Simon Willison’s Weblog


Joel on Eric

16th December 2003

Joel Spolsky’s latest essay reviews Eric Raymond’s The Art of Unix Programming (a book I really want to pick up) and uses it as background for a discussion of the cultural differences between Windows and Unix programmers. As always, it’s an insightful piece.

Joel’s key point is that while Unix programmers write code for other programmers, Windows programmers write code for end users. Unix programs end up being far more powerful and flexible, but Windows programs allow Aunt Madge to send email. Joel places the blame for the lack of success of Linux as a desktop operating systems on the cultural values that underpin it, which celebrate the diversity of multiple window managers rather than condeming them for confusing end users.

It’s all good stuff. I’d argue that the rise of web-based applications balances the playing field somewhat in terms of ease of use of the different platforms—most people can handle a web application now (look at the success of webmail) and most browser behave in pretty much the same way no matter what operating system they run on. I guess that’s why Microsoft were so scared of Netscape back in 1996.

This is Joel on Eric by Simon Willison, posted on 16th December 2003.

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