Not Everything

I once met a former coworker and he told me about the company he was working for now. It sounded really cool. They would meet a customer for a day, discuss requirements all morning, and while the customer was out for lunch, they would whip up the first prototype in order to move the discussion forward. They did this with rails, and he was also very fond of the amount of ready-made plugins for almost every purpose.

His words were: "You can do everything with Rails!"

Like ... a blog, with a calendar, a buzzword cloud, colors, links to social networks, rss feeds, email updates, apply the style to a kind of device or personal taste, ...

Don't get me wrong, this is great. Making it easy is an even greater feat.

But I've heard the "you can do everything with X" line several times now, and now that I finally learned how to deal with it, let me share:

Find out what "everything" is, in this context.

Would you write a browser in Ruby? With rails? Of course you can write a web server in Ruby as you can write a web server in PostScript, but that's more, like, "because I can", not something useful really. OK, so we have a web server written in JavaScript, that's pretty scary and still turned out to be extremely useful. But "everything" is a pretty big number of things.

Would you write a graphics card driver in visual basic? A word processor in assembler? Cook soup in a frying pan?

Let's get back to that cocktail party and listen to a VisualBasic fanboy meeting someone who writes drivers for graphics cards for a living.

"You can do everything with VB, like automatically pull the items for an invoice out of Access and into Word ..."

"You can do everything with it, like shade a million polygons a second, while pulling their coordinates from the physical model in the new engine that's already in memory ..."

(When I wrote this, this started reminding of an old Apple commercial.)

Here's the quiz:

Find out what "everything" means for the speaker, and you learn something about their world, their context, their goals, and their values.

Use that to understand your fellow humans better.

Now find out what "everything" means for you. Where are the limits of your thinking?

jan 2016-06-19