DISCLAIMER: This post was inspired by, and contains material from, a recent post on my personal blog entitled “Abandon ALT.NET“.

For a few months the term “ALT.NET” has been gaining traction on the blogs I read, starting from a post by David Laribee in April. From there it has taken off, with an ALT.NET Conference taking place this week. So it’s perhaps timely that Sam Gentile has written a post entitled “Goodbye CodeBetter and ALT.NET” which talks about the ALT.NET movement and some of the people surrounding it.

I honestly don’t get the point of ALT.NET. While I use and appreciate a lot of the technologies and ideas which they’re pushing, I don’t see the value in wrapping it with a new moniker. This very act is one of segregation, because it pigeonholes people and technologies away from everything else. As Sam says, “ALT.NET is a divisive thing. No matter what they tell you.” Maybe this is a P.R. problem and maybe not. But perception is everything; not your perception but how other people perceive you.

One of the numerous sources of that negative perception is the frequent use of the term “Mort” by ALT.NET bloggers. I strongly dislike this term, I mean come on, the damn thing is short for “mortal”. That’s a pretty clear proclaimation that the people who aren’t “Morts” must be something more: not mere mortals, but Gods of their domain. Overseers of the lower developers who haven’t had the resources, or the guidance, to work with the fantastic array of non-Microsoft technologies that exist.

You’re not going to address that imbalance by putting all of the people that already subscribe to your notions in one place. I mean, think about it, DDD, BDD, MVC are things which will be known, in some form or another, to the majority of the ALT.NET Conference attendees.

ALT.NETter A: so… heard of that new BDD business?
ALT.NETter B: Yep.
ALT.NETter A: Oh, well there’s this great new idea called DDD!
ALT.NETter B: Yeah, right into that too.
ALT.NETter A: Oh.

And so on. But wouldn’t that conversation have been a whole lot more interesting if the second developer hadn’t heard of those ideas? Wouldn’t it make more sense to talk to the people who are really in need of your ideas and your tools and your knowledge?

A lot of people in the ALT.NET camp may not feel that they’re being divisive but really, by propagating this idea you’re creating a line in the sand, with the highly-knowledgable on one side and the masses on the other. You’re not encouraging dissemination of your information, you’re just creating another impenetrable gang of developers that is almost opaque to the guy on the ground.

The solution? Not to rename or rebrand, or even sharpen your mission statement. Instead break away from ALT.NET, walk among those mortals and share more of your knowledge through the normal channels. It’s not as glamorous, but it will be a lot healthier in the long run.

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9 Responses to Why ALT.NET?

  1. I’ll grab the flak jacket and helment for you Colin =)

    good post!

    I am not for or against it but it’s good that people are asking these questions. It is some very good points that I as well think need to be asked.

    now excuse me while I step behind this bullet proof glass =)

  2. cramsay says:

    hahah, you can be my human shield Sean!

    I’ve had a couple of arsey comments on my blog but that’s only to be expected. At least most have also been constructive with it and that’s a positive thing.

  3. As I think most of the community will be constructive. Everyone is grown ups here. It’s just good conversation the way I see it.

    I don’t know anything about being you shield though =)

  4. Jamal Hansen says:

    Not sure I understand all the commotion about this. Seems to be just another movement forming in the IT industry. Learn about it, take what you want and stick aroud, or keep moving.

    I think that ALT.NET people are responding to things they have found outside the .NET community. They are trying to bring in fresh ideas and evolve the way people work with .NET. It’s about expanding your knowledge and ability IMHO. Now I’ll duck for cover.

  5. “ALT.NETter A: so… heard of that new BDD business?
    ALT.NETter B: Yep.
    ALT.NETter A: Oh, well there’s this great new idea called DDD!
    ALT.NETter B: Yeah, right into that too.
    ALT.NETter A: Oh.”

    That’s close to asinine Colin. If you’re trying to learn about or practice BDD/DDD/TDD or DSL creation, where are you going to learn more than a room full of people going through the exact same struggles you are? This wasn’t a lot of look at me and you we’re cool so much as a long set of conversations about learning how to do XDD better.

  6. cramsay says:

    Jeremy, I understand and partially agree. But that doesn’t negate what I say after that segment:

    “But wouldn’t that conversation have been a whole lot more interesting if the second developer hadn’t heard of those ideas?”

    You’d be bringing your ideas to a whole new audience instead of, and I realise this is a generalisation, preaching to the converted.

  7. Jim Bonnie says:

    The people at the xxxx conference were doing xxx things before the conference and before the xxx term was coined. They will continue to do xxx after the hoopla over the name and the conference dies down.

    I see the community as very inclusive and very helpful to people like myself trying to figure all of this stuff out. To me BDD, TDD, CI, IOC, DI, etc. are still alot of alphabet soup and concepts that are down the road for me before I can implement then on production projects.

    But the people in the xxx crowd are taking the time to blog on these topics, present at conferences and user groups and helping the entire MS landscape in the process.

    I say hello to the xxx crowd and hope that it continues to grow and spread until it is truly mainstream.

  8. But how many places can you go to and have an active, intelligent conversation about things like Dependency Injection, Inversion Of Control, TDD, BDD, DDD, and all of the other topics, with people who are actively doing it.

    Thus making it possible to talk about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of each item. What problems have they run into (but haven’t blogged about because it would have divulged too much client information).

    Sure, I can go to a conference and give a talk on one of those topics to people who have never heard about them — and probably wont implement them — but get virtually no good dialog about them.

    Isn’t this sort of conference about how to do things better? And who better to talk about this with than people who think they have found a better way than what is being offered by the establishment (Microsoft).

    Also, Mort is a name used to generalize the 9 to 5 programmer who does what they are told. There is nothing wrong with that. I worked with many people like that. Generally they wont read anything by Martin Fowler, and will barely crack open Code Complete. But their software works, and if you tell them to do something a different way, they will comply. But not until you tell them.

    Now either you see mort as a derogatory name because it lumps a lot of programmers into one bucket, and lumping people into a bucket is wrong (in that case — shame on anyone who uses the term “Software Architects” to describe software architects). This is a common sentiment in todays society for some reason.

    Or, you just don’t like how the word sounds. In which case: give me a better term and I’ll start using that.

    A Caucasian, religious, college graduate, married w/children, 30-40 year old, male, mort/budding architect.

  9. I run a team of developers wth mixed capabilities and every person in that team is valuable. I think any sort of segragation within the community is bad. Also i think that people who sit in high towers not only make themselves targets but also have a long way to fall.

    As to being gods or mortals come on get your heads out of world of war craft we are business facing developers , not kids.

    Any way excellent post.