My idea for the magic system: there are four basic spells (move something, change something, summon something, destroy something), four methods of casting them (gestures and chants, herbary, alchemy, runes), four modes for casting (passive, imperative, reflective, capacitative), and four other things I can't remember... *sigh* It was very clever though. Anyway, you only have one method of casting, but you can combine the other things in different ways to make many spells. I think the other four was ways of linking the basic spells, or something like that.
Anyway, the programmer type might also discover a new mode or something, once all the other mages see how he codified it and start catching up. This obviously isn't a plot idea, but a plot device idea. =)