Tuesday 10 August 2010

TCRM and the Rubber Ducky

Internet database applications can be tedious to code sometimes. If you have multiple pages, each administering a different table in your database, then the four basic functions for each- add, edit, delete and list, soon mean you are drowning in field names, passed parameters and cutting & pasting your code all over the place and changing variable names for the 347th time. This is not the cutting edge of the information technology ladies and gentlemen.

After such a day I was left wondering just how far you can go down the road of code generation and why everyone isn’t doing it. Enter the names of the fields and your table names then hit go. Your forms are automatically generated, the tables are scripted and the form submission is all given to you. If you’re very nice it might even add a comment or two. Cut and paste the code in and there you go. Hey you could even write a whole online application with just one field list and a click.

I have ventured down this golden path of code generation before in my previous life as a classic ASP programmer. I had a Microsoft Access database which would generate the form processing code and JavaScript for me from the list of fields I provided manually. It saved me a lot of time and effort and much cutting and pasting between pages. It should be easy to take it a step further and generate the tables and HTML forms for me. We could create ten websites a day, earn our millions in a couple of years then sit back on a beach somewhere with a drink in our hands and water lapping around our ankles.

Well the only water lapping anywhere near me yesterday was the bath water of my eight month old daughter. She was very happy with lots of bubbles, her rubber ducks, the orange octopus and purple penguin (which I’m sure was also a drink). They were cheap to buy, are nice and colourful, keep her entertained and gives her something to chew. The ducks are made in Thailand, while the higher quality octopus and penguin were Chinese in origin. All the best plastic trash is made in China. They probably churn them out by the million and cost pennies to make.

But what if you don’t want the standard rubber duck on offer? What if you want to have it with a bigger tail, or an open beak or with its wings unfolded, or in a very specific colour? Everyone can get rubber ducks, you want to stand out from the crowd and fits your idea of a great duck. Then you’re into the world of custom made rubber ducks. A whole new ball game!

So yes I could go very far down the road of code generation, but then the sites it produces will be very limited, similar and difficult to customise without many hours of additional work. A good site is crafted, it fits the customer’s needs exactly and stands out a little bit from the crowd because it does a specific job well. I will be creating some more tools in the very near future (which I shall go into in a future blog) but until then I can be comforted by the fact that TCRM is crafting web sites that meet the customer’s needs and fulfilling a purpose, and is not churning out 99p websites every five minutes.

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