Beware: Exotic tools can kill you!
February 18, 2005
A lesson in Real-World web design.
I wanted to let you guys in on a lesson I’ve learned more than once:
DON’T BE SEDUCED BY AN EXOTIC TECHNOLOGY NOBODY USES!
Once and a while you may come across, what would seem to be a ‘killer’ piece of software, or maybe a cool new programming language – something in that would appear to give you some advantage.
That MAY be the case, but many times, it isn’t really so – think twice before your leap!
Consider these points:
- You will have to learn this new thingamabob – that takes time.
- Often, new thingamabobs excel in one area and stink in others – problem is that it can take time to figure this out.
- Listen to the king: “Wise men say, only fools rush in.”
Do you notice a pattern here?
Yes, it’s all about time. All this junk (software, programming languages, markup languages etc…) have one purpose in the end: to save you time.
Keep that in mind when you approach things – ask yourself:
‘Will using this save me time?’
A case in point: Web Objects
Web Objects is a program/software framework designed to make database driven web sites – for the non-nerd, it’s like PHP on steroids – or so they would have you believe …
I found Web Objects several years ago during a time when I was looking at every dynamic-website-tool known to man and beast.
My goal was to find the best way to create database driven websites – I wanted that ‘killer’ program/language that would give me an advantage over my competition and allow me to easily conquer nations … or at least pick up good looking college chicks.
It looked really good, Apple’s magical marketing department had me sold. So at the bargain price of $500 (it used to be $50 000! I’m not kidding.) I ordered Web Objects direct from that fruity company with drool running down my cheek!
But like that beautiful someone you meet in a darkened nightclub – all wasn’t as it seemed:
As it turned out, everything that was promoted about Web Objects was correct – and in THOSE areas, it kicked ass.
The dirty secret was found in the things that the marketing department did not talk about … let me just say that Web Objects had weaknesses in areas where the competition (PHP, JSP, ASP.net) kicked its’ butt.
May times, things that are strong in one area, can be very weak in others. So often the perceived advantage is nothing more that just a wonderful dream
In this case, Web Objects had very powerful way of ‘talking’ to a database. But on the other hand, its built-in development tools sucked in ways I did not think was possible. And even worse, simple things like creating HTML forms was a very buggy process.
The bottom line: Web Objects was better than say PHP in some areas but PHP kicked Web Objects ass in others.
Exotic tools will have exotic requirements.
The deal-breaker for me was simple: Web Objects hosting was rare and PHP was not. That meant PHP hosting was much cheaper, had better support and was MUCH easier to find people who knew PHP.
That’s why I don’t get into things like Ruby On Rails, Cold Fusion (both are languages/tools for for building dynamic websites,) – because you have so few hosting choices and the communities are relatively small by comparison.
You can’t underestimate the importance of a strong community in this nerd-centric field.
Consider this: how many companies do you think want people who know Ruby On Rails … uh, two? How many want PHP programmers: 150 000? You get my point.
Many times new stuff is put out simply because a company wants to push a new product … they want to get in on the market and make a few bucks – nothing more.
Don’t get me wrong, there are technologies that come out that DO make a difference (like: PHP, Blogs, CMS) but they are the exception.
Consider this: If you jump on something too soon and it dies (as most do,) you will be left abandoned with some next to useless technology and/or skill sets.
It’s like being an expert in caring for Dodo birds – they’re all dead.
Every other day I hear somebody raving about some new technology and how it will change the world – maybe, but probably not.
Being practical people that we are, we know better than to jump on some exotic train that will likely lead to nowhere.
PLEASE NOTE: I’m not trying to pick on Web Objects – it may be a solution for some people … people in denial! Just kidding. It may work for some projects, but I would not recommend this tool for most.