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Microsoft doesn’t need the Alpha-Geeks

In Martin Fowler’s article Ruby at Microsoft (which I responded to), he says that Microsoft is losing the AlphaGeeks. While Martin defines an AlphaGeek, the term can also be equated with the type of people who would run WinDBG as their command prompt, just because they can.

Recently I’ve been reading a book called MindSet! by John Naisbitt. In one of the sections, he mentions the following quote from The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel:

How we feel about the evolving future tells us who we are as individuals and as a civilization: Do we search for stasis – a regulated, engineered world? Or do we embrace dynamism – a world of constant creation, discovery, and competition? Do we value stability and control, or evolution and learning? Do we think that progress requires a central blueprint, or do we see it as a decentralized, evolutionary process?

Which got me thinking. In the agile community, there is always lots of talk about it being a religion. In fact, some of the responses to Martin’s post talked about the Ruby community being a religion. But I don’t think that’s it at all.

What I think, especially after reading the above quote, is that the people to watch aren’t the Alpha-Geeks of the community, but the entrepreneurs.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

– George Bernard Shaw

In other words, the entrepreneurs are the ones who might be listed as the “unreasonable” man in the above quote. These people, whether in technology or business or life, don’t stand for the status quo. If something isn’t working, or an opportunity is arising, they jump on it.

For example, Ruby. Many people saw it as another dynamic language, and rails as another framework. Others want to argue and compare it to other languages. But the unreasonable people, the entrepreneurs, jumped on it, embraced it, found it good, and are building great things on it.

In some ways, I wonder if that is part of the challenge of methodologies like XP. To embrace it, one needs the mindset of taking chances on something new, finding opportunities to inject fresh life into existing processes. They wouldn’t be looking for a plan, or a checklist, or a blueprint (all things people try to do with various methodologies, such as if you are doing all of the XP practices, you must be agile).

Not to say that if you don’t “get” XP, or Ruby, that you aren’t entrepreneurial. Only that if you focus to heavily on the “UberGeeks” you might miss out on what is really up and coming in the tech (and business) worlds.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Scott Bellware June 6, 2007, 2:35 pm

    Alpha geeks *are* entrepreneurs – especially in agile software businesses.

  • Cory Foy June 6, 2007, 8:05 pm

    Oh crikey. I was going to reply to you Scott, but now I have to blog it. Darn you!