This is why we can’t have nice things, people
Rob Conery (a Microsoft employee) has been working on a series of screencasts (part one, part two) illustrating the construction of a web commerce application using TDD. His intent is to learn the process, and by doing so, help others to do the same. These screencasts have caused some major backlash on the intertubes, where people have attacked him for not fully understanding TDD, and therefore presenting his allegedly poor ideas as Microsoft best-practices. The debate culminated in a conference call between Rob, Aaron Jensen, Ben Scheirman, and Scott Bellware.
First off, let me say that Microsoft must have killed Scott Bellware’s puppy or something. All you have to do is say the word “Microsoft” to raise his blood pressure to unhealthy levels. He’s clearly very intelligent, and has good things to say, but every time he tries to make a point, it gets drowned in piss and vinegar.
Note to Scott: not everything has to be Israel vs. Palestine. We want to hear what you have to say, but lay off the holier-than-thou stuff and you won’t come off sounding like a pompous ass. People don’t respect those that don’t respect others. The more you alienate people, the less you’ll be taken seriously — and the less effective you will be at getting your message across.
Anyhow, a comment by David Nelson on Rob’s post describing the conference call sums up why this whole situation is ridiculous:
When you open up with “My name is Rob Conery and I work for Microsoft”, you are declaring yourself to be an expert at whatever you are talking about.
Are you kidding me? I really hope that this is an aberration and the majority of the .NET community doesn’t feel this way. If someone works for Microsoft, I tend to think they have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the company (or at least in DevDiv) — but Microsoft is a huge corporation, so even that is suspect. Just because someone works for Microsoft doesn’t mean they’re an expert at anything, or should even be listened to in the first place. Now, I tend to think Rob is a pretty sharp guy, but that’s more due to his contributions to the community than the fact that he works for Microsoft.
Software developers are smart people. Since when did we forget how to think for ourselves?
This, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with the .NET community, and why Microsoft largely remains a “walled garden”. If a Microsoft employee can’t communicate their perspective to the community at large without it being taken as the One True Way, they will simply stop talking, and the trumpet of Sales and Marketing will drown out the voice of the technologists. This is not the fault of Microsoft employees, or the company itself. If people truly do take the word of Microsoft employees as fact, the problem is systemic, and each developer that thinks this way shares in the blame.
This is also at least part of the reason why Microsoft has traditionally been hesitant to associate their name with open-source software. This results in an offshoot of the Not Invented Here syndrome, Not Invented at Microsoft — which leads to unnecessary projects like MSTest, ASP.NET MVC, and Unity. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Microsoft creating these projects, but they are all “me-toos” created after similar open-source efforts (NUnit, MonoRail, and Windsor, respectively) have had success. Now, I understand that a lot of developers have difficulty convincing the “powers-that-be” in their companies that open-source is a viable alternative to commercial software. A lot of companies are wary that if they build their products on open-source, if they need commercial support, it won’t be there.
However, what if, instead of hiring leaders of the .NET community to create official, Microsoft Brand(tm) alternatives to existing open-source software, Microsoft certified and funded open-source projects directly? For example, NHibernate and the Castle Project are two of the most well-respected open-source efforts in the .NET community. Their software provides fantastic value to a huge number of companies.
What if Microsoft awarded these projects a grant, so they can provide commercial support, and then told its customers that these are quality software products, and are safe to use in their infrastructure? Microsoft would save money, improve the legitimacy of .NET as a development platform, and give the developers that donated their time to the community a chance to make their hobby into their day job.
As long as the average .NET developer believes that what someone says is solid gold just because their paycheck says Microsoft on it, this will never happen.