One of the wonders of the web is RSS, its one of those things where people used to say "how do you keep up to date" and the answer was I use a large amount of RSS feeds, but unfortunately they don't have the sophistication of Emacs' newsreader. Well today I saw that brilliant old IT challenge of "If I can do it in less characters, then it must be more effective" now there are only two problems with this argument, firstly its bollocks, and secondly its... bollocks. Now I know that strictly speaking this is only one problem, but its such a big one I thought I'd point it out twice (name that TV programme?).
I came across this challenge in two guises, the first "impressed me" that a library call in Ruby could do lots of things and the second went for the traditional Java sucks angle against scripting languages.
Now these would be wonderfully astute calls if they hadn't been made every year since I entered IT. The only problem is that the ability of the people arguing has gone massively down. When I first got into IT it was the LISP people arguing that they could do anything in less characters than anyone else, and they were right. This was because they used a functional programming language and really understood IT. They never ever thought that a scripting language was the best way, and indeed nobody did because a strongly typed and formal language had much better performance and that meant performance in project teams which is what is important after all.
IT suffers from a massive dumbing down, people make arguments based on out right stupidity, a stupidity based on little or no understanding of the principles of computer science. The complexity of IT is ever increasing but the average intelligence is plunging. Things that were plain dumb 10 years ago are now being promoted as "best practice", not because they have become good ideas but because there is a volume (as in barrel) of people who think that their mickey mouse experience is all that anyone ever needs to know.
This is one of the most depressing things about IT. When the LISP boys used to show off at least you could stare in wonder at what they'd done. Having a library that does time conversion isn't exactly the most impressive thing I've seen, its not even the most impressive thing I've see my dogs do today, and the "I can write code really quick in this scripting language" is a great lesson in the "I don't have a clue about TCO" problem that IT has always suffered from. Just for once it would be nice to see people shout out about "I used this and 5 years later people were still able to make changes" or "I wrote this code and the developer sitting next to me understood it".
Maintenance is the hardest part of IT, writing code that survives for 5, 10 or even 20 years should be an achievement, not writing something 20 seconds quicker than the bloke sitting next to you. It would be nice to see people laud languages because of the features they have that make support easier, facilities that make monitoring easier or just pieces that make deployment easier. There is something seriously wrong in IT when every new generation comes along and makes exactly the same mistakes that the muppets of the previous generation made, but worse than that where previously the muppets were small in number they now appear to be pretty much the majority of IT.
This is a major challenge for IT, and in particular the current challenges of SOA and participation based systems. Sure someone can knock up a glorified FTP site with a GUI (YouTube anyone?) but what about doing real, active, participation and creating real business value on existing systems?
As long as IT is dominated by people whose perspective is I can code in this quicker, like really cool dude then it will continue to be perceived as a profession dominated by an obsession of itself rather than an obsession with improving what it does.