Terpstra's Tools and Use Cases

George Entenman loves Brett Terpstra’s hacks, but he also hates the confusion (he thinks) they espouse. He wrote a blog post saying as much.

What are the use cases for nvALT, Day One, FoldingText, Octopress, etc? […]

It never fails to amaze me when people spend enormous energy creating software but fail to explain what it does. Go look at Github if you want lots of examples. Why should I waste my time figuring out what your stuff is for?

Ever the gentleman, Brett responded in kind with a thorough post of his own:

…I accept that I tend to gloss over the use cases when presenting new tools. I (usually errantly) expect everyone to just see the practical uses and possibilities without my having to detail them. That’s not always fair, and I accept it as constructive criticism even if it wasn’t meant as criticism at all.

I’ve been using Brett’s hacks, apps, scripts and so-forth for, geez, I don’t know how long anymore. For me, the fun is in finding use cases for his little experiments (and the apps he recommends). That may sound like a waste of time, but it’s just how I work. I like to let my mind wander by solving a problem instead of just falling down some news/kitten rathole. When I have no use for something I just ignore it.

George’s stance kind of bugs me. Why waste my time trying to figure out what an app is for? I think I helped answer that last December:

About a month ago, I tweeted asking if it would be possible to use Screenplay Markdown in Brett Terpstra’s excellent Markdown previewing app, Marked. To my surprise, Brett responded enthusiastically, then Stu got in touch as well. Before long we were all communicating, along with Martin Vilcans, whose command line utility, Screenplain, was the first to turn SPMD text files into formatted screenplays.

Four of us were working on similar ideas, but when we smashed them all together, the result was a use case for what would become a new markup syntax, Fountain, which is now supported by a dozen apps and counting. It was like Tuco buying a pistol.

The social coding that Github1 promotes has made my life easier and, better yet, has introduced me to some basic programming concepts. It makes for better apps and allows nudniks like me to find use cases for projects that may have gone forever unnoticed. Discounting that impact seems overly cynical.

I get that Brett would like to tame his public-facing work, especially if he’s going to provide tech support on Twitter or via email, but I also hope he doesn’t stop sharing the bits of code he regularly cooks up. More specifically, I hope he doesn’t balk because a use case isn’t universal or immediately apparent. Us plebes will always find something to do with it. Bring it.

  1. And Brett’s comments section. ↩︎