It's whole purpose was to be an entertaining/interesting audio interview, not some well thought out, prepared presentation. Yes, it would have been nice to have a text transcript, but given the context, I wouldn't expect one.

The benefit of audio

On the other hand, the audio interview is an MP3 file. You can download those techie interviews to an MP3 Player or iPod and listen while commuting or using a cross-trainer at a fitness center.

Use PodZinger to search in the WardC podcast

There's a new search engine called PodZinger that has voice recognition technology and the SQLSummit.com podcasts are in the database.

Use the link below and the Ward Cunningham interview will be near the top of the list. Type in a keyword such as "Smalltalk" and you'll see text and can begin playing the audio at that point.

Click for PodZinger Audio Search