Respect to the AlphaGeeks

Common + Technical

In the early 90s when I started my carreer as an IT professionnal, there was in France this very popular stand-up comedy trio called Les Inconnus (the Unknown – wish they actually were). They had this rather stupid story about software engineers (in-gé-nieur in-for-ma-ti-cieeeeen) which had the whole country laughing. People was laughing with this story because :

  • IT job is very common and technical, both adjectives being abuse in France
  • the IT professional character was depicted as an autistic guy looking clumsy and uncomfortable about everywhere but in front of a PC : uncool as hell.

I dont take any particular pride in being an IT professional. More than often I love my job. It allowed me to find interesting missions in other countries, to meet lovely people and great professionals and, not to forget : it does pay the bills. Sure, I would have preferred to be a footballer, a rock star or a novelist, but hey! you have to be grateful for what you’ve got.

Not so long ago when I was introducing myself and saying what I was doing, people would change subject pretty fast (unless they also are in the industry). My feeling is that the way software engineers are perceived today, in my country at least, has completely changed. And this is another consequence of the second coming of the web.

Golfers and Programmers

There is this good definition on Martin Fowler’s blog of what AlphaGeeks are. This is a concept coming from (yet another) thorough online talk by Tim O’Reilly. It also is used on Martin’s thoughts about Ruby and Microsoft. And this is where it gets interesting : “At RailsConf, Tim Bray contended that the key decisions on technology are made by the programming community. ” Further, Fowler remind us that “The open-source community does much of its communication through source code.” So if you’re not a coder, too bad mate.

This avant-garde of IT geeks has seen his power considerably leveraged by the social web. There has been a dramatic shift in the way big decisions are taken regarding software architecture and strategy. A great example in the Java world is Spring Vs J2EE and Hibernate Vs JDO : in both cases, emergent open source solutions became de facto standards when competing against industry commitee solutions. REST Vs RPC/SOAP is going the same way with the former edging slowly but surely past the latter.

Next stop is Ruby On Rails : there is a massive open source community around this new Framework to build full scale web applications. Despite what Cedric Beutch clever thoughts are on the subject, I still believe RoR will also become the new standard. The pressure of the open source community led by the alphageeks will make political decisions less and less sustainable for technical solutions.

The New Plane of existence

Most connected people has a second life, be it the game , Myspace new plane of existence as Kathy Sierra daughter’s would put it , a blog or whathaveyou2.0. As David Armano is putting it in his Geek 2.0 definition they need us more than we need them. AlphaGeeks are now priceless assets of the global economy thanks to their ability to envision the way to build our digital world. Web 2.0 media democratization has allowed sub cultures to emerge and voice different opinions. This culture is now accepted and respected : having a digital (video games, technologies, internet) column in french culture magazines would have been unthinkable last century : it’s now compulsory.

End result is : this stand-up comedy band joke isn’t funny anymore (it has never been as I far as I am concerned) and golfers shall no longer rule the technical IT world. So respect where it’s due : to the AlphaGeeks indeed.


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