ALT.NET, a year or so later from an observer and occasional participant.

First, check out the altdotnet.org site, and it’s short, concise, and poignant statements:

We are a self-organizing, ad-hoc community of developers bound by a desire to improve ourselves, challenge assumptions, and help each other pursue excellence in the practice of software development.

Our movement is new. The conversation just started. All are welcome to shape and form thedialog in blogs and lists and face-to-face gatherings both local and global.

What have I seen come out of this ALT.NET thing?

(in somewhat chronological order)

  • A very successful event in Austin, TX USA in October of 2007 attended by >120 people including participation and presentations by major Microsoft folks including Scott Guthrie and Scott Hansleman (with remote support by Phil Haack, among others).
  • A large and briefly successful, but ultimately failed mailing list
  • A large and still active, successful Wiki at altnetpedia.org
  • Successful recurring events in Philidelpha, PA USA in November of 2007, December, January 2008, February, March, April, July, and TONIGHT (September 15th)
  • Successful recurring events in Chicago, IL USA since around November 2007
  • Successful recurring events in Washington, DC USA in December 2007 (and on)
  • A HUGELY successful event in Seattle, WA USA in April 2008 attended by >150? 170? people with major attendance by Microsoft folks including Scott Guthrie, Brad Abrams, Scott Hanselman, Brad Wilson, John Lamby, and MANY others.
  • A mailing list reboot which is still going strong and which usually has great conversations going. I’m still subscribed and try to participate where I can. Ayende, Greg Young, and Jeremy Miller, among MANY others participate regularly.
  • A very successful major event in Beni Brak, Israel in August 2008 (don’t know the exact numbers, but it was dozens, from what I see in the pictures)
  • Another very successful major event in Calgary, AB Canada also in August 2008 (don’t know the exact numbers, but it looks like dozens also, from what I see in the pictures)
  • Another very successful major event in Chicago, IL USA in September 2008 (don’t know exact numbers, looks significant though)
  • Another very successful major event in London, United Kingdom just last weekend (Sept 12/13).
  • Significant workshops planned for Austin, TX USA at the end of October by people like (possibly) Ayende, Udi Dahan, Greg Young, Jeremy Miller, etc.
  • Multiple Microsoft MVP’s providing critical feedback on a host of different projects and packages
  • Major contributions by people associated with ALT.NET to various significant .NET-focused open source projects
  • Major contributions by people associated with ALT.NET to various open Microsoft P&P guidance projects including Prism, MEF, and the new Architecture Guidance package

And I’m sure I left out a bunch of stuff and I’ll get some angry comments, but rest assured: Dedicated, involved people are planning, preparing, getting sponsors, and contributing to the .NET community at large and the ALT.NET community specifically almost every month (it seems)!

What’s the point?

These are all very positive things and with a lot of significant contributions and insightful, productive conversations about building better software using principles, patterns, and practices with Microsoft-based (though not in all cases Microsoft-authored) tools.

Early on, after the Austin, TX conf. People were really excited and wanted to make something bigger out of this. The enthusiasm and willingness to participate and contribute was amazing. Unfortunately it got a little mired in indirection and disagreement about HOW it should grow bigger. I believed then, as I do now, that the arguments were from everyone being extremely excited about this and actually taking ownership of something they felt was WORTH OWNING!  Eventually things settled down and people got into the groove and started organizing smaller events and quietly participating and contributing with a lot more compromising and team-minded attitudes and intentions. Things really started taking off after that happened!

So there was talk about what ALT.NET should be, how it should be perceived, how do you sell it to this manager or that CEO, etc.  I think we have enough history now to look back and not talk about what it SHOULD BE, but what it has manifested itself TO BE.  In addition to the more general explanation above (i.e. ‘a self-organizing, ad-hoc community’), I think we can safely say something to the effect of:

A group of talented, dedicated individuals who share a deep passion for building great software and constantly seeking better, more efficient, more complete ways of building even better software in the Microsoft .NET space.  ALT.NET seeks better practices, better principles, better patterns, better tools, and above all, better quality software by constantly sharing ideas, challenging each other to reach higher, and bettering the state of the art wherever and however possible.

What’s up for year 2?

Who knows? Hopefully more lively and insightful conversations, conferences, meet-ups, presentations, discussions, debates, and, especially, code, code, and more code!  I hope that if you’re already involved, that you stay involved and keep contributing and that if you’re not already involved or have resisted for some reason, you give another look and see how you might assist or participate in is currently, and can continue to be, a great idea and way of learning and bettering oneself.

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About Chad Myers

Chad Myers is the Director of Development for Dovetail Software, in Austin, TX, where he leads a premiere software team building complex enterprise software products. Chad is a .NET software developer specializing in enterprise software designs and architectures. He has over 12 years of software development experience and a proven track record of Agile, test-driven project leadership using both Microsoft and open source tools. He is a community leader who speaks at the Austin .NET User's Group, the ADNUG Code Camp, and participates in various development communities and open source projects.
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  • http://blowmage.com/ Mike Moore

    Great writeup! Thanks for reminding us how much good folks involved with ALT.NET have done over the past year. I like the updated description.

  • Erik

    Any idea if there’s going to be another Seattle event in the near future? I just moved to the area and missed the first one by a week! =(

  • http://www.devlicio.us Derik Whittaker

    Chad,

    Actually the Chicago group has been going strong since November of 2007.

    You can checkout the group here — http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/ChicagoAltNet/

  • Raif harik

    Nice synopsis,
    It seems like the ideas have legs and the communities are ready to embrace them. The ideas. Not the legs. This sort of community involvement does a great deal to further all of our interests and specialties, even if we don’t all agree about the details. Good work! and I look forward to all future events.

  • http://lazycoder.com Scott

    ANGRY COMMENT! (ok, not really)

    The most important result of all those local event taking place is that the local groups are continuing to meet well after the big “event” has occurred. The Seattle ALT.NET group has an active mailing list (Jessica Simpson spam not withstanding) and meets regularly once a month.

    Besides the fact that MVP’s are commenting, I’d say that the fact that MVP’s of differing opinions are conducting dialogs (some more polite than others) is a big win too.

  • http://jdscolam.blogspot.com Jon Scolamiero

    Great post Chad!

    I know I haven’t contributed much from a blog/public perspective (corporate culture limitations), but there are so very many of us in the “trenches” of our corporations trying to bring in these ideas, concepts, and practices to make our businesses more profitable, and more importantly better places to work. We’ve done this even if it’s cost us something from our career. I hope that’s dedicated enough :).

  • http://www.blogcoward.com jdn

    Nice writeup. No angry comments here.

    IIRC, for the upcoming Austin event, the workshops are going to be recorded. Is this still the case? I think it will be great to see them.

  • http://chadmyers.lostechies.com Chad Myers

    @jdn: I hope so. I know I’ll bring my HD camera with _decent_ audio (not great, but good enough) to record whatever I can. I know Dave Laribee has the same camera which I hope he brings. I think Greg Young has one. I hope that covers everything.

  • http://www.codebetter.com/blogs/glenn.block Glenn Block

    +1 on what Scott said. The real benefit I see coming out of ALT.NET is the grass roots local meetings. There are tons of them that have broken out accross the world. For example our ALT.NET Seattle meetings have met every month since the con. Each month different companies host the meetings, pure open space, pure fun!

    Folks are not just going to these meetings and talking, they are actually taking these practices and applying them in their day jobs.

    The other thing I would add is the work MSDN Mag has done in publishing various authors from the community such as Jeremy, James, etc.

    My hope in year 2 is that ALT.NET concepts continue to flourish and that people start more practicing and less talking (me included)

  • http://www.bzlab.ru Alexander Byndyu

    Hi guys!

    We will start ALT.NET in Russia (altdotnet.ru) very soon! I hope we have a lot of interested in ALT.NET theme programmers =)