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Tao, Names, and ALT.NET


There’s some controversy about this ALT.NET name I threw out several months ago. Folks either love it or hate it. It must be the word alternative. In my mind alternative does not equal against. Think “alternatives in” over “alternatives to.”

The genesis of the ALT.NET idea is that there are alternatives to things like the DataSet and the DataAdapter (really it’s that concrete). Originally the object lesson was NHibernate. That’s to say that NHibernate is a better alternative to the in-built technologies that come with the stock .NET framework. In this sense, ALT.NET means finding the tool that matches your values. So, I value maintainability and testability (two sides of the same coin) so I choose to stay in the OO paradigm: I choose NHibernate.

That’s a bit of a digression. The only point I want to make is that it’s just a name.

Lao Tzu wrote about the relative importance of names in the fourth century BC:

Tao ch’ang wu ming
Tao endures without a name.
Though simple and slight,
No one under heaven can master it.

If kings and lords could possess it,
All beings would become their guests.
Heaven and earth together
Would drip sweet dew
Equally on all people
Without regulation.

Begin to make order, and names arise.
Names lead to more names–
And to knowing when to stop.

Know when to stop:
Avoid danger.

Tao’s presence in this world
Is like valley streams
Flowing into rivers and seas.

Many of us in the development community (.NET, Java, Rails, otherwise) are trying to find a better way, the Tao of Software Development. On this journey names are largely unimportant, or – better put – aren’t the most important thing. What is critical is finding and progressing on our way.

If you don’t like the name, change it! How do you change it? Convene a session at ALT.NET Open Spaces in October. All the same let’s not waste too much time in debating names.

As we move along this way, let’s make room for all. If kings and lords could possess it, all beings would become their guests. How do you treat a guest? With open arms, hospitality, and generosity. In a sense, here, everyone is a guest, no one who wants to be included should be excluded. Even though space is limited at the Austin event we’re going to make a big effort to open the proceedings the the larger community by using blogs, podcasts, Flickr, Twitter, etc.

I’d love to hear any and all suggestions about how we can do that!

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2 Responses to Tao, Names, and ALT.NET

  1. laribee says:

    re: the “.net” part, sure, yep. i like postmodern programming as an idea. need to post something about that, but i hear ya.

  2. ALT as in Alternate, Alternative, or Alterior does sound negative, but the majority of people in this camp are willing to draw the line in the sand and say with pride that they don’t take everything from the mainstream just because it is mainstream. It’s ok (in my opinion) that this stuff is alternative because it’s not for (dare I say) Mort.

    Calling it “.NET” is something that I (and I think you as well) have a problem with. I believe that we should be challenging all aspects of software development that are making us not deliver business value fast enough and be quick to scrap it if we do. If that means writing a quick component using Ruby or Python, then do it! No reason to tie yourself to .NET just for the sake of a narrow technical spectrum that you have to support.

    My cube-mate Peter Seale (pseale.com) sees countless examples of console applications built for doing 1 or 2 quick things with the SharePoint API, when the same thing can be done in much less time and effort using PowerShell.

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