I think he makes an important point that choice of technology is rarely a
proximate cause of project failure. ( EJB & Corba being the two largest risk
I can recall.)
One point he doesn't make is the difference OPM and MHC (Other Peoples Money
versus My Hard-earned Cash.) When you are spending OPM costs can become
unreal. So as an employee a "buzz-word compliant/standard approach" Java or
.NET solution might make more sense than a leaner solution that uses
unfamiliar technology. I can still recall being excoriated by peers and a
manager for choosing to use Ruby to write a proof-of-concept test. The Ruby
spike took eleven minutes to write. A Java version would have taken me 90
minutes, and I am a Ruby novice.
I often ask myself "If this were my cash would I do this?"
I love Java but I wouldn't use it to write application (cf plumbing) code,
if I were paying the bills.
Although I respect Joel very much, I believe he makes a fundamental
mistake in his reasoning.
Joel is such a good writer that sometimes his jaw-drooping errors are
impossible to refute. (And don't encourage him; he loves it when you fight
Basically what he is saying can be deconstructed this way:
* Do not risk developing in new cutting edge technology. Even if
successful proof of concepts are already out there (37 signals et. al)
* Use what most people use: PHP / J2EE / .Net not what most experts
tell you to use. Communities and support are paramount.
The open source tools that succeed must have higher technical quality than
the Daddy Warbucks tools. The latter can afford to buy their communities and
"support" networks. Because an open source initiative cannot buy its
community and marketing, only the strong survive, and their early adopters
will form this community spontaneously. They will provide the true
word-of-mouth advertising that marketing tends to simulate.
And I am sick and tired of seeing at shops dragged down by some idiotic
language choice made between the marketeers and a computer-illiterate
* Corporations and the people in those organizations favor safety, if
your job is on the line go with the tried and true. Take no risks.
Ah, so looking like you are following best practices is more important than
doing everything you can to ensure success. Gotcha!
Yes, I have seen that upclose, too!
All three assumptions rely on a single assumption: FEAR.
* Fear the technology would eventually not deliver.
* Fear the support will not be sufficient.
* Fear regarding your job safety as a corporate developer or manager
who chooses Ruby or Ruby on Rails for some mission critical project.
Yup - that's the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt formula that Microsoft (among
others) use all the time. They have tried, over and over again, to FUD
Linux. Their CEO will get up on stage and say incredibly stupid things, like
"if an open source platform fails you, there is nobody you can go to for
help!" He means there's nobody you can sue. As if you could go to MS for
help, without paying thru the nose...
Oh, Joel is pro-Linux, right? What's the difference??
All assumptions are wrong.
Better, fear that your boss will experience misguided fear.
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