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Abandon ALT.NET

07 Oct 2007

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.

ALT.NET is Divisive

ALT.NET is a divisive thing. No matter what they tell you.

So says Sam, and I'm in agreement. The ALT.NET conference is so cliquey that it hurts, and that's really highlighted by an interesting bit of news that came out yesterday regarding Microsoft's upcoming MVC framework. I think it's interesting that they'd talk about it at a conference where most of the people will already be using this sort of technology. Just as I find it pointless that you'd go to a conference to discuss the stuff that everyone there already knows. DDD, BDD, MVC - these aren't things that will be unknown to people attending the ALT.NET conference.

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?

The View from on High

The ALT.NET conference is barely about the underlying technologies or ideas. It mainly serves to allow all of the ALT.NET developers to come together to talk about how great it is that they are all ALT.NET. Us, and them. Back to Sam:

I am not going to use the term "Morts."

Good, because it's an offensive term, but it's one that's being thrown around by the ALT.NET gang with abandon. Scott Hanselman, a great blogger, had this to say from the conference:

Mort is crying because mommy and daddy are fighting.

That's the kind of patronising way in which the term is being used; I mean come on, the damn thing is short for "mortal" which is a pretty clear indication of how the people who use "mort" think of themselves: 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.

And in order to address that imbalance, the ALT.NET mob organise an enormous desert circle-jerk, and I call bullshit. If they really wanted to change things then they should be writing about their techniques in detail, coming up with introductory guides to DDD, TDD, mocking, creating screencasts, or giving talks at mainstream conferences, or producing tools to make the level of entry to these technologies lower than it is.

Abandon ALT.NET - Before it Goes Too Far

A lot of people in the ALT.NET camp may not feel that they're being divisive but I can tell you that 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.

UPDATE: I've updated this post on my LosTechies blog - see Why ALT.NET?