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.