Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Why do we assume they know what they are doing?

I had a interesting thought whilst talking to someone about the whole 'Twitter using Scala' thing.

Now I have no vested interest in either Ruby or Scala. I like both languages, I tend to lean toward Scala as I am a staticly typed kind of guy, but in the end I like to think I am a pragmatist and will use the right tool for the job.

But what got me after looking at all the blog posts, all the tweets and email threads was, why do we assume that they (Twitter) know what they are really doing? Now I am by no means having a go a Twitter, I think it was a brilliant idea, it has captured the imagination of many and I see plenty of people that bag it still updating their status every hour or more.

But coming up with a great idea for a service doesn't mean you instantly know the right way to implement it - especially if its never been done before.

So Twitter, its kind of like a global IRC service, its web-scale. Did the guys that came up with the idea have any experience with building web-scale services?

(Hint: buy Jim Webber a few beers if you want to know how to play nicely at web scales and how to leverage its nature to your advantage).

So as the debate over Ruby-vs-Scala continues, which I think is irrelevant, the real questions on the learning Twitter has gone through linger on. Have they learnt enough about the domain (web scale messaging)? Has the underlying Architecture improved or does it remain the same regardless of the language of implementation?

My guess (and it is a guess) is the Architecture remains the same. In that case they may have undertaken what has been done many times before and just reimplemented it but in another language. They may have even done it right, managed to get a clean break from some technical debt that was dragging them under, but in my experience, that never quite happens either. So you are still faced with technical debt (possibly even more) as well as a sub-optimal architecture.

Having said all of that, it is worth keeping in mind that Twitter is still here today and is still increasing in popularity despite the "Fail Whales". And I will continue to use it.

And in reality this doesn't just go for Twitter, theirs just happens to be more public than most.

So a reminder (to myself as much as anything) - Before reaching out for that implementation solution, that golden hammer - its worth stepping back, taking a break and looking at the architecture and even the requirements and asking is that really valid, does it really have to be 'that' way? Are we making life more difficult for ourselves.

No comments: