Thursday, July 17, 2008

.Net is like the galaxy, they're both big and getting bigger

[This was originally posted at]

Like the galaxy, .Net is big, and its only getting bigger. It stretches as far as the eye can see, or better yet, as far as the mind can think We're now in the 5th release of .Net (1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5), each one adding more to the previous. This includes not just a bigger API, but fundamentally new technologies and techniques - Ajax, WPF (with Xaml), Silverlight, WCF, WWF, etc... The .Net ecosystem is growing too - with open source, guidance, blogs, and vendors. It is expanding across all aspects of development (including games, mobile devices, enterprise apps, rich media, hobbyists apps, etc...).


I see at least three practical consequences of this:

  1. It's too big for one person to "know it all". This is why prescriptive guidance and community consensus are so important. It also gives hope to younger developers - I've gotten to work with several younger new-hires, who initially think that they'll never make some innovative contribution to the team. I explain to them that because .Net is so big, as long as they keep trying, it's inevitable, they'll eventually come to a new frontier that no-one else on the team has seen - a new tool, a new trick, they'll be the first to pick up a new technology.

  2. How does someone keep up? There are plenty of ways to learn about .Net. However, the vastness of it all does force a normal person to pick a niche. It helps to pick, or work towards, a niche that you enjoy. By making learning a lifestyle, a developer can continually pick up new things. It also helps that .Net is growing in a good direction...

  3. It's growing in a good direction. It's not that .Net is expanding into chaos, but rather it's growing more and more powerful. Part of this is retiring older technologies, either by making them obsolete (who uses COM), or wrapping them with an more convenient technique (a Domain Specific Language, an easier tool or API). The new enhancements aren't making us developers dumber, but rather freeing us up to focus on more interesting problems.

I see these as good things. Software engineering's continual expansion is one of the things that so fascinates me with the field.

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