How many times have you seen a cool layout on a web page and wondered to yourself, "How'd they do that?" Now, how often did you take the next step and viewed the HTML source code for that page? Or went further and copied that code for your own work?
Back in the early days of websites, I copied HTML code with abandon, learning code as I went along. I still view HTML source code at least once a day, usually to copy my own formatting for a new post, and I love the ability in Firefox to view specific source code.
Walter Bender, President, Software and Content for One Laptop Per Child views much more source code than I. In fact, he has a whole vision of viewing source code for the One Laptop Per Child
$100 laptop CM1 2B1 XO Children's Machine.
To quote John Madea:
For as long as I’ve known Walter, he’s always claimed that the secret of the Web’s success was the way in which web browsers always had access to the source code of each web page through the "View Source" command.And now Walter is pushing to add a view source capacity to the OLPC laptop. And not only for HTML as a right-click per today's Explorer/Firefox browsers, Walter wants to upgrade view source to its own "Src" key on the OLPC keyboard for the OLPC operating system.
Because most of the Web was built in this open source manner, it became easy to replicate the knowledge of the Web with a simple cut and paste. He reasons that without this ease of playing with digital information in such an open manner, the Web would never have caught on.
In his recent Linux World article Don Marti, reports that:
Just as the CM1's software is getting an overhaul, so is the keyboard. "Nicholas Negroponte's one absolute demand is to get rid of Caps Lock," Gettys says. And, Bender says, "There's one new key they get that's the important one and that's the View Source key."While I commend the OLPC team for re-examining the keyboard, removing low-use keys and adding new ones, will a view source key really be that transformative? Will non-geeks really care to view source? Especially the Python source code that underlies the OLPC operating environment?
This has been done. There's a "hood release" lever on pretty much every car sold in the world. Of all the hundreds of people you know that drive cars, how many of them do you know that pull the hood release lever with any regularity? Only mechanics.And that barrier keeps rising. With HTML, a relatively intuitive code, the barrier is already too high for old-school hand coders like me, bewildered by all the Java, Flash, and Ajax (but thankfully, less frames), running around on websites today. And most people would consider me a serious geek.
Do you think that the hood release lever on cars has led to a greater understanding by the general public of how cars work than there would have been had it required a wrench to remove the hood?
The barrier keeping people from fixing their own cars is not that getting the hood open is too difficult (nor would it be if the hood was bolted shut). Turning a wrench is trivial, understanding how the engine works, why it's broken, and what it will take to get it fixed is the barrier keeping people from learning to fix their own cars.
Those that are not geeks, those that just want the OLPC to work, and this will be the vast majority; a view source key will not help them. Or as Mauricio observes in another reply on Chris Ball's "View Source" post:
This story sums what I feel might be the main problem with the OLPC project. It appears that many of the involved consider the main objective of the program as teaching children how to write code. I would guess that would be the interest of 2 or 3% of the population, at best. These computers were supposed to help children in their educational process as a whole (language, communication skills, math, geography, the lot).Right, Mauricio, it's a learning project, not a laptop project.