When Developers Get What They Ask For
Peter Coffee: Many developers must learn a new way of doing things as they move toward distributed apps. First, however, they must make space in their brains for the idea that more than one way even exists.Programmer training, user support, and the famous "Eliza" psychologist simulation all entered into your many replies to my letter of last week. When I asked how we should address the problem of using IT to answer peoples "real" questions, or for that matter finding out what those questions are, your commentsmany of them long and eloquentreflected your varied situations. Making IT more genuinely helpful to anyone, for anything, will at some point require the help of application developersand developers are faced today with more questions about questions (meta-questions, I suppose we could call them) than any other technical specialty. Many current Windows developers, in particular, probably baby-ducked on Visual Studio 97 and therefore must learn more than just a new way of doing things as they move toward distributed applications. They must first make space in their brains for the idea that more than one way even exists. Its like my reaction to my first week of foreign-language study, five-bits years ago: I suddenly needed a vocabulary to talk about general ideas of person and time, where before Id only needed to understand how to use a particular implementation of those ideas. Visual Basic .Net, with its many changes compared to earlier versions of the language, has often been mentioned as the major example of the similar learning hump facing would-be .Net developers.
One observer had this comment on all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the new Visual Basic: "Most of the changes are enhancements we have been requesting for some time such as real object orientation, thread support, and better error-handling and monitoring, so it is somewhat disingenuous to claim that Visual Basic .Net is too hard for us timid VB developers when Microsoft simply gave us exactly what we asked for." That said, VB .Net developers certainly do have to look past "How do I...?" to ask also, "Why would I...?" and especially "What shouldnt I...?" questions. Failing to do so will cripple their migration to Web-based development in general, Web services development in particular, and .Net development most specifically.