I’m always thinking and so of course I’ve been thinking a lot since my last post, though not as much as you might think, and certainly not as much as saying so might imply giving how long it’s been. I could have written this much sooner but against the backdrop of a world in chaos in so many dimensions it never felt like the right thing to be talking about. Economic freefall. Mass quarantine. Tens of thousands sick and worse. Brutality, protest, civil unrest, hope, and uncomfortable conversations. I could share some sensational imagery of smoke plumes over my own home community here on the South Side of Chicago (we’re ok, btw) but you get the idea. Maybe another day.
Today (before the Murder Hornets return), I want to talk about, ironically, a more lighthearted topic dear to my heart: VB. Believe it or not my last words on this subject were actually toned down about 10% emotionally than in the first drafts but in hindsight they were still maybe 10-15% more emotional than I would have liked, in hindsight. Maybe I’ll edit them a little one day. But I stand by my words. That we, the VB community, are in a situation that is unnecessary, inappropriate, poorly handled, disloyal, wasteful, and in contrary to the stated values I would like to believe in, expect, and see. And having said them, they’re said, and I’m not going to say them again really. I’m going to shift to what I think will/should/can happen next.
I’ve actually been thinking about this crossroads for a long time. Definitely since I left Redmond. It wasn’t entirely unanticipated in a broader sense and so I’ve had a lot of time to think about a sort of roadmap (or obstacle course, if you prefer). You see, when I write I usually have some idea of what the end of the essay will be—the message and some major stops along the way. The effort is in the finding of the precise route and the appropriate tone and context. And like my writing I can sort of see the endpoint (at least an endpoint), or at least some major stops along the way and a general flow and some tripwires here and there, but I think we’re all going to be finding the specifics of how and when it plays out over time. I’m actually super hopeful about it.
But this isn’t going to be a happening that unfolds in months, but a journey measured in years. And I’m totally cool with that because I think it matters (more on why in future posts). I absolutely know we’re going to lose a lot of folks along the way; I can’t control that and I don’t really blame them. We’re going to lose people to despair, to other languages, to other industries before it’s all done and that’s ok. If you look at the history of just about any other major language like C++ or Python you’ll see the ebbs and flows and I think we’re in an interesting place with open potential to go in any direction, but it’s not going to come easy or fast.
So, that’s what I’m going to be thinking about and talking about next. I’m going to be talking about next. And I didn’t want any of you reading this to think see any topic as “coming out of the blue” or wonder why or to think it’s just habit, or denial, or anything like that. There’s usually a method to my madness and a madness to my method.
Beyond me, of course, things are already happening. One alternate implementation of VB has been in the works for months already (it has nothing to do with me, I had no hand in it). There will likely be others. There will be forks and efforts and experiments and nothing and no one can stop it and we shouldn’t try. Many will live short lives and a few won’t. And all the while there will be a lot of competing viewpoints and agendas on what VB has been and what it should be and at times there won’t even be a clear and cohesive vision on either as we wander toward a future. So, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always done: leveraging my years of experience to continue to provide context to our communal conversation.
In a reference to the role of Ender in later books I considered titling this post (and changing my Twitter handle) to “Speaker for the Dead” but I feared it was too morbid. Poetically, “the dead” that Ender first speaks for turn out to not be dead at all (not really a spoiler) but still too morbid.
Two years ago, I had to ask myself about what life after “Program Manager, Visual Basic, Microsoft” meant for some things that had been a huge part of my life for a very long time. So many things I still wanted to say, and do, and share. And I decided that my love of programming and VB belonged to me. It’s a thing intrinsic to my “self”, distinct from my job and I decided that I was not going to give up anything in my life that I legitimately enjoy. It’s mine. It’s me. It’s been a profession, but it’s also been a hobby and for far longer. It’s what I love talking about and teaching and also just how I like approaching everyday problems I run into and how I enthusiastically want to approach new problems. If you were to see some of my comments on VB Facebook groups, poor newbs get hit with a deluge of information because I can barely contain myself! So, once again, after asking myself the same question, I’ve come to the same decision. I’m not going to become less passionate and I’m not going to become passionate about something else because of someone else. My passion continues onward as I continue onward.
I know this is a little bit more rambling than my usual. I think my writing style is going to shift (and shrink) a little in the future. I’m probably going to get a little more personal too. Sorry. But when I start talking about whatever I’m about to start talking about I just didn’t want any of my readers to wonder why. It’s because I want to. It is intentional and very self-aware. It does have a point (or several), though the full picture won’t always or immediately be obvious.
“Is he forking the language!?”
No! And that’s all I’m going to say on that right now.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who’s sent me an email or left me a comment over the last few months. I’ve seen most of them. Pretty much all positive. I’ve mentioned that I suffer from anxiety disorder and so I spend most of my day terrified of notifications and reading things online but you all have been awesome! You keep me inspired. I don’t always approve the comments right away, or reply, sorry, I will though. The folks on the vblang repo, still stoking the fires, you surprise and inspire me too. The new subscribers to this blog, and twitter, and even my YouTube channel… I’m flattered you assumed you’d hear from me again (you were right) and inspired by your support and interest. Thank you all!
As Microsoft has given up on BASIC (already years ago, as the real evolution stopped after VB2010), BASIC becomes more alive then ever; QBasic (PDS7.1), VB6 and VB .Net are all being revived as multi platform languages (twitter: @QB64, @RADBasic, @VBMercury) – all new implementations, all giving new hope for the BASIC platform on which millions relied – and still rely on. BASIC is not dead. BASIC will live on, no matter of what the Microsoft policy is at this moment. Microsoft will still remain the company that made BASIC big and I think it is a waste that they abandoned it. But as said BASIC will live on, even without support from Microsoft.
and we still have B4X for web development and native android app
and I was forgetting about Xojo, which is a complete IDE
I am honestly very happy to read a post from you again. When all this began, I told myself that I would not just jump.on another programming language simply because we have a.team @Microsoft that is currently not very passionate about VB! So I have continued laying down new VB Projects, even web ones and looking for 3rd party flavors of VB to.do mobile. Your brief article inspires me to keep doing what I love doing most. Wishing you the best and thanks for the post.
MS failed me when I wanted to develop mobile apps in VB, so I switched to a great VB RAD tool and community that allows you to create *native* Android and iOS app without any “frameworks” like phonegap or xamarin using nothing but a Visual Basic like language!
So you can add B4X.com to your list of VB strong development…..and it’s NOW free to write Android apps!
I’m sure that you will still lead the largest community in the world, that community will have in its focus a single objective, to transform VB into the most used dialect in the whole planet, the humans of today still don’t understand that the future is humanized syntax, maybe in the In the future I will not type, but rather speak to the computer the commands to be carried out and the computer back, the computer may even discuss whether this is the best way or not, how can we do this with the children of “C” (C ++, C #, Java and others)?
Create a community with a beautiful polyglot portal (the more languages the better) with courses, training, news and etc., turn VB into an IDE, others will be interested in developing APi’s for our IDE.
Tell us what is happening with the VB nation, we will all join your legion, some with knowledge and 99% with financial resources.
VB has already created a showcase of technology at Microsoft but his son has rebelled, it is time for VB to create a new child of technology.
Thank you. We trust you!
Thank you for the post. I love VB very much and glad to see you as VB defender.
I am not aware of how long you were the VB PM, but it is truly awesome to know that for whatever length of time you were, VB had a true believer at the helm.
To put VB back on the forefront of languages positively considered by new developers, it is going to require that we true believers develop some kind of entity
(which is independent of — but works in tandem with — Microsoft)
which serves to unify our voice (in a polished manner) to properly promote/market VB as a modern tool which can solve modern problems. A good template would be to capture the spirit of the Visual Basic Programmer’s Journal of the mid 90’s, but modernizing and extending the concept via the power of the web and social media.
Simply put, to revitalize VB for the long-term, we need to capture and maintain mindshare of receptive new developers, so that they are proud to say, “Yeah, I code in VB.”
Anthony we count on you to be the new VB reference in the world!