Friday, July 28, 2006

Should ColdFusion developers be more Java-like?

As the ColdFusion community is thinking about what we'd like in CF 8, it dawns on me that in some ways we're going through growing pains. In discussing and disagreeing with desired new features, we're asking, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Should the ColdFusion community as a whole stay focused on web pages with interactivity, or should we start thinking and acting like application developers?

Personally, I answered that last question for myself last Summer after we hired a Java developer. Through discussions with him, I realized that I was building web based applications, but treating them as if they were web pages with interactivity. Because of this, most, if not all of my projects ended up being nightmares to maintain, often with quick-fix solutions tacked on later. At that time I decided that I needed to start thinking like, and ultimately become an application developer (since that was what I was in fact doing for a living.)

Where I work, we pretty much use ColdFusion for our websites. In the past we've used ASP, and Perl, but for the most part we're a CF shop. The reason for this and the main reason we stick with it is that using CF allows our web designers to work alongside of our developers using the same IDE (Dreamweaver), while all still being productive and focused on our individual strengths. Sure, our HTML folks have picked up a bit of CF here and there, much the same way that as a CF developer I know some HTML, but for the most part they are experts on graphics and HTML, whereas I'm expected to be the expert on CF. What this has meant is that when our designers need some complex capability, our developer's encapsulate it in a ColdFusion Tag and document it with a dreamweaver extension. The designers simply need to learn one new tag, and they're off to the races. (heck, Dreamweaver even lists out all the attributes for them.)

My point is that while, I don't want to see the ease of entry into ColdFusion change, I do think that those of us who write ColdFusion based web applications for a living need to keep up with and take advantage of the programming innovations and techniques that are in use in other languages such as Java. There are some that do so, but far too few of us. I've learned a great deal from our Java brethren in the past year, and I'm sure there are plenty of lessons to learn from those working in other languages as well. We need to seek out those opportunities and share them within the ColdFusion community.

Will this create a divide in our community? I really don't think so, rather I think that by learning from our Java brothers, we may find opportunities to share with them as well, and in the process perhaps broaden the appeal of CF. All I can say definitively, is that for my part, I've managed to show one Java developer the strengths of CF in such a way that he now prefers CFML to JSP for his web based applications.

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posted by Luis

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