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Framework Tales

Framework Tales

Once upon a time, on a project not too far away, a bright young software architect had a thought. "Why, things are getting a bit complex here," he said. "Perhaps I can make things easier by developing a common framework that can take care of a lot of the drudgery involved in developing software." So this architect got to work right away to develop the framework, perhaps gathering requirements here and there and dipping into the standard pile of available software patterns for appropriate design ideas. Over time the framework came into being, and the architect considered it to be good. And in fact it was good. From a design perspective, this young architect had thought of things no one else had thought of before, and would proudly describe its inner workings to anyone who had the time to listen.

Not only was our architect good at designing, he was a pretty good programmer as well. It was not long before a prototype library was available based on his beautifully designed framework. "Now, if only everyone would use my framework, life would be a whole lot easier around here for everyone," the architect thought. So, not wanting to keep his creation to himself, our young architect placed his creation in a public place, and cobbled together documentation, an explanation of how great his creation was, and how you would use it on your own project.

Over time, our young architect became busier and busier, and had less time (if any) to make modifications and improvements to his creation, but was still optimistic about its potential. However there was a problem. Even though there was some interest in his framework, people weren't ready to incorporate it into their application. "It's too complex," some would say, after reading through its technical architecture and not really trusting that it could do all that it claims. "I'm looking for something simpler." Others looked at it, and unwilling to change, went and developed their application using traditional approaches. Still others looked at it, and not wanting to trust their project to outside developers, walked away - only to develop their own version of the framework.

As word spread about the existence of the framework, so too did various opinions develop that were shared among developers. "Why, I heard it was difficult to use," was one such discussion overheard by the jammed LaserJet printer. "Why, I understand that it has poor performance characteristics," was the conversation overheard at the coffee machine. In fact, these people had never really looked at the framework at all, but were just repeating what they heard from others.

Disheartened, our young architect was ready to move on to other things, and left his creation for others to worry about. Those who did use the framework quickly discovered that there was no support available for the library, and were forced into maintaining the code themselves. Furthermore, it wasn't long before there were several versions of the framework, all with their own extensions.

I tell this story because I've seen the plot develop in real life too many times, both in large and small scale initiatives. Often, the greatest challenge in our industry is not technical at all, but revolves around human psychology and getting everyone on board with a particular new idea. Perhaps this is why certain new endeavors, including new state of the art software development products, do not succeed as well as they technically should have - and eventually end up in the hands of the open source community.

More Stories By Joe Mitchko

Joe Mitchko is the editor-in-chief of WLDJ and a senior technical specialist for a leading consulting services company.

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