Scott Hanselman

Hanselminutes Podcast 65 - Martin Fowler and David Heinemeier Hansson

May 24, '07 Comments [35] Posted in Podcast | Programming | Ruby
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My sixty-fifth podcast is up, recorded on the floor RailsConf2007 here in Portland, Oregon. In this episode I sit down with Martin Fowler of Thoughtworks and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals and talk about beauty, making developers happy, the death (or life) of HTML, the future of Microsoft, and I ask if we should care about Rich Internet Applications. DHH is the creator of the Ruby on Rails framework, and Martin Fowler is the Chief Scientist at ThoughtWorks, well-known systems architect and Extreme Programming expert.

This episode is chock full of goodness and good guests, so it's double the ordinary length, clocking in at over 40 minutes, so forgive me, as all three of us tried not to waste the listener's time.

If you have trouble downloading, or your download is slow, do try the torrent with µtorrent or another BitTorrent Downloader.

Links from the Show

Martin Fowler's Bliki (p5p)
RailsConf 2007 • May 17, 2007 - May 20, 2007 • Portland, Oregon (p5r)
Ruby on Rails (p5t)
Loud Thinking by David Heinemeier Hansson (p5q)
Jesse James Garrett's Information architecture resources (p5s)
Tree Surgeon for .NET (p5u)

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show.

Check out their UI Suite of controls for ASP.NET. It's very hardcore stuff. One of the things I appreciate about Telerik is their commitment to completeness. For example, they have a page about their Right-to-Left support while some vendors have zero support, or don't bother testing. They also are committed to XHTML compliance and publish their roadmap. It's nice when your controls vendor is very transparent.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007 3:32:10 PM UTC
Hey, Scott. I've been enjoying your podcasts. You should add a link to the mp3 as an enclosure in the rss feed so that Google Reader will show the little player for the item. That would be awesome. Great blog, though.
Thursday, May 24, 2007 3:36:41 PM UTC
Matthew, you mean as an enclosure in THIS feed, rather than the Hanselminutes feed?
Thursday, May 24, 2007 4:19:56 PM UTC
Well done podcast! I was pleased with DHH's viewpoints. He often comes off as arrogent in interviews and presentations I've seen, but he was very cordial in your interview. What's your take on Martin Fowler and .NET declining in thoughtworks projects? Is this an indication .NET is going to decline overall? I have a real hard time seeing it. Anyway, good stuff!
Thursday, May 24, 2007 5:42:10 PM UTC
Mason - That one surprised me. Since they are only 800 people, it's just a very small statistic, so I don't know how valid it is. It might mean they are doing fewer large enterprise jobs. It's VERY hard to hire a good .NET person right now, which could mean they are all working, or there's fewer of them. Either way, it's something worth digging into.
Thursday, May 24, 2007 8:32:36 PM UTC
Mason - I don't know what to make of it either. I don't think we're a statistically valid sample, but it's a data point nonetheless. It surprised me too when I heard.
Thursday, May 24, 2007 11:52:29 PM UTC
Thanks for another great podcast Scott. As an ever busy .NET developer I have been resisting the temptation to look into Ruby. With so many new things like Silverlight, Orcas, WPF etc coming out it is becoming hard to know where to spend any extra time learning new stuff while continuing to put significant effort into current applications being developed.

However, after listening to this I now feel compelled to check out Ruby. This and the fact I don't have to upgrade my laptop to try it out unlike Orcas + WPF :-).

Keep up the great work.
Gary A
Thursday, May 24, 2007 11:53:32 PM UTC
Very nice podcast Scott, good conversation!

I was glad to hear that Ruby on the CLR was coming with Silverlight, maybe we'll see a Rails implementation (and see some DLR implementations outside the scope of Silverlight). I seriously doubt .NET penetration is decreasing accross the board, as a general trend, but like you mentioned it's worth looking into.

I agree that Silverlight and Flash will make for some great widgets (especially if Popfly turns out as good as it's potential allows) and that HTML/CSS will still be the basic "quarks" we will use for apps. However, as everyone seemed to agree, those kinds of ritch "blank canvas" technologies have huge potential for media. I think there are many classes of applications where media is such a focus, that Silverlight/Flash will move beyond widgets and encompass the entire application. A good example of what I'm thinking of is the Netflix app demo'd at Mix07.

Finally, the comment about the Microsoft "distortion field" was dead-on. There is so much cool technology flowing out of Redmond lately, and in the near future, but there isn't a whole lot of buzz about it (Silverlight and Popfly not withstanding). LINQ, WinFX (WPF, WCF, WF, Cardspace), the DLR, and even some of the upcoming Live services are all very intriguing and have huge potential. But very little buzz.
Friday, May 25, 2007 12:12:12 AM UTC
First it is said that Microsoft is not doing enough to support Ruby in their CLR, or that it would be great if they did, and then a few minutes later it is said that Microsoft is not having any focus, because, oh, you can choose between all these language flavors, etc. This was a very pro-ruby podcast, of course. I myself don't like ruby at all, though it's better than dot net, which I gave up upon 4 years ago when it came out. Indeed, as said in the podcast, the whole setting up business in dot net is horrific. I think ruby did not succeed in creating a beautiful language. When I read ruby code it doesn't look like a poem at all.
Jimmy Soho
Friday, May 25, 2007 12:28:32 AM UTC
Jimmy, so what kind of languages/framworks DO you like?
Friday, May 25, 2007 3:36:39 AM UTC
The demand for .NET developers in the market right now is red hot (I am having to turn business away). I think the statement in the podcast that demand has dropped over the last 12 months is very much mistaken based on what I'm seeing.

FWIW this web site tracks job postings by technology and is useful to track interest overtime in different technologies:

Friday, May 25, 2007 2:44:39 PM UTC
Hi Jason
just to let you know, you're blog is still the tits.
Friday, May 25, 2007 4:01:36 PM UTC
Hey Robert,

That Indeed link doesn't really give any information to the science behind their analysis. I'm going to rule it out as an anecdotal snapshot.

The Tiobe index, on the other hand, uses real science ( Which I believe gives a more adequate snapshot on the state of language adoption.

Btw- Great podcast. I also went to RailsConf last week and thought it was one of the better conferences I've been to in several years. (Though some of the sessions and breakfast were quite lackluster)
Friday, May 25, 2007 7:19:03 PM UTC
For me, this was one of the best Hanselminutes. Good coverage, good general topic, great to listen to. Thanks Scott (and Martin and David)

Was fun hearing the "edit point" bit tho - behind the curtin and all that.

Friday, May 25, 2007 8:24:52 PM UTC
Hi Scott,

Just a couple of comments about your Fowler, DHH podcast.

Too religious for my taste, Fowler and David definitely believe they have found the cure for all programming illnesses which is more religion than science (no such a thing exists).

Their arguments are more based on ideology than on reasoning.

Their point that HTML CSS and JavaScript are the ultimate tool for expressing user interfaces because any other tool (Silverlight, Flash or whatever) is too complicated is the same argument some people expressed a while ago about character based interfaces (Mainframe) and GUI interfaces. We should go back to the character based interfaces for simplicity.

Their emphasis on convention and rules (RubyOnRails) can be a blessing or a curse, I have seen how the ASP.NET conventions (an open canvas in the words of David) can get in the way of your ideas and force you into ugly workarounds, I suspect that with RubyOnRails you will need workarounds too and they won't be pretty.

The argument of Fowler that .NET and Java were imposed by Microsoft and Sun and that RubyOnRails came out of this group of saints-programmers is very funny, Sun and Microsoft Alpha geeks' create these technologies and then the company markets them, is not the company who creates the technology, it is a group of strongly opinionated programmers equivalent to the saint-programmers in the RubyOnRails community.

The statement that the .NET projects are decreasing is anecdotic, I could tell Fowler that in my very limited experience they are increasing, he is just preaching uncertainty and fear to the listeners for them to jump into the wagon of Rails, Java or PHP, anything but Microsoft.

The statement that the Alpha geeks are all programming Rails is anecdotic too, I can mentioned that most of the .NET or Java alpha geeks are not programming in Rails.

This is in my opinion an excellent piece of propaganda. Microsoft is evil, Sun, IBM, Oracle and Google are not, that sounds really "fair and balanced to me".

If look you at who finances the so called Open Source movement you will find, IBM, Sun, Oracle and the rest of the "good" companies.

I thought Fowler was a neutral non biased professional, I have no longer that opinion.

Keep the good work,

Gilbert Rosal
Friday, May 25, 2007 9:25:36 PM UTC
Hey Gilbert,

Did you look at the tiobe link I gave above... It is not anecdotal and is in fact mathematic. I would challenge you to present us with something that is not-anecdotal to support your opinion.

Also based on your statement "I suspect that with RubyOnrails...." it's apparent to me that you've never actually written a line of ruby.

I would encourage you to actually write a small low-consequence web app on the Rails platform and then, whether you agree or not, you'll at least have some context for where DHH and Fowler are coming from.
Friday, May 25, 2007 10:35:25 PM UTC

If you search for new jobs on you will find >5000 jobs for ASP.NET (that is the maximum number it will list so the exact number is unknown).

If you search for new jobs for PHP you will find 2503 jobs.

If you search for new jobs for Rubu on Rails you will find 171.

I am not trying to refute that Ruby has buzz right now. But I do think that needs to be kept in context, and that the claims that .NET jobs and opportunities are disappearing is silly.
Friday, May 25, 2007 10:49:31 PM UTC
Sam and John - All interesting anecdotes. We just won't know until 10 year from now, but it's aways a good idea to mix it up a little.
Saturday, May 26, 2007 12:14:32 AM UTC
I'm building an website right now... I took offense at the "pink colors and rounded corners" comment one of your guests made, as my site just so happens to be pink with rounded corners!!!

But seriously... I agree with some of those things the guys were saying. For right now CSS and HTML are the way to go. (By the by my pink rounded corners are done in pure CSS/HTML!). However, I do have a very definite opinion that Rich Internet applications are the way to go in the very near future.

HTML & Javascript definitely need to be shelved. As a developer I am completely sick of writing applications that behave one way on IE, another on Firefox, another on Safari, and another on Opera.

I agree with your guests' comment that, given 10 years, Rich Apps haven't really caught on like everybody thought they would. But they will catch on. The right tools are finally here.... namely Adobe Flex and M$ Silverlight. Well... Flex for sure... Silverlight soon.

In my case if Silverlight version 1.x had put in some decent standard input controls (e.g. textboxes, gridviews, buttons, etc.) I would not be writing calitrak in CSS/HTML. I would gladly, readily... yes even passionately... trade it all in for Silverlight and C#.

.net version 1.x kind of stunk up the joint too though. And I believe that M$ will get it right in Silverlight 2.x, and the floodgate of Rich Apps will be forever unleashed.

For as much as Ruby is cutting edge and "hip" for the moment, it is fast on the way to becoming old-school. And for as passionate and hip your young guests were today, the passionate youth of tomorrow... the very near tomorrow... will be writing Rich Apps.

DJ Peer
Saturday, May 26, 2007 12:19:16 AM UTC
That Tiobe link seems to take into account the "buzz factor" as well. The Rails community strikes me as saying "Look At Me" a lot and that helps generate buzz. Not knocking them for that. Rails seems to be almost religion to them and they want the masses to convert. I can't speak for how things are in the job market in the US at the moment, but in New Zealand the buzz is all about .Net. But like Scott said in his comment we won't know for years to come. Besides, I didn't think it was a contest? I thought it was about solving problems with the tools that make solving them easiest for the person solving them. I find using .Net easiest for solving my coding problems. I've tried rails and it was just okay. There are things about the Ruby language I really like and other things I really really don't like.

As for the podcast I did enjoy, but I can see why people think that DHH is arrogant, he does very much come off as his way is THE WAY. I just don't agree with him.
Sunday, May 27, 2007 6:19:38 AM UTC
I'd agree that HTML and CSS will be around for a long time. While some sites are very involved with the latest visuals and bling, there are many that just focus on the basics of usability and sharing out of knowledge.

Not that there's anything wrong with either. is just as valid as -- they just serve different purposes and different user sets.

I am a little worried that all this focus on pretty will continue to get in the way of usability. When I'm sitting in Starbucks on a very slow wireless connection, Silverlight will not be my friend. And when I'm on dial-up at a Motel 6 (paying my own expenses now, you know) it will be even worse.

God protect me from beautiful web pages. I just want to print that boarding pass.
Monday, May 28, 2007 2:33:06 PM UTC
I am wondering what conclusions guys can draw with a loss of one position of C#. I primarily work on .Net and have taken some primary lessons of Ruby. Ruby sounds interesting. But .Net framework programming model is changing everyday. There is a lot more XML coming into everything. In many cases you have to write very little C# or any .Net language code. Consider the XAML programming, most of the animation rendering etc. is completely markup. The TIOBE site does not track HTML or CSS in its list. Doesn't it? So how do we track .Net Framework as such? How about clubbing C#, VB.Net & XML (on .Net) together? Couple of years later Ruby on .Net can also be added. That will give you real strength of the platform. There were lot of holy cows. Unfortunately they got slottered in the market. Apple is supposed to be far better that Windows. But their fundamentals killed their business. M$ has demonstrated better business fundametals than any other company till now. That's why they are at the position they are into.
On the other hand their is room for every type of solution. Kevin said it right. It's all about solving a problem in the best possible way you can. Dick needs to print a boarding pass and simple text printing would do for him rather than fancy stuff. I love Google for their simplicty and usability. M$ software is easy to learn and use. But richer than it should be... forcing you to upgrade your h/w. That way 37 signals does a decent job of keeping the UI simple. So it's right that the Ruby guys promote their solutions and equally right are M$ and G,000,000,gle. Someone likes to keep beard, someone likes to shave their heads and someone hates both. ;-) We are all chidren of God!!!! :-)
Monday, May 28, 2007 8:41:14 PM UTC
There seems to be an interesting dichotomy here. The idea that Rails is good because it makes you conform to standards almost seems to be an argument against the underlying dynamic language. Isn’t it almost exactly the same to say that C#, Object Pascal, or even VB to some extent have advantages over Ruby because they restrict developer freedom?

I agree that there are great productivity benefits when using a framework like Rails but for the developers who are responsible enough to handle the freedom, there are greater benefits to the “blank canvas”.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007 12:36:39 AM UTC
Hey, Scott.... You still with us. It's been four days since your last post.... yoooo hooooo....

You posted more often when you were in Africa. Some of us have no lives and we are waiting.... patiently.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007 12:52:08 AM UTC
Well I checked out Ruby but I'm not seeing the beauty of it so far. I'm happy to stick with a blank canvas and apply sound design principles for now.

BTW, I don't think CSS and Javascript are dirty at all and I enjoy using them where appropriate. Also .NET is full steam ahead here in Australia as far as I can tell and being a contractor I have one eye on the job market all the time.
Gary A
Tuesday, May 29, 2007 3:40:45 AM UTC
Darrel - It's a holiday in the states! I'm taking a break, dude. :P
Tuesday, May 29, 2007 9:44:49 AM UTC
DHH said a good and interesting thing: the detrimental nature of "unsettling innovation". I find the constant innovation from Microsoft to be unsettling, especially when it comes at the expense of real follow-through on making fundamental things like the .NET 2.0 BCL (say) complete and bug free. So many bugs and good suggestions on Ladybug are just ignored for years on end because MS are too busy pumping out endless amounts of innovative new stuff (of dubious value, to my mind). DHH is right: constraints and stability are good.

Ruby and Rails... I'm looking into them. For the first time in 22 years, I'm looking into and playing with non-Microsoft technologies... and I love it!
Thursday, May 31, 2007 4:47:13 PM UTC
wow. david is super negative.
Friday, June 01, 2007 2:24:15 AM UTC
Scott, please do more pod cast like this one.

People talking about why/when/how they use technologies is more interesting and controversial than the technologies themselves.
Saturday, June 02, 2007 10:35:53 AM UTC
Just lost a lot of respect for Martin Fowler. Never heard of the other guy and, frankly, he can stick his drivel on rails where sun don't shine. I couldn't believe my ears when they started talking evil this, evil that.
Sunday, June 03, 2007 6:29:12 PM UTC
Scott, I really enjoyed this podcast. Thanks for interviewing two, imho, true influencers in the software industry. It's nice to hear how some of the other side of fence feels about writing software. I am a .NET developer and truely feel for how DHH and Martin feel about the complexity of software and how Microsoft misses in so many ways.
Sunday, June 03, 2007 8:02:48 PM UTC
I have to say it was sad to me listening Martin trying to put some sense out there while the other guy was expeling his religious speach. I'd expect something else coming from Martin Fowler. The other guy is just a case study, it's funny. You could infer, according to his idea, that when Microsoft was mainly VB.Net and C#, was very evil and that's why everyone abandoned them. And now that MS has support for Python and Ruby, they are as evil as before but also stupid, because that means they don't have any direction to give to the community.
Julio G.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007 11:46:51 PM UTC
It's a bit sad to see Martin Fowler and DHH living in the bubble. Everything that comes out of their mouth is a template of open source groupthink. They can't see the end of HTML/CSS as the web application platform. They continue to wrongly think that there's some big resurgence in dynamic languages. Quoting Paul Graham was pretty much the icing on the cake for me. It was time to stop listening. Maybe one day, they'll wake up to reality, but until then they'll continue to live in the bubble.

Sunday, June 17, 2007 6:14:48 AM UTC
Of course you're going to think I'm a grammar nerd, which I'm not, but I'll say it anyway...

I find it funny that they put a special rule in Ruby's pluralization which has the sole purpose of incorrectly pluralizing Octopus. The truely correct form is Octopuses. Octopi is an accepted, but incorrect, pluralization. It would be pluralized octopi if it was a Latin word but it is, in fact, Greek in origin.

Really, I'm not a grammar dork so don't waste your time pointing out English mistakes in this comment. The only reason I know this is because I'm an octopus dork.
Sunday, July 01, 2007 9:26:53 PM UTC
The truely correct form is Octopuses. Octopi is an accepted, but incorrect, pluralization. It would be pluralized octopi if it was a Latin word but it is, in fact, Greek in origin.

This is, of course, wrong. Octopuses would be the "truely" correct form, if it was an English word, but it is, in fact, Greek in origin. The correct plural of oktopous is oktopodes.
the smiling ghost of failure
Tuesday, July 17, 2007 1:38:36 PM UTC
(in portuguese)

Salve Martin Fowler,

Me chamo Eleuson, sou acadêmico do curso de bacharel em sistemas de informação, no Brasil, estou concluindo o curso este ano, esta sendo de grande ajuda os livros como UML Essencial e REFATORAÇÃO - APERFEIÇOANDO O PROJETO DE CÓDIGO EXISTENTE em minha monografia, gostaria me manter mas atualizado possível na área, principalmente a de engenharia que pretendo seguir carreira.

Agradeço desde já, toda colaboração direta e indireta de sua parte,

um abraço,

Eleuson Ferreira Miranda,

Macapá/AP/Brasil, 17 de julho de 2007.
Daniel Miranda (Eleuson)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.