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Re: Syntax design as a discipline (was Re: LFM + LFSP = LFE?)

Paul Prescod <paul@prescod.net> writes at 14:05 15-Jun-2003 -0700:
> But if the disciplines were widely agreed to be orthogonal then the 
> syntax design discipline would not be regarded as a derivative poor 
> cousin. A syntax designer would choose not to invent new semantic 
> abstractions for the same reason that a UI designer does not write code. 

I think that, in the ideal case of software that involves a UI, the
designer conceives of an interactive system of humans and software, with
the goal being the emergent behavior of the system -- not behavior of
parts in isolation, nor the interaction of multiple parts whose
behaviors are already fully known and inscribed in granite.

If one designer cannot keep all parts of the system in mind and
experimentally violate prevailing notions of how software and user
interact and what they do for each other, aren't we likely to miss some
opportunities for key innovation?

Regarding language design, I'd think "semantics" and "syntax" should be
considered at the same time, given the hard constraints imposed (and
opportunities afforded) by the language user's wetware.

And I don't think the abilities to design "semantics" and "syntax" have
to be mutually exclusive.

> not to do so. Like the UI designer, they would instead do tests and
> studies, observe real users and take notes. If a concept like macros

User experiments to validate a design can be offloaded to technicians or
scientists to some degree.  Indeed that's a great idea, since it's an
unholy amount of work that *sometimes* doesn't need to be executed by
the designer him/herself.  Keep good videos in any case.

> Also, UI designers have a variety of approaches to the problem of
> interfaces that need to work for simple things and naive users but
> also scale up to complex things and expert users (i.e. LFE/LFSP). If
> you present this sort of scalability as a product requirement to them,
> they will usually find ways to make it possible.

If only those brilliantly resourceful UI designers didn't have
deep-seated mental blocks that somehow prevented them from designing
non-UI aspects! :)

I'm playing devil's advocate here.  I'm sympathetic to the general idea
of collaborative design, but I think we miss opportunities if the
participating designers aren't individually thinking holistically.