Getting Uncomfortable: Three Years in Retrospect

It's been years since I've written in this blog, yet I feel that many of the things herein have bared out to show what I was originally speaking of. Particularly with regards to my predictions of CoffeeScript. There are more options than ever for writing JavaScript with syntactic sugar: CoffeeScript, Dart, TypeScript... Pretty impressive for a dynamic language!

It can be a little scary jumping in to a new pool of knowledge, even if some of your old knowledge still applies. That's how I felt when I left behind Java, and dove in to the wide world of Ruby, and even more so later when I dove in to Node.

Minneapolis is not a "technologically innovative" part of the country. The majority of developers that live in this area are mired in technologies that are "safe" or "proven" rather than pushing the boundaries. Though I'm not sure Ruby counts as pushing the boundaries, considering that it has been around since 1994, and Rails has been under active development since 2004. Somehow that still qualifies as "new" technology in a lot of peoples eyes. I can only imagine what they would think of those writing applications in Node, which was first released in 2009! 

Somewhere along the line there was a shift in technology culture. I can't imagine anyone that was in technology during the 70s and 80s having the same thought process. They were chomping at the bit to push the boundaries of what can and should be done. We wouldn't be where we are today without those innovations. Sure, not everyone can be on the 'wave' of technology. There have to be many holding down the old tech, keeping it all under control. The change has become fairly clear. What's more, it's surprising how many greenfield projects end up choosing Java or .Net as their building blocks. Because it's what they have used for more than a decade.

With that as background, here is what I can tell you about living in the dynamic language world:
  1. Don't hesitate to use Ruby or Node for your next production application. If Github, New Relic, 37Signals, and Ravelry can scale Ruby, so can you. If Paypal and Walmart can scale Node, so can you.
  2. There is massive scalability with some of the new frameworks out there, without having to stand on your head while holding three blocks with your feet. Worry more about your problem domain, and choose tools that help you solve those problems swiftly. Speaking of which:
  3. Time has a cost. It's called opportunity. When you spend time writing an application 'the only way you know,' and that way takes a factor of 5 times longer to build the application, you need to find a new way. Give your idea life, don't let it flounder in a quagmire of "we've always done it this way".
  4. Embrace new ways of thinking. Every time I have adopted a new language, it has brought new thought patterns to light, which in turn makes my code better, and thus my end product stronger. 
Don't be skeptical of new technology, embrace it. Try it. Extend it. How do you think the Java and .Net platforms grew to be the size they are? Because people with their own visions were constantly hacking on them. That's the way they managed to mold the subculture. Maybe you don't like what Ruby brings to the table. That's understandable, but standing still is not. Try Python instead! Too mainstream? Sure! Try Node! The asynchrony will make your head spin. JavaScript not your thing? Okay, but I think you're just making excuses now: Try one of these powerful languages: Elixir, Erlang, Go, or Rust! It's an exciting time for developers. There are so many new ways to build massively scalable applications. Take up the challenge! Don't eschew the new for the old. Get out of your comfort zone. See what's out there. 

You will be better off for it. Even if you never deploy a production app with it.

Stay tuned for my next post: How Java and Ruby made me a better Node developer.

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