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Martin Fowler: ALT.NET important to the viable future of the Microsoft ecosystem

by Udi Dahan on Oct 19, 2007 |

ALT.NET is a new, developer-organized global community started by several influencers including David Laribee, Scott Bellware, Roy Osherove and others. What differentiates this community from the many user groups already in existence is its focus on pragmatic values rather than technology. However, some debate has already arisen around the perceived elitism of such a group.  Martin Fowler commented that: "I have high hopes for the ALT.NET community. I believe this kind of community is important to the viable future of the Microsoft ecosystem, and I want a healthy Microsoft world."

Laribee originally defined the following values as ALT.NET:

    1. You're the type of developer who uses what works while keeping an eye out for a better way.
    2. You reach outside the mainstream to adopt the best of any community: Open Source, Agile, Java, Ruby, etc.
    3. You're not content with the status quo. Things can always be better expressed, more elegant and simple, more mutable, higher quality, etc.
    4. You know tools are great, but they only take you so far. It's the principles and knowledge that really matter. The best tools are those that embed the knowledge and encourage the principles (e.g. Resharper.)

Despite the apparent pragmatism in these values, backlash to the budding ALT.NET community grew almost as quickly as the community itself. Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Sam Gentile said:

ALT.NET is a divisive thing. No matter what they tell you, they are full of negative energy, they sneer at others that don't buy into their view and sneer at the "enterprisey" folks. I know, I was there. I am not going to be part of it any more. 

Karthic cut to the heart of the dispute:

"ALT.NET is perceived as being anti-Microsoft because of a few bloggers' overzealous nature in describing their disdain for Microsoft products and all things anti-Agile."

Another pillar of the Microsoft community, Scott Hanselman had this to say, before he became a Microsoft employee himself:

Why does this have to be ALT.NET? Why is this alternative? Seems that this should be mainstream and baked in by the tools and "dogma" that comes down from on high. Microsoft needs to make ALT.NET attitudes Mainstream.NET attitudes, through leadership, openness, and a lot more prescriptive guidance.

Martin Fowler brings up the issue of Microsoft's treatment of this "ugly duckling":

The great question ahead for Microsoft is how to engage with a participative and opinionated community like this. Treating such a group as an opponent will result in the loss of valuable products, and more importantly the capable people connected with them. Engaging with a community like this brings great opportunity. I would argue that the participate community around enterprise Java has saved the enterprise Java platform.

Few would state that Microsoft's .NET platform is in need of saving, yet the ALT.NET community does seem to serve as a membrane of sorts – slowly infusing the .NET mainstream with tools and techniques found in the Open Source environment. With Microsoft's increased attentiveness to the desires of the community, we've already seen the release of a "dynamic runtime" and support for REST - maybe ALT.NET is right on time.

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ALT.NET & Microsoft by Wade Johnson

It would seem that Sam Gentile and those that view ALT.NET as anti Microsoft aren't incorrect. ALT.NET discussion lists have at least some ALT.NET "influencers" purposing that an underlying purpose of ALT.NET is the affect Microsoft. The Alt.NET pursefight outlines well the internal conflict between the ALT.NET community and those that feel they need to control it: altnetpursefight.blogspot.com/

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