Tech partisanship doesn’t help much

I shared a small rant at a local web meetup the other day, and thought I’d recap it here.  It was triggered by sitting in on an interview with a local developer for an idea-stage startup I’m counseling.

The startup in question has had some false starts on an MVP before, once in ASP.NET, and once in PHP (or maybe twice).  What’s come out of this was an understanding that the particular tech chosen is less important than finding sharp people who can see the project through to the first phase being functional.  I helped write a Craigslist ad to that effect, it was posted, and we’ve sifted through some of the applicants and did a couple interviews.

What’s been interesting to me is that many of the people applying are .net developers.  I’ve nothing against .net, but typically, you don’t find too many looking to jump in to the entrepreneurial space; it’s very much a corporate-enterprisey sort of thing.  I know .net-startups exist, but they’re a small fraction compared to the number of web startups based on dynamic languages (php, python, ruby, etc).

So we met with someone, and he asked what the site was written in.  My friend explained there’s no current site, but an early draft had been done in PHP.  The .net-dev grimaced.  “PHP is just not capable, it just won’t work for some things, it’s not efficient, there’s things it can’t do, C# is much better technology,” and so on.  This was not a 5 minute diatribe, I’ll grant you, but it was long enough, and … ill-informed enough to make me question his judgement skills on other things.

I can expect this sort of tribalism from someone just starting out in development.  I don’t expect it from someone with 15 years of experience.  I would expect that you’d mature to the point where you understood that almost all tech out there is suitable for a wide-range of applications, and that the language itself is rarely a bottleneck (compared with database servers, network latency, etc.)  And yes… I expect this because I’ve seen these attitudes diplayed out over many colleagues, but also definitely in myself.

I’m ashamed of some of the partisan writings I posted back 10 years ago; I was wasting huge amounts of time arguing pointless stuff that had no real impact.  Perhaps that’s half the purpose of internet forums in general, but it took me a while to realize the emptiness in those pissing matches, and regret much of what I contributed all those years ago.  But it does help give me a sense of perspective, as does my shifting tech skills:  I’ve gone from MS/VB/Access to Notes to Perl to PHP to ASP to PHP to Java with a bit of C# thrown in over the years.   After you’ve done this long enough, you realize that there’s enough change in tech that few of the skills from 10 years ago really matter, which is another way of saying that little of what you’re learning now will have much utility in 10 years.

I’ve got another rant on reusing software coming up soon; stay tuned (or come back, or subscribe to the RSS) to have a read.

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