September 30, 2015

When did shaming developers for the technology they work in become okay?

I get the whole camaraderie thing, poking fun at each other for your inferior technology choices. I am talking about exclusion and rude comments based on career choices.

I am speaking from the view of a professional .NET stack developer. I feel as though I have been lucky enough to have friends who are very involved in development and technologies way off the typical commercial .NET developer radar.

There is this old stigma that has followed all Microsoft technologies from the neckbeards in the open source think tanks back in the day. This boils down to Microsoft being an evil corporation who is an enemy to the progress of software, because of their original views on intellectual property. They did not share for free and so were shunned by the talking heads of the software community.

I have a very vivid memory from my first conference ever. I went to a MongoDB conference in New York City. I was fresh out of college and very excited to see what this conference had to offer. My friend and I were chatting up a very experienced java consultant and he asked us what we do. My friend told him about his latest PHP projects, and I mentioned that I was an intern doing VB.NET work. He then proceeded to turn his shoulder to me and chat with my friend, effectively closing me out of the conversation.

Don't shut people out, include them

The fact that this is my most vivid memory from my first conference ever certainly says something. What kind of jerk would literally shut out a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed junior developer from the entire conversation, simply based on the technology they happen to work with?

I totally get the old vendetta thing. I get that this is a decades old religious war between open source and proprietary ideologies, but don't treat some new kid as scum the moment they mention they use a technology from the corporate overlords you love to hate.

That kid has no idea what the open source movement really means yet, and why you believe proprietary software is bad for the world. Even if they did know that, it's okay to not share your beliefs.

We don't usually see the problem

I really don't know how aware the majority of .NET developers are of the complete distaste the a lot of the industry has. I try to make it a point to go to non .NET conferences and meetups to stay aware of the industry in an agnostic sense, and I also feel that most Microsoft conferences are sales pitches and for patting us on our backs to tell us how awesome we are.

Going back to having vivid memories of conferences, you almost know when you're talking to a .NET developer at one of these agnostic events, because they are very reluctant to tell you what technology stack they work in. I usually respond by immediately telling them mine.

Bias makes you blind

I was sitting in on an awsome presentation about the next version of JavaScript, slated for 2016, and the best comment the girl sitting next to me could come up with while we were chatting was, "This guy is from Microsoft? Why is he here?".

Really? Really? This guy is on the team determining the future of JavaScript, and you just can't get past the fact that he works for Microsoft? I told her I was a C# developer at that point; she laughed it off, and avoided further discussion about it.

Microsoft is turning it around

I think if I really asked these people why they hate Microsoft so much, most of them would struggle to come up with a decent answer. They would at least have to think hard about it before they remembered what their neckbeard forefathers preached in the 1990s.

The funny part about all of this, is that .NET Core is now open source. This stack's ecosystem is actually incredibly rich, which is why many developers never actually venture outside of it. Microsoft has wisened up though, knowing that the best way to expand its developer base, is to play to our passions. A lot of Microsoft developers are starting to get more adventurous as the internet becomes a more effective sharing community.

Final statements

Don't disregard other developers based on their technology stack or career choices. I want to finish this with a broader message though. Don't shame anyone about their choices in any aspect of life, because it's not your life. Just respect it.


September 23, 2015

I recently attended Qcon. This particular conference was hosted in New York City by InfoQ, a very popular and generally agnostic software content source.

You can now view all of the topics and most of the talks on their site here.

If you're not interested in doing the leg work for that, I can summarize the conference as being very open source, architecture and soft skills heavy with a huge focus on java and JavaScript.

Another conference I have attended outside of my stack was MongoNYC back in 2012. This conference, as it sounds, was basically a giant informational marketing session for MongoDb and vendors that were able to finagle their way in. They really were great sessions though.

I am primarily and professionally a Microsoft stack developer. As such, it can be very easy to get comfy in the spoon fed world of dot NET. It is increasingly important as your career goes on to get out of your knowledge and social comfort zones. You can do this without attending conferences and meetups of course but there is an experience in talking to others who are practiced in these stacks that can't quite be matched.

I can summarize some of my most invaluable learnings or reinforcements or hypotheses succinctly.

  • There is an incredibly wide and vibrant set of technology stacks out there.
  • Most other well established stacks have very different ways of doing things that can be valuable to understand.
  • There is a lot of shame associated with being a dot NET developer in these communities.
  • Agnostic and conferences are a lot less focused on trying to sell you something and are instead focused on providing you incredible intellectual value.

I know this was a short one, but definitely give it a try if you get the opportunity.