Arrested Development: VB6 Now and Forever

When Brett was hired on as a senior analyst, he wasn't surprised to learn that the older platforms were built around Visual Basic 6 (VB6), which was no longer supported by Microsoft.

When Brett was hired on as a senior analyst, he wasn't surprised to learn that the older platforms were built around Visual Basic 6 (VB6), which was no longer supported by Microsoft. After all, his new employer was founded in the '90s. What was surprising, however, was that it wasn't until 2010 that the company stopped building new apps in VB6.

The decision to convert the IT shop over to Visual Basic .NET left a group of people hungry for .NET development evangelists with prior VB6 experience. Brett had mentioned VB6 experience on his resume and was therefore tasked with leading a team of developers down the path of modernization.

All this should have made Brett's new job a slam dunk, career-wise. However, there was a catch -- the company's two most senior developers, Dave and Monika.

(Lack of) Organization
On paper, a cadre of directors oversaw IT, but in reality, Dave and Monika, who were responsible for developing the core applications' business logic, regularly overruled management because it was "their" system. A few developers warned Brett of the duo's meddling ways.

After figuring out how to get his VB6 development environment to play nice on Windows 7, Brett set up a few "lunch-n-learn" sessions to get the development team more comfortable with .NET. After all, how better to win the hearts and minds of his new coworkers than with free pizza?

IntelliSense Is... Too Hard?
For his first session, Brett picked an easy sell -- how to create strongly typed DataSets in .NET.

Instead of writing lengthy code in VB6:


The developers could simplify the .NET code with help from the built-in editing tools in Visual Studio:


"Among other benefits, you get IntelliSense on it, so you don't have to worry about typos or forgetting the name of the field," Brett explained. "And it knows if that column is a string, integer or whatever, so you don't need to do unnecessary type conversions."

To Brett, this was simple to understand, but it didn't go over too well.

"No good!" proclaimed Monika from the rear of the conference room. "There are already too many options in IntelliSense. Adding to them would just make things more confusing!"

"Having to scroll through all those options would just slow developers down," Dave piped up, tapping the table for emphasis. The rest of the room remained silent.

Brett couldn't believe it -- typed DataSets were being shot down because IntelliSense was too hard.

Just when Brett thought his day couldn't get worse, following lunch a department-wide e-mail landed in his inbox. In the message, Monika thanked everyone for attending the .NET session but said a few things needed to be clarified.

It came as no surprise that strongly typed DataSets were now outlawed, but XML was also banned. CSVs were preferred. Serialization was banned as well (too difficult to understand, and involved XML). Trace events, banned. Threading the Windows Forms? Banned. Use doEvents instead. Entity Framework -- maybe worth looking into around Q3, the following year. Brett wondered how, with all these concepts preemptively banned, could he possibly help the developers modernize the applications?

The answer came later that afternoon when he was invited to a closed-door meeting with the senior developer duo. Monika explained that his presentation was too disruptive to their working environment. Dave then chimed in that they were exercising their option to dismiss him during his probationary period.

Upon hearing this news, Brett was actually relieved. After a celebratory beer, he capped off the evening the best way he knew how -- by updating his resume and erasing any reference to his experience with VB6.

About the Author

Mark Bowytz is a contributor to the popular Web site The Daily WTF. He has more than a decade of IT experience and is currently a systems analyst for PPG Industries.

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