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PowerBuilder Editorial: Hi, I’m Mort from Ort...

Mort is the line-of-business developer

Back in March of 2004, Eric Lippert of Microsoft explained in his "Fabulous Adventures In Coding" blog how Microsoft divides the developer community into three groups, each which is designated by a personality. Apparently, this is a practice recommended by Geoffrey Moore in "Crossing the Chasm".

The three personalities are:

  1. Elvis: The professional application developer
  2. Einstein: The expert on both low-level bit-twiddling and high-level object-oriented architectures
  3. Mort: The line-of-business developer

One of the major distinctions that Eric makes is that Elvis and Einstein got computer science degrees. They're basically learning the business just enough to know how to write the program. Mort comes out of the business end of things. He knows the business well and is learning just enough programming theory to write the program. Within Microsoft's developer languages, Elvis was claimed by the C# crowd, Einstein by the C++ crowd, and the VB.NET folks got stuck with Mort.

If you're a line-of-business developer, as most PowerBuilder developers (including myself) are, are you offended? A lot of line-of-business developers in the Microsoft camp are. See, for example, the Visual Studio Magazine editorial "A Mort by Any Other Name". Note that Elvis and Einstein are well-known figures, and Mort is a nobody. In response, Paul Vick (technical lead for the VB.NET within Microsoft) has suggested that Mort be replaced with Ben Franklin. While Ben Franklin was a polymath, which is what I feel like at times with all the different hats I have to wear as a line-of-business applications developer, I'm not sure everybody would make the connection if we just referred to "Ben" or "Franklin." My suggestion would be another polymath, Leonardo da Vinci, and I think folks would understand who we're referring to easier if we said "da Vinci." Although Galileo might be more appropriate, because of the disagreements he had with his fellows and authority figures <grin>.

The real question though is whether the slight toward line-of-business application developers implied in the naming of the personas carries through into the design and the priority for new features of the VS.NET IDE. For some, perhaps many, the answer is yes. In his blog, Mike Schinkel quotes Eric Lippert as saying "I'm a professional developer ON THE VS TEAM and I don't know what half of that stuff is for. It's like an airplane cockpit." Mike then goes on to conclude "VS.NET is just too damn hard for Mort". Eric responded to that blog post, and in Mike's response to that, he noted "However, you didn't address that IDE. VS.NET is just far too difficult for many..." .

And that's where PowerBuilder comes in. PowerBuilder was designed from the ground up for Morts. It gives them the easy-to-use IDE they're looking for, and the option to use the same code base to generate both Win32 and .NET applications. All we really need to do is let the other Morts out there know that the tool is available, and that we don't look down on Morts - the IDE is actually designed for them. Perhaps we can start the latter part of that by referring to them as da Vinci, not as Mort.

Which means I'm not Mort from Ort anymore. I'm now the "da Vinci coder".

More Stories By Bruce Armstrong

Bruce Armstrong is a development lead with Integrated Data Services ( A charter member of TeamSybase, he has been using PowerBuilder since version 1.0.B. He was a contributing author to SYS-CON's PowerBuilder 4.0 Secrets of the Masters and the editor of SAMs' PowerBuilder 9: Advanced Client/Server Development.

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