Sunday, November 12, 2006

Does .Net 2.0 make developers "dumber"?

[This was originally posted at]


When .Net 2.0 came out, it had a slew of powerful new features that made many things easier. Some people have asked: "Does .Net 2.0 make us all dumber?" The thinking is that .Net 2.0's new power spoils us, much like calculators spoil many of today's kids from no longer being able to do basic arithmetic.

My answer is no - .Net 2.0 does not make us all dumber, for at least three reasons:

  1. By simplifying certain tasks, .Net 2.0 frees up mental resources so that we can focus on other, more interesting things instead. This doesn't make a dev dumber, it just lets them focus elsewhere instead.
  2. .Net 2.0 doesn't just take existing things and make them easier, it also breaks new ground such that you can do more with the same effort. For example - ASP.Net 2.0 introduces web callbacks - an alternative to postbacks. It's a standard tradeoff: callbacks are more powerful, but require more effort. This actually lets a dev be smarter, by making it practical for them to deal with more complex techniques.
  3. Some things an average dev just couldn't do before - like web parts. Having this new power doesn't make the dev dumber, it just means that the same intellectual effort can go farther now.

There will always be a spectrum of smart, average, and below-average developers. As the technology continually grows, I think the trend isn't that the whole spectrum is getting dumber, but rather that it's getting more polarized. For example, .Net drastically lowered the entry-level for web programming (so less-smart people could start becoming web developers), but it also let you do more (so power users could do more).

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