It pains me to say it, but ever since I tuned in to the ALT.NET movement, it’s kind of rubbed me the wrong way. The content of the posts that I read are generally pretty good (and at times great), but what gets to me is the overall negative tone of the community. Rather than just trying to get the word out about the cool open source (or just non-Microsoft) technologies that are out there, and the Agile methods and practices that can make your life easier, the prevailing message seems to be, “If you’re not already doing this, you’re a sub-par developer.”
I understand the need for a foil for Microsoft, the need for a periodic reminder that not everything that comes out of Redmond is gold. But I think it can be accomplished in a more positive way. In an email conversation with Jeffrey Palermo, I asserted that what we need are “Agile Evangelists,” missionaries into the land of Mort that can spread the word about the good news of a more Agile approach to software development. But what we seem to get most of the time are complaints that Microsoft isn’t doing enough, and that bosses, co-workers, or fellow .NET community members are too dull to realize the benefits of what they’re touting.
You can see this dynamic in action if you watch the video of ScottGu presenting the very first peek at ASP.NET MVC to the ALT.NET conference in Austin. For the most part, things go fine, but there a few tense moments where people asking questions are downright belligerent. Since the MVC framework is a genuine (IMHO) attempt by Microsoft to reach out to this community, you’d think they would be a bit more cordial.
That said, I think their message is a sound one. Most developers that I know don’t devote a lot of extra time to learning new technologies, and thusly have a limited perspective. That’s not intended as an insult. These guys program for 9 hours a day, there’s no reason to expect them to take more time away from their friends and families to tinker with the newest language they heard about on Twitter. Those of us that feel compelled to do so, however, (I think) have a responsibility to at least make them aware that there are other things out there. If the only exposure they have to this outside community is a blog post they stumble upon that rants for hundreds of words about how Microsoft will never release anything worth using and that all developers who don’t use technology X are just wasting their time, how likely do you think they’ll be to try technology X? Ever?
This isn’t in any way intended to be some kind of personal attack on those who actively participate in this sub-culture. I think the ALT.NETers have a lot of good things to say, and a lot that they can teach the larger .NET community. If they can temper their message a bit, I think they will reach enough of us that I think of as the “tuned-in small names” that there can be some progress in exposing Agile practices and open-source tools to the masses.