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!