Whether in the form of CSS, servers, or platforms, developers today are inundated with options for building software. "With all of the new technologies being thrown at us," said Jay Harris, founder of Arana Software, "we haven't quite figured out how to parse them out."
So, where to start?
On Thursday at the seventh annual Code PaLOUsa event in Louisville, KY, Harris spoke to a room of more than 500 people in the software development community, including developers, architects, UX designers, business analysts, project managers, testers, DevOps engineers, and more.
"How do we know which technology to pursue? What will work? What will be beneficial for our workplace? What's going to go away?" Harris asked. "We're developer puppies, chasing the technology squirrels."
In running a custom app development shop, Harris deals with these questions on a daily basis. It's not just a question of what his company should work with, Harris said, but what his clients want to work with.
Making matters more difficult, the cool things that happened yesterday, are quickly obsolete, Harris said. For developers, that can translate into a fear of trying out something new.
"We want to make right choices with tech for tomorrow, but we know we screwed it up yesterday," he said.
Harris used the example of Microsoft's Silverlight to illustrate the point. Silverlight, which debuted in 2007, was meant to be a golden ticket for streaming. But it wasn't better, wasn't stronger, and certainly wasn't more secure, Harris said. And as ZDNet reported, Microsoft quietly began backing away from the platform. "Technologies go away," he said. "It happens all the time. It's supposed to happen, but we're afraid of it."
Harris framed developers' struggles in personal relationship terms. "We're afraid of technology abandonment," he said, worried that one tech will leave us as quickly as it appeared. Or we have a "fear of rejection"—that our developer cohort won't stick by us. Harris also pointed to a "fear of commitment" when it comes to tech. "What if I can't handle it?" he asked. "What if it comes with baggage?"
The important thing, Harris stressed, is to overcome these fears and just plunge right in.
Technologies disappearing can sometimes be a great thing, he added. We need to give ourselves permission to try new things.
Harris also argued that we are using the wrong benchmark for success.
"Stop viewing level of success as proficiency," said Harris. "The level of success is learning something."
*Disclaimer: CBS Interactive, TechRepublic's parent company, is a sponsor of the 2017 Code paLOUsa event.
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Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a journalist in Louisville, KY. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Playboy, Undark Magazine, VICE, Vox, and other publications.