So what does it matter?
So what if the .NET community is gated? So what if I have to pay to learn and pay to use others code? Or so you may wonder if you came from you mothers womb with a crisp ten dollar bill in your hand. There may be nothing wrong with paying to keep your place on top. History shows that you can. It also shows that ‘Necessity is the father of Invention.’ If you need not you want not, so you don’t innovate. IBM has found themselves square in that type of place. They see the top of the hill and figure there is no other place to go. Any good hiker knows that over each hill there is another waiting. Sure innovation comes in waves. There are always the new ways of using the new stuff. We will need new ways of doing things, and that will change things.
Take the definition of programmer for instance. Back in the mid ’90s we would laugh at a hyper-card expert if they called themselves a programmer. But that is exactly what job descriptions are saying about people who use similar technology. We may not have considered a webmaster a programmer, but nowadays who is to argue with the term. We would be more apt to argue the title Webmaster. With technologies like Rails and TurboGears you can argue that there are a lot of people who have the title, but are nothing more than ‘Script Kitties’. Where are the hackers of old? Who is really a programmer?
You see, from the top you think, what does it matter? So you shove your money at a bunch of people who call themselves programmers and you get a webapp that is meant to face thousands of users at any given minute based on Rails. Hay, it is Ajax and uses meta-programming, what do you care? Got a Rolex?
So maybe you just stopped and thought for a moment. Maybe not. The word counterfeit comes to mind. I am not saying that Rails is counterfeit, it has real potential. This is where expertise would tell someone that potential doesn’t mean kinetic. If you still don’t understand, keep reading.
So how do you figure out what is the real deal and what is faked, as in skill. How do you tell with a dollar bill? You get to know the real thing. If you printed out a one dollar bill on your inkjet and took it into the local department store and tried to pass it off on a full time cashier, you would land yourself in jail. They know the real thing, they handle hundreds every day. So it pays to know the real thing. How do you get to know it? Can you buy such knowledge. You may have been lead to believe this. Take a look at the certification industry. There is real value there, but there is also misplaced trust. Certs say, I have learned to give answers to the right questions. But where real skill comes in is identifying the wrong questions. Like ‘Does our website use Ajax?’. Someone who is involved and out there doing what most of us just discuss are the people who are going to say ‘That isn’t what you need to ask yourself.’
If you would just use the tools given to you. Use them to solve all your problems, you wouldn’t be bothered with such questions. Because you wouldn’t have access to such technology until about the same time your boss asks about it, and you wouldn’t have the opportunity to sound like you know what you are doing. Enter the ‘Day Hacker’. People who are required to use technologies like .NET in their day job, but who want to be up on technology, experiment on their off time. They have tried Rails, and they have a box with a LAMP installation with Perl, PHP and Python so they can try out the latest in coding techniques. Some of these have even gone the dark route of experimenting with Mono C# and Gtk.
My point: are they paying to get into these communities? No. These communities flourish because of it. When you step out of the gates into Open Range Programming you find that you are better than the guy who built Atlas. In fact you are as good as the sum of your community. I would put any number of Open Range Programming communities up against MS. When I am using .NET, I am only as good as MS. Why? Because of the idea of job security. MS people feel threatened when you seem to understand what is under the hood. They don’t want to tell you what they are doing or how because if you knew you could take their job. Worse yet, they could build a better app. Sure they look at what you are doing if you are willing to share, but if they see where improvements can be made, they keep it ‘in-house’. But what if someone knows an even better way? They will never know, because that person wont say either. They ‘take care of number one’. What they don’t get is no one benefits, no one gains. They are the sum of one. Got a Rolex?