Lhotka's Labrynth

Support Productivity, Support Mort

I went to Spain recently, where I spoke with the Barcelona .NET user group. I love Spain, the friendly people, the laid-back culture, and the beautiful scenery. The trip also got me thinking about the commonalities shared by computer people, regardless of nationality, spoken language, or culture.

As computer professionals, it's less important whether we speak Spanish, English, or Chinese than whether we speak geek. Yes, it's true that a few computer professionals merely got into the industry for the money, but I believe firmly that the majority of us write software because we have a passion for the technology. And everyone with this passion tends to speak the same "language" because we all share a similar view of the world: Life can be made better through software.

This isn't to say we share some simplistic, unified worldview. Far from it. Some people are far more business focused, while others are more technology focused. Some, like myself, are deeply immersed into science fiction and futurism, while others love a good game of football with a beer. Still others don't "have a life" at all because they are so deeply focused on computing and software.

In an effort to focus tools and technologies toward key groups of people, Microsoft long ago started using the idea of personas to sort us all into groups. There's the "Mort" persona, which represents business developers. And the "Elvis" persona, which represents technology-focused business developers. There's also the "Einstein" persona, which represents the technology-focused developers who provide tools or frameworks for use by Mort and Elvis.

The vast majority of people in our industry fit into the Mort persona, regardless of whether they use Java, C#, VB, or some other language. Most of us are paid to build business software that solves problems for our organization or its customers. A smaller number fit into the Elvis persona, acting in leadership or influencer positions within groups of other business developers. Almost every development team has at least one Elvis. A small number fit into the Einstein persona, at least in a normal business organization. Let's face it: Most Einsteins are building compilers, IDEs, UI controls, and other tools at Microsoft, Oracle, and other software companies. It's ridiculously difficult to keep an Einstein engaged in a business environment for long, because an Einstein cares about the technology, not about the business.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the majority of the tools and technologies out there are focused on the Mort persona. Tool and technology creators want to make business developers more productive. At least, that was true for a long time. However, there's been a recent ideological shift to build tools for Elvis, or even to try and lure Einsteins into doing business development. This is a conscious effort to shut out Mort. In fact, there are prominent people in our industry who believe that the biggest problem with our industry are the Morts. Get rid of them--get rid of most of us, that is--and the world would be a better place.

I don't buy it for a minute. The Mort persona cares about the business. He's focused on making the business better through technology. And so is the Elvis persona. These are the two most important personas from a business perspective. The tools and technologies created by the Einsteins should have the primary goal of making Mort more productive. But more than that, these tools should make Mort's default choices be the right ones for quality, maintainability, and all the other "-ilities" that we desire in our software.

Supporting ideas like unit testing and code coverage is important. But more important is the idea that our tools should guide software developers to the right answers to minimize architectural, design, and coding mistakes.

About the Author

Rockford Lhotka is the author of several books, including the Expert VB and C# 2005 Business Objects books and related CSLA .NET framework. He is a Microsoft Regional Director, MVP and INETA speaker. Rockford is the Principal Technology Evangelist for Magenic, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.

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