Today Tim Bray asks how many people are really members of the a club that’s hard to succinctly describe:
In March, I gave a keynote at Web Design World in San Francisco. Frankly, it did not go that well; in particular, the crowd didn’t laugh at my jokes. Here’s one of them, more or less: “Being a Web Guy at Sun is a little intimidating. At high level strategy meetings the Chip Guys talk about what they’ll be shipping in 2009, and both the OS Guys and Java Guys talk about things a year or two out. As for us Web Guys, well… three weeks ago, I didn’t know that Twitter would become the Hot New Thing.”
It became apparent that most of them hadn’t heard of Twitter. The same joke (I’m a slow learner) fell flat at a meeting of University IT and Computer Science people a week later in Calgary. So let’s take this as evidence of the insularity and smallness—and, perhaps, unimportance—of the Internet In-crowd.
Jon Udell weighs in with the following:
What’s more, I believe this tribe is, over time, growing farther away from the rest of the world. That’s happening for an interesting and important reason, which is that the tools we are building and using are accelerating our ability to build and use more of these tools. It’s a virtuous cycle in that sense, and it’s the prototype for methods of Net-enabled collaboration that can apply to everyone.
But for the most part, we’re not crossing the chasm with this stuff. I’ve thought, written, and spoken a lot about this issue lately. It’s why I’m reaching out to public radio, why I’ve been speaking at conferences other than the ones frequented by my geek tribe, and why I am working for a company whose products reach hundreds of millions of people.
I’ve often thought about this. Let’s say you’re a software developer who reads weblogs that pertain to your profession, and tries to keep up with the latest advances in platforms, techniques, and so forth. That alone puts you in a very small minority of the overall community of developers, to say nothing of the public at large. I am consistently stunned when I talk to Java developers who don’t know anything about ORM frameworks, the MVC pattern, refactoring, or test driven development. And yet the truth is that they make up the vast majority of our profession.
In my world, Ruby on Rails is this huge thing that everybody has been talking about for the past couple of years. In the wider world of software development, it’s barely a blip on the radar. There are probably ten times more people using Fortran or Cobol at work than there are using Ruby.
It kind of stuns me that there are so many people out there who do essentially the same work I do and yet are completely unaware of the tools and resources that I think are necessary to stay up to speed.
I’ll say that I agree with Tim that the club is small, but not that it’s unimportant. People in this club are defining the future of information technology, and the rest of the club is evangelizing that future, mostly by accident. And I agree with Jon that we could be doing a better job.