A brain dump after reading Alt.Next

I was reading Ian Cooper’s post ‘Alt.Next‘ and found it resonating very strongly with me. I particularly liked how he wrapped it up at the end with:

“Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “there are always two parties; the establishment and the movement.” If you’re ALT.NET, you’re in the movement. You’re shaking out the innovation. When the movement fails, stalls, or needs improving you’re there starting/finding/supporting that next leap forward.”

WARNING: What follows ended up being more of a brain dump than anything else

While I was at CodeMash this last week, the flow of information from other environments was amazing. No one can argue that Microsoft is standing by idle as php, ruby, et al continue to bash in on their market share, but the stuff that is coming out seems to impress me less all the time. All the while the things outside of the cathedral continues to impress. I am talking about the new new stuff, things like Scala with its re-imagination of Erlang actors. The continued polishing of testing practices in Ruby with rspec and the rspec-given gem. Node.js and javascript, … server side javascript! Amazing. There is just so much innovation going on and if you aren’t paying attention its going to pass us by.

I gave a talk at CodeMash about integrating Ruby and .Net using messaging. For the most part I did it as a lark, kind of a, “I am pretty sure I can get this to work.” But between the time I submitted the talk and giving it I had made friends with a group of python programmers and at conference time I had a ruby and python port (i use the term port lightly as they are very simple implementations of the public API) and coding in these alternate universes forced me to see things differently.

At first I chaffed against the extreme flexibility, honestly it felt like wet noodles compared to the steal I was used to. But over time it felt more like this:

Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.


I am still not ‘sold’ on either of these languages, but I am sold on the fact that the majority of the innovation is not happening in the land of the Blue Hat. Over the last three years we have hemorrhaged a large group of our , then, brightest contributors to other platforms like ruby. This, at least for me, meant that my blog reader started to become quite. I have heard from others as well that the blog world seems to have quieted. While its not 100% true, my RSS reader of old is not as well fed. I have now started to include feeds from python, ruby, scala, html5, javascript and others. Since I have done that I have seen a new stream of knowledge rolling into my noggin.

Bottom line, make sure you are looking outside your region of expertise for the next new thing.


About Dru Sellers

Sr. Software Engineer at Dovetail Software.
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  • Lee Brandt


    Alt.Next really resonated with me also and I have been (over the past year) starting to really push outside the .net ecosystem for new ideas and innovations.

    Great post and great advice.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6BKSFCTQBEUGFPGCJORKT4UBVY Andrew

    Are they moving to fast, or are they moving in too many different directions with different messages? I think its more of the latter to be honest.

  • Kenny Eliasson

    +1 Would love too see your blog roll.

  • http://twitter.com/Imm0rt4l Marek Stój

    “There is just so much innovation going on and if you aren’t paying attention its going to pass us by.”

    I don’t think it must necessary be a bad thing :]

  • Anonymous

    @Hakeem: will they jump the gun, meh. probably not. But i can see a case for starting small and working their way up. I would never suggest dumping any application that is ‘making money’ or at least not costing anything. But new apps. It might make more and more sense, especially as the talent may start to be more capable in this arena. With the increasing popularity of messaging systems, there is no reason that backend processes can’t start being written in alternative languages of any kind. Also with languages like Scala and cross compiling onto the JVM or a VM in general they won’t have to whole sale throw anything away.

  • Hakeem

    Nice post Dru!

    I guess the question might be, will all the big Corps that have invested so much in the .NET world (or even JVM for that matter) jump the gun and start adopting these languagestechnologies

  • Anonymous

    @Jiho. Will do.
    @John, its true, I am a needy son of a gun. 😉

  • John Oleg

    Expectations for Microsoft to be as fast paced as Bazaar is quite strange, actually. It is driven by absolutely different dynamic. In fact, I am pretty sure that from perspective of 80% of Windows programmers Microsoft is already moving too fast. They would be happy to take a little breath:)

  • http://jihohan.myopenid.com/ Jiho Han

    Mind sharing your blog roll from the outside the fence? :)