Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Minutes Schminutes

I've been browsing through a lot of frameworks lately and one thing bothers me: Screen casts which show you how to build a weblog in x minutes.

First of all, how many weblogs can one person build. Is a weblog really the thing as to which your framework is most suitable for? Why the hell would I use a full fledged app framework to build a weblog (in 5 minutes) while I can just as easily download wordpress or whatever flavor of the month weblogging system is the current "hot shit" and install that without having to write one line of code.

To be fair, the fact that everybody shows you how to build the same weblog in 5 minutes is that it is easy to compare how different frameworks implement the same idea. Also, I dont think I want to watch a 4 hour screencast to see how someone builds something complex.

But that was not the point.

My point is that those screen casts are deceivable. First of all its only really 5 minutes for the creator/expert of the framework, not for anybody else. It takes a lot of time to wrap your head around the framework's design and only after that period of head-wrapping is it possible to create something quickly IF the framework can deliver what you need. Until then it will just be a lot of hard work, frustration and reading a lot of documentation.

I've build many frameworks myself and for me to build something useful using my own tools is no trouble at all. For somebody who is not you and not (yet) comfortable with your design choices its something else entirely. For them to build something will probably take a lot longer and with a lot more headaches along the way.

The problem with these promises of delivering results in mere minutes is also that "management" actually believes these magic tricks.

"What do you mean it will take 2 months, I've seen a screen cast of some dude more or less creating the same thing in 5 minutes"

Nigga please.

Second, the ease of use for any framework is not in the elegance of the implementation but in the quality of the documentation. So for a framework to actually deliver something in minutes it will need some kick-ass docs.

For me the documentation is one of the key elements in trying to choose which framework to use for my projects. For instance I like the documentation to explain the magic to me. Almost all frameworks have black box area's which do something cool but where the "how-they-do-it" is completely invisible. I want to know how it works and how the information flows trough the pipes. The documentation should at least try to show me a little bit of the mechanics. "Show me the blueprints"

The reason I choose a framework over DIY in the first place is that the promise that you can build something fast, appeals to my developer-laziness. But if the documentation only manages to explain how to build a weblog, then forget it.

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