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Same Dev Tools/Language/Framework For Everyone? 519

Posted by kdawson
from the one-size-fits-none dept.
AC writes "Upper management of the company I work at recently declared that all new development should be done with a single combination of development tools, language, and framework. The main rationale is that people can be relocated from one group / project to another faster, because they don't need to learn a new environment when they switch. Of course the chosen language / framework used by everybody does not need to be the best tool for the job, but it should be good enough to allow every project to get done. What does Slashdot think about this? Is it OK to use the same development tools and language for every project, instead of choosing what fits best? Will the time saved be sufficient to offset the time lost to the 'not the best tool for the job' environment developers will be forced to use?"
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Same Dev Tools/Language/Framework For Everyone?

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  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:13PM (#24094879) Homepage Journal

    1. Slashdot will think that you should be able to use anything you damn well please as long as it's Open Source.

    2. Yes, especially if the people who sign you paycheck tell you that's what you have to do.

    3. Maybe. A lot depends on how well the team is managed.

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:15PM (#24094907) Homepage Journal

    Management invariably tries to standardize the wrong tools because they have no idea how software development works. They think in terms of the IDE as "the tool set" rather than the MAKE or ANT build systems, compiler toolchain, version control, and other behind the scene tools.

    If you want the standardization to go well, make sure the build tools are standardized. Once anyone can build the project (IDE or no), it won't matter what the "standard" IDE is. (Unless it's Rational Application Developer. That's just a piece of shit right there. Universally agreed upon.) Developers will still download their own editor or IDE tools to make themselves happy without disturbing the greater whole.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:16PM (#24094925)

    Sure, and while they're at it, let's give all the mechanics just one size of wrench and screwdriver.

    This policy shows a gross misunderstanding of the engineering process, and of what computer science is. Any computer scientists worth his/her salt should be expected to learn whatever tools are needed to get the job done. And conversely, each project team should be free to evaluate the best tools to get each job done.

    It's not unreasonable to have guidelines and even strong recommendations; for example, a company could discourage csh scripts in favor of bash because of the known problems with csh. But to think that C/C++ can substitute for a scripting language or vice versa, or that even a language like FORTRAN has no purpose, completely misses the point.

    When I was at Stanford, we got ZERO units for learning different programming languages. We were EXPECTED to learn C, C++, Lisp, and about a dozen other languages, before we could call ourselves computer scientists. If anyone thinks that limiting a computer scientist's choice of tools is a good idea, you should kick that manager to the curb.

  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:19PM (#24094951)
    Seriously get out your resume and start updating it. Once management starts treating all programmers as interchangeable is the day that all things start going to hell. Programmers are not interchangeable, and all languages are not interchangeable. I sure hope you guys don't do anything that requires AI or if you do I sure hope you don't do anything that requires graphical interfaces because you are screwed either way if you need to pick one language.

    I am sure we could all make due building every road out of steal, but it would certainly be a little expensive, because if we need to build everything out of the same material because all road builders need to be interchangeable, than we would never be able to build a bridge over say San Francisco Bay with using stones...
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:20PM (#24094963) Journal

    It depends on how varied your projects are; if all you ever do (as a company) is produce slight variations on a single theme, it should go fine. If you need to develop everything from hard real time embedded apps to web 2.7 social networking goo, you're screwed.

    --MarkusQ

  • No way. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by istartedi (132515) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:24PM (#24095013) Journal

    Where developers must interface, such as coding style, source code repository or corporate blog? Yes, it makes sense. I may not *like* a coding style, but if management at a large company told us to use one, I'd at least understand why. IDE? OS? Compiler (except for the one that actually builds the product)? No, NO, NO!!! A thousand times, no! Why? Because you're just going to stifle creativity.

    Management point: IT needs to work on the same thing. Counterpoint: IT is often clueless. Developers can almost always troubleshoot their own systems.

    Management point: Ensures software licensing compliance. Counterpoint: None really, they kind of have you there; but since most companies have a policy against installing unlicensed software anyway, punishing developers by forcing them into a cookie-cutter workstation isn't going to solve that problem.

    Management point: puts them all on the same page, builds team. Counterpoint: It makes development less a "collegial" environment, where diverse ideas are explored, and more of a "command" environment. Developers are notoriously intolerant of following orders simply for orders sake.

    Newbie developers coming right out of school might not mind being told to use all the same tools; but experienced developers might feel otherwise. If you want to annoy experienced developers who know all the ins-and-outs of their particular toolset, then go right ahead. Then, wonder why nobody comes up with new ideas, makes comparative observations of one system against another, or develops an alternative approach that goes beyond the status quo. Wonder why people who don't drink the kool-aid on your particular toolchain leave for greener pastures. Wonder why you don't have any in-house expertise on any other system when your chosen flavor is no longer sweet.

  • Re:App Size? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:26PM (#24095045) Journal
    I see it not so much as the size of the apps, but as the type of work place it is. If it's high turnover consulting stuff, I'd say this will make things easier for the business overall but will limit the new experience their employees get on the job. If it's a company that does any real development or research, it's a horrible idea.
  • It's dumb. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:28PM (#24095061)

    27 years experience and I've heard this idea before. It is dumb.

    2-3 languages- sure. One for gear-head, one for report/data mining at least.

    5 languages at the same company is a problem- but 1 language is a problem too.

  • by alexmin (938677) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:32PM (#24095087)
    "Once management starts treating all programmers as interchangeable is the day that all things start going to hell." - I second that, saw it happened and not once. Usually morale goes right to the crapper. The only thing worse for it is hiring "managment consultants" to "streamline" the process.
  • by visualight (468005) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:36PM (#24095119) Homepage

    Now that's logical, exactly the right answer. They'll never buy it though, unless you can write book about what you just said, and invent a catchy new buzzword to describe the concept. Something like Dev 2.0..., or better maybe an acronym, like PEAT

  • by Jabbaloo (237287) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:36PM (#24095125)

    Languages are just details. It's far better for developers to standardize on a set of processes - documentation, as-builts, code review, unit tests, TDD, scrum, FDD ... pick a set of development processes that make sense for your company and project. Some methodologies always make sense - if developers write clear, concise docs and as-builts for their set of coding responsibilities (yeah, right :rolleyes:) then a good developer can pick the code up and run with it regardless of the language.

    Language is just syntax. (OK, it's mostly syntax :p) But the primary point is that most developers have had a wide range of language exposure. I don't know Ruby nor Python, but I've done a helluvalota PERL, JavaScript, and C/C++ and it'd be fairly trivial for me to pick up a well documented Python app and maintain or extend it. Just give me a good O'Reilly book. It takes longer to figure out what the actually code is doing than to understand the syntax and semantics anyways.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:38PM (#24095137)

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! You forgot the most important thing: source control!

    Perforce is probably good for larger companies, while Subversion or Git should be good for small/medium companies.

  • by gravyface (592485) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:43PM (#24095189)

    Perhaps your environment is unique, but I've rarely seen an organization capable of moving people around at will, simply because not everyone has the same skill sets. Even within the Web development paradigm, there's always the "SQL guy", the "CSS guy", heck, even the "regex guy" who's been writing Perl since he was a kid. making that guy use Eclipse instead of vim and puTTY seems counterproductive to me, even if you happened to have someone with those skills on each team.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:45PM (#24095215)

    Project management tools: version control, bug tracking tools, etc. Are important, and should be mostly standardizable without impacting upon any project.

    These are supporting tools, but your version control system is not a development tool like your compiler or IDE is. (It's more of a development tool like Visio for making your UML diagrams or Word for making your documentation is).

    Adjunct tools are all readily standardizable, and useful to standardize (everyone uses Visio or uses DIA, or Poseidon -- so everyone can read your files), just stay away from the language the code is written in and the exact tool used to type it.

    It makes sense, even to use a common repository for all projects, and one private web site to track bugs for all projects (divided into their own categories/administrative domains, of course)

    Just don't standardize on windows-specific tools like VSS or SG if platform development is mixed (I.E. some software needs to run on other platforms), or use version control that has to be IDE-integrated.

    Unfortunately, many developers rely on their IDE like a crutch and need it to be able to build things for them.

    They are particularly fond of tools like Visual Studio that try to do everything, even decide how building will work

    Build processes are inherently project-specific and depend on which files need to be compiled and which libraries need to be linked.

    Builds are not much more standardizable than choice of language.

    But should be standardized for each project. I.E. Everyone working on a project using language X, should use the same compiler, so developers will have consistent results.

    And there should be standardized (non-conflicting) build tool installs for various projects that use build tool X, so again, there are consistent results when different developers attempt to run a build on their workstation.

  • Doom!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daviskw (32827) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:54PM (#24095305)

    Look for another job. When upper management sticks their nose in with the rational that you described, doom is just around the corner. The problem is simple. How do you get the best performance out of your best people? The answer is not: Fit them all into the round hole. The correct answer is: Let them use the best tools possible as they perceive them to be.

    Okay, languages need to be standardized, but after that, the environment needs to be perogative of the developer.

    Nuff said...

  • by dlanod (979538) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:55PM (#24095313)

    It depends on the scale of "company-wide". This would be absurdly stupid for a large multinational, or even large national, because they inevitably cover such a wide range of areas where software development may take part. Think Sony - PS3, movie DVDs, games, interactive CDs, all being written with the same set of tools. They would be gimping themselves from the start.

    However, in a smaller company of a few teams within a single location and working on similar projects (e.g. all application development), this can greatly aid general understanding of code, code re-use, etc. So there are definite benefits in that situation.

    The net answer would be the obvious "it depends". There aren't enough details on the circumstances in this case to make a decision. A lot of people will jump on it and deride the management for these dictates, but they can definitely make sense and provide benefits in some situations.

  • by suresk (816773) <spencerNO@SPAMuresk.net> on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:57PM (#24095325) Homepage

    I used to think that a programmer's tools are sacred and you should basically let people use whatever they feel they are most productive with, but I'm starting to see problems with that, at least in big organizations..

    First, IDEs - I've worked on teams where 3 different IDEs were being used by different members of the team - IntelliJ, NetBeans, and Eclipse. It worked fairly well and no real problems came about as a result of the different IDEs. I've also been in training sessions where everyone is using the same IDE except for some crackhead insisting that their IDE is better and that they can't switch to Eclipse even just for the training, and everyone in training has to wait for half an hour why the instructors try to help them figure out why stuff isn't working in their IDE.

    Second, platforms/libraries/frameworks - There are really a lot of valid reasons for standardizing the platforms, libraries, and frameworks your organization uses. You have better internal support, can leverage work done by other groups, and training is easier. Being able to switch people around easily is perfectly valid as well - people leave, get promoted, need a break from their project, want to explore different career goals, etc.. Plus, I think it is good to send people off to other projects to learn and share good practices. Having a standard set of tools makes this relatively easy - all you really need to learn on a new project is the business side of things.

    That said, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, so it probably makes the most sense to pick a standard set of tools for common project types. If a project needs to deviate from one of those standards, that is fine, but they need to make their case for doing so.

    So for full-blown enterprise apps, the standard may be Java EE. For smaller apps, it might be Rails or Grails. For desktop apps, you might mandate .NET. Then if someone says "Hey, it would be cool if we wrote this small app in Python", then they could do it, but they would have to show that the benefits gained by using Python in that scenario would outweigh the costs of using a non-standard platform.

  • Re:Depends (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:57PM (#24095335)

    The tech lead is an S&M friend! Give me a freaken break!

    I use VS and Reshaper and am extremely productive. If I was using Java I would use Eclipse which is the same as VS and Reshaper combination.

    The need to show "how good you are" with VIM is extremely lame!

    Having developed for several decades I actually see the point of the standardization. That way you will not have one developer come in with their "latest and greatest" language that HAS to be used since everything else is so lame!

    And if people don't like it they can leave...

    Of course this goes on the assumption that dev had some input on the toolset, which is the case with half decent companies.

  • I might be wrong (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:00AM (#24095381)

    I might be wrong (am sure some Slashdotter will enjoy correcting me in this), but the difficult part of moving between projects is not differences in language. It's differences in the mindset of the who wrote the existing code: the naming conventions they use, any nomenclature specific to the project, what classes are responsible for what functionality, etc. Learning all that malarkey is the difficult part.

    Obviously extremes are bad, if your company is using tens of languages, you might want to start looking at ways that can be slimmed down. However I would argue that choosing a small group of languages that complement your core business is preferable to attempting to shoe-horn one language into doing every job.

    Think of it as being like reading books by different authors: Java is Virginia Woolf [wikipedia.org], and PHP Charles Dickens [wikipedia.org], a book is like a chunk of code. Both authors have different writing styles, but anyone can still pick up a book written by either of them and understand the words written within.

    What the PHB's in your company believe, is the difficult part of understanding the storyline in a book is getting to grips with an author's writing style. So everyone should standardise on one author to save time. The reality is, people will get to grips with a new language within a few pages, but won't understand the concepts of the whole until they've read most of it.

    I know: most borked analogy ever. But hey, I'm bored of hearing about cars. :)

  • Root cause (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sohp (22984) <(snewton) (at) (io.com)> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:19AM (#24095579) Homepage

    There is definitely value in having the members of the development team agree to a set of tools around which they can share common experiences and exchange solutions for problems that come up. That's fine. What scares me about your question is that it is driven from above,

    The main rationale is that people can be relocated from one group / project to another faster, because they don't need to learn a new environment when they switch.

    Developers are not plug-compatible interchangeable parts that can be slotted in and out of various projects according to shifting needs. It doesn't matter if they all know exactly the same toolset or not, dropping Jane from the accounting project who has been around for a couple of years in to replace James in the supply-chain project who left because he got married and his wife is taking an internship at a distant hospital and expecting equivalent results demonstrates a vast ignorance of how developers become productive.

    Nearly every company's management wants to imagine it can standardize developers for a lot of bad reasons -- because they believe that gives them leverage over someone who has deep domain knowledge and can't easily be replaced with a junior programmer for example. Or they imagine they can save money by buying bulk licenses for a product from a vendor. Beware of management playing golf with software tool vendors, you'll get stuck with some POS for sure.

    Perhaps going to management and suggesting that the developers collaborate to nominate a selection of acceptable toolsets from which management can select would work, but that kind of suggestion never seems to be taken very well by the suits.

  • Re:Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Forbman (794277) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:23AM (#24095609)

    Your company probably has all those RDBMS because somewhere along the line they bought an accounting package, say, that runs on Sybase. No, let's get real, Oracle Financials. HR somewhere got onto a package like Lawson or JD Edwards, because Oracle HR was too bloody expensive and the moneybags did not want to pay any more for Oracle DBAs than they have to. So it's Lawson or JDE on Sybase or SQL Server. And then maybe there was some budgeting, forecasting or other Enterprise-y application (say, data warehousing/datamart, business "intelligence", etc.), and because of the extortion being paid to keep various beta-level versions of Oracle Financials, along with all the in-house customization done on top of those, even though your company might have an enterprise-ish license, no one will give any authorization to do development against Oracle, and to a lesser extent, Sybase/SQL Server.

    MySQL would indicate that there is a fondness for this Fine System for web application internet/intranet development, too. Plus, the licensing is nice, and the hardware costs are...well...they're commoditized, so it's easier for someone to say, "Hey, I need a database for this spec", and someone says, "OK, I'll build you a server on this fine '486 box to run it", rather than figuring out whether the SunFire box with the Oracle database on it can handle some more ad hoc querying for reporting and relatively light I/O.

    Hey, I wonder if you have an AS/400 box or two running DB/2-based apps somewhere?

    Don't worry about it. Most companies are a mish-mash of one Really Important Database system (usually whatever runs accounting and AP/AR), and a bunch of lesser tiers of RDBMS and servers, down to and including MS Access-based key applications...

  • by skeptictank (841287) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:24AM (#24095619)
    If all your company does is make websites(or web 2.0, cloud computing or whatever the buzz word is this month) this might be fine. If the company makes a variety of applications for different purposes or targets, then this is a really bad ideal. The engineers attached to the project are the people who should be making the decisions about the tools and languages that are used to actually make working code. Management above the project level is to far removed from the actual work that will have to be done to be making that kind of decision.
  • Re:No way. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ComputerSlicer23 (516509) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:24AM (#24095621)

    Unless they all operate on the same meta-data the foreign tool is out. My boss thinks the same way you do, every one is allowed to use any damn tool they feel like, with absolutely no bounds.

    I work with a guy who insists on using Visual Studio, as nearly as I can tell, because he's unaware that there is a multi-tab text editor outside of VS. So, everytime I have to take over a project from him, I have to go figure extract what files are being build, and then port it into the production system, every other developer on the project uses. Because this is such a hassle, the guy will do updates and commits on an interval measured in months, where as every other developer does them on intervals measured in hours. So along with everything else we have to deal with, when he commits his code, he generally will blow away months of someone elses work because he can't be bothered with learning how resolve conflicts, and it'll never integrate cleanly. We'll spend a week just trying to undo all the damage he'd done. All because he can't be bothered to use the same toolchain everyone else on the team does. It also means I have no commit history, no commit comments, and nothing I cause use to do research on to figure out how the software evolved.

    Because he uses Windows, Visual C++ compiler, on an AMD 2.8GHz machine and does all his profiling, it's trivial to go make improve his codes performance on Linux, g++, on an 1Ghz Via C3 (which is the deployment environment for the embedded system). As he works on the single most performance critical aspect, it's more then a bit frustrating. Especially as the code has extreme and unnatural things done to it to the parts that are slow under his one off development environment, but those aren't the parts that are slow under production.

    For things like Java, I've learned the hard way, that we'll only have one setup of meta-data. It's terrible frustrating to have all of the corporate standards setup correctly in say Eclipse, (checkstyle, code generation, auto-formatter, unit testing, test coverage, find bugs, PMD, warning levels, etc, etc), and then have some jackass continually commits code that upon contact with a properly configured environment will be flagged as a violation of the coding guidelines, or generates huge numbers of warnings if only he'd turn on the already agreed upon warnings.

    I've learned, that there is one set of production meta-data used to do a production build. While we can argue over how we maintain that set of meta-data, once that decision is made all tools must use that meta-data directly (they can translate it from one format to another, as long as it does that automatically, like Maven can for some IDE's). So if we use Eclipse, you can use any tool you want, as long as it reads Eclipse meta-data. If we choose Ant, then you can use any tool you want, as long as it does Ant meta-data. If we choose GNU Build system, you can use any platform and compiler you want, as long as it uses the GNU build system. The one hard and fast rule I have for the meta-data is that it must be possible to build from a command-line in an automated way. It can be obscenely difficult to do (like say Eclipse), but it must be possible.

    I've generally learned that anybody who won't agree to use a consistent set of tools with the rest of the team, is a prima dona and is in dire need of a lesson. Yes, I know my toolchain stone cold (gcc/g++, and Eclipse). However, if there is a consensus to use a different toolchain, I'll learn a second one stone cold. I've learned tons about bash, gcc, g++, the Borland compilers, Visual Studio, a number of embedded compilers, Watcom, XCode, the NeXT Objective C IDE, NetBeans, Eclipse, CVS, SVN, Git, Monotone, Arch, Mercurial, Ant, Maven, GNU Make, GNU Auto{conf,make}/libtool, SCons, and probably a couple of others I've forgotten (I've known bits and pieces of several scripting languages, but none well enough write home about). I've learned the best practices of them all when I used them. Given m

  • by skeptictank (841287) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:30AM (#24095653)
    If this is a major factor when ramping-up a new engineer on a program, then your application domain is probably so easy that your jobs will be outsourced to Albania soon anyway.
  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:42AM (#24095769)

    WTF is this crap of "any team member to move from one workstation/area of work to another"?

    If someone is good at something, ferchrissake KEEP THEM THERE!

    There's nothing more devastating for a developer than to be ripped out of context and forced to learn something entirely different, but just as difficult, just because some braindead accountant thinks all developers are alike.

    Please stop that. I think it has a more than measurable impact on productivity, not to mention staff morale.

    Translation: everyone who thinks programmers are interchangeable should go fsck themselves with a chainsaw.

  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:05AM (#24095935)

    1. Slashdot might as well think that you should be able to use anything interchangeable enough not to make a difference in the long run. Emacs vs. vi comes to mind.

    2. The people who sign the paychecks hired you because you know what you're doing, not to be an interchangeable code monkey in need for micromanagement. (Right? If not, RUN!)

    3. If you don't "force" the devs to use tools they hate, this is not an issue. If you do, there is no "time saved" to speak of, and management can do nothing about it.

  • by iwein (561027) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:08AM (#24095959)
    First of all, it's a pile of shit and it stinks.

    I can show you two programs written in Java that are so different that you wouldn't know it was the same language if you found them in the wild. As remarked before, switching languages is almost never the problem.

    The problem is that developers in different divisions are not interchangeable like parts in a machine.

    Newsflash: developers are not interchangeable.

    If you hire and train in a smart way you might get developers that are smart enough to deal with somebody elses messes and that leave messes that can be dealt with by somebody else.

    The first thing that a developer will say when he starts at an existing project: "This should have been done differently, using language Y, framework X. This is a pile of shit!" (Y and X varying among developers and over time). Doing everything with language Y and framework X doesn't fix anything though, because they are in constant flux.

    Newsflash: projects are not all the same.

    If all your projects are the same you should come up with a way to let the business owners roll out variations on the theme and get the hell out of there.

    The interesting bit about writing software is to learn the domain and find the programming model that works best there. Then simplify it until you're done.

    This is not to say that developers should be allowed to try anything new. Reducing the choice a bit (dare I mention web frameworks?) makes a lot of sense. Eliminating all choice is just plain stupid.

    If you dumb down the organization by eliminating evolution of the programming model and robbing the developers of the freedom to do what makes sense, you will see the smartest developers walk first. The next thing you will see is a huge drop in the rate of change in the products and the responsiveness to the market. The last thing you will see is lawyers.
  • by jgrahn (181062) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:17AM (#24096019)

    Management invariably tries to standardize the wrong tools because they have no idea how software development works. They think in terms of the IDE as "the tool set" rather than the MAKE or ANT build systems, compiler toolchain, version control, and other behind the scene tools.

    If you want the standardization to go well, make sure the build tools are standardized. Once anyone can build the project (IDE or no), it won't matter what the "standard" IDE is. (Unless it's Rational Application Developer. That's just a piece of shit right there. Universally agreed upon.)

    Rational sell IDEs now? Uh-oh ... *curls up in fetal position*

    Developers will still download their own editor or IDE tools to make themselves happy without disturbing the greater whole.

    You're right, of course. With Emacs and Vim, you can have editor wars during coffee breaks, then go back to your editors of choice and work on the same code ...

    But all this assumes that someone makes sure no moron ties the build system tightly into a specific IDE. And IDEs love to offer plenty of opportunities for this, and people who are in love with their IDE think this is the way it should be.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:21AM (#24096035)

    Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don't have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

    So, what you're saying is that you stop the engineers talking to the customers, so that the customers don't get what they want built, and the engineers don't get to know what's going on?

    If your engineers are embarrassing to the company, and don't have people skills, hire different engineers.

  • by david.emery (127135) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:28AM (#24096075)

    "Management standardizes that which they do not understand, to relieve them of the responsibility of having to think about it any more..."

    dave

  • Re:No way. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jgrahn (181062) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:35AM (#24096121)

    I work with a guy who insists on using Visual Studio, as nearly as I can tell, because he's unaware that there is a multi-tab text editor outside of VS. So, everytime I have to take over a project from him, I have to go figure extract what files are being build, and then port it into the production system, every other developer on the project uses. Because this is such a hassle, the guy will do updates and commits on an interval measured in months, where as every other developer does them on intervals measured in hours. So along with everything else we have to deal with, when he commits his code, he generally will blow away months of someone elses work because he can't be bothered with learning how resolve conflicts, and it'll never integrate cleanly. We'll spend a week just trying to undo all the damage he'd done. All because he can't be bothered to use the same toolchain everyone else on the team does.

    It's not the toolchain. He's an idiot (and you are too, for letting him do this.) You can use Visual Studio as a text editor and still interface the things you produce with what others produce (unless there are some DOS line ending or TAB quirks in VS). You cannot, of course, set up a VS build system, if all of the people you work with use Gnu Makefiles!

  • by kramer2718 (598033) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:48AM (#24096219) Homepage

    1. Slashdot will think that you should be able to use anything you damn well please as long as it's Open Source.

    There is nothing wrong with standardization, but it shouldn't be taken too far. For instance, worked at a Java shop on a project that automated deployment of new software which occasionally meant deploying a new version of a JVM. Since much of the deployment code had to run on the server where Java was being deployed to ... well Java wouldn't be an appropriate choice.

    2. Yes, especially if the people who sign you paycheck tell you that's what you have to do.

    Yes, everyone should in the end listen to the dude signing his paychecks. That misses the point entirely which is "what are the best business practices for a software company?"

    3. Maybe. A lot depends on how well the team is managed.

    Sure. If it is managed well, then the management types will for the most part stay out of the decision making process. The choices of programming technologies a company chooses should be chosen mostly by Software Architects not by Management. Managers (at least at most companies) are not qualified to choose languages.

    At my current company, there is a standard process for certifying a new piece of computing technology (whether it be a 3rd party library or an entirely new language). This involves review by the architecture team as well as performance profiling and other analysis. In the end managers have to sign off on the price and the license, but they are guided heavily by technical experts.

  • Devil's Advocate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nick_davison (217681) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @02:47AM (#24096581)

    Yes, there are almighty drawbacks. Things aren't nearly as simple as management tend to believe.

    However...

    That doesn't mean the reverse isn't often true as well.

    Just like 95% of drivers know they're in the top 50% of all drivers, I know this'll piss off a lot of indignant engineers who know they're far too smart to fall prey to this...

    But, the truth is, a lot of engineers are absolutely terrible at picking the right tool for the job too.

    The right tool is not "anything other than the tool I used last time because I know that one has lots of flaws now." Every tool has flaws. There being a devil you know doesn't mean the other option is a blessed saint. It just means you don't know its flaws yet.

    I've watched countless engineers choose tool A, decide they hate A and want to use B because it solves X that they didn't like about A... Then decide B does Y badly so they move to C... Then discover C screws Z up but A has a new version that's supposedly much better. And then they repeat... Every time, writing lousy code because a decent tool that's poorly understood is often worse than a bad tool that you understand deeply enough to avoid most of the pitfalls of.

    Conversely, the right tool is also not the one that you know and won't put down because you're scared of the learning curve and don't want to look bad compared to other engineers when you're safe and secure in your existing kingdom.

    The right tool is also not the one that'll make your resume look really cool and cutting edge. Yes, it's often exciting to learn new skills and they make you look really advanced. Learning tends to have a diminishing rate of return. Say you can learn the first 50% of a language in a month. You can probably learn the next 25% in the next month. Two or three years in, you're hopefully smart enough to still be learning but you're only improving by fractions of a percent of what's out there each month. It's tempting to pick something new and learn 50% of a whole new language... but that doesn't actually make it the right tool.

    Engineers also tend to be very bad at understanding what makes the business actually work. Yes, I know there's deep moral righteousness but, here's the interesting thing... if the business can't find anyone in the area to help you ship a product on time because you chose too obscure a tool... if the business goes bust because they're paying too much for trendy skillsets... it's still the wrong tool. If the business isn't in business anymore because the tool ignored financial realities, it's the wrong tool.

    In short, there are a lot of ways that engineers tend to make very, very bad decisions about what a good tool is.

    Yes, I know you're not one of those engineers. I know bean counters make even worse decisions. I know I need to go to hell for suggesting this.

    But the right tool is often a combination of factors. Some engineers tend to get, some engineers tend to be very bad at getting, some managers tend to get, some managers tend to be very bad at getting.

    Being open to identifying the flaws in decision making processes and finding ways to make better decisions is how we really get to the point of picking good tools. In some companies, for certain processes, that may mean standardized tools, in others it won't. Smart people are open to all ideas and pick the best from them for each situation.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @03:11AM (#24096715)

    I've worked in a situation where behind the scenes tools where standardized but not IDEs.

    There are a couple of issues when everybody has their own IDE, mostly to do with being able to help each other out (when you have to go help a colleague with a piece of coding or debugging but you have trouble working with their IDE) and with setting up the project or new project features (5 IDEs means 6 places to change - each IDE plus the main build - and thus 6 different sets of possible problems and there's always somebody that has trouble setting up a specific feature in their IDE). Also often enough you don't want multiple sets of (possibly conflicting) project configuration files in your source control, which in turn might means that a lot of time is wasted when somebody looses their configuration.

    Your point is indeed correct that standardizing your build tools, version control and other behind the scenes tools is THE most important thing, not IDEs.

    However, standardizing IDE does bring visible benefits and any half-competent developer which is not a prima donna is capable of adjusting him/herself to work with whatever tools are available.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @03:34AM (#24096869)

    Standardization of software development tools and languages has to do with optimizing the process at a higher level than most developers are used to.

    The point here is to optimize the way a whole company (or at least a whole division) produces software:

    Standardized support tools (build tools, version control, etc) mean that there will be things like shared project templates and a higher average level of expertise with the tools being used (if everybody uses the same tools, there will be more experts with those tools around).

    Standardized languages mean that in-house developed libraries and frameworks are feasible and can be reused all across the company in many of the projects being developed.

    Standardization in tools and languages also increases predictability of results - everybody, including managers, gains a better grasp on how long it takes to do something since they have a lot more experience using that set of tools and languages.

    Standardization also means that it's a lot easier to find and train replacements for those that leave or (even more important if you're a developer) those that progress in their career to new tasks and responsibilities and don't want to be stuck "maintaining the software I did 4 years ago".

    When you are working as a part of a team you work with the team and don't just go away and do your own thing 'cause you know best and everybody else is an asshole.

    To use your automotive metaphor (this is ./ after all):
    - If you work in a garage you get many different cars with many different problems so you use whatever tools are appropriate for the task at hand.
    - If you work in a car factory (say Porsche), you use the specialized tools you are assigned to use for the tasks you're supposed to do. This applies even if you're one of the designers of a new car - you don't just go out using your own CAD application 'cause you think you know best.

  • by Rank Outsider (306477) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:47AM (#24097345) Homepage

    The company I work for has an extensive set of systems. As a systems architect I like to know that for any new project I can go to the developers in that area and get advice on how to design and implement the project solution, whether it affects them and how they woudl design their part.

    I rely on knowledge growing in each area. And it takes years to get to know the code in each system really well, and the business rules which the business has forgotten about which are mastered there. Yes, people write it down. But it has to be learned so that realtime dialogue and decision making can occur!

    In our case, I agree that it's the system knowledge which should be seen as the biggest asset. Not transferability across teams.

  • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:04AM (#24097463)

    1. The people who sign the paychecks hired you because you know what you're doing, not to be an interchangeable code monkey in need for micromanagement. (Right? If not, RUN!)

    2. If you don't "force" the devs to use tools they hate, this is not an issue. If you do, there is no "time saved" to speak of, and management can do nothing about it.

    Whether your statements are true really depends on whether you are running a software company as a business or as a private playground for developers. Micromanagement is bad, but no management is worse. In my experience it pays off to compromize, i.e. to give developers some freedom but at the same time subjecting them to certain rules. Leaving a bunch of software nerds 100% free to do what ever they want is a major mistake. I have had dealings with companies that failed to effectively supervise their developers and the result was usually a mess. The developers working on different components of major projects went for radically different technologies that often caused major problems or even turned out to be partly or even completely incompatible. Often they seemed to do this simply because they had never written anything in, say, Ruby and wanted to try it out. There seemed to be no concern for whether Ruby was actually the best choice for their project. Not that there is something essentially wrong with Ruby, sometimes it just isn't the best choice. Another wonderful side effect of this policy is that you end up with a portfolio of products written in an ever growing set of languages: java, .net, perl, php, ruby, c, c++ and delphi..... It's kind of like a hauling company having a fleet of 30 trucks where no two were made by the same manufacturer because they have a policy of letting the truckers choose their rides at will. There are benefits to be had from standardization of equipment. In the end even a Software company is a business and it will benefit from standardizing on certain tools and languages. It minimizes lead-in time for new developers, makes it easier to replace developers who have left the company.... the list goes on.

  • by nospam007 (722110) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @06:00AM (#24097779)

    MEMO
    It has been brought to our attention that in our company
    jewelers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, framers, joiners, bricklayers, welders etc
    all use different hammers.

    This cannot go on!

    From now on everyone will use the Craphammer 1.0, so transfers between groups will be much easier.

    The Management.

  • by SQLGuru (980662) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @07:20AM (#24098387) Journal

    Which was the reference to Intercal in the parent post. If the key piece is written in a language that only a couple of staff members know, then you don't have the flexibility because there isn't "an equally skilled member of the team".

    If the language and environment are standardized (I'd be more worried about the language, libraries, and framework than actual development tools), then there are plenty of equally skilled team members that can pick up where someone else leaves off.

    Personally, in answer to the original post, I would probably stick to the language that fits your industry best and evaluate the available frameworks. Once that is settled, then (and only then) would I worry about toolset -- let each group suggest something that fits them and select a couple as standards.

    If you are writing business apps, the top choices are Java and .Net.
    If you are writing games, C/C++.
    If you are prototyping, a scripting language (several to choose from).
    For a database, it's pretty much Oracle (with nods to DB2 and SQL Server in some instances) for large businesses; MySQL and SQL Server for small businesses.

    Sure, you can argue that RoR or PHP or Perl or what have you can be used to make business apps or games or whatever, but in this case, marketshare is much more important than anything else you can argue about. A larger market base means better (more robust) tools, available frameworks, educational material, etc. All of the factors that management cares about.

    Layne

  • by Kent Recal (714863) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @07:43AM (#24098583)

    Sorry, I cannot take anyone seriously who proposes to "standarize developement tools". As others have pointed out that's such an obvious productivity killer - you're in the wrong business if you even think about proposing such a thing.

    Everyone knows the ancient proverb that says it all: Right tool for the job. Period.

    If java is the right tool for everything in your company then fine, standarize on that.
    But in reality it normally makes more sense to write the application in java, write the admin-scripts in perl (or whatever scripting language), script the webserver in lua, and so on.

    Trying to use "the one hammer" for everything simply doesn't work, never did.
    Furthermore: Productivity can only suffer if you force your team to use tools that they don't like.

    Your best developer probably prefers Vim or Emacs to write his code while everybody else is using eclipse. If you try to force an IDE down his throat he'll soon be your former best developer. Trying to standarize on editors or IDEs is a no-go. No sane developer will follow if you rule out his preferred tool.

  • by Ash Vince (602485) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @08:25AM (#24099039) Journal

    My first guess is ......

    That being the main problem with this entire topic: He has not provided enough information about what his company does for us to come up with a sensible answer.

    I can think of some cases where forcing everyone to use the same tools would be ridiculous. I can also think of some cases where it would make sense. Without knowing how big his company is or having any idea about the longevity of each project or how different each project is we have no idea what makes more sense for them.

    As far as we know he is talking about two teams of 3 developers who interchange between similar projects on the same web application. He also might be talking about a company of 1000 developers for hire work in long term projects where each team develops an entirely different application. In the latter standardising on a single language would probably be impossible.

  • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:21AM (#24100683)
    Why would you need something like Putty in Linux?!
  • Workplace Hell (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:04PM (#24102409) Homepage Journal

    Once management starts treating all programmers as interchangeable is the day that all things start going to hell. Programmers are not interchangeable, and all languages are not interchangeable.

    Maybe not, but there has to be some standardization. If every programmer is allowed to do things their own way, you end up with a code hodgepodge that's unmaintainable.

    Mild example: I knew a guy once who had a weird thing for Javascript. He had found an engine that allowed him to run it outside a browser, and he used it for everything. (Ironically, he had no occasion to use it for a web application!) He even used it to write an RTF parser. Never mind that Microsoft supplies very nice libraries with all the parsing built in, he had to hand-code his own. The result was temperamental, consumed vast amounts of maintenanced and didn't support many RTF features. But he was insanely loyal to it, and resisted switching to a more common scripting language to the bitter end.

    Another co-worker at my current company wrote a bunch of tools that we still use a lot. Basically, he wrote them in Perl. Except Perl wasn't expressive enough for him, so he wrote his very own preprocessor. And it's a beautiful piece of work, his Perl code is very concise. (Brilliant guy, really.) But he never documented the thing, and he doesn't work here any more, so if any of his tools need maintenance, we are SOOL.

    Programmers need to get over the idea that they can do every little thing their own way. Your employer's role is not to provide you with a playground for you to do things the way you want. The company needs to sell stuff, and has hired you to make that stuff. Yes, it's a creative job, and you need some leeway. But if there are no rules or standards at all, then everybody's working at cross-purposes and nothing useful gets done.

    I've worked at software companies where this was the case. Very unsatisfying places to work because at the end of the day, you really had nothing to show. Plus you spent all day battle everybody's ego trip. That's my idea of workplace hell.

  • by Craig Maloney (1104) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:38PM (#24103809) Homepage

    A programmer that brings his own tools is a cowboy at best, especially where I work...

    Agreed, but who drives the decisions for what software to buy at the shop? If it's anyone but the programmers, you're in trouble already.

  • Languanges (Score:3, Insightful)

    by demi (17616) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @06:37PM (#24108297) Homepage Journal

    There's a lot about the idea that's dumb, but I just want to talk about language standardization, since that's an idea that suckers even smart people.

    For a decent programmer, switching languages is not really a problem. On the other hand, there's not a lot of point in having a proliferation of quite similar languages.

    You're basically going to always have to write some C, whether you're doing some low-level control or interfacing to an API or whatever. For most business applications, this is a marginal task--that is, it takes place on an application's margins.

    You're going to need some kind of scripting language, and you can make it object-oriented if you like--that's not a bad way of organizing some programs and helps keep a handle on the sometimes complex applications "scripts" become. These tasks are also marginal (they're management or stopgap or interfacing or, literally, scripting server-side resources together). I wouldn't choose Perl here, it would be Ruby or Python; but really, any of those are fine.

    And then you'll need something for the really important stuff. And this is what kills me. Time after time, productivity studies show that terseness counts a lot for programmer productivity, and for quality (a programmer produces the same number of lines of code per unit time, regardless of language; and makes the same number of mistakes), and can otherwise show that Java is utter garbage for this task, but it's most frequently chosen anyway.

    Java's not much better than C for terseness, and it's full of typing misfeatures that have never been shown to increase code quality. On the contrary, Java is such an unmanageable beast you have to use a program to type chunks of your program for you. About the best thing that can be said for it is that the JVMs aren't bad and can sometimes be used to run non-Java languages.

    For the important stuff you'd think people would pick a family of languages that have been shown time and again to result in faster, higher-quality development: functional programming languages. But managers and developers alike resist it (unless the developer actually has experience with a functional programming language). Lots of people have speculated why and I'm not going to restate all that here.

    I'll put my word in here for Erlang because it comes with so much technology and fills such a need in the non-marginal problem space of so many business applications. But Haskell or PLT Scheme or whatever would be good choices, too.

    I recoil at the idea of picking a language because it might be popular with "average" developers. Who sets out to hire a large number of mediocre, interchangeable developers? If you choose Java, that's essentially what you're aiming at: a large number of minimally productive programmers producing reams of code that doesn't do very much.

    None of this should override compelling external factors. Sometimes you really need some FORTH because you want to embed an interpreter in something. Sometimes your embedded wiki is in Perl and you're going to extend it with that, your corporate standard of Python be damned. And, yes, sometimes maybe Java is the right answer (though if it is, I haven't come across the question yet).

    Now, look, we all know "any programming language can do anything." And we have all heard the religious arguments about all these things before. But surely, if a company is serious about "standardizing" it must do so on the basis of actual programmer productivity data and not on the basis of wild-ass guesses and the popularity of books? Continue to accept orthodoxy and be prepared to suffer a lack of excellence.

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