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The Six P’s

25 Jun 2009 – Atlanta

So, I kind of wailed on the Stack Overflow guys, Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky the other day via this tweet. My ad hominem attack was a mistake, and I know better. So I wanted to give my thoughts in this post.

I was listening to the Stack Overflow podcast #59, not because I do so regularly, but because they interviewed Damien Katz of CouchDB fame. In my current line of work, I have a high level of interest in all things CouchDB. So I gave a listen. A few minutes into the podcast it was apparent to me that Joel had rolled into the appointment with the bare minimum of bases covered. He had at least read the name of the interviewee, and that he worked on CouchDB and wrote it in Erlang. Maybe this is his interview style, to ask very naive questions and allow the speaker to give the answer as background, etc, but to me it smacked of utter unpreparedness. What is Erlang, why use this weird Erlang language? A cursory search of the interwebs would have yielded this gem. Anyone reading any random portion of the tech web would have known Erlang is great for concurrency and using all those cores we now have, let alone the fault tolerance and distributed / clustering abilities. You’d have to be under a rock not to know. Some people have likened Erlang to Ruby about 5 years ago, on its way to some serious traction. Tim Bray even threw a shout to this venerable language. And both interviewers seemed to barely be able to spell it. I guess I have to give credit to Jeff for at least having seen Damien’s RubyFringe talk and asking questions about that. I saw the same talk at Erlang Factory this year, and it is indeed excellent and inspirational. But there are other ways Jeff earns my ire.

Maybe it’s unreasonable of me to expect people to have heard of Erlang. But if you know in advance that you’re going to talk to someone who is having success, and is using a certain toolstack, don’t just mail it in. Do your homework.

Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

That was my main beef with this podcast. I guess there’s some latent frustration with Jeff and Joel having a wide audience and putting some rather scary blog posts out there for young developers to see and take for gospel. I have long-ago stopped following either of them in RSS or other means. But this podcast had Damien and CouchDB, so I gave it a whirl. These guys seem to be right where I left them. Do your homework, dudes.

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