Many responses to Kathleen Dollard’s op-ed piece on Occupational (aka Hobbyist) programmers

I was talking with Kathleen Dollard about the response to her op-ed piece (”Save the Hobbyist Programmer”) in a recent issue of Visual Studio Mag. I said, hey, let’s google it to see who else has been commenting on it.

Basically Kathleen’s piece is talking about the difficulty of keeping up with the learning curve and using the effect of this on the occupational/hobbyist programmer as a good warning system.

The article set off a lot of fires, some were in direct response to her point, and others were opinions of the hobbyist programmer. Many of these posts elicited a lot of comments as well. I think Kathleen has started a very important conversation on a number of fronts.

JuJuBlog : “I am not a Script Kiddie but i believe that it is important to give people an accessible path to programming. Kathleen Dollard writes an article which i am sympathetic to…”

Michael Flanakin “OPs [occupational programmers] are trying to develop software and aren’t able to keep up and/or comprehend key topics (i.e. OOP). There are tons of jobs in the IT industry, and OPs have a place, but it’s not in front of a development environment…”

Rory Blyth (Neopopleon) “Before things get too out of hand, I want to be absolutely clear: I am not saying that Microsoft should “ditch” hobbyist coders or anything of the sort. I’m saying that MS should not cater to them at the expense of creating better dev tools for professionals. I am not arguing against hobbyist coders, nor am I saying they should be wiped out of existence.]…“  (lots of discussion on this one – over 100 comments I have heard – did not count them, myself)

Alembic: “Now, it may well be that the imminent demise of the hobbyist programmer is a good thing, now that programming has all grown up, like physics, or chemistry…. Dollard doesn’t see it that way: whither goes the canary to wither, well, that’s where the professional programmer, too, will find herself gasping of air, barely keeping up…”  (This is a very thoughtfully written post. She gets what Kathleen is saying and also brings Shelley Powers into the mix: “There is something in Dollard’s plea for a change of strategy that reminds me of Shelley Powersrecent posts on the solution f a centralized TypeKey for handling comment management on the up-coming version of Movable Type.” Knowing and admiring both Kathleen and Shelley, it is perfect for the two of them to be compared! I think an introduction is in order.)

Coolbits (Avonelle Lovhaug) : “One of the purported improvements in the next version of ASP.NET is they are trying to decrease the amount of code that must be written in order to perform common functions. If that’s true, perhaps Whidbey will address some of Kathleen’s concerns….”

Mike Schinkel (Xtras.Net) “Microsoft’s responsibility is not only to professional programmers but also to hobbyist programmers, and all programmers in between. Anything less, as a modern publicly-held corporation in a capitalist society, would be a dereliction of their duties to their shareholders to whom they have ultimate fiduciary responsibilty.” (Mike’s essay is long and is more in response to Rory’s post and the resulting discussion)

Jim Fawcette in a comment to the above post: “One reason VB 1,2 3 were so successful was that they enabled people who understood business problems to tackle their solution: It was easier to teach them programming, than to teach C++ programmers business. Microsoft risks losing something if it leaves the majority of its base behind in its pursuit of IBM and the data center”

Paul Vick (VB Team at Microsoft) ”So, in much the same way that small businesses serve a vital function in keeping the economy going so that large corporations can thrive, hobbyists play a vital role in sustaining the ecosystem that supports the professional programmers. Even if the professional programmers don’t always appreciate that…”

There was also some more spin off from Rory’s post:

Joe Bork  “Why Hobbyist Programmers Matter

Dave Sussman (prolific .net author) Microsoft Tools and Hobbyists

Scott Koon (LazyCoder) Should the Hobbyist Programmer Matter to Microsoft?

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