Changing a big organizations is a slow endeavor. But when people are passionate and persistent, change does happen.
Three years ago, the ASP.NET MVC source code was released under an open source license. But at the time, the team could not accept any code contributions. In my blog post talking about that release, I said the following (emphasis added):
Personally (and this is totally my own opinion), I’d like to reach the point where we could accept patches. There are many hurdles in the way, but if you went back in time several years and told people that Microsoft would release several open source projects (Ajax Control Toolkit, MEF, DLR, IronPython and IronRuby, etc….) you’d have been laughed back to the present. Perhaps if we could travel to the future a few years, we’ll see a completely different landscape from today.
Well my friends, we have travelled to the future! Albeit slowly, one day at a time.
As everyone and their mother knows by now, yesterday Scott Guthrie announced that the entire ASP.NET MVC stack is being released under an open source license (Apache v2) and will be developed under an open and collaborative model:
- ASP.NET MVC 4
- ASP.NET Web API
- ASP.NET Web Pages with Razor Syntax
Note that ASP.NET MVC and Web API have been open source for a long time now. The change that Scott announced is that ASP.NET Web Pages and Razor, which until now was not open source, will also be released under an open source license.
Additionally, the entire stack of products will be developed in the open in a Git repository in CodePlex and the team will accept external contributions. This is indeed exciting news!
It’s easy to underestimate the hard work that the ASP.NET MVC team and Web API team did to pull this off. In the middle of an aggressive schedule, they had to completely re-work their build systems, workflow, etc… to move to a new source control system and host. Not to mention integrate two different teams and products together into a single team and product. It’s a real testament to the quality people that work on this stack that this happened so quickly!
I also want to take a moment and credit the lawyers, who are often vilified, for their work in making this happen.
One of my favorite bits of wisdom Scott Guthrie taught me is that the lawyers’ job is to protect the company and reduce risk. If lawyers had their way, we wouldn’t do anything because that’s the safest choice.
But it turns out that the biggest threat to a company’s long term well-being is doing nothing. Or being paralyzed by fear. And fortunately, there are some lawyers at Microsoft who get that. And rather than looking for reasons to say NO, they looked for reasons to say YES! And looked for ways to convince their colleagues.
I spent a lot of time with these lawyers poring over tons of legal documents and such. Learning more about copyright and patent law than I ever wanted to. But united with a goal of making this happen.
These are the type of lawyers you want to work with.
For those of you new to open source, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean open season on contributing to the project. Your chances of having a contribution accepted are only slightly better than before.
Like any good open source project, I expect submissions to be reviewed carefully. To increase the odds of your pull request being accepted, don’t submit unsolicited requests. Read the contributor guidelines (I was happy to see their similarity to the NuGet guidelines) first and start a discussion about the feature. It’s not that an unsolicited pull request won’t ever be accepted, but the more that you’re communicating with the team, the more likely it will be.
Although their guidelines don’t state this, I highly recommend you do your work in a feature branch. That way it’s very easy to pull upstream changes into your local master branch without disturbing your feature work.
Many kudos to the ASP.NET team for this great step forward, as well as to the CodePlex team for adding Git support. I think Git has a bright future for .NET and Windows developers.
Disclaimer: these opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent the opinion of any person or institution who are not me.
The topic of sexism in the software industry has flared up recently. This post by Katie Cunningham (aka The Real Katie), entitled Lighten Up, caught my attention. As a father of a delightful little girl, I hope someday my daughter feels welcomed as a developer should she choose that profession.
In general, I try to avoid discussions of politics, religion, and racism/sexism on my blog not because I don’t have strong feelings about these things, but I doubt I will change anyone’s mind.
If you don’t think there’s an institutionalized subtle sexism problem in our industry, I probably won’t change your mind.
So I won’t try.
Instead, I want to attempt an empirical look at some problems that probably do affect you today that just happen to be related to sexism. Maybe you’ll want to do something about it.
But first, some facts.
Whether we agree on the existence of institutional sexism in our industry, I think we can all agree that our industry is overwhelmingly male.
It wasn’t always like this. Ada Lovelace is widely credited as the world’s first programmer. So there was at least a brief time in the 1840s when 100% of developers were women. As late as the 1960s, computing was seen as women’s work, emphasis mine:
“You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so it’s ready when you need it. Programming requires patience and the ability to handle detail. Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.”
The same site where I found that quote has a link to this great Life Magazine archive photo of IBM computer operators.
But the percentage of women declined steadily from that point. According to this Girls Go Geek post, in 1987, 42% of software developers were women. But then:
From 1984 to 2006, the number of women majoring in computer science dropped from 37% to 20% — just as the percentages of women were increasing steadily in all other fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, with the possible exception of physics.
The post goes on to state that the number of CS grads at Harvard is on the increase, but overall numbers are still low.
So why is there this decline? That’s not an easy question to answer, but I think we can rule out the idea that women are somehow inherently not suited for software development. History proves that idea wrong.
Ok fine, there’s less women in software for whatever reasons. Maybe they don’t want to be developers. Hard for me to believe as I think it’s the best goddamn profession ever. But let’s humor that argument just for a moment. Suppose that was true. Why is it a problem for our industry? I’ll name two reasons.
The OSS Contributor Problem
If you’re involved in an open source project, you’ve probably noticed that it’s really hard to find good contributors. So many projects are solitary labors of love. Well it turns out according this post, Sexism: Open Source Software's Dirty Little Secret:
Asked to guess what percentage of FOSS developers are women, mostly people guess a number between 30-45%. A few, either more observant or anticipating a trick question after hearing the proprietary figure, guess 12-16%. The exact figure, though, is even lower: 1.5%
In other words, women's participation in FOSS development is over seventeen times lower than it is in proprietary software development.
HWHAT!? That is insane!
From a purely selfish standpoint, that’s a lot of potential developers who could be contributing to your project. Even if you don’t believe there’s rampant institutionalized sexism, why wouldn’t you want to remove barriers and create an environment that makes more contributors feel welcome to your project?
Oh, and just making your logo pink isn’t the way to go about it. Not that I have anything against pink, but simple stereotypical approaches won’t cut it. Really listen to the concerns of folks like Katie and try and address them.
I don’t mean to suggest you will get legions of female contributors overnight. This is a very complex problem and I have no clue how to fix it. I’m probably just as guilty as I can’t name a single female contributor to any of my projects, though I’ve tried my best to cajole some to contribute (you know who you are!). But a good first step is to remove ignorance and indifference to the topic.
The Employment Problem
We all know how hard it is to find good developers. In fact, while the recession saw high overall unemployment, that time was marked by a labor shortage of developers. So it comes as a surprise to me that employers tolerate a work environment that makes a large percentage of the potential workforce feel unwelcome.
According to this New York Times article written in 2010,
The share of women in the Silicon Valley-based work force was 33 percent, dropping down from 37 percent in 1999.
Note that it’s not just a gender issue.
It’s an issue I’ve covered over the years, so I was interested to see that while the collective work force of those 10 companies grew by 16 percent between 1999 and 2005, the proportion of Hispanic workers declined by 11 percent, to about 2,200; they now make up about 7 percent of the total work force. Black workers declined to 2 percent of the work force, down from 3 percent.
Again, my point here isn’t to say “You should be ashamed of yourself for being sexist and racist!” Though if you are, you should be.
No, the point here is shift your perspective and look at the reality of the current situation we’re in, despite the reasons why it is the way it is. For whatever reasons, there’s a lot of people who might be great developers, but feel that our industry doesn’t welcome them. That’s a problem! And an opportunity!
It’s an opportunity to improve our industry! If we make the software industry a place where women and minorities want to work, we’ve increased the available pool of software developers. That not only means more quality developers to hire, it also means more diverse perspectives, which is important to creative thought and benefits the bottom line:
So a sociologist called Cedric Herring has just completed a very interesting study that obtained data from 250 representative companies in the United States that looked at both their diversity levels as well as various measures of business performance there. And he finds that with every successive level of increased diversity, companies actually appear to do better on all those measures of business performance.
That’s a pretty compelling argument.
So, what are brogrammers afraid of?
For the uninitiated, the term “brogrammer” is a recent term that describes a new breed of frat boy software developers that are representative of those who don’t see the need to attract more women and minorities to our industry.
Given the benefits we enjoy when we attract a more diverse workforce into software development, why is the attitude that we shouldn’t do anything to increase the numbers of women and minorities in our industry still prevalent?
It’s not an easy question to answer, but I did have one idea that came to mind I wanted to bounce off of you. Suppose we were successful at attracting women and minorities in numbers proportional to the make-up of the country. That would increase the pool of available developers. Would that also lower overall salaries? Supply and demand, after all.
I can see how that belief that might lead to fear and the attitude that we’re fine as it is, we don’t need more of you.
But at the same time, when you consider the talent shortage, I don’t believe this for one second. At this point, I don’t have any studies to point to, but I would welcome any links to evidence you can provide. But my intuition tells me that what would happen is it would simply decrease our talent shortage, but a shortage would still remain.
What would happen is we’d see the shakeout of bad programmers from the ranks.
Let’s face it, because of the talent shortage, there’s a lot of folks who are programmers who probably shouldn’t be. But for the majority of developers, I don’t think we have anything to fear. We should welcome the influx of new ideas and the overall improvement of our industry that more developers (and thus more better developers) bring. A rising tide lifts all boats as they say.
Now, I’m not sure this is the real reason these attitudes prevail. It sure seems awful calculating. I’m inclined to think it’s simple cluelessness. But it’s possible this is a subconscious factor.
Or perhaps it’s the fear that the influx of people from diverse backgrounds will require that they grow up, leave the trappings of their college behind, and become adults who know how to relate to people different than them.
I know this is a touchy subject. I want to make one thing very clear. My focus in this post was on arguments that don’t require one to believe there’s rampant sexism in the software industry. The arguments were mostly self-interest arguments in favor of changing the status quo.
I don’t claim there isn’t sexism. I believe there is. You can find lots of arguments that make a compelling case that institutionalized sexism exists and that it’s wrong. The point of this post is to provide food for thought for those who don’t believe there’s sexism. If we change the status quo, I believe attitudes will follow. They tend to follow one another with each leading the other at times.
In the end, it’s a complex problem and I certainly don’t claim to have the answers on solving it. But I think a good start is leaving behind the fear, acknowledging the issue, recognizing the opportunity to improve, and embracing the concrete benefits that diversification bring.
What do you think?
I recently gave my first talk on Git and GitHub to the Dot Net Startup Group about Git and GitHub. I was a little nervous about how I would present Git. At its core, Git is based on a simple structure, but that simplicity is easily lost when you start digging into the myriad of confusing command switches.
I wanted a visual aid that showed off the structure of a git repository in real time while I issued commands against the repository. So I hacked one together in a couple afternoons. SeeGit is an open source instructive visual aid for teaching people about git. Point it to a directory and start issuing git commands, and it automatically updates itself with a nice graph of the git repository.
During my talk, I docked SeeGit to the right and my Console2 prompt to the left so they were side by side. As I issued git commands, the graph came alive and illustrated changes to my repository. It updates itself when new commits occur, when you switch branches, and when you merge commits.
It doesn’t handle rebases well yet due to a bug, but I’m hoping to add that as well as a lot of other useful features that make it clear what’s going on.
Part of the reason I was able to write a useful, albeit buggy, tool so quickly was due to the fantastic packages available on NuGet such as LibGit2Sharp, GraphSharp, and QuickGraph among others. Installing those got me up and running in no time.
I hope to add a nice visual illustration of a rebase soon as well as the ability to toggle the display of unreachable commits. I hope to use this in many future talks as a nice way of teaching git. Who knows, it might become useful in its own right as a tool for developers using Git on real repositories.
But it’s not quite there yet. If you would like to contribute, I would love to have some help. And let me know if you make use of this!
If you want to try it out and don’t want to deal with downloading the source and compiling it, I put together a zip package with the application. I’ve only tested it on Windows 7 so it might break if you run on XP.
Conway’s Law states,
...organizations which design systems ... are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.
Up until recently, there was probably no better demonstration of this law than the fact that Microsoft had two ways of shipping angle brackets (and curly braces for that matter) over HTTP – ASP.NET MVC and WCF Web API.
The reorganization of these two teams under Scott Guthrie (aka “The GU” which I’m contractually bound to tack on) led to an intense effort to consolidate these technologies in a coherent manner. It’s an effort that’s lead to what we see in the recently released ASP.NET MVC 4 Beta which includes ASP.NET Web API.
For this reason, this is an exciting release of ASP.NET MVC 4 as I can tell you, it was not a small effort to get these two teams with different philosophies and ideas to come together and start to share a single vision. And this vision may take more than one version to realize fully, but ASP.NET MVC 4 Beta is a great start!
For me personally, this is also exciting as this is the last release I had any part in and it’s great to see the effort everyone put in come to light. So many congrats to the team for this release!
Some Small Things
If you take a look at Jon Galloway’s on ASP.NET MVC 4, he points to a lot of resources and descriptions of the BIG features in this release. I highly recommend reading that post.
I wanted to take a different approach and highlight some of the small touches that might get missed in the glare of the big features.
Custom IActionInvoker Injection
I’ve written several posts that add interesting cross cutting behavior when calling actions via the
Ironically, the first two posts are made mostly irrelevant now that ASP.NET MVC 4 includes ASP.NET Web API.
However, the concept is still interesting. Prior to ASP.NET MVC 4, the only way to switch out the action invoker was to write a custom controller factory. In ASP.NET MVC 4, you can now simply inject an
IActionInvoker using the dependency resolver.
The same thing applies to the
ITempDataProvider interface. There’s almost no need to write a custom
IControllerFactory any longer. It’s a minor thing, but it was a friction that’s now been buffed out for those who like to get their hands dirty and extend ASP.NET MVC in deep ways.
I’ve been a big fan of using the Ninject.Mvc3 package to inject dependencies into my ASP.NET MVC controllers.
However, your Ninject bindings do not apply to
ApiController instances. For example, suppose you have the following binding in the NinjectMVC3.cs file that the Ninject.MVC3 package adds to your project’s App_Start folder.
private static void RegisterServices(IKernel kernel)
Now create an
ApiController that accepts an
ISomeService in its constructor.
public class MyApiController : ApiController
public MyApiController(ISomeService service)
// Other code...
That’s not going to work out of the box. You need to configure a dependency resolver for Web API via a call to
However, you can’t pass in the instance of the ASP.NET MVC dependency resolver, because their interfaces are different types, even though the methods on the interfaces look exactly the same.
This is why I wrote a small adapter class and convenient extension method. Took me all of five minutes.
In the case of the Ninject.MVC3 package, I added the following line to the
public static void Start()
// ...Pre-existing lines of code...
With that in place, the registrations work for both regular controllers and API controllers.
I’ve been pretty busy with my new job to dig into ASP.NET MVC 4, but at some point I plan to spend more time with it. I figure we may eventually upgrade NuGet.org to run on MVC 4 which will allow me to get my hands really dirty with it.
Have you tried it out yet? What hidden gems have you found?
Recently I’ve been tweeting photos of my kids playing with a new toy my wife bought them that
I’mthey are totally enthralled with. It’s called the Bildopolis Big Bilder Kit.
This is a creation of a family friend of ours who used to be an industrial designer at IDEO. He left a while ago to start on his own thing and came up with this. We bought a set immediately in part to to support his efforts, but also because it looked cool. We were not disappointed. This thing is fun.
The concept is really simple. It’s a set of cardboard squares, triangles, and rectangles that have “female” velcro semicircles attached. Those are the white parts in the photos. The kit also comes with a bag of colorful “male” velcro “dots”.
Apply the dots to attach the cardboard pieces together to make all sorts of interesting structures for your kids to play in. If your kids are older, they’ll probably want to build their own structures.
I want to make it clear that I don’t get any kickbacks or anything and we paid full price for our set. I’m just pimping this out because I had so much fun building stuff with it and my kids really love it. Maybe yours will too.
In one evening, we built about four different structures. They’re quick and flexible to build.
There are a few downsides though. The Haackerdome below is probably going to be a permanent fixture in our living room, which takes up a bit of space. Also, these structures are meant for playing inside of, not on top of. They wouldn’t be sturdy enough to support the weight of kids climbing on top of them.
In any case, if you want to learn more, check out the Bildopolis website. They have a video showing off the kit. There’s also a gallery where folks have sent in photos of what they’ve built. That’s where I got the idea for the dome. The kit sells for $80 not including shipping.