Evaluating tools and frameworks the right way

Recently I tried to evaluate some tools and frameworks, to be used in our projects. Most of them are non specific, so there are plenty of different providers for that.

To not only have a list of products, but also some opinions and “personal requirements”, I asked every of our senior developers (“gurus”, as I was taught), to give me a proposal of 3 products.

When I made a list of every proposed product, I found that, even when there are thousands, everybody uses the same selection of them. So I started evaluating the most appearing within this list.

I had some dubieties about them and asked the “gurus” to explain, why this should be the way to go and what is so special/better about them in relation to others. I heard a lot of phrases like “everybody does this”, “today, this is the way to go”, “this is best practice” etc.
Ok fine, but I really need to know about this “best practice”, before I decide for one of them, so I asked again. Some of the “gurus” already started to swet, other sent me some links to blogs or forums with the same statements. And some of these blogs directed to other blogs with, suprise suprise, the same statement over and over again.

Analysis

To me, this behavior looks like there is a swarm of developer thunas moving to a direction, because on the other side a shark appeared.
This means, that one person decided to go one way (and I’m absolutely sure, that this person had its reasons), and the other just follow. And when there are enough blogs directing to its statements and other blogs directing to these blogs, it becomes a “ghost”, where nobody can determine the origin or the reasons nomore.

Solution

To have my questions answered, I took every of these “gurus” together. But I sent them a list of my questions before and let them prepare the arguments, which they should formulate with their own words.

Now what did this? To formulate their own statements forced them, to think about it clearely. On the other hand they had enough time to prepare. With this, also ineloquent persons could give their input. On the other hand, they stopped to promote arguments, they do not understand or are not funded. This includes “fancy functionalities”, which have no real value.

What it did not solve, is their method of finding products. They still choose the ones with the most related posts or opinions. It looks to me, that they could not apply this “lession” to their own work.

Summary

Whenever you hear expressons like “best practice”, “everybody does”, “this is the way”, your alarm bell should ring very loud and you should force them to explain. Maybe by making restrictions, like using one sentence per argument or, as there are a lot of developers with another native language than english, by using english. This forces their minds to think more precisely.

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