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Eve Seeks 'Better Programming' for the Masses

Eve is turning the whole "citizen developer" notion around, approaching programming from a new direction that emphasizes analyzing and communicating information rather than building applications.

"Eve is our way of bringing the power of computation to everyone, not by making everyone a programmer but by finding a better way for us to interact with computers," says the Web site of the project, which this week was unveiled in Version 0 after more than a year of intense research and experimentation.

Throughout that journey, the team ended up abandoning most of the early work it had focused on, as co-founder Chris Granger -- a former Microsoft Visual Studio program manager -- explained in a detailed blog post Wednesday. "Originally we imagined ourselves as a sort of modern day Visual Basic 6, but as we collected use cases for Eve we discovered very few people want to build applications or Web sites. They actually want better tools for thinking and communicating."

To that end, Granger and his team unveiled a rough-around-the-edges prototype, described as "a database with an IDE."

It lacks a UI editor, any semblance of state, version control/collaboration, security and speed, he said. What it does have in this early stage is a database, compiler, query runtime, data editor and query editor. More importantly, it has a new approach.

A Foursquare Clone Built with Eve
[Click on image for larger view.] A Foursquare Clone Built with Eve (source: Eve)

"Over the years, programming has become intrinsically tied to the notion of creating programs, but realistically what most people are trying to do is get the computer to do some thinking for them and then communicate the results," Granger said. "In order to accomplish that, we do need a way to describe processes. We need a way to 'program.' But switching the goal from building applications to analyzing and communicating information changes everything. Our current programming tools are awful thinking tools. Instead, they were designed to build complex systems."

Not that the project doesn't borrow from current programming tools. Granger said Eve's language semantics are largely based on Dedalus.

"We chose Dedalus because the discrete, synchronous model of time makes it easy to separate things which are truly stateful from things which are not and to handle both in a live, interactive environment," explained team member Jamie Brandon in comments on Hacker News (produced by Y Combinator, which happens to be one of the financial backers of Eve).

Eve uses entity-relationship modeling for the query editor and gleans guidance from all kinds of research projects, including the BOOM lab at the University of California, Berkeley and join algorithms investigations at Cornell University.

Eve is a San Francisco-based startup founded in 2012, with Granger listed as CEO and Robert Attorri as chief operating officer. The Eve team previously built Light Table, described as a "next-generation code editor."

More information about Eve can be found in Google Groups talk group, and Brandon pens the Incidental Complexity blog that provides updates on the project.

The company said it's looking to hire a few more engineers and a designer as it moves on to address the aforementioned shortcomings in Version 0. "For our designer, we're looking for someone to own the personality and feel of Eve itself, which presents one heck of a challenge: how do you invite a billion people to program without them ever knowing about it?" the project site states. "We're not sure yet, but we know finding out will certainly be fun."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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