Exploring the hobby to middle market

I think about the middle people a lot. I'm one of them. I'm not an enterprise architect, but I'm not a PHP script monkey either. I don't get rich off of the sites that I maintain, but I make a good chunk of change that supports my expensive gadget habit. The bulk of people like me use the LAMP stack, if you're inclined to believe the analysts and consultants. That's a bummer.

Let's face it, I use Microsoft's platform because it's what I was exposed to, much in the same way that we typically adopt the religion practiced by our parents. Now that I'm older and wiser (hahahaha, yeah right), I tend to feel that having made a choice to go from ASP.old to ASP.NET was a good one, and sticking with my own brand of Christianity seems to be working OK too.

But here's the thing... I don't feel like I'm being served well by Microsoft and the community in terms of getting what I need. I get along any way, but that's because of my tenacity for knowing as much as I can, regardless of what practical use I put that knowledge to. Let me explain.

First there's the product at the core of our world: The .NET Framework and the visual tools. Best stuff ever as far as I'm concerned. This is one area where Microsoft has done a good thing, giving away the express products. That took some real balls to get the stuff out into the open for free. It's a good first move, even if they haven't done a good job about getting the word out about it.

Then there's the issue of education. I have a lot of mixed feelings on this, and I'm sure purists will tell you that .NET, an object-oriented development platform, just isn't intended for the hobbyist and middle markets. I think that's a load of crap, because while there is a huge shift in thinking that script monkeys have to make, it's not impossible to grasp. But getting there is insanely difficult because Microsoft documentation tends to all be high level, and it's hard to read if you're a n00b. Articles around the Net also tend to talk over the new or transitional person. I'm not sure how you address this, though I think there's room for three kinds of documentation to satisfy different levels of experience.

Books help, but far too many beginner books treat ASP.NET like a variation on script, which is not helpful. I tried to address the totally ignored middle-people segment with my book, and while people seem to like it, it hasn't been well marketed by the publisher. Then the high-level books tend to just be re-hashes of Microsoft documentation.

I guess where I'm going with this education thread is, how do we get people beyond asking the same old questions over and over again in forums? Who really owns that responsibility anyway? Honestly I don't know.

Finally there's the issue of good applications we can use for free, as either a base for various projects or as a learning tool. I admit that burden falls on people like me and higher. There's a lot of mediocrity at one end, and brilliance at the other end that's too hard for the middle folk to understand given their experience. I've been on a real "simple is better" campaign as of late, but it's funny how different people see "simple" as different things.

Am I making any sense here? I want people like me to embrace .NET the way I have, but it seems hard. It wasn't easy for me, and had I not been laid off like a hundred times, I doubt I would've gotten there (let alone write a book).

1 Comment

  • Excellent post, Jeff.

    I don't think it's entirely possible to keep people from asking the same old questions over and over again on the forums. New people come along, don't RTFM or even RTFP (posts) and just ask. How many times have you seen one of those questions, only to see that the poster has 1 post (the question)? Most devs want a "Big Red Button" (tm) that does their job for them. Sometimes they don't want to learn that the button they have does their work, but they need to help it.

    OK, attempting to turn off my babble pipe.

    This is the type of problem that Coding4Fun was created to solve, but I think there is more. There needs to be a site or community for those Coding@Work, but more helpful.

    You have given me a few ideas, though, and based on a strange series of events that happened today, There may be an attempt to solve this. Keep writing what you're thinking, and help us build it.

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