My musings about .NET and what not

Does ALT.NET Need a Dictator?

Given the fractured state of the ALT.NET movement, some are calling for a set of "commandments" that set down once and for all what ALT.NET is all about. Is that really such a good idea?

I was intrigued by this recent blog post by Nick Berardi over at CoderJournal. Nick is a smart guy whom I admire, and in this post he brings up a lot of things about the current state of ALT.NET that needed to be said. I, for one, reply "Bravo!" I also, quite frankly, congratulate him for having the stones to do it. Voicing a strong opinion about anything (even remotely) related to ALT.NET is a good way to catch your share of flack, as I'm sure Nick knows full well.

Nick points up some of the pitfalls the ALT.NET community seems to have fallen into, and offers some really good suggestions for improving things going forward. Most of what he's advocating is simple common sense. Stop fighting over competing paradigms. Cut out the religious zealotry. Encourage good software engineering. Or, to sum it up in a few short words, Just Be Cool. I certainly can't argue with any of that.

But at the very end, his otherwise well-reasoned argument takes a bit of an odd turn. This, I have to say, is kinda where he lost me.

ALT.NET needs a hero, and that hero just needs to set down some commandments that all other ALT.NET conversations are governed by... I am willing to work with anybody who wants to form a working group to explore the creation of these ALT.NET Commandments.

I'm not so sure I'm down with that.

What I glean from this that Nick is suggesting that ALT.NET, metaphorically speaking, needs a set of chiseled stone tablets that will lead us out of the desert to the Promised Land. That we need a "hero" -- presumably someone smarter than the rest of us -- to tell us what's okay and what's not.

This, to me, seems antithetical to the entire spirit -- and original intent -- of ALT.NET. ALT.NET is not (and should not be) a framework, an architecture, or even a set of "best practices" -- and certainly not a kingdom. ALT.NET is, above all else, a marketplace of ideas. Like any marketplace, it's noisy and chaotic and kind of smelly -- which, of course, is part of its charm. It is meant to be participative and energetic, and thus by its very nature, it attracts the most enthusiastic, the most passionate -- and yes, the most opinionated -- developers in the field.

And like any marketplace, the best stuff thrives, and the no-so-good stuff falls by the wayside. It does appear sometimes that the ALT.NET community is eager (some would say too eager) to jump on The Next Big Thing. Last week, it was Mock Objects. This week, it's Fluent APIs. Next week, it will be something else. And naturally, that frustrates some people. But part of the spirit of ALT.NET is throwing stuff against the wall and finding out what sticks. New ideas will always be introduced to the fray, and forced to compete in the crucible of the intellectual market. Some will survive. Some will die. And that is exactly as it should be.

ALT.NET doesn't need a Leader, or a Hero, or a set of Commandments handed down from on high. What ALT.NET does need are participants who are open-minded, articulate in communicating their ideas, and tolerant of the ideas of others. Less of the "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude, and more willingness to help each other. Less fighting and more talking. Less heat and more light.

Above all, ALT.NET needs to encourage its followers to continue challenging the conventional wisdom, to be ever-vigilant for better ways to do things, and to empower us to reach outside the mainstream to adopt what works.

That's my opinion. I welcome yours.

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      Does ALT.NET Need a Dictator? — March 18, 2009 7:15 PM
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    1. Nick Berardi avatar

      Hi Lee,

      "Given the fractured state of the ALT.NET movement, some are calling for a set of "commandments" that set down once and for all what ALT.NET is all about."

      I would also say that there needs to be commandments. But there also needs to be a starting point that doesn't change and doesn't move with the latest fad the reiterates these commandments.

      Nick Berardi — March 18, 2009 10:52 PM
    2. Nick Berardi avatar


      I updated to clarify, I might have been trying to be too poetic :) with my words.


      This should have actually went something like this… ALT.NET needs a commitee thats sole focus is on advancing the principals of ALT.NET forward and breaking down the bariers in corporations through education. Once corporations see the benifits of ALT.NET, developers will be finacially modivated to learn the ALT.NET ways, to keep and advance their own careers. If the movement is not organized, it is nothing more than a social group that may gain a couple followers here and there, and really piss off others, just like any social group would.

      By the way nothing I have said here is anything new to the ALT.NET community, it has all been said and repeated many times over in different ways and different formats. Unfortunately it is usually met with the same reactions, as Jeremy has commented below, and very little retrospective seems to be happening. Everything just moves forward as the status quo, as if there is nothing wrong with the fact that the same concerns are voiced over and over again.

      * Goodbye CodeBetter and ALT.NET (Sam Gentile)

      * Abandon ALT.NET (Colin Ramsay)

      * Alternative Rock (Frans Bouma)

      Nick Berardi — March 18, 2009 11:28 PM

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