Does Visual Studio rot the mind?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/10/26 18:50 -04:00, original URI:

Mike pointed me at this article by Charles Petzold entitled Does Visual Studio rot the mind?

Based on a talk he gave for the NY .NET Developer's Group, here is the abstract:

Visual Studio can be one of the programmer's best friends, but over the years it has become increasingly pushy, domineering, and suffering from unsettling control issues. Should we just surrender to Visual Studio's insistence on writing our code for us? Or is Visual Studio sapping our programming intelligence rather than augmenting it? This talk dissects the code generated by Visual Studio; analyzes the appalling programming practices it perpetuates; rhapsodizes about the joys, frustrations, and satisfactions of unassisted coding; and speculates about the radical changes that Avalon will bring.

I find myself agreeing with a lot more of it then I thought I would after reading the abstract. Definitely worth a read....

# Mihai on 26 Oct 2005 8:10 PM:

The title was enough for me to agree.
Now I have a great excuse for my rotted brain: it is not the age, is because of Visual Studio!

# Dean Harding on 26 Oct 2005 9:49 PM:

Nor the alcohol, it seems :-)

I can quit my AA meetings and start going to VS.NET-A meetings instead!

# tzagotta on 26 Oct 2005 10:01 PM:

Using Visual Studio 2005 makes me about as stupid as when I transitioned from programming in assembly to C. I got rusty on the various instructions, registers, etc. and started to get actual work done. I sure didn't feel very stupid at the time, now that I think about it.

I don't buy Petzold's argument at all. It's just a tradeoff between productivity and detailed control via abstraction. I don't know what is so hard to understand about that, since this has happened in this industry 'n' times already.

# zzz on 26 Oct 2005 10:27 PM:

Petzold writes books. If he tried to do something large scale that used a lot of different technologies, he would notice how absurd his arguments are.

Ideally VS would interface with your mind so you wouldn't have to type at all. It might be possible to create simple mind interface even now where the programming would happen by thinking similar to "up" "down" for browsing Intellisense options ;-)

Programming is all about architecture, design and engineering decisions. Intellisense can bring you stuff you might not remember or know about and therefore open your mind to possibilities you might not have thought about. Writing code may be fun, but if you could just think in code and that's it.. I'm all for it!

# Michael S. Kaplan on 26 Oct 2005 10:35 PM:

Hey tzagotta, That does not apeak to the question of top down versus bottom up programming, and the damage that Intellisense does to the latter while strongly supporting the former. Which is certainly a significant example. The damage that automatically generated code has done in terms of readability is also something not covered in your thoughts here....

# Gabe on 27 Oct 2005 4:35 AM:

I do believe that Petzold is actually trying to be ironic (and I mean irony in the Socratic sense, not the Morisettic sense). Petzold does not actually believe that VS rots the mind; he is merely presenting arguments that allow us to consider how important those features really are.

I mean, I certainly chuckled at many points in the reading because I can identify with his frustrations. However I think it's safe to say that the idea of actually removing the offending features from VS is about as useful as actually drowning all those lawyers in the jokes.

# Richard on 28 Oct 2005 6:49 AM:

The article is thought provoking, but as I read it I was getting more and more anoyed by this.

I finally reaslised what the problem was (and cross referenced with the "Mr Grimes's Farewell" from, 2005-02-01).

Both of these writers have become disconnected from the day to day work of creating LOB applications to support the operational activities of their employer (or of their customers).

This was confirmed at the end of Petzold's article: "I also discovered is that the problems do require some thought before you code them up." And I realised that Petzold needs to go out there and do some /real/ development for a change. Up against a deadline, you take all the shortcuts you can, to be able to focus on the real problem.

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