Visible Workings at Eclipse Foundation Portal


Former software developer at Lotus, BYTE Magazine’s former executive editor and current Microsoft employee Jon Udell, has posted an enlightening article at his Strategies For Internet Citizens blog, regarding his recent encounter with Ward Cunningham. Cunningham, of course, is the name behind the Wiki technology, and a current employee of the Eclipse Foundation.

Cunningham gave Udell a behind-the-scenes tour of the Eclipse Foundation portal. Although editing and participating in these hidden workings, is a privilege strictly for members-only, Cunningham discovered that anyone can explore the portal use cases. Certain parts of the system even provide a test script, which you can run and inspect the results. This allows you to test the Eclipse Foundation system, using a ready-made test framework provided by Eclipse.

Udell’s blog walks you through running and swimming a Change Personal Address test script. After running the test, he reaches the conclusion that the Eclipse Foundation portal is “a radical statement about business process transparency.” He enthuses that, whereas often “business systems are black boxes whose internal workings we can only discern in the outcomes of our (often painful) interactions with them,” the Eclipse Portal allows you to step behind the scenes and discern the inner workings of the system.

This is what Brian Marick calls ‘Visible Workings,’ where the programmer provides enough visibility into the inner workings of their program, to allow the user to understand what’s going wrong when they get that little ‘Error’ message. He proposes that this could be complemented by ‘tinkerable software’ which would allow the user to not only understand what went wrong, but to tweak the system to better fit their needs – and hopefully ensure that ‘Error’ message won’t flash up, the next time they try and complete the same action.

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