December 27, 2003
@ 07:37 PM

Slashdot has posted a link to Eric Sink's "Make More Mistakes" article on MSDN. One of the anecdotes from the article reads as follows

Circa 1998, betting on Java for a graphical user interface (GUI) application was suicidal. The platform simply didn't have the maturity necessary for building quality user interfaces. I chose Java because I was "head over heels" in love with it. I adored the concept of a cross-platform C-like language with garbage collection. We were hoping to build our Java expertise and make this exciting new technology our specialty.

But Java turned out to be a terrible frustration. The ScrollPane widget did a lousy job of scrolling. Printing support routinely crashed. The memory usage was unbelievably high.

I should have gotten over my religious devotion to semicolons and done this app in Visual Basic.

Lesson learned: Be careful about using bleeding-edge technologies.

There are some on Slashdot who think that Eric learned the wrong lesson from that experience. This post entitled Alteration of rule is from a developer who was in a similar circumstance as Eric but had a different outcome

I built a Java/Swing app around the same time. It was a pretty complex user app, not just a simple program - and we managed to completely satisfy the clients and make the program perform acceptably on a very low-end target platform (PII-133 with 32 MB of memory). For what he described (replacing a complex spreadsheet) he should have been able to complete the task.

Why did our app work and his fail? Because we knew Java and Swing well by that point, and knew what was possible with some time spent optimizing. We had a plan in our head for how to reach a target level of performance that would be accepted and more than met that goal.

The lesson he should have learned was "Know your technology well before you embark on a project". The reason why it's so important to learn THAT lesson is that it applies to any project, not just ones using "bleeding edge" technologies. The only difference between an established and bleeding edge technology is the level of support you MIGHT be able to find. And that is not enough of a difference to totally affect either failure or success.

I tend to agree with the Slashdot post. Learning on the job is fine and all but when big bucks is on the line its best to go with what you are familar with especially if it is tried and tested.


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