Bring back alt.NET? But… why?
Dylan Beattie
195

Why does it need to be alt .net? Why can’t it be something that you create with your bare hands; carved out of the hard, cold stone of adversity and opposition to such a movement’s very existence.

We weren’t handed alt .net. We weren’t building on something that existed previously that had just been left laying around waiting for a new inhabitant.

We saw a need. We felt an oppressive response to addressing that need. We rebelled. And we changed Microsoft.

It took years. It didn’t start in 2007. It culminated in 2007 with a catchy slogan. It started in 2003. You ready for the long game with no particular guarentee of a glorious culmination like alt .net’s?

We didn’t create alt .net spontaneously. We built it painstakingly out of endless, tiresome battles, standing up to Microsoft with every half-assed clone of one of our open source products that they ripped off, and with every disparagement of developer processes that we were the champions and pioneers of.

And even after 2007 when Scott G. came to Austin and launched ASP MVC at the summit I organized, we still faced opposition. And after a while alt .net was successfully subverted — both from within and from without. But mostly from within.

So, even if you start something new rather than try to hitch a ride the alt .net funeral jacket coat tails, how are you going to defend it from the influences that would rather see it fail or would rather explot it for personal advantage rather than the advantage of all? How far are you prepared to go if you realize that even people that you’d trusted are in fact working toward this thing’s perversion into a vehicle for their own elitism?

Before you create something, figure out first how to make it immune to Microsoft’s tireless ability to infect and corrupt that something. Otherwise, you’ll just be creating the means of its own destruction, and a vehicle for yet more of Microsoft’s unchecked plausible deniability and outright deception.

There’s a better answer: Get off .NET. It’s not a fight you can win unless you’ve got the stones to be as vicious and duplicitous as Microsoft.

Most geeks are too naive and too gullible for this kind of protracted campaign. Make sure this is what you want before you invite it onto yourself.

And make sure that you’ve got an contingency plan and an exit strategy. You may find that you’re being sabotaged by your closest and most trusted colleagues. Geeks don’t have the internal fortitude to resist the temptations of offers of a raised profile from a vendor with near-infinite resources.

Before you invest yourself in anything like alt .net, understand that alt .net failed because man-boy geeks couldn’t resist becoming the status-climbing icons keeping things from moving forward that we had fought against to begin with.

You might be able to create something out of the current conditions, but realize that the current conditions are worse than they were in 2007- despite the mere appearances of Microsoft’s begrudged nods to open source and diversity.

Microsoft is only involved because they know that that’s the best way to remain in control. You’d better have some serious intestinal and spinal strength if you’re going to keep a buffer between Microsoft and this new thing, and to lead a community to see the critical need to do so (especially a community that doesn’t have the sociological or political background to see the need from a place on the timeline long before it’s necessary to take action).

Containment and control. That’s Microsoft’s game. And their first target is going to be the members of the movement that they realize are susceptible to the kind of pandering that creates the kind of talking heads who are willing to help keep things just the way they are without any forward movement that is not controlled from Redmond.

The alt .net story has been romanticized to the point of almost complete distortion of its history. These are not the droids you’re looking for.

Don’t create yet another vehicle that Microsoft will subvert to its own purposes. You’ll just be making things worse.

It’s over. It was tried. It was proven that a community of geeks could not sustain a viable resistance movement without being tempted by the juicy, juicy rewards of complicity. Unless you’ve got some new magic that can make geeks collectively take a giant leap in social and political maturity, forget about it.

However, if you do have a group of people with implacable integrity and singular vision, then go for it! I sure as hell wouldn’t. Not in the Microsoft space, anyway. I know too much about how that works and how far from recoverable it is (despite the few trinket acknowledgements they meter out to open source dreamers).

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