Dear Visual Basic: It's not you, it's me
I just read a great article over at O'Reilly, 7 reasons I switched back to PHP after 2 years on Rails. It's a few years old, and the comments thread is practically a flamewar between pro- and anti- Ruby on Rails people, but the article itself raises some great points — not about how awesome PHP is, but about the art and science of software design. The author, Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby) had this to say about a developer's perennial urge to rewrite old code:
But the main reason that any programmer learning any new language thinks the new language is SO much better than the old one is because he’s a better programmer now! You look back at your old ugly PHP code, compared to your new beautiful Ruby code, and think, "God that PHP is ugly!" But don’t forget you wrote that PHP years ago and are unfairly discriminating against it now. It’s not the language (entirely). It’s you, dude. You’re better now. Give yourself some credit.
I love that! This week I've been re-visiting a lot of my old Visual Basic code to get some things freshened up for my Downloads page, so I can absolutely relate. Looking over the code, it's easy to dismiss it as simplistic and over-reliant on hacks to accomplish its aims. So Sivers' article was a nice reminder to me that the language itself isn't the problem (well, mostly), it's just the way I wrote in it. So if time allows, I'll be revisiting a few of these tools in the coming weeks with an eye to make them better.