The Alt.NET Retrospective for me

The completion of the Alt.NET conference in Austin has created a plethora of conversation on blogs and in the altnetconf Yahoo Group. Some have been critical of the purpose and intent going into, during and following the weekend. Others have begged for further discussion on logos, mantras, mission statements, and governence in general. In some form all have a valid point (with the exception of one, but I’m not going to comment on that one). I went to the conference fearing some of the worst was going to happen. I thought, with absolute certainty, that there would be at least one, if not more, bitchfest slagging all things MS. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I made the time to spend a weekend with people who were so positive, pragmatic and enthusiastic about any potential tool, technique or solution. I also feared that there would be discussions that degraded into personal attacks and verbal scraps when people’s tools were negatively critiqued. Although there were sessions where products were critiqued (Joe Ocampo’s NSpec/NBehave comes to mind immediately) with quite a bit of vigour. Not once did anything like this degrade into a pissing match. The critiques were absorbed and I’m sure, although I don’t know personally, that the feedback was put to work and the products will become far better due to it. There were a number of watershed moments both during the event and in the conversations after. The biggest that occurred during the sessions was that Microsoft is there to participate within this community and not fight it. In fact they are openly embracing it on a number of fronts. The most obvious is that the new System.Web.Mvc implementation demo’d by ScottGu is built with a large number of the development principles that many Alt.NET attendees practiced. The open acknowledgement by Microsoft by making their MVC implementation extensible at points such as IoC or the view engine was commendable. Seeing a ‘softie go through a demo with tests was another huge step. The less obvious statement made by Microsoft was in the session held by Simon Guest and Howard Dierking. These guys really want to help propogate information on the techniques, tools and frameworks that are often used in the Alt.NET community. If you’re a burgeoning writer and you’re swing for the Alt.NET team (whatever that means), get in touch with these guys. You never know where your name may appear. One of the biggest take aways was that you shouldn’t wait to be told to spread the message. Ray Lewallen said it best in the wrap up sing along when he stated:
Don’t go back to your town and start an Alt.NET group. Take the message to your regular user groups.
Alt.NET is about learning to build better software. It’s also about becoming a bit of an evangelist for the techiques, tools and frameworks that we commonly use. Get out and do a presentation for your local user group. Kyle (Justice?) was so inspired that he contacted three different groups right after leaving the conference and they welcomed him with open arms. In September Tom and I took a trip to Phoenix/Tempe for Desert Code Camp to present on topics near and dear to our, and the Alt.NET community’s, heart. Don’t be worried that people won’t be open to accepting the message. I’ve found that people are always interested in hearing about options. If we can present them with some of the ones we have afflictions for, and do it with passion, we will begin winning developer converts.