Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programmers

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Monday, August 24, 2015

The paradox of scripting

But how can scripting be dead? There’s bash, and powershell, and ruby, and…even Perl is still popular among sysadmins. There’s never been a better time to be a programmer or other IT professional trying to automate a task.

True, but there’s never been a worse time for someone who doesn’t care about computers to use a computer to automate a task. Apps are in-your-face “experiences” to be “used”, and for the most part can’t be glued together.

The message given off by the state of scripting is that scripting is programming, programming is a specialist pursuit, therefore regular folk should not be shown scripting nor given access to its power. They should rely on the technomages to magnanimously grant them the benefits of computing.

If I were to build an automation technology for today’s mobile platforms, I’d probably call it Prometheus.

posted by Graham at 16:42  


  1. Agreed that application scripting is not in a healthy state these days. Very sad indeed.

    It’s not all gloom though, there’s some exciting stuff happening in other areas. To toot my own horn a little, I’d point at Hammerspoon ( which lets you write Lua scripts to control a wide array of OS features :)

    Comment by Chris Jones — 2015-08-26 @ 09:07

  2. I’m more downbeat about the mobile platforms, and the fact that even on desktop platforms that do have automation services it’s not really a goal for app makers to support scripting.

    Don’t get me wrong, having additional language bindings is useful (particularly as AppleScript is seen as pretty confusing which could put people off picking it up).

    Comment by Graham — 2015-08-27 @ 14:55

  3. Yes, AppleScript is completely awful. I’ve played with the Python bindings a little, but they are/were almost completely undocumented, and it took ages to figure out how to do anything.

    At some point I’d like to try and bridge scripting events into Hammerspoon so user configs can interface with that as well as the system API stuff we expose, but none of this helps if apps won’t expose themselves to scripting events!

    Comment by Chris Jones — 2015-08-27 @ 14:57

  4. […] Graham Lee: […]

    Pingback by Michael Tsai - Blog - The Death of Scripting — 2015-08-27 @ 19:43

  5. Graham – totally agree. Everyone should have the ability to do program, without needing to be an expert. The fundamental promise of ubiquitous computing is broken by the lack of flexible, programmable software.

    We’re building something called Workflow, which is, as you put it, “an automation technology for today‚Äôs mobile platforms”. We have a long way to go, but I’m pretty proud of what we’ve put together so far. Have you seen it?

    Comment by Ari Weinstein — 2015-08-29 @ 02:05

  6. +1 for Workflow, really nice app :)

    Comment by Chris Jones — 2015-09-01 @ 11:36

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