Lowering the Barrier

Making programming (everything) more accessible

06 Nov 2020



When I was working on recommendations at Spotify, all the cool new ideas started as throwaway playlists that someone made on their personal account. They might have copied track URLs out of a terminal or dragged them by hand or used a Python script that had been deprecated for years, but they could at least make the playlist and people could listen to it and follow it for updates. It was (and probably still is) the fastest path from your head to the outside world.

Repls are that fast path, for everything. Most all our internal tools live in repls. All the one-off scripts that would hang out untested in a scripts/ directory in your source tree or, even in 2020, reside on your laptop can be shared. They won’t disappear. They really only cost us nanopennies in storage costs. Not having to deploy anything or even set up your environment correctly means you’re much more likely to actually build tools in the first place and iterate on them.

I’ve sung the praises of repls many times and will continue doing so. You can see why I work where I work! What’s dawing on me and all of us right now is just what a powerful cultural force it is to have everyone on a team build.

Can’t believe how much dogfooding @Replit is a superpower for our org where our social media manager can spin up an API on a whim to automate something!

At every software company I’ve worked at, there have been plenty of people who have ideas and can program a little bit. “Enough to be dangerous.” They can write scripts, dashboards, SQL queries, spreadsheets, really anything under the sun. They rely on engineers to do Real Engineering(tm) to get those programs into production. Real Engineering(tm) takes a lot of time and therefore money. It also splits people into castes - the Real Engineers(tm) who have to be sweet-talked/incentivized/cajoled into trying out ideas from other folks.

The hardest part of any endeavor is getting it out into the world. There are more people on this earth who can create than people who can do Real Engineering(tm). Repls free those people to go and build without asking permission. At today’s companies (which I think of as residing in the Old World, even tech companies, even the parts of Repl.it not already in repls), repls can break down the barriers between those who can build and those who (seemingly) cannot.