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Interview With Ward Cunningham

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the life-without-wiki-is-no-life-at-all dept.

Programming 31

CowboyRobot writes "Ward Cunningham developed the first wiki, wrote the Fit test framework, is the co-inventor of CRC cards, and is now promoting the concept of technical debt. He recently won the Dr. Dobb's Excellence in Programming Award and was interviewed by that publication. 'The creator of the Wiki dishes on the Wiki, Wikipedia's policies, OO design, technical debt, CoffeeScript and Perl, how to survive as a veteran programmer, and doing the simplest thing that could possibly work.' Cunningham is given the chance to explain his philosophy of coding: 'I like the picture and I like the look of the code. It's only 40 lines, but every line carried some careful thought. There was a learning curve there that surprised me because the programs looked short. The most rewarding work I've done this year is digging through that code and understanding what it does and understanding what it didn't do, and how to approach the problem.'"

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31 comments

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Now you've done it (-1, Flamebait)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40017807)

You've claimed that an American actually invented something. Cue a dozen Europeans with inferiority complexes jumping up to claim that X was *actually* invented by Sir Hugh Givezashitz several years before the evil American stole his idea, patented it and made all the money.

Re:Now you've done it (0)

kthreadd (1558445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40017899)

No.

Re:Now you've done it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40018033)

Anyone who claims someone other than Ward Cunningham invented the wiki is a complete idiot. There are some inventions where it is debatable who got there first, the Wiki is not one of them. I mean, he coined the term when he invented it, so if someone claims they invented the wiki, they're obviously lying since they would call it something else. The only person I've ever seen the invention of the wiki misattributed to is Jimmy Wales, and that's only by really stupid people who don't know the difference between a wiki and Wikipedia. But in any event, he's an American.

Re:Now you've done it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40019091)

Linus Torvalds invented the reach-around. :)

Ward's Wiki (4, Informative)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40017889)

If you're a software developer and you haven't read Ward's Wiki [c2.com] , I strongly advise doing so now. It has a lot of content from some very smart people you won't get elsewhere. Primarily it focuses on software design patterns, but even outside of that subject I've learned a lot just by reading random pages there.

Re:Ward's Wiki (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40018167)

It's been vandalized... :/

Re:Ward's Wiki (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40018193)

... I guess there's an edit war going on. ;)

Re:Ward's Wiki (1)

conrad_carter (1708764) | more than 2 years ago | (#40019421)

It looks fine now. Maybe it's the Wiki's simple, 1990s design style.

re "The simplest thing that could possibly work" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40017915)

This is one of those Zen master questions, the usefulness of application depends on the person answering the question.

For the average worker bee, the simplest thing that could work is copying and pasting code from somewhere else in the project, or from the web. Then stripping out the error handling and anything else that they don't understand.

Re:re "The simplest thing that could possibly work (2)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40019287)

The key is what he says next:

Of course, at the end of the day you have to say, "Have I made code that I can live with?"

Re:re "The simplest thing that could possibly work (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 2 years ago | (#40022177)

Same thing applies.

What? (2)

AaronLS (1804210) | more than 2 years ago | (#40017917)

What are they referring to here? This seems like a quote pulled out of context and now it makes no sense.

"It's only 40 lines, but every line carried some careful thought. "

Re:What? (3, Informative)

radarjd (931774) | more than 2 years ago | (#40018013)

What are they referring to here? This seems like a quote pulled out of context and now it makes no sense.

"It's only 40 lines, but every line carried some careful thought. "

Indeed it is taken totally out of context -- it's from pg 4 of the article, talking about a library called d3.js, which is apparently a library "to make things move on the screen"

Re:What? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40018439)

I thought he was admitting to a major cocaine binge :(

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40018041)

and what is technical debt and what is with all the double quotes and single quotes in the summary? Is anyone editing at all?

Re:What? (0)

roger_pasky (1429241) | more than 2 years ago | (#40018139)

Agreed

Re:What? (3, Informative)

roger_pasky (1429241) | more than 2 years ago | (#40018215)

After RTFA I found it at the end of page 4. He's talking about d3.js:

"Cunningham: Let me close with an example that is close to me today. I was looking to make things move on the screen and I fell upon this d3.js library. It's a nice library with a lot of examples of it doing impressive things. And then the code for those examples is 20, 30, 40 lines. And then I read the introductory material, and it says, here's our philosophy, and I agree with their philosophy. I like the picture and I like the look of the code. It's only 40 lines, but every line carried some careful thought."

Don't confuse with Ward Christensen (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40018037)

Don't confuse him with Ward Christensen, another early computer networking pioneer. I wonder how many people ask Cunningham about his invention of the BBS and the invention of xmodem.

Re:Don't confuse with Ward Christensen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40018219)

Very Few.

Re:Don't confuse with Ward Christensen (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#40019311)

Guessing here that the Venn diagram intersection of people know of Ward Christensen and his contributions and those that would confuse him with someone else because their name is Ward C(Somthing) is small. Very, Very small.

Re:Don't confuse with Ward Christensen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023821)

Actually, I'd rather talk to Ward Cleaver. Ask him how the beaver was.

Re:Don't confuse with Ward Christensen (2)

TheGothicGuardian (1138155) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024119)

Also don't confuse him with Howard Cunningham, father of Ron Howard on Happy Days.

Re:Don't confuse with Ward Christensen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024695)

Also refrain from confusing any particular Cunningham with the general case of clever pigs.

Dorkbot PDX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40018453)

I met him at Dorkbot PDX, where he often demonstrates some thing he invented that has the hardcore programmers and robot builders scratching their heads. Those of us with slightly less technical knowledge are usually completely baffled.

Where's the June-Pinky mix? (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40018927)

Ward Cunningham is, of course, the Amalgam universe father of Richibeave Cunningham, a young ginger who gets into trouble dippint the girls' pigtails into ink wells, and who hangs out with his ne'er-do-well friend Wallonzie.

Somewhat surprised... (4, Informative)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40019243)

The article didn't cover any of his work with the agile methodology community and his role as one of the three inventors (with Kent Beck and Ron Jeffries) of the eXtreme Programming (XP) methodology and the practices surrounding it (many of which were used in agile methodologies other than XP). To me that's a lot more important than CRC cards.

But, having known Ward for a very long time, I think his most notable contribution is his being a nice guy - humble as well as brilliant, and always willing to share. He is one of the unsung geniuses of the computing world and deserves a lot more attention than he normally gets.

Re:Somewhat surprised... (2)

Cederic (9623) | more than 2 years ago | (#40022833)

As great as his contribution to Agile development methods, I think the Portland Pattern Repository was more valuable. Not least because it created an online community within which many of the agile techniques were shared, discussed, evaluated and honed.

To me that's a lot more important than CRC cards.

The single most important thing I've ever learned in my career is how to use CRC cards.

I've used them once. Ever. But I use their underlying concepts and the design philosophy behind them every single day. They taught me how to break down a complex system and ask, "What is this bit, what does it do, and what does it need in order to do it", and structure the answers in a simple and easily accessible form.

Ward's one of the true pioneers of software engineering, and I have immense respect for him.

Ward Cunningham? (3, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40019253)

Didn't he marry Marion Cleaver?

His conversion from being a Smalltalk zealot (4, Insightful)

conrad_carter (1708764) | more than 2 years ago | (#40019381)

I will admit that I was a Smalltalk zealot, and I believed that Smalltalk could be the only language, and I knew about a dozen reasons why, and one of them was that once everybody programmed in Smalltalk, we would all communicate with objects. But that didn't happen. And the day that I gave up on that vision, I said, "You know what, we're all going to communicate with text files. We're all going to go ripping through these text files plundering them for whatever information we can infer from it." That's when I picked up Perl. And it shocked me, just how well it worked for finding and plundering files because it had those reg exes built in and stuff like that. And it was so fast. It was fast to compile, it was fast to develop, it was fast to run. I could not believe it was so fast. And I know people like to complain about it, but I also thought it showed a tremendous amount of insight. It was insight, and I looked at it and I said, "Who would have thought of making a language like that?" That's when I realized that open source was here to stay. There is no commercial endeavor that ever would have invented Perl.

Re:His conversion from being a Smalltalk zealot (1)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 2 years ago | (#40022523)

There is no commercial endeavor that ever would have invented Perl.

But there are loads that would have *patented* it :)

Wikis = Extensive Copyediting (1)

mfwitten (1906728) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023099)

It's a damn shame this article isn't wikified; it's in desperate need of editing.

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