Applications vs. Platforms

When are you developing an application, and when are you developing a platform? A lot of discussion about programming comes down to this question; and the less-helpful discussions can usually be traced to confusion over this point.

For instance, an article here (by an author I respect) entitled Your Coding Philosophies are Irrelevant makes a fairly typical point: that it’s hard to make a connection between a good end-user experience and particular programming practices or philosophies. It’s similar to an argument that the ends justify the means, though hopefully not fraught with the same moral problems.

On the other hand, advocates of development styles, programming languages, etc., point out how their approach helps manage the complexity of software development. This section of Learn You a Haskell extols the “safety” of a type system (presumably implying that your program will work better).

So who is right? If you are developing an application, then you need to set the philosophies aside, pick up whatever tools are most convenient, and build. But if you are building a platform, taking care with the methods you choose and the interfaces or languages you design are crucial.

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