ALT.NET Thinking From The Outside

As I've noted before, Dave Laribee was recently interviewed by Scott Hanselman on Episode 104 of Hanselminutes.  The reaction that I've seen has been pretty positive from what I've seen.  It's great to see the ALT.NET message being spread outside the core believers group.  Many people can be turned off after a few discussions on the altdotnet mailing list and not get the real gist of what the group is about.

Dave did a great job explaining the core principles of ALT.NET which are:
  • Use the right tool for the right job
  • Look outside the .NET community for new and different ways of solving problems
  • Get involved with the community through teaching and teaching
  • A good emphasis on agile methodologies
  • Design patterns and principles
Scott Hanselman, during the interview, brought up the canonical  person of someone who is out in the field and maybe not at the cutting edge, the Chief Architect at the Nebraska Department of Forestry.  How would he explain ALT.NET to them?  Dave had a great answer on this, but as it is, the ALT.NET community is meant to be divisive.  Not in a bad way, but more in the way of that what ALT.NET is, is not for everyone.  If you're a person who just drags and drops controls onto a page and happy with the status quo and not doing anything to learn anything new, well, then ALT.NET is not probably for you.  Those who come to the table wanting to learn new things, well, that's what we're here for.  When I started the DC ALT.NET group, these are some of the things I had in mind.  We want to reach out to the Washington DC .NET developer community to spread the message, but to also show there are like-minded people who have that passion for bettering themselves.

But, how do we convey that message to the development community as a whole.  That was a part of the conversation that was interesting.  And to me, I think we should have that "street kit" which includes such bare essentials as a manifesto (that we'll probably get to in Seattle), frameworks, design patterns, ways of spreading the message, etc.

Christopher Bennage had a good wrapup of the show as well here.  I'd tend to agree that ALT.NET isn't about convincing, it's about conversing, having that conversation about what pains them and working through on a solution.  It's about spreading the community.  But, a direct command to learn Ruby, meh...  I think Scala has a few more things to offer right now which is why I'm chomping at the bit to get to more of it.

A post by Leon on community though caught my eye recently.  What he says is pretty accurate.  I tend to think that what ALT.NET is preaching is what many communities such as the Ruby on Rails and Java communities have been doing for years with regards to design patterns, TDD and so on.  A lot of the innovation such as TDD frameworks, design patterns and such just hasn't come from the .NET community.  Many people wait on Microsoft to provide these things such as TDD frameworks (MSTest), Logging (Enterprise Library), O/RM (Entity Framework) and won't pay attention to the OSS world which I find an utter shame.  Instead, what I'd like people to do is take those frameworks and look what's available from the community as a whole and compare them, much as I have with Unity and some other IoC containers.  Yes, many people worry about licensing issues and that's something for your legal team to work out. 

But, to his point, I'm glad he's learned Ruby on Rails and is happy.  In fact, I think it's great that he is expanding his horizons outside of C# which I think most developers ought to know a few languages and not just C#, VB.NET or Java.  For example, this past year I spent time learning Ruby and F#.  I plan on taking up Scala soon as well and maybe a couple of other languages.  In the past I was a Java, PHP and C++ programmer, so I've run the gamut.  You can take some of these practices back to your other languages and learn from the successes and the failures of each community.  It only makes you a better developer over time.  I think many of the innovations that happen in the .NET space should come from the outside, and not just from Microsoft. 

Do I think it's having an effect?  Absolutely!  If you look at such frameworks as Unity, there is a lot of feedback being provided, the ASP.NET MVC framework, same way.  This willingness on both sides to engage is a wonderful thing and maybe to the point where "ALT" isn't the alternative anymore and instead the de facto standard.

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Published Monday, March 24, 2008 7:00 PM by podwysocki
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Comments

# re: ALT.NET Thinking From The Outside

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 5:37 PM by Christopher Bennage

@Kevin, I agree with your first paragraph. Civility is necessary for conversation.

However, I don't think that good things _necessarily_ thrive.  Easy things usually do though.

# re: ALT.NET Thinking From The Outside

Thursday, March 27, 2008 6:33 PM by podwysocki

@Christopher

I'd have to agree with that sentiment that good things don't necessarily thrive.  Politics, ulterior motives and such can come into play for even the most promising products and somehow it doesn't make it out the door.

@Kevin

No, you can't be rabid about it, but you can show him another way.  It's nice to see how easy some applications can be developed using the drag and drop, but when it comes to maintenance, scalability and so on, civility and partnership go a long way to help that person grow as well.