DevExpress Newsletter 38: Message from the CTO

19 November 2010

This particular Message follows on some thoughts I’ve been having this past month or so:

Hindsight, easy; foresight, hard

There have been several instances recently of the truism that it's only hindsight that is 20-20. I'll kick off with our contribution: back last December, when we were laying out the plans for 2010, it seemed entirely feasible that we would get out the second major release of the year in October, maybe November at a pinch. And yet here we are in the latter half of November, having only just released the beta. Yes, certainly we were optimistic that the biggest release of DXperience we've ever done would arrive on time, but who could fault us for having ambitious plans and just going for it?

For this release, we decided to approach development slightly differently: a feature had to be complete before moving on to the next. Yes, we'd done this before, but this time "complete" meant including documentation, demos, designers, and all the other ancillary things that wrap a feature. So we could talk about completed features earlier than we've ever done in a release cycle. All benefits, no downsides, right? Except that it is human nature to make plans for one's own apps assuming that new feature X would be available in October: it was in the roadmap, remember?.

Another example from the opposite direction: rumors about Silverlight have abounded since PDC. I won't rehash them here, but in essence you can assume there are 3 camps: Silverlight will continue just fine the way it has for the past couple of years; Silverlight has been repositioned to just line-of-business apps and Windows Phone 7; or Silverlight's death warrant has been all but signed. (Of course, this is not a Holy Trinity; the truth, if anyone except Microsoft knows for sure, is somewhere on a continuum between them all.) It is human nature, then, to worry about starting to write a Silverlight app: whence Silverlight? is niggling at your mind.

These two scenarios are an example of why foresight is so hard or impossible: we are just terrible at predicting the future. Instead we should discount rumors and instead concentrate on the facts when deciding on a course of action. Facts that we know right now. Yes, we may be wrong, in which case, we fix the issues at a later stage; but we may be all right, in which case we move on to the next decision to make, the next project to do. (Sounds almost Agile, no?)

Yes, it would be nice to use feature X that DevExpress has announced in my app, but, you know, I'll get out this release and add it into the next one, once they really have provided said feature. Until then I shall view it as vaporware. Yes, I may spend 6 months writing a Silverlight app, worried about its future, but then I'll be able to laugh at all those who dithered on the sidelines once my app's released and successful.

Unless you're into gambling on stocks, shade the brightness of your foresight. Don’t let it illuminate everything you do.

Having said all that, we’re certainly going to be burnishing our crystal ball and peering into its foggy depths at our summit from 29th November to 3rd December. Remember to register and tune in: we have two webinars during that time, during which we’ll be talking about what we’re planning for 2011. Of course, the famous DevExpress RoadMap will also be published later as a result.

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