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Tuesday, March 21, 2006


The Real 'Two-Dot-Oh Community' We Live In

James McGovern’s recent Ruby-on-Rails pieces touched off a range war between Ruby developers and himself, with some initial intermediation thrown in from certain industry analysts and EA bloggers. Unfortunately, predictably, and sadly, the ‘debate’ rapidly degenerated into ad hominem attacks on James in various contexts. Despite the fact that I found a good portion of James' commentary to be problematic, the personal attacks were unwarranted and uncalled for. Once commenters and certain bloggers started getting off topic and attacking James’ intelligence and experience wholesale, the whole thing decomposed into one gigantic shitstorm of little value to anyone. Sad.

The point of this post is not about Ruby, or any other programming language, design/development methodology, or technology component. Rather, I’m going to provide some perspective on this latest jihad and why the overblown two-dot-oh concept of ‘community’ needs a serious reality check because if the events of the last 4-5 days are a primary rationale of this so-called ‘community,’ I don’t want any part of it, and neither should you.

Religious wars over technology such as programming languages and operating systems are nothing new, and they’ve been going on for years. After the internet was invented, but before the web was, we had usenet newsgroups devoted to specific OS platforms, programming languages, and the like. Usenet and its newsgroups still exist today, albeit an extreme backwater to the blogosphere, discussion boards, and other modern forms of group communication over the internet.

The technical newsgroups were just as prone to insulting flame wars as blogs and blog comments are today. Some newsgroups self-corrected and righted themselves such that the signal-to-noise ratio returned to normal and constructive discourse eventually returned. Others never recovered and the key benchmark there was that only the combatants continued to post any material to the group, usually a content-free fusillade launched against the other side that was not worth reading; and all others had permanently abandoned the newsgroup. Eventually, even the combatants grew tired of their sneering nobody-wins-but-let-me-one-up-you-one-more-time game and moved on, most likely to other newsgroups to find another flame war to fight.

So, what’s changed about this ‘community’ between then and now? Other than the technologies, absolutely nothing. With rare exceptions, people act in their own self-interest, and they will continue to do so. When something outside of their worldview irks a group of folks, as James did with his Ruby posts (and yes, I found large portions of his content, while not hateful, ill-advised and not well thought-out), the chest-beating commenced, followed by the bullets whizzing by. Of particular interest to me were various disparaging comments in David Heinemeier Hansson's blog about architects and EA’s in general. To be expected? Sure. Can it ever be rectified to the satisfaction of all parties? Sadly, it would appear not.

Anne Zelenka warns us about fundamentalism in our approaches and I have blogged about holistic enterprise architecture viewpoints in the past. One cannot succeed as an architect by embracing one view of the world and showing disdain for all others. What gets me the most is all of the hue and cry over how we're building 'communities' (in the light of 'teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony' or 'Kum-By-Ah over the campfire') when the real motivation, as exposed in a recent Economist article appears to be primarily business-and-profit-oriented. Think of it this way, Oracle would not be trying to buy every open-source entity available if they didn't smell that sweet nectar of opportunity calling.

Here's a big lesson for the two-dot-oh crowd: if you can't have any sort of professional discourse over various internal technical issues, you won't be having them with paying customers either because you aren't capable of doing that. And perhaps the three-dot-oh mantra will be "We should listen better than we do now."

Don't know about all of the rest of you, but I'm not going to kill myself holding my breath waiting for that, because some things never change.

One perspective that seems missing is that the success or failure of Ruby is primarily based on sneaking it into the enterprise under the radar as a tactic. Would love your perspectives on this technique.

He also did disclaim that those thoughts were not 100% his own, so it seems as if he was attributed to things he personally doesn't believe. I found the comments regarding analysts to be one example of something taken out of context.

The mistake was that many people who responded didn't have a long time understanding of his postings and simply reacted without doing google themselves on his past recommendations.
I have to agree - personal attacks aren't warranted but your initial comments were incredibly contraversial and aimed at a particularly fanatical community. 'Flaming' is as much a part of the community as the valuable discourse and it has been for some time. Its not something worth getting into knots over - simply ignore it and move on.
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