I have long since stopped keeping up with the “right” development platform for new applications, choosing to trust my development staff to make these critical decisions.  Maybe it’s my old age (43, if you’re asking).  Maybe it’s my focus on the business and strategy decisions.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’d rather spend time with my family than learn the newest development tools and tricks.  No matter, though.  As I said, I leave the big decision about a development platform to the development team.

In Boulder’s Startup Weekend, witness what happened:

By Sunday morning, when still nobody had seen any sort of working [JAVA-based] prototype this mutiny hit full steam. A small mutiny was underway. By around 11am on Sunday, it was in full force and it was announced that a Rails team would set off in competition to pass the Java team. In the end, Andrew tactfully saved this by a) admitting his mistake, and b) getting the Rails team to work in concert with the Java team. – from Brutal Honesty: A failure, and a success

What struck me most about the Boulder experience is that this is not how business works.  It would be suicidal for a company to hire a dozen or two JAVA developers and an equal number of Rails folks.  Witness, further, one invididual participant’s observation of the process in Boulder… read it here.

Andrew Hyde made the following valid points about the most recent StartupWeekend near Purdue University:

The ‘what programming language’ discussion is always weird to me, and still is problematic every weekend. The group chose .NET and then changed to PHP after a rogue coder decided he could build it faster (and said, hey, guys, um.. I just kinda built it, want to see?). What can we do to solve this in future weekends? I don’t know. “What language would you like to code in?” is really not the question that needs to be asked, instead, “What language are you a rock star in and can create a prototype in a weekend?” might just be better. – from Review of Startup Weekend West Lafayette

When faced with the decision on how to address this for the Birmingham effort, we turned to other members of the organizing team.  It was clear from the Boulder experience that it would be helpful to address the issue in advance.  So, because of the larger supply of .NET developers in the region we made what some may see as an arbitrary decision to align the platform with the resources available.  In fact, our local .NET user group is larger and more organized than our local Ruby group.

One argument against using .NET was procuring enough “legal” licenses to build the product.  No problem… everyone can work with a free, 90-day trial of Visual Studio.  The resulting company will be responsible for securing any required licenses.

One last thing… if an idea-submitter is truly unhappy with this decision, then they are still FULLY ENCOURAGED to participate in the “Business Development” weekend.  There is plenty of benefit to putting your idea through the paces… just indicate to the organizers that you wish to withdraw from the selection evening on the first Sunday.  It’s that simple.  Of course, there is a better than good chance that we’ll swing the pendulum back to open source for our second Birmingham Startup effort (in 2008, anyone?) and your idea will be better prepared to compete for the Implementation Weekend under those conditions.