Secret Project

06 May 2015

I’ve been reluctant to talk about this, because I start lots of projects and most of them never get finished.

But recently someone asked me about Kurt’s text module (as seen in the text parser demo). And I heard someone mention (again!) using a text-based version of Scratch as an educational transition tool.

So, here goes: I’m working on a text-based editor for Scratch projects. It’s called tosh. (Don’t criticise! I like this name: it reminds me of a programming language like “bash” while also being slightly whimsical. Imagine a period actor saying “That’s a load of tosh!” in a posh British accent.)

I think it’s trendy to be pedantic about how people capitalise your project’s name, so I’d like to ask you write tosh lower-case, always, if you please. In a monospace font, if you can.

tosh is not scratchblocks

I’d like to make this clear: tosh is not scratchblocks.

(If you’re not familiar, scratchblocks is a plugin I wrote which is used on the forums to display screenshots of Scratch scripts: it has its own text syntax.)

At first glance, tosh and scratchblocks might sound similar: they both involve a text syntax, and have something to do with Scratch.

…which probably makes tosh a really bad choice of project! I already have enough trouble explaining the difference between kurt and scratchblocks in job interviews… clearly I should stop doing Scratch-related projects! (Unless I want to go to the MIT Media Lab and work on Scratch, I guess.)

Let me clarify the difference. The scratchblocks syntax is:

tosh has an entirely different set of principles. tosh is:

Design is fun

The other reason for keeping it secret was so I could avoid design-by-committee: if I’d told people about it, they might make suggestions or feature requests. Working in secret lets you decide every detail by yourself, to produce a coherent, consistent design.

This is a risk, of course. I’ve had very valuable contributions from my friends-from-the-internet (read: cool people from Scratch) in the past. Nathan-from-the-internet continues to make me insanely jealous of his coding skills. Kartik-from-the-internet and Connor-from-the-internet are pretty cool, too—go check out their blogs. These people and others gave invaluable advice when I was redesigning scratchblocks, for instance.

But this time, I found making the design decisions myself was fun. It’s going pretty well. And I’ve learnt a lot doing this project.

And it meant I could ask my non-Scratch friends about it to get a fresh perspective. In particular my friend Dan provided lots of advice, especially when I was being stupid.

Now I’m planning to write a series of articles about what I learnt, and the design choices I made. It’s gonna be fun to share with you!