Developer's Notebook: The ALT.NET Conference

Scott Guthrie turns heads at ALT.NET conference.

A group of self-proclaimed ALT.NET developers held an informal conference last month in Austin, Texas, and unless you read their blogs you're probably unaware that it took place. The goal of the conference was to provide a place for attendees to share their experiences building maintainable applications on the .NET Framework, without the usual marketing found at most conferences.

In keeping with that vision, the conference was held in the Open Spaces style, where there are no predefined talks, slide decks are the exception and not the norm, and everyone is encouraged to engage in the discussion. It was the type of conference Microsoft could never have organized.

Community Building
The ALT.NET community has grown out of a common desire to share development practices that focus on building maintainable code. For the majority of development shops, the designer-focused, drag-and-drop development style works just fine. But there's a large minority of developers that build .NET applications that either have complex business rules or are long-lived applications that need to be progressively improved and upgraded over many years.

The ALT.NET community feels that the mainstream Microsoft prescriptive guidance and tools focus on learning API and framework details and don't place enough emphasis on design and coding fundamentals. Testability of code -- from unit testing through quality assurance and deployment -- is of paramount importance when the code is expected to change over time, and the typical Microsoft tools aren't built around testability.

Surprise Guest
All that changed when Scott Guthrie, general manager of Microsoft's developer division, showed up at the conference. He impressed attendees with a demo of a brand-new ASP.NET framework built using the easily testable Model View Controller (MVC) design pattern, called the ASP.NET MVC Framework. The MVC design pattern is considered a core design pattern and fundamental to the separation of concerns (SoC) development practice.

This framework is designed to be an alternative to -- rather than a replacement for -- the current ASP.NET. It was built with testability in mind, providing ample extensibility and plug-in features. In one fell swoop, Guthrie demonstrated that, yes, Microsoft is listening; and, yes, the company is working actively on improving .NET for this important minority. The first community technology preview of the ASP.NET MVC Framework is expected before the end of the year, following the November release to manufacturing of .NET 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008.

About the Author

Don Demsak is an independent .NET consultant based out of New Jersey. He also writes the "Don XML's Grok This" blog at

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