OK, this isn’t really another @wonderlaura post, but since Kerri Abraham posted her article today, I thought I should follow up and post my opinion.
And although this does apply to ‘people like Laura’ it isn’t specific to her. Frankly, I have no idea what she does, how she does it, or how it works for her. It may or may not work, and she may or may not be good at what she delivers; I don’t know.
However, there is a key point here, in that Laura Rogers claims she is not a developer. What she does, though, is claim she is not a developer for the wrong reasons.
Kerri is very right in saying that Laura Rogers is a developer – because if you are developing something, regardless of tools, you are a developer. You may not be a programmer, which is something completely different, but you are a developer. So is Mark Miller, by the way. In fact, he developed EndUserSharePoint.com from scratch.
You get my point.
So, Laura Rogers is a Developer?
The issue I have, though, is the ease with which people become developers these days. You see, I don’t become a surgeon simply because scalpels are now easily available on the interwebs. I don’t even become a surgeon if I use a scalpel to cut someone’s belly open.
“Look, how easy it is to do surgery, and no medicine required!”
I would not accept that. I don’t care what tools a surgeon uses. What I do expect, though, is that when they decide what tool to use, and I fully trust their judgment on what tools to use, they know not only how to wield it but how it will affect every part of me. I expect the surgeon to have a thorough medical understanding, not to be solely a blade-wielder. If all they had was insane cutting skills, the best this side of the North Pole, I still wouldn’t trust them to cut me open.
When experts like Laura goes out and say that ‘avoid surgery unless it is the last resort’ that doesn’t make sense to me, especially considering they usually lack the understanding of what that surgery entails. As a patient, I want my GP to know what makes sense, or send me to an expert if he or she does not fully understand the problem. I don’t want them to dish our advice on something completely foreign to them, simply because they’re not trained surgeons themselves. Of course you don’t hand out dates with the OR in every case, but saying it should be avoided is simply retarded. If surgery makes sense, then tear this shirt off me and start dissecting.
So, Laura Rogers is Still a Developer?
Well, I still don’t know about her, but I know that I’m a developer. I know that because over the previous 30 years or so (it’s actually closer to 27 since I first started programming) I have dedicated myself to building things on computers. I have the formal and the informal training. I’ve aced the data modeling classes. I did source control before VSS was even an abbreviation. I know at least five quotes from Donald by heart, and yes, I know whom a developer would mean if they just said Donald. And no, it isn’t Disney.
What that means is that when I develop something, I think about security, maintainability, about possible misuses, about preserving the code and code history, about how my solutions can be extended by ideas nobody has had yet, about making the data and systems efficient, not only from a human perspective, but from that of a computer, or even the system itself. I see a loop, and immediately I get a cold shiver, and then I think of three different ways to monitor the loop, and about every possible input parameter that may or may not affect the loop. I see states of machines, not state machines. When I know a user will affect my system, I put ten failsafe measures in place, just in case the user circumvents the first seven and I make an assumption in the next two and fuck everything up.
One thing I don’t do is wield blades. Or rather, I may, but that’s usually just to show off.
But, do you know what? I’m not in any way unique. This is what we, as developers, do. Or should do. That’s what we spent years of lost dating in our youth learning. When someone talks to me about “high school sweet hearts” I’m immediately thinking candy.
Does Laura Rogers Do All That?
Frankly, I still have no idea what Laura does or doesn’t do. She may or may not be the world’s greatest developer. This isn’t about her, it is about the attitude that by simply saying that you’re not a developer, that somehow removes the responsibility of making developer decisions, in every single choice.
Hey, we can do all this cool stuff with workflow, so now we can build (not develop) our own solutions and because we’re not developers, we can simply shrug our shoulders when someone asks how we’ve tested our solution, or how we’ve ensured that our code exists in a repository.
And this isn’t even about documentation, or governance, as Kerri pointed out in her article. It doesn’t matter if you write down the angles you used to cut someone open. If you have no idea how to cut, you see only what you think should be the result, with no understanding of the steps required to get there.
Most people who do development on SharePoint simply start cutting, thinking that as long as the result looks like they imagined, it must have been done right. However, doing development tasks does not make you a developer, any more than doing surgeon tasks makes you a surgeon.
So, here’s my advice.
- Own the “developer” badge with pride, but understand what it entails. If you can’t afford the years of formal training or decades of self-taught hacking, ask a developer to guide you, or at least sit down with them to understand how they think.
- Skip the “as long as I don’t write .NET code, I’m not a developer” attitude. If you develop, you are a developer. I’m a developer, even if all I do is makecab a ton of XML files into a WSP. That includes the full responsibility package.
- Understand that we (the developers) haven’t spent all the time we have learning this stuff, simply because we didn’t want to date during high school.
When tools become as easily available as they are in SharePoint, everyone can wield blades. It does not make them surgeons, but it does make them damn dangerous.
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