Perth Ignores Concurrency

Last Thursday the Perth .NET Community of Practice was privileged to have Joel Pobar deliver a double session on concurrent programming and the new Dynamic Language Runtime. For anyone who has used concurrency in an application they will appreciate the added level of complexity it can add. Through a detailed discussion of the evolution of hardware and the way that Intel (and others) “screwed” us, Joel presented a number of best practice techniques that can be used to reduce the issues associated with concurrency.

In the second session Joel got down to talking about what is clearly a passion for him, dynamic languages and the future of the dlr/clr. Whilst I really love the discussion of the future of programming languages I must confess that for building your standard enterprise application I do struggle to see the business value of the new dynamic languages. Of course when you are looking at massively parallel problems and systems that are constantly in a level of flux, dynamic languages clearly have the advantage as the system can continue to evolve.

People are going to tout the success of Ruby and that of course dynamic languages are the way forward for building rich web applications. However I think what is significant from looking at Ruby is the Rails framework, rather than the dynamic language capabilities of Ruby as such. If you look at project Jasper, how much of this is reliant on the dlr – atm none afaik?. Of course, this is only in its infancy but does go to illustrate that it is not necessarily the language that is delivering the benefits, rather the toolset and framework.

This discussion comes back to my criticism of some WPF advocates that claim only developers who read and write XAML are real WPF developers. Well sorry to point this out but the Age of User Experience doesn’t say anything about reading or writing xml (in any shape or form). Surely we should be talking about how best to abstracting the pain associated with working at that level and building an IDE that can do ALL the heavy lifting for you. This includes getting data binding working properly!!!

Ok, back to the focus of this post – I want to sincerely thank Joel for taking the time to come out to Perth and deliver a fantastic session.  With a bit of luck he also had a great weekend down-south and will be back this side of the country again soon.

Unfortunately I must admit I was a little disappointed with the numbers.  We were just short of 40 people and whilst this is more than we usually get for our monthly user group sessions, it is significantly short of what I would have hoped for from this event.  I think we need to question why people didn’t attend?  From my point of view the user group did more than their fair share of organizing and promoting the event – and it was evident that most of the regulars appreciated the event. 

I’m always amazed that the local Microsoft branch doesn’t seem to think the user group is important.  In the last year I don’t think we have had a single Microsoft person attend any of the sessions (other than if they were invited to present) – how’s that for supporting a technology?  I understand that everyone is busy – but try having a full time job AND organising the user group (kudos to Alastair and Mitch who are running the group at the moment).  Following on from this, if the local branch don’t think the user group is important then why do we waste our time, since clearly developers are going to look to Microsoft for support and if they don’t point out the user group or recommend the user group then they aren’t likely to attend. 

Further, we have been trying for a number of years to point out that companies should be promoting the user group internally as one of the best forms of professional development.  For the cost of 1 or 2 developer hours a month a company can support the PD of their staff, which is likely to be better value for money than having to organise training for their staff. Given the current shortage of .NET developers in the market I would have thought companies would go out of the way to encourage their staff to continue to grow and give them the flexibility to attend user group meetings.

In summary – everyone enjoyed Joel’s session (and the community dinner afterwards at Nine Mary’s) but I was disappointed with the attendance.  I think more needs to be done to support the user group by the local Microsoft office and that companies need to start placing a value on the professional development of their staff.

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