I've heard about ALT.NET about a year ago. At first, I thought that it was about using alternatives to Microsoft or to avoid Microsoft software. ALT.NET was supposed to be about going "alternative" and being against "The Man" and being for "The People". Well, I must agree that I wasn't totally right with that. I mean, Microsoft make some mess but it also does a lot of great tools and particularly a great IDE with lots of extensibility point.
Then, I did what I should have done in the beginning. I looked up the definition. On the ALT.NET website, we have this:
We are a self-organizing, ad-hoc community of developers bound by a desire to improve ourselves, challenge assumptions, and help each other pursue excellence in the practice of software development.
Hum... that's a totally different story now. The emphasis is mine and helps get the key points. First, I would have never gotten into a field that I hate and I love to learn. That makes the desire to improve ourselves done. I always challenge assumptions and try to find the better tool for the job. I know that Microsoft makes some great tools but sometimes they just don't cut it. They will someday... but they not always will. Most of the time, you can't wait for Microsoft to build a tool that will help you finish a software... so you get what works for you at the moment.
Finally and not last, "help each other pursue excellence". That is the hardest one. Of course, I participate in the .NET Montreal Usergroup, but... I felt that more could be done. I then started to speak with Greg Young and other passionate programmers in Montreal. Something that Greg kept repeating during our "Beer Meeting" was always: "But what concretely can we do to improve the level of the people in Montreal?". This stayed in my mind for weeks.
Since I wanted to help improve my fellow programmers and I thought that we learn best while coding... I started searching for a way to improve everyone while coding. It happens that it already exist and it's named a Coding Dojo.
Last Thursday, I organized the very first Coding Dojo for the ALT.NET Montreal group. We were few but learned a lot. We also had a lot of practice in learning TDD. It was hard since I never did a Coding Dojo before. I learned a lot, and our fellow programmers learned a lot. I'll try to get one Dojo per month and to get more and more people to join the group. As Kevin Coster was told... "if you build it, they will come".
So my last word goes to Scott Bellware. All hope is not gone Scott. People around the world is still organizing to teach other people best practices and to try to raise the bar of everyone. Our group is small... but if it had to start somehow it had to be small. I hope all hope is not gone on your side Scott. Passionate programmers love to learn and we are trying to offer them a way to learn and improve themselves and at the same time... propagate their knowledge to the workers that didn't cared enough to come.