Larry O’Brien: Erlang: What the Cool Kids Are Doing

Larry O Brien
October 15, 2007 —  (Page 1 of 2)
Geepster, n. A person who derives his or her identity by mastering complex, but lesser-known, technologies; a geek hipster.

Erlang, n. What all the geepsters are using now that they let anyone code in Ruby.

The psychology of the “early market” adopters is brutal. Enthusiasts and visionaries convincingly sing the praises of this programming language or that architectural model, articulating advantages and emphasizing the “game changing” nature of the technology. Thousands of blogs are launched, dozens of books are printed, a clutch of conferences convened: The technology is poised for total and utter dominance of the software development world! Then everyone moves on to the next thing.

I’ve long advocated the model explained in Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm,” with its ruinous chasm between “early” and “mass” markets, as the best for understanding the adoption of software development technologies. I don’t want to rehash that belief, but I feel sorry for those in the Ruby and Rails communities, who must be feeling a little jilted right now. To be clear, I believe that Ruby actually has “crossed the chasm” and will see wholesale adoption in the enterprise. Microsoft’s IronRuby project has tremendous potential when coupled with the Dynamic Language Runtime and Silverlight 1.1, while Sun’s JRuby project has not just shipped, but appears to be ticking off incremental milestones with ease.

Meanwhile, CodeGear, the company formed from Borland’s languages division, has shipped the first version of a dedicated IDE for Ruby called 3rdRail, and SapphireSteel, whose Ruby In Steel plug-in for Visual Studio has been my preferred IDE for Ruby development, has made a .NET-to-Ruby bridge available for free download. But the blogosphere’s encomiums to Ruby have definitely waned, and recent Technorati searches have been more likely to turn up sour “this would be easier in PHP” posts than the rapturous testimonies of the past few years. Such is the fate of technologies running the gantlet of the skeptical mass market.

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