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Brian Schroer Don't Call Me Mort!

I was listening to the latest episode of the CodeCast podcast this morning, featuring Microsoft's Jay Schmelzer talking about Visual Studio LightSwitch.

Host Ken Levy made an interesting analogy for the future choice whether to use LightSwitch or Visual Studio:

"Have you ever been to Palm Springs? It's an interesting place because a lot of times you'll see people in golf carts driving around - not just on the golf course - on the street. If someone needs to go from Palm Springs to LA, they need a car. But if you're just putting around the neighborhood, this golf cart where all you do is put your foot on the pedal and steer - that's all you need - It works, right? Most people have both a car and a golf cart in the garage, and they pick which one they need to use."

Now, I haven't seen LightSwitch yet, and I hate it when people form an opinion about something they haven't seen, but…

It concerns me when I read articles like this, and see quotes like:

It’s a tool that relies on pre-built templates to make building applications easier for non-professional programmers.


Microsoft’s idea is that LightSwitch users will be able to “hand off their apps to professional Visual Studio developers to carry them forward,” when and if needed.

I've been on the receiving end of that handoff way too many times, with Access or Excel "applications" that started with the idea that they would be simple golf carts:

golf cart

…but they bolt on a feature here and there, trying for this:


…and by the time they admit they're in over their heads and call in a professional, the "hand off" looks like this:


I hope LightSwitch will automate things enough to help the "non-professional programmers" fall into the "pit of success", but I also hope Microsoft understands why professional developers view initiatives like this with trepidation.

Posted on Saturday, August 21, 2010 11:16 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: LightSwitch is a golf cart?

# re: LightSwitch is a golf cart?
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After playing with it, I think we can safely say the user will seek help at the point where it looks like a stone-hewn wheel. It is definitely a Visual Studio component, not an end-user tool like Access.

I think it has a lot of potential for quick, simple apps that we used to create in Access (and then watch in horror as the users copied them off the network and modified them to do other business processes on their local hard drives). Unlike Access, though, this one creates an app that they can't meddle with like that, and it's scalable and extensible, so you can put your quick and dirty app together with well tested libraries, or swap in components when someone decides their "simple one-off" needs to be a major production app.

I have no clue where the notion comes that the end-user will ever touch LightSwitch.
Left by Merennulli on Aug 24, 2010 9:57 AM

# re: LightSwitch is a golf cart?
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Thanks, Merennulli. It's nice to hear an opinion from someone (unlike me) who's actually taken a look at it. :)
Left by Brian Schroer on Aug 24, 2010 11:26 AM

# good analogy
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Brian I like the golf cart analogy, and those pics are a riot! Ayende Rahien has written several articles on Lightswitch, but I found this one on data access in Lightswitch most interesting:

Personally I think that all serious C# developers should make a blood pact to NEVER work on or maintain a Lightswitch "application" (converting one to a real desktop or web application would be the exception).

I don't understand why Microsoft keeps inventing things that make it easy for people to write bad code or get accostomed to bad programming practices. Do they really think that they can capture a market of managers who have no need for anything but trival software?
Left by ncloud on Aug 26, 2010 8:00 AM

# my poor spelling skills
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Spelling error in my last comment: "get *accustomed* to bad programming..."
Left by ncloud on Aug 26, 2010 8:02 AM

# re: LightSwitch is a golf cart?
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"Do they really think that they can capture a market of managers who have no need for anything but trival software?"

In short - Yes.
Why wouldn't they? Access and VB5/6 did just that and very well for them. Not every shop can afford a good programmer, and not every application is a good use of your programmer's time.

While Access gets a lot of flak, the problem is the wielder, not the tool. I have a real problem with this notion that it should just "go away" and leave the users without that level of functionality. Like anything else, it can be misused, but there is a distinct business need between the levels of "type it up manually" and "put in a project request". The refusal to accept business needs is why I left the Linux community. MS, for all their failings, is following the money, which is where the business needs are.
Left by Merennulli on Aug 26, 2010 10:06 AM

# re: LightSwitch is a golf cart?
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@Merennulli, I suppose they will tap whatever market they can. Still, it gives managers the false impression that software is easy, when in fact non-trivial software is verry difficult to write. The good managers will realize there is a difference; the bad ones will inflict a special level of hell on all real developers who end up working for them.

But I could just be jaded and cynical :-)
Left by ncloud on Sep 07, 2010 8:40 AM

# re: LightSwitch is a golf cart?
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I hope the professional developers will take a look at the blogs I have done at to see that LightSwitch is just a way to create normal WCF RIA / MEF code.

I have written dozens of articles on creating Silverlight applications and I can assure you that all LKightSwitch is, is an easier way to create the code. it is still the same code calling the same .dll's that I have been coding for years.
Left by Michael Washington on Aug 05, 2011 7:01 PM

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