Ruby, ASP.NET, and the alpha geeks

Scott Hanselman asks if Microsoft is losing the web development alpha geeks to Ruby On Rails. Actually I think a number of the cool kids have been playing with Ruby for a while now. When people like Uncle Bob, Martin Fowler, Justin Gehtland, and others begin writing about a language it has crossed over to being an alpha geek language. Still I see those guys talking about C++, Java, and C# too, so its important to note that Ruby, while growing, is not the juggernaut that Java was when it first appeared.

Some of this is the lure of the new. ASP.NET is now a fairly mature technology, so there is less demand for advice on how to deliver with that toolset. A lot of the ‘cool kids’ make their name from championing new technologies or approaches. Some of it is a dissastisfaction with the bloatware platforms, that began with the POJO movement.

I think the two big takeways here:

  • The first is that it is worth your while learning Ruby, if only to follow the pragmatics advice to learn a new language every year. Ruby will be part of your development toolkit in a few years time, so it might be best to get a handle on it now, especially as you will want to continue to read and understand a lot of the insights the ‘cool kids’ have so some fluency in Ruby will be a necessity.
  • MS needs to be cautious about following Sun into the bloatware framework world, because RoR is partially a reaction to that. I point the finger  fairly firmly at the Entity Framework here. RoR is a challenge to that kind of technology, because it demonstrates that by being a specialist you gain many advantages over being a generalist – not the least being simplicity and productivity. And productivity is where it is at. So unless the EF is productive, and supports POCO approaches it will be bloatware, and just as much of a dinosaur as J2EE is.
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