Be more than a developer

I do love a spirited debate. It seems that everyone I've had a relationship with suggests that I should have been a litigator because I love to argue. And hey, if practicing law wasn't 95% research and 5% arguing, I'd be all over that.

That said, I think it's important to have a general awareness of the world, especially in business. A lot of techies and developers don't seem interested in that, unfortunately. Take this recent random Twitter exchange:

someguy: Why is #Zune website made in flash and not silverlight?...
@jeffputz: Why do people ask this question over and over? Because for a marketing site to move product you use what's most installed.
someguy: well then they could have it done in both SL as well as Flash.. atleast show it to the people who have it installd...
@jeffputz: For what purpose? How does that sell more Zunes?
someguy: true but atleast those blogs criticizing MS for it, wouldnt be written :-) ... it shouldnt always be ONLY marketing..

I probably wasn't being very diplomatic in this case, but my intention was to challenge him on the reasoning for making his initial statement. In this case, perhaps he was baiting some goofy point like, "Well if Microsoft doesn't use Silverlight themselves, then what does that say about it?" Great scandal? No, I think they just want to sell more Zunes, and that has nothing to do with platform religion or their belief in the product.

Every time I've hired consultants for project work, regardless of how trivial or complex, I've made it a point to try and get in their head to see if they understand just the fundamentals of business, and if they can work and design software with business goals in mind. I can teach someone how to use dependency injection or the control lifecycle, but I strongly believe that greater awareness about the business is a lot harder to instill in someone.

I freely admit that I'm a gear head (or is it bit head?) and love to mess with stuff. But I also believe that it's critical in your every day work to ask yourself if what you're doing adds value. It's OK to not be sure about the value in cases where you're taking a risk. I'm not suggesting you have to buckle down and not try new things, but if you want to rewrite some component just because, ask yourself if there's some return you'll get for that action, and if not, I'd do something else.

The best developers have a keen awareness of the bigger picture across other disciplines. You can be more than just a heads-down code monkey.


  • Amen! I'm a bit head myself, but I can't believe how inane the business sense of some developers!

    And by the way, I had this argument with a co-worker of mine... whether to go with Flash or Silverlight for a public website. He went the route of that other guy because he was approaching it from a "features" perspective, and damn the business value!


  • Do you just search twitter for people dogging on Silverlight? That seems like a pretty big waste of time.

  • Not at all. It just happens to be 1/3 of what comes up when you search for Silverlight. Do you just read my blog to find things to pick apart? That seems like a pretty big waste of time.

  • Developers having a keen business sense is crucial. We typically hire MIS majors vs. CS because that way they have been exposed to a great deal of general business information as well as technical.

  • In terms of marketing, wouldn't the blogs criticizing MS for using Flash be more publicity free for the Zune?


  • I don’t buy your “Because for a marketing site to move product you use what's most installed” argument… Microsoft’s biggest marketing site uses Silverlight… The way to increase market share of Silverlight is to use it in a wider range of applications not by going with what is installed everywhere. Now the Zune marketers may not care about increasing the usage of Silverlight, in fact the marketing is probably outsourced to a shop that uses Flash. But the bigger picture should dictate that they use Silverlight.

    Microsoft is trying to penetrate the RIA space with their Silverlight offering. As a developer how can I gain confidence that Microsoft is putting every effort into promoting Silverlight? In the short term is developing the Zune marketing site in Silverlight go to sell more Zune…probably not. But it may cause a developer pause for choosing to develop in Silverlight, which in turn could cause a loss of sales in their developer tools market.

    Am I going to not develop Silverlight applications because Zune isn’t using? No I am developing Silverlight as we speak. I also know that Microsoft is pretty good at “dog fooding” their software, so if they don’t use their tools all the time it is not going to sway me. Sometimes you have to look at the macro instead of the micro!

  • Yeah, and the "macro" to the Zune marketers is selling Zunes, not promoting Silverlight. You said it yourself that you have confidence in MS's ability to use its own stuff, so if you're a marketer for a product that is not particularly competitive, why would you introduce more risk to its success?

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