Google App Inventor: Right Idea; Missing “Do What I Do” Feature


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I was
excited to hear about the advent of Google
App Inventor
for Android—an environment that
makes it easy for non-programmers to create apps for their
mobile phones. I'm still waiting to get my hands on it since
it's being rolled out for educators and students only.

Since the mid-1970s I've been a fan of application development
tools that end-users can use to roll their own applications. I
have long contended that if you really want your application
environment to take off, you need to empower end-users
to invent and create their own applications. I learned this
from watching the evolution of early word processing systems
in the mid-70s. CPT was one of the first companies to make it
easy for users to automate processes by storing a complicated
series of keystrokes, recording these as macros, and then letting the
user abstract that recorded code into reusable chunks of logic
with if/then logic.

Wang Labs and Digital Equipment also
implemented similar capabilities in their word processing
systems. Power users—the smart people (mostly women) who
produced most of the documents for their companies at that
time—quickly developed lots of time-saving and ingenious
programs that both automated and transformed their work.

Google App Inventor uses a different approach—a set of graphical
building blocks, based on the evolution of the work of
Seymour Papert's Logo language at MIT. [Another evolution of
Papert's work led to the LEGO Mindstorms' NXT User Interface
by National Instruments for a child-friendly and
scientist-friendly version of LabView—a sophisticated parallel
programming environment designed for sensing and controlling
inputs and outputs—which I describe in this
of Outside Innovation.]

Here's the KittyPurr video demo of App Inventor for Android:

I am bullish about the Android App Inventor—not because I think
that it will generate tens of thousands of killer apps that
will give the iPhone app ecosystem a run for their money, but
because I like the end-user empowerment that it unleashes.
What I wish is that someone would also create a "do what I do"
keystroke capture/macro creator for Android (and iPhone) apps
that you could then edit and refine using either this
building block approach and/or a simple scripting language, as
with the word processors of yore.

Here's a video from Google's visiting professors who apparently contributed to the genesis of App Inventor for Android with a bit more background on their thinking.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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