Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Why is "doing things right" a "thing"? Whither professionalism?

Over on the Reddit r/programming subreddit, /u/jfalvarez posted a link to Tom Stuart's great presentation at the Scottish Ruby Conference 2014, entitled "The DHH Problem".

If you're involved with Ruby or Web development in any way, it's well worth three and a half minutes of your time.

On the Reddit post where Mr Alvarez posted the link to the video, another Redditor, dventimi, asked

Why is this a thing?

I disagree with the later poster who snarked "People like gossip." It's much, much more important than that.

What follows is the content of my reply to "why is this a thing?" I'd love to have a discussion with you about it, either here or on the original post.

Because people are finally waking up to the fact that the coding style and philosophy espoused by DHH are disastrous in non-toy applications maintained over any significant period of time.

That this should have been obvious to all, but wasn't discussed as such, once Twitter, after having conflated Rails with Ruby as a whole, left Ruby because they couldn't make Rails do what they needed to no matter how many times DHH came onsite and insulted their intelligence, speaks eloquently to how broken things are.

Most master software developers I've met and worked with have been mediocre-at-best promoters, including self-promoters. DHH has the opposite problem: his initial extraction of Rails from Basecamp's codebase "worked", for apps very much like Basecamp at the time. His fixed, what some have called "trolling", attitudes and the personality they describe, prevent him from seeing things from any other perspective or from growing his skills beyond a certain point. The echo chamber of acolytes and zealots his sublime self-promotional talents have allowed him to accrete around himself "ensure" that he never has to.

That's a problem for the rest of us, who have deadlines, work to finish within those deadlines, and paycheques we'd like to be able to cash that we won't get unless we meet those deadlines with that work. Especially for those of us who wish to improve our craft and, in whatever way we can, nudge ourselves and others towards helping the craft of software development more closely approximate a true engineering discipline.

Paying excessive heed to the opinions-masquerading-as-principles brayed by DHH, and twisting ourselves to fit inside The Rails Way, actively impede all of the above tasks. Tom Stuart was absolutely right to thank DHH for producing Rails and promoting it sufficiently that the rest of us get to write Ruby for a living…just before tearing DHH a new one, in the polite, discreet way only a well-educated Brit can, for getting so much of Rails and how software should be written so disastrously wrong.

Thank you, Tom Stuart. An entire industry may well be in your debt.

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