Many Thanks, Mark

January 19th, 2008  |  Published in commentary, REST  |  Bookmark on

Mark Baker:

I’ve had enough. I’m not participating in any more “REST vs. SOAP” discussions. When I started on this mission to educate those who didn’t understand how the Web could help them, I figured it would be pretty straightforward; I’d explain it, they’d understand, and then we’d all skip away hand-in-hand whistling show tunes. Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, I ended up spending on the order of $100K of my own money on travel, as well as the opportunity cost of many hundreds of otherwise billable hours, for what is working out to be essentially nothing in return. If that weren’t enough, my health has suffered the past year or so, in ways I won’t get into here, but that I’m confident are in part attributable to the despair I’ve felt over this extended period of frustration.

Mark, I’m sorry to hear about your situation, and I certainly can’t blame you for your decision. As you say, the war really has been won, and you’ve more than earned a break. I saw you take many arrows — and I mean many arrows — over the years as you patiently explained REST to the world and worked hard to keep the wrong technical things from happening in the standards committees. For whatever it’s worth, I greatly admire and applaud your strength and your perseverance, and congratulate you on your achievements.

I also want to sincerely thank you for personally bringing REST to my attention in an email exchange way back around 2000-2001. Over the years REST has helped transform and improve the way I view and develop distributed systems, so much so that it played a big part in my decision to leave a long and well-established career in middleware development about a year ago and switch to developing software for an entirely different industry. In my current position, I’m thankfully free to use REST when and where it makes sense without having to fight all the stupid battles that you’ve understandably grown weary of.

An aside: the personal toll that Mark is suffering is most unfortunate. There’s simply no room in technical discussions for the negativity and hate that causes situations like that. Yet, despite the fact that the war is indeed over, and even though most of us now try to boringly proceed with useful logical discussions, there are still a few hostile jerks out there who didn’t get the memo. For example, I recently had to completely ban one such jackass from commenting here due to his continued personal attacks and insults, not only against me but against Mark, Tim Bray, and anyone else who supports REST. (Thankfully he adds no technical insight or knowledge whatsoever to either side of the discussion, so it’s no loss.) It saddens me that the destructive voices of hate like his can sometimes drive the bright, insightful and truly useful voices like Mark’s out of a technical conversation. It’s up to all of us to continuously try to prevent such situations, whether we’re discussing REST or some other topic.

Mark, thanks again for all your efforts. If there’s any way you think I can help, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Some developer advice for 2008

January 2nd, 2008  |  Published in commentary, productivity  |  Bookmark on

Via Tim Bray, a commencement address by Bruce Eckel. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but I found this part especially interesting:

An even more fascinating metric is this: 5% of programmers are 20x more productive than the other 95%. If this were a science, like it claims, we could figure out how to get everyone to the same level.

Let’s say that this follows the 80-20 rule. Roughly 80% of programmers don’t read books, don’t go to conferences, don’t continue learning, don’t do anything but what they covered in college. Maybe they’ve gotten a job in a big company where they can do the same thing over and over. The other 20% struggle with their profession: they read, try to learn things, listen to podcasts, go to user group meetings and sometimes a conference. 80% of this 20% are not very successful yet; they’re still beginning, still trying. The other 20% of this 20% — that’s about 5% of the whole who are 20x more productive.

The lesson here is that if you want to be a great developer, you’ve gotta put in the extra effort that Bruce talks about. There are no shortcuts. In my experience, I’ve seen that there are quite a few developers who rarely read things that pertain to their profession, never attend conferences or talks, and certainly never look into trying new approaches that are even the slightest bit different from what they already know. Well, unless they’re forced to, of course, via organizational changes or layoffs. I don’t understand why anyone would willingly choose a profession for which they’re unwilling to invest in continuous career-long learning.

I also like what he says here:

You need to pay attention to economics and business, both of which are far-from-exact sciences. Listen to books and lectures on tape while you commute. Understanding the underlying business issues may allow you to detect the fortunes of the company you’re working for and take action early. When I first started working I looked askance at people who paid attention to business issues — that was suit stuff, not real technology. But those people were the smart ones.

Another reason to pay attention to the business side is that it’s actually rare that the best technology wins. I used to struggle greatly with this, and over the years I’ve seen many developers do the same. Understanding how markets work and how technologies advance in the marketplace is important for every developer, so they can put their work in perspective and perhaps be a little less religious about it.

So, from these ideas, my two recommendations for 2008 are:

  1. Learn a new programming language or new approach that takes you out of your comfort zone.
  2. Study one or more technology-focused business books.

In both cases, you’ll be very glad you did.

Who’s the real Elitist?

December 3rd, 2007  |  Published in commentary, dynamic languages, organizations, productivity  |  Bookmark on

Reg Braithwaite again:

Maybe—just maybe—the person advocating the non-mainstream tool isn’t the elitist. Maybe they are the egalitarian, the one who believes everyone can program if given the chance. What if the person saying “No, no, that doesn’t scale to a team of one hundred hum-drum monkeys” is the real elitist? Maybe the elitists are the ones who are convinced that other, lesser programmers cannot be trusted to program.



November 23rd, 2007  |  Published in commentary, design  |  Bookmark on

One of my favorite bloggers is Reg Braithwaite. He writes extremely well, and every one of his posts, even when he posts only links, is worth reading.

Judging from this comment Reg made on another blog, it seems that he’s being accused of being an absolutist, in this case regarding static typing. In that comment he writes:

I am going to challenge you now. I am not trying to provoke a fight, I honesty want YOU to go away and say hmmm. Why is it that you are trying to paint me as such an absolutist, that when I say “I like static typing but I’m currently achieving my personal goals with a dynamic language” that I must be against static typing?

and he summarizes his comment with this:

But I would encourage you to consider the possibility that others, such as myself, are not as rigid in their mindset. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done using some extreme “type torture” in C++ to impose constraints on programs. I’m also very proud of some of the work I’ve done in Ruby. I have no difficulty embracing each in its own way.

After all, one roadhouse can host both kinds of music, Country AND Western.

Reg’s comments really struck a chord with me; not only do I completely understand where he’s coming from, but I especially like the Blues Brothers reference as well. :-) Seems like anytime I post about my preferences for REST and dynamic languages, I receive a number of blog comments that are nothing more than unfriendly flaming rants accusing me of absolutism. It kinda makes me laugh, given that I use 3, 4, or 5 different programming languages almost every day, and can develop a wide variety of systems, especially distributed systems, using a fairly broad range of different techniques. Simply put, I’ve been in this career for way too long to be an absolutist, except perhaps for one thing: I absolutely believe every developer should be strong in multiple programming languages and multiple approaches because there’s no single language or technique that can do it all.

Actually, now that I think about it, here’s a couple more absolutes:

  • I moderate absolutely all blog comments.
  • I’m happy to post all reasonable comments that actually make a useful point, regardless of whether the writer agrees or disagrees with me. But if you try to post a rant, or try to turn a technical discussion into a pointless argument about absolutes, I can absolutely guarantee you that your comment won’t appear here.