Alex Russell's essay, "View-Source Is Good? Discuss," considers the role that the browser's "View Source" command played in making the Web into the world's dominant platform, and looks at the threats posed to the idea that anyone can see how the Web works:
To understand the importance of view-source, consider how people learn. Some evidence exists that even trained software engineers chose to work with copy-and-pasted example code. Participants in the linked study even expressed guilt over it the copy-paste-tweak method of learning, but guilt didn't change the dynamic: a blank slate and abstract documentation doesn't facilitate learning nearly as well as poking at an example and feeling out the edges by doing. View-source provides a powerful catalyst to creating a culture of shared learning and learning-by-doing, which in turn helps formulate a mental model of the relationship between input and output faster. Web developers get started by taking some code, pasting it into a file, saving, loading it in a browser and hitting ctrl-r. Web developers switch between editor and browser between even the most minor changes. This is a stark contrast with technologies that impose a compilation step where the process of seeing what was done requires an intermediate step. In other words, immediacy of output helps build an understanding of how the system will behave, and ctrl-r becomes a seductive and productive way for developers to accelerate their learning in the copy-paste-tweak loop. The only required equipment is a text editor and a web browser, tools that are free and work together instantly. That is to say, there's no waiting between when you save the file to disk and when you can view the results. It's just a ctrl-r away.
View-Source Is Good? Discuss.
(via O'Reilly Radar)
(Image: View Source on Google Image search, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike image from Andrew*'s photostream)
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