Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jeff Atwood Takes On Joel Spolsky

Jeff Atwood openly asks if Joel Spolsky "jumped the shark" because of implementing their his company's flagship product FogBugz in an in-house Basic-dialect called "Wasabi". Wasabi can then be compiled to VBScript or PHP, depending on customers' requirements.

Back when I read about this approach, it made me raise an eyebrow as well. I remember thinking, "boy I thought I'd like to work at Fog Creek, but having to code in such a proprietary language would be no-go". And I was wondering if that wouldn't contradict their frequently mentioned efforts of trying to attract great programmers. Actually, of the best programmers I know, nobody would ever voluntarily program in something like VB or VBScript, let go Wasabi.

But he then went on describing how this decision made sense from a business point (platform independence at a minimum of effort, no complete rewrite necessary), so I said OK, I might not like it from a developer's perspective, but from a business perspective it could make sense.

Now Jeff Atwood probably is a more censorious person than me. He decided to rip apart Joel's argumentation and connect the Wasabi-story with Joel's criticism of Ruby. He continued to make some pretty hefty statements like "fifty thousand programmers' heads simultaneously exploding", "absolutely beyond the pale" or "amplifies the insanity". I usually like Jeff's artwork, but attaching a big red WTF label on Joel's forehead is not really subtle either. And the flaming continued in the comment sections of both blogs.

My recommendation: Please settle down! From reading one or two paragraphs in some Joel on Software article, nobody possesses the same amount of information that Joel Spolsky was basing his decision on. Also, recognizing that what seems right from a developer's view must not always be right from a business standpoint is something that many programmers still have to get into their minds.

But hey, let's not hang on each of Joel Spolsky's words either. He certainly is an extraordinary programmer and writer, but he might be mistaken as well at times (a possibility he openly admits).