A Tool Building Philosophy

I looked at WikiCalc a couple of months ago. A friend of mine mentioned it recently and I decided to take a look again. I read Dan Bricklin’s page on WikiCalc. I like his philosophy for developing software.

I do not have a business model that makes me want to force people through servers I control, so it gives me freedom in system architecture. I just try to make available a variety of architectures to choose from so you can use what best suits you, not just me.

There was a mention of ListGarden in the article, so I went to look for it in Dan’s home page and found this blog entry.

The basic idea is that the value of the Long Tail isn’t just that you make money selling an awful lot of unpopular things. The value comes from the fact that the long tail is the reason many people will choose one tool or system over another.

According to Dan, WikiCalc does the following (I reformatted the original paragraph into bullets for emphasis):

  • The program can do many common spreadsheet operations while authoring, including numeric calculation and sums across ranges, formatting, and copy/paste/insert/fill (though it is not meant for heavy duty spreadsheeting or serious calculations).
  • It handles freeform text in a wiki-like manner and works well with large blocks of text.
  • It publishes through a template much like many blogging systems so you can easily create pages with a common graphic design and boilerplate.

You can see the combination of rich functionality, wikiness and blogness in his thinking. It is something to learn from.