The Indie Hackers Podcast November 11, 2019

Code vs No-Code with Ben Tossell of Makerpad and Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad

Episode #134

The no-code movement is picking up steam, with more people than ever building apps and businesses without knowing how to code themselves. Ben Tossell (@bentossell), the creator of Makerpad, is betting his business that no-code is the future of work. However, Sahil Lavingia (@shl), the founder of Gumroad, isn't so sure that code. In this episode, I hosted a lively discussion between these two thoughtful bootstrappers about code vs no-code. Which approach should a new indie hacker should take? What gaps in the market are opening up due to the changes in tooling landscape? And what does the future hold?

  1. 5

    I just listened to this. Great episode!

    @csallen you are really good at asking questions and interviewing people. Appreciate your style.

  2. 5

    Loved this episode @csallen, I found it super interesting as I work in a startup with coders but can't code myself, despite having tried to learn many times. Both Ben and Sahil made some great points.

    I kind of feel that asking a coder what they think of no-code is a bit like being in 2003 and asking a professional photographer what they think about camera phones. From their perspective it understandably seemed kind of gimmicky and would never be as good as a proper SLR in the hands of a talented pro, which to this day is still true. However for the general public, it was a revolution in their ability to create, and led to many more people discovering a talent for photography and then moving to SLRs, and likewise saw pro photographers shooting entire projects on iPhones.

    The impact of no-code on people like me - perpetually frustrated by our lack of ability to create, trying to choose our one best idea out of fifty so we can pay a developer thousands of pounds to just make an MVP - will be huge.

    Another problem that I believe no-code is going to address is that programmers tend not to have exposure to other industries and roles, so they often end up building solutions for other programmers. There's a whole world out there of people doing jobs that could be made better with technology, yet up to this point Excel has been the best we could get.

    There will always be a need for coders, but I think the need will become less and less as no-code tools improve. Similar to how there isn't much call for machine code experts these days 😄.

    1. 1

      I tend to agree. Nevertheless, I started coding and I think it's a valuable skill to have.

    2. 1

      This is an great, simple reflection that will really help people to understand the potential of #nocode. Well said :-)

      1. 1

        Thank you, I really appreciate that. Perhaps I'll turn it into a longer blog post.

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          yeah, let me know if you do and I'll share it with some people :)

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      This comment was deleted a year ago.

  3. 4

    Oh boy, this will be good.

  4. 3

    No coding is based on coding to start with!. Good conversation.

  5. 3

    I think Ben and Sahil should trade places and try to build something.

    Excellent conversation, thanks for putting this together.

  6. 2

    I see a problem with no code tools and I don't think it has been discuted on the podcast. When you create a website on a no code tool you don't actually own it (assuming you created it on a SaaS). I wouldn't like transcribing my whole business logic on a no code tool. If the service stops then you have nothing. If you did it with code on the other hand (assuming you used an open source programming language), you can always host your service on another provider.

    1. 1

      I agree. However, you could get the code through scraping the browser, no?

      1. 2

        You absolutely can. But when I'm doing Front-End development, I use React. It means that I write a set of reusable parts that helps me describe clearly my interface. The resulting app is the code you see in the Browser but without the recipe to create this code, you only get messy code that's really hard to be maintained or evolved.

        TL;DR: you can but it's very hard to use the generated code.

        1. 1

          I see. Thank you for clarifying that!

    2. 1

      Interesting point, some of them allow you to export the FE stuff, or DB's. In my experience (professionally, and as a user) sites and services end up rebuilding cyclically anyway so perhaps it wouldn't catch too many people out unless they'd only just built it

      1. 1

        I don't know these Frond-End tools really well so I wonder what you can export? When I write a Front-End, I write reusable components (usually with React). If the export is only the result of the export and not the recipe to create that export, then I thing there is a loss of information that stays on the no code tool.

        What I'm more concerned about is a case like: "I put all my business logic in a SaaS like Excel/gSheet for example, as macros". What if you want to change your provider? You might have to rewrite everything and it could take time to rewrite your entire domain in another platform. With code on the other hand, you have your domain written in a programming language and you just need to be able to run it for it to work.

        1. 1

          True, though I can't see Excel or GSheets disappearing any time soon :) You also get the same issue with programming languages, I've worked at so many companies that move from things like ExtJS to ReactJS, and it always means rewriting everything, changing business logic etc

  7. 2

    Great episode - thanks for making it happen.

    My partner worked at an environmental service company which had it's own internal software dev team to make what sounded like a lot of bridges or connections to make life easier for the domain experts. Perhaps these internal 'dev' roles may be filled by no-code practitioners that have srs airtable skills or where ever this space evolves to.

  8. 1

    Fantastic discussion. On the idea of 'version control for docs' that is exactly what Almanac is building: almanac.co

  9. 1

    Great episode. The idea of a no code CAMEO solution got me. Is there actually someone working on a competitive app? What would be a reason not to copy the CAMEO business model?

  10. 1

    I found this really interesting from someone with a no-code background who gradually (very gradually) learned a lot of code and now can code web and mobile apps. I used to pride myself on efficiency of leveraging different wordpress plugins to quickly get something working, and the no-code movement reminds me of that. Over time and increased knowledge I've leaned more towards quality than efficiency, which often results in me coding things vs looking for existing solutions.

    I really love the perspectives of both sides here, and I'm thinking that taking a no-code approach for an initial prototype to validate an idea and get the first 50 or so users, and then starting work on the coded app, will perhaps be something cool for me to explore.

    Thanks guys.

  11. 1

    Both are key!

  12. 1

    Awesome episode! Definitely one of my favorites, I love where this no-code movement if going.

  13. 1

    Do you guys think this leads to fewer people learning how to code?

  14. 1

    One of my favorites!

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    This comment was deleted a year ago.