back to article Honey, I built the app! Amazon's beta no-code dev platform is great for ad-hoc stuff, but not much else – yet

Amazon has unveiled Honeycode, a browser-based tool for building no-code applications that run on the AWS cloud platform, currently in public beta. Low or no-code app development is touted by companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, Appian, Outsystems and Mendix as a solution to the shortage of developers and the backlog of …

  1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Dumb as a rock

    It has absolutely no appeal to me, seems to be so limited that I can't see any use for it whatsoever, so I guess I'm not its targeted audience.

    Free to use MIT App Inventor (AI2) for Android, with its in-cloud Blocky-style graphical drag-and-drop editor, is a much better approach to app development, giving a reasonable balance between ease of use and useful and usable app creation.

    With a few more features that would be even more useful for casual app developers who want something quick and simple.

  2. Maximum Delfango
    Boffin

    See also...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_One_(software)

    1. Paul 195

      Re: See also...

      I remember the huge splash and fuss made about "The Last One" when it came out. There have been so many of these no-code/low-code things built over the years, and generally everything built with them ends up as unsupported/unsupportable legacy.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: See also...

      Somewhere I still have a copy of PCW from 1981 where TLO was the cover story. How many languages have I learnt since then?

  3. jake Silver badge

    Am I the only one?

    This entire movement towards playskool for coders seems rather foolhardy, at best.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I the only one?

      One of my programmers pinged me this afternoon to say the code that they are trying is not working. Due to the slack at the moment, I'd said to look at parsing some new information that is required for an old application that I recently ported to VB.NET from VB6.

      My initial suspicion was right - some C# code had been found on the net and bodily copied into... a VB.NET project module. Why? I ask. "It's .net" is the answer I get. And apparently, they have 6 years of professional experience, whilst not VB.NET/C#, but with that amount of experience, one would hope for better.

      And the reason they went into programming? Because someone said they'll be good at it. Alas, I'm only a contractor here, so, got to put up with what resources I'm given.

  4. prinz

    Programming by Pictures - been a dream for a long, long time

    I remember back in the 90's overhearing a conversation of executives who were excited about component programming with com/dcom - saying that they could get rid of programmers and replace them with normal people that just needed to drag-and-drop components on a screen to make programs.

    The old lead programmer next to me laughed after they had left and said : "It will never work - non-technical people cannot think in logical steps. In fact, we'll get more work fixing their messes."

    Fast forward 25 years and we have this Amazon thing, Microsoft's Power Apps (https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/) and several others.

    Here is a quote from the MS Power App site touting its success :

    “It’s given me the confidence that I never knew I had. I have no background in IT or any experience in coding but … you can think of any idea and make it become a reality through Power Apps.”

    Naz B

    Insurance Claims Officer + App Guru

    The bottom line is this : there is a concerted effort to get rid of expensive technologists - they were very successful with the Cloud idea (bye bye infrastructure people). Now, they're trying, yet again, to get rid of developers. But, like my old lead said - it requires people to think logically and ahead - something most people cannot do.

    1. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: Programming by Pictures - been a dream for a long, long time

      Wasn't there a company that made THINK their main slogan?

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Programming by Pictures - been a dream for a long, long time

      Ho hum.

      And even if it worked (Ha!) we'd still have the old problem that 'testing' is not a concept that is understood by these would-be non-programmers.

      Remember when we started getting serious spreadsheets? Which allowed non-coders in Accounts to apply complicated rules to sets of data? And all those lovely stories of companies losing millions because of an erroneous formula which wasn't tested properly (or at all)?

      Same with this. They may be able to feed in some rules that produce output, but if the rules are wrong...

      I think we can coin a new term "Garbage In, Garbage Out"

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Programming by Pictures - been a dream for a long, long time

        "I think we can coin a new term "Garbage In, Garbage Out""

        If anybody cares, that term is probably older than I am, first appearing in print in November of 1957. See the eighth paragraph, just under the second ellipses. No doubt it had been in the common vernacular of the techie set for quite some time before the Press noticed it.

        But the concept goes back much, much further:

        "On two occasions I have been asked, "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" ... I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." —Charles Babbage

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, low code bullshit

    Here we go again. Some low code bullshit I have to work with was sold to the exec team as being "Easy to use for any of your team members. Each department will be able to use one or two people in their team to build apps. You'll no longer need to rely on 3rd party developers". It was purchased, a somewhat bullshit digital department was created. The coders understood it and could get the hang of the logic, the non coders struggled and lost interest quickly. It as code options you can tweak if you wish, but you came to realise it was mainly, a database front end. All well a good, learn databases then. Nope, thats pointless also because the software breaks all database standards and uses its own terms for such database traditions as Tables, fields etc, making it even more fucking confusing.

    Not to mention the bullshit "You won't have to rely on any 3rd party developers anymore". Apart from the company you outsourced the fucking database too. And, despite it being our fucking data, the company refuses to give us full SQL access. "If you want to access the data, we suggest you quickly make a low code app that pulls out the data you need to see and edit it that way". What?! But that takes twice as long as you have to work out how to extract the data you need, again, because the low code app breaks all database conventions.

    The funniest part was the "All your departments will be able to create their own apps. Using 1 or 2 of their team members."

    1. You're gonna ask them to develop an app with no IT experience or known processes so there'll end up being no documentation. Did you not learn from years back when you let people loose with MS Access. They happily made Access Databases with front ends for their departments to use, that only they knew how it worked, were too busy with their own job to create documentation, then left years later with IT having to support old shit that they've just had to work out how it works themselves.coughthecremcough.

    2. You're not going to pay these staff any extra yet also expect them to still do their day job. Most are going to realise this and object. Realising you're just after free developers.

    3. "We'll just use interns if we can't hire people" but those interns will discovered what two people already have that you moved from other departments. That no one else uses the low code you're using, there are no job prospects for it, no jobs advertising knowledge of it, and you're paying them peanuts.

    4. Your digital department manager realises and admits that the "Easy to use, your other departments can create their own apps" was bullshit and mis sold but you can't do anything about it now. It can't be seen as a failure.

    You discover that, no matter how much you want the low code to work. Its not near powerful enough to do what you need and can't replace the likes of .Net but you now can't let it been seen as the failure that it is. It hasn't saved the money you claimed it would, in fact has cost millions more. You are waiting to jump ship but need some bullshit claim you can put on your CV and the equally bent councillors who agreed to all this want to be re-elected.

    All I can say is....thank God for Private Eye.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Ah, low code bullshit

      See also: SharePoint. Much of the same really.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah, low code bullshit

        True, although if you required a "SharePoint developer" there are plenty available. The low code we're stuck using some banks use for mortgage apps and thats it. And if you searched for "MattSoft" there are no companies advertising "Must know MattSoft","Advantage but not essential to know MattSoft".

        The ironic part is they are so small they got bought out by another low code company but never told us this was happening. So we're risking using a 3rd party app environment that could get canned at any point when the new company decides its not cost effective to keep the app in development and that "All we wanted was the customer database and some IPs"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah, low code bullshit

          What is also a not spoken about issue, "you'll no longer need to rely on 3rd party providers" which totally seems to ignore that to run MattSoft apps, you require the use of their hosting servers. Once they are off, you loose access.

          I've also never understood the module license policy. Anyone that uses the app to create their own modules that aren't in the base application, but creates a module that is very useful, the owners of MattSoft retain license rights to that module. You also retain rights and can freely sell that module on to others that use MattSoft (not a big market at all). However, MattSoft also now own it and can do with it whatever they wish. So they essentially get you coding modules for them for free, modules that they can then include in other companies installs. You create a very useful module on Monday, next week they can be using said module to secure a contract with another company and you get no money for it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah, low code bullshit

        I also keep writing the name wrong. It is MatsSoft. Despite being forced to use it daily, what still makes me chuckle is their use of the word "innovative". Ignoring the fact low-code development has been going on for decades. I'm also reminded of the once brilliant Apple app called Hypercard, when I use it.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Ah, low code bullshit

          Ah, yes. Hypercard, AKA "Programming for the rest of us". In about 1989, one such empowered[0] induhvidual got extremely pissed off at me when I emulated his vaunted hyperstack with bash ... and then demonstrated how to do the same thing with DOS batch files.The Hypercard version required input from the user, the SunOS and DOS versions were fully automated.

          It was a simple test program for Anderson-Jacobsen dial-back modems. Plug a serial cable and an analog phone line into each modem, turn them on, hit "start" and the computer sent the control strings & looked at whatever came back from the modems as they dialed each other, hung up, and dialed back, and generally did their song & dance. Easy.

          Instead of spending ~$30,000 on half a dozen new Apple SE/30 computers for the test station, we used half a dozen Sears branded Packard Bell PCs that were recovered from the scrap pile ...

          [0] Remember the hypevertising of the era?

  6. Michael Hoffmann
    Unhappy

    MS Access Redux

    How many of you, like me, are still recovering from the days when MS Access was routinely installed on CorpDrones PCs and suddenly business and mission critical "apps" (glorfied DB front-ends with databases that could be normalised via "DROP TABLE" and starting over) were all over the place in unknown directories on non-backed-up hard-disks?

    1. xyz

      Re: MS Access Redux

      Wot s/he typed...

      Guerilla (or gorilla) coders deploying departmental front ends, usernames and passwords via email.

    2. AJ MacLeod

      Re: MS Access Redux

      What, they're over for you? Actually I can only think of one customer still relying on one of these... Excel has been the application programming language of choice for years instead! Onwards and downwards...

  7. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Mushroom

    In a salesman's dreams...

    "Low or no-code app development is touted... as a solution to the shortage of developers and the backlog of enterprise applications."

    And why, pray tell, is there this shortage and backlog? Because so many of us devs are tied up with maintenance of legacy apps built with the wrong tooling, often by the wrong people for the job, and based on piss-poor/cheapest option decisions made by people who wouldn't know a line of code even if it hit them over the head then dances round them singing "I'm a line of code"!!!

    #doneranting

  8. Plest

    Alright but...

    I think it was Tom Kyte that said, "The second you do anything in a generic fashion, you suffer the worst effects of everything bad in a tool and the least benefit of anything good it has.". That's stuck with me for many years.

    You can only offer so many options when you put low/no-code solutions together, I think for someone who has no coding skills, very little time and can't afford a coder these tools suffice but people have to simply make do with the limitations. I tried this tool and I'm sure someone will find it useful but it's much like "PowerBI lite", a simple app for simple needs to display biz data.

    Usable but can't see much future that PHBs in meeting rooms waving about the apps they've "written" themselves!

  9. roselan

    not really working

    Without getting into the philosophical aspect of the concept, we tried some of the demo app.

    My first grip is that it's not clear when you are in dev mode or user land.

    For holidays request demo, the manager never received any form of notification and couldn't see pending requests.

    Half of the mobiles were served the non mobile version.

    I might be too retarded to make the thing work, but still. This is supposed to be for non programmers and such roadblocks are not helping. Verdict, dead in water at our company

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