Archive for July 21st, 2006

Real Geeks Use Tools

Friday, July 21st, 2006

So today I saw a funny series of Blog posts starting with Robert Scoble’s defense of his “Geekhood” after a post by someone named Cody who hates fake computer geeks.

What’s interesting about these posts are the examples that both use to define geekiness. Cody complains that Scoble doesn’t host his own Blog software. Scoble defends his geek credentials by mentioning past experience installing NT 3.5. Either way, those definitions don’t reflect the reality of the information age.

To put this in context, let’s think back 15 years or so to the Visual Basic story. Here was a tool that provided a high level of abstraction over Windows. Who were the geeks? The C++ programmers who blew off VB as a “toy language” or “glue language”, or the millions who adopted VB either as their first language or migrating from another language?

The answer is obvious – both were. The only difference was that the VB geeks were much more productive (for a wide class of applications).

The world has changed of course, and neither VB .NET nor C# provide the kind of abstraction levels that are needed going forward. We don’t have a tool that corresponds to the .NET framework the way VB related to the Windows API. Or put another way – VB was incredibly productive because it provided a level of abstraction to the underlying API for which C/C++ was the “first class” language. Today, VB .NET and C# are the “first class” languages for .NET – but we don’t yet have that new paradigm, that new level of abstraction, that will bring us to the next level (of geekiness, as it were).

Or do we?

At least in one area, I’m beginning to think that we do.

When I look at ASP .NET, I see lots of great components and features for building great web applications. At the same time, the prospect of building a site using it is – well, it’s about as exciting as Hello World was in C back in the 90’s. I’m working on a project now (not ready to talk about yet), that is web based, and building it from scratch wasn’t even a consideration.

For web applications, tools like WordPress and CMS systems like Plone, Drupel and DotNetNuke are compelling platforms on which to base new applications. Their open source nature and flexible architectures assures extensibility in much the way that VB’s support for custom controls allowed the language to do things that it’s developers never imagined.

This, by the way, should be something Microsoft pays close attention to – the vast majority of CMS systems today are LAMP systems – and this is what might cost them the web platform war (not the quality of the platform itself).

Anyway, I digress. Cody, Robert – you’re both geeks in my book.

And for the record, this particular Blog is on WordPress, that is in fact hosted on my own server – not because there is any geek value in doing so, but because my incremental cost to do so is zero (which is, coincidently, the cost of Robert’s hosting as well).