Monday, September 24, 2007

Does the language really matter?

Just read this post from JRuby god Ola Bini which pointed to an older article by Paul Graham. Eloquently as ever, Paul explains his views that more clever guys use superior technology and therefore are likely to succeed in business (i.e. be more successful than the competition).

During the years we worked on Viaweb I read a lot of job descriptions. A new competitor seemed to emerge out of the woodwork every month or so. The first thing I would do, after checking to see if they had a live online demo, was look at their job listings. After a couple years of this I could tell which companies to worry about and which not to. The more of an IT flavor the job descriptions had, the less dangerous the company was. The safest kind were the ones that wanted Oracle experience. You never had to worry about those. You were also safe if they said they wanted C++ or Java developers. If they wanted Perl or Python programmers, that would be a bit frightening-- that's starting to sound like a company where the technical side, at least, is run by real hackers. If I had ever seen a job posting looking for Lisp hackers, I would have been really worried.

I agree with his conclusion that more clever guys will be more flexible in choosing their tools. But is it really true that this translates into business success? If so, how can it be that MySpace succeeded although it was (originally) built on ColdFusion (in 2003 I believe). How can it be that Facebook is rumored to be sold at 10 billion dollars while being built on PHP (I do not mean to diss PHP, but it is hardly a technology known for its extravagant cleverness)? Regarding the ColdFusion example above I read that MySpace chose this technology because they simply had a development team that happened to know it well (and thus was efficient enough at cranking out the code).

My take on this question is that the chosen technology just has to fit sufficiently well to the problem. If that is given the team that is more proficient in their technology will have the advantage.

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