With unconcealed trepidation, I’m counting the days until Thursday, when the first official gathering of the newborn ALT.NET Dublin group will take place.
How does it feel to take part in a local user group right at its launch? New people come together for the first time, full of curiosity, enthusiasm and hope for what lies ahead. Imagine what it could be to combine our experiences, to study and explore together what it takes to design and develop superb software.
I always loved the idea of a local study group, where peers meet monthly in a quiet venue, discussing ideas and sharing knowledge in a non-threatening environment.
I find this format attractive, albeit simple in concept and aspirations, probably because I’ve been subjected to formal sermons for too long. I seek interaction, different points of view, real-world experiences… and a decent pint!
Like in other parts of the world, I must confess that the need for an ALT.NET group in Dublin has grown out of frustration: although it is common to be lectured on most of the latest Microsoft products and technologies nowadays (e.g. Silverlight, SQL Server, SharePoint, etc.), there are too many key areas that are completely neglected by the mainstream circuits. Have you ever wondered about how to employ the above technologies to design for maintainability, for example?
How about alternative tools and frameworks on top of the .NET platform? Any methodologies, patterns and principles? What have we learned from other platforms?
It seems like no one ever attempts to answer the hard questions. Silence. Nothing. Complete dark. Scary eh?
I may be too harsh but sometimes I get the feeling that too many community speakers live in a sealed cubicle, too busy polishing their valuable badges, diligently regurgitating their school homework. Not surprisingly, evangelists and product groups also have their own not-so-hidden agendas, a natural consequence of the extreme fragmentation of a company as large as Microsoft. It is rare to hear from competent practitioners these days, developers in the trenches willing (and able) to speak in public. I need more than superficial product demos to help my team in writing the sustainable, non-trivial applications that our business needs.
Few citizens of the ALT.NET community believe that there is a deliberate conspiracy, a “system” designed to control the mainstream by keeping people somewhat ignorant.
For as much as I would like to “rebel” to such system, I doubt that there is any oppressor or secret plot; studies on the way humans learn (e.g. Dreyfus model of skills acquisition) tell us that, if we consider each skill separately (from cooking to object-orientation), most of us are novices or, at best, advanced beginners. In other words, for most skills:
- we follow ready-made recipes (novice)
- we perform our own tasks by seeking reference information quickly, as needs arise (advanced beginner).
It appears that we rarely reach a stage where we can be more resourceful and form our own conceptual models of how things work (competent), we seldom seek the big picture and reflect to improve the way we do things (proficient) and are unable to filter irrelevant details and consistently rely on intuition and pattern recognition to perform our tasks (expert).
So, we are complacent ignorant beasts, often confidently unaware of it.
Rather than keep complaining about what is wrong with the world though, I’m more interested in moving forward. Raising awareness seems like a decent starting point. We are learners in need of each other.
Ireland is a strange little country. The population is small and yet so resourceful. To accomplish greatness (or even survive) we need to seriously change the way we tackle problems, particularly since the worldwide economy is threatening our jobs and families. If you live in Dublin and you are a developer with a genuine interest in improving your craft (and marketability), what are you going to do next? More of the same stuff that you have been doing until now? Maybe it is time to try something different and consider joining us.
ALT.NET Dublin is an experiment, one that can easily fail without your help. To take part you don’t have to be an expert, you just need to overcome your inertia and show up. Be open and ready to share. This coming Thursday, if you choose so, you’ll make a difference.