.NET Developers – Burger Flippers?

This is probably old news to a lot of people, but it was new to me so I’m writing about it.

A year ago, the CEO of startup Expensify wrote a blog post unintentionally bashing professional .NET developers. The entire post was inflammatory and insulting to the .NET world, with gems such as the following quote littering the whole blog:

The right sort of person is so passionate about coding, they can’t be stopped from doing it.  They typically started before high school — sometimes before middle school — and never looked back.  They write everything from assembly to jQuery, on PCs to mobile phones, doing hard core computer graphics to high level social networking.  They’ve tried everything.

Everything, that is, but .NET.

You can’t make this stuff up. He goes on to explain that he makes all people with .NET experience on their resume at ALL defend that position during phone screens. He doesn’t see .NET as a “real” platform and that .NET developers just sit in their “McDonalds kitchen” pressing buttons that spit out burgers. He claims that .NET devs can’t adapt to situations (although, he very notably doesn’t give any examples of things .NET devs can’t do, but rather stays in his metaphor or burgers).

Here’s a slightly out-of-context quote:

See, Microsoft very intentionally (and very successfully) created .NET to be as different as possible from everything else out there…

He goes on to make some valid points about Microsoft getting people entrenched in their platform and their tools – but the same argument can be levied against many other companies as well. But regardless, the above quote is a bit laughable when you remember that .NET was originally Microsoft’s answer to Java. And .NET is very similar to Java in many ways. It was intended to be their version of Java, not something “as different as possible”.

The CEO also describes his developers as in a fairly humorous and confusing way:

Instead, we look for a very different sort of person.  The sort of person who grew up cooking squirrels over a campfire with sharpened sticks — squirrels they caught and skinned while scavenging in the deep forests for survival.  We don’t want a short order chef, we want a Lord of the Flies, carried by wolves into civilization and raised in a French kitchen full of copper-bottomed pots and fresh-picked herbs.  We need people who can not only cook burgers, but cook anything, from scratch.

Once again continuing the McDonald’s metaphor, apparently the devs this guy is looking for hunt and cook squirrels. .NET is push-button development but his guys can adapt to ANY situation, since they’re hunters and can cook their own stuff, right?

This drama comes to a close last month, when Expensify publicly began searching for a .NET developer. They definitely acknowledged the hilarity of them looking for a .NET guy after bashing .NET so thoroughly. However, some good questions were raised in the comments. If they need a .NET dev (in this case, for WP7 apps) why can’t their squirrel-hunting devs just get in that McDonald’s kitchen and press that burger button?

The sad part is that most of the professional .NET community was warned, via some high-profile blog postings, to stay away from these guys. That means the people applying will have a higher chance of being those “burger flipper” devs that he was insulting.

What .NET going Open Source really means

Microsoft and Open Source are two terms that are almost never seen in the same headline, unless it’s a negative one.

And yet today Scott Gu’s blog announced that .NET 3.5 is going open-source … kind of.

First of all, it won’t be fully open-source. At least, not at first. The move to open up .NET will be gradual, but eventually all class libraries will be open. Eventually.

Second of all, it is released under MS-RL, Microsoft Reference License. This is the most restrictive of all of the Microsoft shared source licenses. Essentially this means you can look, but not touch. The license is for reference only, accordig to Redmond.

This news will be disappointing to the many of Open Source gurus out there hoping Microsoft will jump on the open source bandwagon. It’s not really in the spirit of open source to release something that cannot be changed or touched at all.

So what does this news really mean?

For .NET developers this means that the code they are running their programs on can be debugged. An integrated debugger for .NET built into Visual Studio 2008 will allow devs to step into the .NET code and view the stack calls there.

Useful in some situations. Definitely a good PR move for Microsoft as well. The appearance of embracing open source without actually having to go through with it.

In all seriousness, what harm would it do to allow users to alter and redistribute their own additions to .NET? Microsoft releases the framework for free anyway, it’s not like it is a product in and of itself. You would think that they would appreciate the extra hands that would work on .NET for free.

Ultimately though, another added benefit is that more eyes can now look at the source and identify bugs. Right now it is somewhat difficult to report obscure bugs, as you need to get a tech support agent to reproduce the error. Then you generally get the message that your problem will be relayed to a developer, and that’s the end of it.

Now, with all eyes on Microsoft, hopefully they will see that people appreciate the gesture, but ultimately crave more.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact me, James Martin.
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