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Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE

Sam Gentile finally got around to posting about why he left Code Better and there was nothing surprising in what he said.  I'm guessing it is sort of what everyone who cared to guess about it guessed it was about (as an aside, I do find it hilarious that Sam says he doesn't want to discuss it, just speak his peace and move on, and then posts comments to other people blogging about it.  I'm guessing he is still deleting comments to his own blog as well).

Any number of people posted about it, such as Ayende and Haacked.  In the grand scheme of things, this is all just silliness of course.  But it is entertaining.

What I find kind of funny is that anyone really disagrees with what Sam said.  While all generalizations are inaccurate (self-referential joke), the vast majority of Alt.NET guys appear to be (as I said on Ayende's blog) "pompous insufferable jags who are too cool for the room" and I am one, so I know them when I see them.

Part of this is related to the fact that they've 'gotten religion' and so can't glimpse a wizard or designer without cringing at the code they produce.  There's a lot to be said, and has been said, about this.

What really cracks me up is when Ayende says this: "ALT.NET doesn't include a value statement about those who don't agree"

While that might apply to Ayende (though I would probably quarrel with that....he certainly makes value statements all the time), it certainly doesn't apply to some of the most vocal members of the Alt.NET community.  And not just people who blog at Code Better.  I'd say the one person who I've learned more from as a developer, who is in most respects a great guy, is also pretty insufferable when it comes to talking about software development practices he doesn't like (there is nothing wrong with using a designer, dude).

Now, to be perfectly clear, there isn't anything inherently wrong with making value statements.  Depending on how you count them, I've made 8 or 9 here already.  Pretending that you aren't though is annoying.

posted on Sunday, October 07, 2007 12:51 PM Print
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# re: Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE
Aaron Erickson
10/7/2007 1:51 PM
There are two problems with alt.net that I would hope the alt.netters (nutters?) would address?

1.) How did anyone produce any software worthwhile prior to alt.net? How was google produced? How was the iphone produced? Where's the evidence? Seems all bluster and anecdote, no evidence. I like science, and evidence. Show me the money, and Im there. I ain't seen any yet.

2.) A bigger point, when are we finally going to stop talking about 'code for the sake of code' - which nobody but other geeks, like you and I, might care about, and start to have conversations that might escape geekdom (i.e. I used TDD to save a nonprofit a billion dollars and, therefore, feed a million 3rd world children for a year). It irritates me that a.) it could happen and b.) it doesn't, mostly because we get into these internecine squabbles about minor methodological points.

Thats all. Great post jdn!
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# re: Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE
jl
10/8/2007 8:40 AM
@Aaron

Is there an Amish development community I am missing out on here? Why bother with all these cars when you can get to town just fine in the carriage? Abandon progress because if its been done once, thats the way it should be done for all time!




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# re: Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE
jdn
10/8/2007 9:56 AM
Amish.NET. I like it.
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# re: Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE
Aaron Erickson
10/8/2007 10:54 AM
Bad analogy alert - we can measure things when we compare cars and horses. We actually have something called horsepower that nicely defines one in multiples of the other.

In our chosen profession, there are a lot of things that have been promoted as progress that simply do not exist anymore. Anyone remember CASE tools from the 80s? Is anyone using Rational Rose anymore to do their software development? Just because something is new does not mean it's better.

I am open to agile. I actually use a lot of the practices. But as Carl Sagan said - extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. TDD and agile are a big change, and it is imperative that we get the results out there *in terms that business people understand*, and that are repeatable. If that existed, we would not need to have these arguments - the evidence would speak for itself, and we could move on to the next thing. The fact we still talk about this idea on blogs speaks volumes for the fact that this probably has not yet happened.
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# re: Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE
jl
10/9/2007 8:22 AM
@Aaron

You realize that jdn is firing at the messenger here, not the message? As an aside, if you "ain't seen any yet" in regards to evidence that agile/alt.net are effective why are you using "a lot of the practices?"
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# re: Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE
Aaron Erickson
10/9/2007 9:45 AM
@jl - why I am using a lot of the practices?

Because most of them make a great deal of sense, and there has been evidence for a long time that they work.

Mocking, unit testing, seperation of concerns, IoC, are all good principles for software development (I am probably leaving some out). Basic engineering teaches you that having fewer moving parts interacting with one-another will produce more stable systems. No sane person would argue that increasing the coupling in a system is a good idea most of the time.

OTOH, putting them together in a "all-or-nothing" package, creating a culture of people that does not allow for much intellectual dissent, and, in general, creating a us v them seperation by calling something alt.net - which means by it's name that you are distancing yourself from the "mainstream Mort" who works in most companies and has to make real life career affecting decisions about what to study and promote at his or her workplace ... those are all bad things that make me sad... at least for awhile until I go back to work.

Competition is great - in fact, I will grant that we would not be getting a MVP framework from MSFT if we did not have a lot of the people involved in alt.net demanding one. And the us vs. them tone would not bother me so much if it did not affect people's careers and company profits in such a negative manner. I have seen real damage done to people's careers - as in - forced out of companies, because one person in a position of moderate power - usually a dev manager, gets on a bandwagon and becomes a purist, taking up much of the alt.net rhetoric, and, subsequently, wastes the company money by rewriting working software using the new toys, and at the same time, pushes the skeptics out.
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# re: Is Alt.NET contrarian? OF COURSE
jdn
10/9/2007 10:42 AM
It's the 'all-or-nothing' part that is bothersome. It doesn't take much of a Google search to find content preaching agile/XP/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that basically says "you need to do these 4, or 7, or 92 practices all at once, if you leave any of them out, it will all be a miserable failure." Okay, I'm exaggerating but you get the point.

Anybody want to venture a guess as to how difficult it is to sell this to a business that could use a healthy dose of agile/XP/whatever-you-want-to-call-it? Besides the fact that it is false (if anything, embrace something half-way between plain old unit testing and fascist TDD, and you're on your way to a better place, code wise anyway), this immediately smells like snake oil.

I think it was Lhotka who said something to the effect of, "take a group of really good programmers, and give them any methodology you like, and you'll get good code."

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