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Margaret Burnett provided an interesting talk about enabling end users without a technical background to be able to debug their own small programs, specifically spreadsheet macros. Part of the theory behind this work is EUSES: End-Users Shaping Effective Software. Users will be given direct feedback from the spreadsheet program by showing errors in programming. Another idea is that the user has to test their code in order to have it verified accurate by the program. In her example the spreadsheet would highlight errors or possible errors in red and as the user fixed things and tried new values the color would progress to green indicating that it was working correctly.

I am skeptical that someone would use this feature, or even like this feature, if it was available. It seems like a lot of extra work to essentially prove that your code works correctly. The user still has to verify the information that the spreadsheet produces and if the person thinks they are getting the correct answer even though they are not, things will not improve. There is also still a learning curve that the user will have to pass in order to get the most out of the visual debugging offered by this technique. It is also unclear how such a system could be made general purpose enough to be used in a program such as Microsoft Excel. Even though I am skeptical, I do like the idea of giving users an easier method to try to fix their own code.

Last modified 5 October 2007 at 2:17 pm by JeffreyLaMarche