The Democratization of the Tools of (Software) Production: Situated Software and Zoho Creator

There was an era (not very long ago) when shooting videos and sharing them on the internet was an esoteric art. Then YouTube and some easy-to-use video cameras and software came along and made it easy for regular folks like you and me to shoot anything and post it on the web.

This is what some people refer to as the 'democratization of the tools of production'. It was a concept popularized by the 'Long Tail', a best-seller book by Chris Anderson. Regardless of your own views of that book (there is some controversy about it), the concept of the democratization of the tools of production is evident in YouTube, blogs, music and some other cases.

Where am I going with this? Bear with me for a second.

Not long ago, ‘geeks’ were the only people who could create data-driven applications on the web. And there was a reason for that - doing so required quite a bit of training, and even years to master just one of the many components involved in creating applications - the operating system, database, application server, web server, security…

But that’s not the case anymore. Zoho Creator is another example of the democratization of the tools of production. In this case, it is about the tools for creating web, business and data-driven applications. With Zoho Creator, everyone can create applications for their own particular need.

But the question is – what kind of applications? There are many kinds of applications out there, and while Zoho Creator can certainly be used by professional developers looking to commercialize their applications, but right now I want to focus on the kind of applications that everyone can create on their own, for themselves and their own consumption.

Let me explain with a simple 2-by-2 matrix.

Situated Software

On the horizontal axis we have the 'Complexity of the Application' - how advanced they are in terms of their logic, the formulas and algorithms they use. On the other vertical axis we have ‘Uniqueness of the Requirements'. Lower in the scale means more people share those same requirements. And these two axes are a continuum, but for the sake of this discussion, we'll imagine just two scenarios for each axis.

So in the high-complexity/common-requirements quadrant we have those applications like ERP and CRM. They are complex applications which required a lot of logic, but millions and millions of people share the same basic requirements. Sure, people spend a lot of time (and money) customizing their ERP system, but most of that has to do with the underlying business process than with the software itself.

In the high-complexity/unique-requirements quadrant we have those applications that land rockets on the moon. Don't expect to just 'buy and install' those applications.

Then there are those applications which are low-complexity and share common requirements - that everybody needs. Say, a calendar or calculator application. Pick one, they all yield pretty much the same result and are used pretty much the same way.

But then there are those applications that are not quite as complex as a rocket-launching system, but they are so unique to a particular situation that you can't readily get them off the shelf either. What should we call these? Luckily, Clay Shirky already came up with a name for them - "Situated Software".

Situated Software is the kind of applications people need to collect, share, keep track and report on a variety of data. But they are not long projects that warrant the formal involvement of your IT department, formal methodology and end-less meetings. They might be short-lived projects, almost bordering on disposable software, or they may be applications created to be used for a long while.

In a business environment it might mean keeping track of their IT assets, people registering for an event, managing contacts in a simplified way, tracking bugs, issues or customer requests/comments, etc. For a school, situated software might be about keeping track of student information and their parents, or a simple library records app. There are as many examples as unique ‘situations’ for people – that is, too many to list.

How many? Well, there are already more than 100,000 applications created with Zoho Creator. Zoho Creator makes 'Situated Software' possible for everyone. No, we're not all turning into Star-Wars-and-Star-Trek-loving software developers. We can continue to be regular folks, but we can write our own (situated) software every once in a while.

 

14 Replies to The Democratization of the Tools of (Software) Production: Situated Software and Zoho Creator

  1. An earlier post asked:> [...] they don’t take a commission, then what’s in it for Zoho?Zoho is crafty :-). I am a teacher and I show ZC to all my students. When they graduate and go to work, they will be building Zoho apps all over the place.

  2. An earlier post asked:> [...] they don’t take a commission, then what’s in it for Zoho?Zoho is crafty :-). I am a teacher and I show ZC to all my students. When they graduate and go to work, they will be building Zoho apps all over the place.

  3. Zoho Creator and other Web platforms are only the latest step in the democratization of software development.In the early days of batch processing, you had to be a professional -- programming in machine language and even wiring control panels. Next we got higher level languages like Fortran and Pascal, which lowered the bar a bit, but you still had to be a nerd. Debugging using time sharing systems made it easier, but the first big step was the personal computer spreadsheet, which made it possible for ordinary users, like business people, to create applications. With the Internet platform and services like Zoho Creator, your grandma can develop applications!I am a professor, and I have non-technical undergraduates use and develop applications with Zoho Creator -- it is terrific and lets me illustrate all sorts of ideas, like, for example, the democratization of software.Let me end this heart-felt testimonial by thanking Zoho for having the most responsive tech support team I've found on the Net.

  4. Zoho Creator and other Web platforms are only the latest step in the democratization of software development.In the early days of batch processing, you had to be a professional -- programming in machine language and even wiring control panels. Next we got higher level languages like Fortran and Pascal, which lowered the bar a bit, but you still had to be a nerd. Debugging using time sharing systems made it easier, but the first big step was the personal computer spreadsheet, which made it possible for ordinary users, like business people, to create applications. With the Internet platform and services like Zoho Creator, your grandma can develop applications!I am a professor, and I have non-technical undergraduates use and develop applications with Zoho Creator -- it is terrific and lets me illustrate all sorts of ideas, like, for example, the democratization of software.Let me end this heart-felt testimonial by thanking Zoho for having the most responsive tech support team I've found on the Net.

  5. I've used this exact diagram successfully in many presales meetings since I saw in on the ZC site at long while ago. This is the USP of ZC for my customers.

  6. I've used this exact diagram successfully in many presales meetings since I saw in on the ZC site at long while ago. This is the USP of ZC for my customers.

  7. [...] that can be kept private, shared with a group or published to the world. We call those ‘Situated Software‘. But it can of course also be used by more advanced developers to add complex logic, interaction [...]

  8. [...] that can be kept private, shared with a group or published to the world. We call those ‘Situated Software‘. But it can of course also be used by more advanced developers to add complex logic, interaction [...]

  9. [...] set their own pricing and keep 100% of the revenue.What&aposs in it for Zoho? Clearly, having more situated software apps will drive up subscription demand. Zoho Creator (the platform Marketplace is built on) is free [...]

  10. [...] set their own pricing and keep 100% of the revenue.What&aposs in it for Zoho? Clearly, having more situated software apps will drive up subscription demand. Zoho Creator (the platform Marketplace is built on) is free [...]

  11. [...] was motivated to read this post after seeing a post by Rodrigo - in it he talks about the democratisation of the tools for software creation and [...]

  12. [...] was motivated to read this post after seeing a post by Rodrigo - in it he talks about the democratisation of the tools for software creation and [...]

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