More on Mort and the future of languages

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02 July 2005

In a reply to a

previous entry on the Mort persona, Dan B makes this comment:

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I've written about this before, but I'll say it again - I think the dilemma VB faces is the dichotomy between being taken seriously as a modern OO language and the need to carry along the Morts. It's the challenge of balancing the need to distance itself from some of those VB6 carryovers with the need to keep those millions of high-school, hobbyist, etc. developers buying the product.

  My previous post wasn't really about VB as such, but more about the "Mort" persona. That persona exists and isn't going anywhere. There are a whole lot of Morts out there, and more entering the industry all the time. Most developers are professional business developers and thus most developers fit the Mort persona. That's just fact.   Whether this large group of people chooses to congregate around VB, C#, Java, Powerbuilder or some other tool doesn't matter in the slightest.   What does matter from a vendor's perspective (such as Microsoft) is that this is the single largest developer demographic, and so it makes a hell of a lot of sense to have a tool that caters to the pragmatic and practical focus of the Mort persona.   If this is VB that's awesome and I am happy. But if enough Morts move to C#, then C# will be forced to accommodate the priorities and requirements of the Mort persona. Microsoft has proven time and time again that they are very good at listening to their user base, and so whatever tool attracts the overwhelming population of Morts will ultimately conform to their desires.   Don’t believe me? Why does C# 2005 have edit-and-continue? Because so many Morts went from VB to C# and they voted very loudly and publicly to get e&c put into their new adopted language. I know a great many Elvis/Einstein people who think the whole e&c thing was a waste of time and money – but they’ve already lost control. And this is just the beginning.   In other words, for those Elvis and Einstein personas who evangelize C# my words are cautionary. You are outnumbered 5 to 1, and if Mort comes a-calling you will almost instantly lose control of C# and you'll probably feel like you need a new home.   The irony is that you’ll have brought this doom on yourselves by telling the vast majority of developers that the only way to get your respect is to use semi-colons, when the reality is that the only way to get your respect is a fundamental change in worldview from pragmatic and practical to elegant and engineered - and frankly that's just not going to happen.   Most people are in this industry only partially because of technology. They are driven by the desire to solve business problems and to help their organizations be better and stronger. It is a small subset that are primarily driven by the love of technology.   If this ratio is changing at all, it is changing away from technology. Tools like Biztalk and concepts like software factories and domain-specific languages are all about abstracting the technology to further enable people who are primarily driven by the business issues and the passion to solve them.   But I don’t see this as hopeless. As one of my fellow

RDs mentioned to me a few weeks ago, in Visual Studio 2005 C++ is finally a first-class .NET language. To paraphrase her view, Mort can have VB or C# or both, because the real geeks (the Elvis/Einstein types) can and will just go back to C++ and be happy. But the truly wise will geeks will use both where appropriate.