If you head on over to altdotnet.org, the above message is what you’ll find. Recently, there’s been a ton of posts from a list of people too long to recount here (though David Laribee is at the top of the list) about the recent ALT.NET gathering. Hopefully this will not be repeat of what you will find in all those posts. As with all things people are mixed of opinions. Some think it is absolutely awesome, others think it is the most decisive thing to hit the .NET community. In reality I don’t think it’s Black or White
Before I go further, let me reiterate that I was NOT an attendee at the ALT.NET conference, though I am currently sitting at an SDR with Aaron Jensen who was. This means he and I can do Vulcan mind meld and I can absorb all his experiences 🙂 Actually no (but that would be nice). What I have done is join the altnetconf Yahoo group. Once you get past the insane volume of messages and the notion that you won’t have a life, you’ll see that there’s some good conversation.
The topics are a virtual A to Z smorgasbord of topics from TDD, BDD, XP, Scrum, UX design (why green screens are cool), Validation, SQL Server Management to things like which developers should you hire, and how should you deal with your executive management. Finally there’s an ongoing discussion about defining what is ALT.NET, and what direction “it” should go. Some might feel overwhelmed when they see the number of topics. However I see it in a very different way. For me this is a very welcoming sign. There’s something in ALT.NET for everyone.
So what is ALT.NET? Let’s pick apart some of the words in the above statement, and I’ll add in my own interpretation 😉 Dislaimer: This is just my opinion on what I have heard / read
self-organizing – ALT.NET is a group of folks passionate software developers with a bunch of ideas.
ad-hoc – Much like the spirit of the Open Spaces format of the conference, this is more of a touchy / feelly approach that is continually adapting.
community – ALT.NET is about bringing people together NOT keeping them apart. Anyone can join, anyone can contribute. It’s not about forming an elitist group that will dictate software development dogma.
desire to improve – This is certainly one group of passionate folks driven by a love for software development and developers. The goal here is to help each other improve through sharing our joint experiences. It’s not about pointing the finger, making people feel bad, etc.
challenge assumptions – Part of improving means challenging assumptions. This means not only challenging the prevailing industry wide concepts, but also challenging the different views of the ALT.NET community. So the main ting here is that you are not joining the “Borg”
help each other – I mentioned this above, but if there’s was only one item on this list I would say this one is the most important. This is not about winning the latest and greatest “not your idealogy but mine” war rather it is about coming together to help each other be successful.
pursue excellence – Help each other what? Be excellent. Is this passing a value judgment on the entire software development community? No. What it is saying is that we all have a ton of experiences in different areas, we all come from different walks of life. Together, we can leverage that shared learning.
software development – This is not about home improvement, gardening, playing poker, or which book is at the top of Oprah’s book club. This is about software development pure and simple. That being said, I am sure plenty of people on ALT.NET will have an opinion on each of those topics.
new – ALT.NET is new, though the concepts are not. Because it’s new there’s a real opportunity for you to have an impact on defining what exactly it is.
welcome – All are welcome, just go join the Yahoo list and find out.
Now I know when you are reading this your probably thinking “Wow this sounds great, but what I am missing?” Well these are great ideas, however the proof is not in the pudding, it’s in the eating. The challenge now is how to execute on this, how to actually deliver on this set of values. How to not become elitist, maintain an open dialogue, not become dogmatic, and not become bogged down in a lot of formalities. If it becomes a religious war, then it will fail miserably. We have a long history of just this. I personally would like to see “it” (whatever it is) succeed. I mean I can’t see a having a community of folks wanting to help each other a bad thing.
We must however, learn from the sins of the past.