ALT.NET and the global currency of ideas

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 – 8:20 PM

Scott Hanselman has a great post about last weekend’s ALT.NET conference and the ALT.NET community overall. I’m not “in” with the ALT.NET crowd and wasn’t able to attend the conference but some of them did drop by p&p last week. They’re nice people and we had an interesting conversation about Moq, mocking frameworks and the three A’s pattern. Daniel talks about this on his blog.

What is ALT.NET? It’s a term coined by Dave Laribee about a year ago:

What does it mean to be to be ALT.NET? In short it signifies:

  1. You’re the type of developer who uses what works while keeping an eye out for a better way.
  2. You reach outside the mainstream to adopt the best of any community: Open Source, Agile, Java, Ruby, etc.
  3. You’re not content with the status quo. Things can always be better expressed, more elegant and simple, more mutable, higher quality, etc.
  4. You know tools are great, but they only take you so far. It’s the principles and knowledge that really matter. The best tools are those that embed the knowledge and encourage the principles (e.g. Resharper.)

Sounds like my kind of developer!

I’ve been thinking about #2 a lot recently. Its been bugging me of late that real currency I want to deal in isn’t the dollar – which isn’t worth much these days anyway – but the idea. Specifically the good idea. Although bad ideas are actually valuable too, if you know something doesn’t work then you can skip trying it again.

Ideas aren’t confined to within Microsoft, or even the .NET ecosystem. After four and a half years at Microsoft its easy to find that I’ve lost touch with things going on in the broader software development community. It can be embarrassing at times. I remember having a very confused discussion around the term “DSL” – which I took to be something graphical and everyone else in the room didn’t!

Ideas aren’t limited to the .NET ecosystem. For a long time many of the latest and greatest tools in the .NET world were actually born out of existing ideas from the Java community; nUnit, nHibernate and nMock all spring to mind. Initial ports of these Java tools eventually led to new thinking, new ideas and new tools that were more specific to the .NET developer’s needs, for example; xUnit and Moq. For this to happen a lot of people looked outside their own back yard for good ideas.

Hence I’m committing to spending more time learning about things that don’t happen completely inside Microsoft’s Redmond campus. It’s going to be fun and probably a whole lot more.

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