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Why I Hate Frameworks, Benji Smith.
I’m currently in the planning stages of building a hosted Java web application (yes, it has to be Java, for a
reasons that I don’t feel like going into right now). In the process, I’m evaluating a bunch of J2EE portlet-enabled
JSR-compliant MVC role-based CMS web service application container frameworks.
And after spending dozens of hours reading through feature lists and documentation, I’m ready to gouge out my eyes.
Let’s pretend I’ve decided to build a spice rack.
I’ve done small woodworking projects before, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what I need: some wood and a
few basic tools: a tape measure, a saw, a level, and a hammer.
If I were going to build a whole house, rather than just a spice rack, I’d still need a tape measure, a saw, a
and a hammer (among other things).
So I go to the hardware store to buy the tools, and I ask the sales clerk where I can find a hammer.
“A hammer?” he asks. “Nobody really buys hammers anymore. They’re kind of old fashioned.”
Surprised at this development, I ask him why.
“Well, the problem with hammers is that there are so many different kinds. Sledge hammers, claw hammers, ball-peen
hammers. What if you bought one kind of hammer and then realized that you needed a different kind of hammer later?
have to buy a separate hammer for your next task. As it turns out, most people really want a single hammer that can
handle all of the different kinds of hammering tasks you might encounter in your life.”
“Hmmmmmm. Well, I suppose that sounds all right. Can you show me where to find a Universal Hammer.”
“No, we don’t sell those anymore. They’re pretty obsolete.”
“Really? I thought you just said that the Universal Hammer was the wave of the future.”
“As it turns out, if you make only one kind of hammer, capable of performing all the same tasks as all those
kinds of hammers, then it isn’t very good at any of them. Driving a nail with a sledgehammer isn’t very effective.”
“That’s true. So, if nobody buys Universal Hammers anymore, and if you’re no longer selling all those old-fashioned
kinds of hammers, what kinds of hammers do you sell?”
“Actually, we don’t sell hammers at all.”
“According to our research, what people really needed wasn’t a Universal Hammer after all. It’s always better to
the right kind of hammer for the job. So, we started selling hammer factories, capable of producing whatever kind of
hammers you might be interested in using. All you need to do is staff the hammer factory with workers, activate the
machinery, buy the raw materials, pay the utility bills, and PRESTO…you’ll have *exactly* the kind of hammer you
no time flat.”
“But I don’t really want to buy a hammer factory…”
“That’s good. Because we don’t sell them anymore.”
“But I thought you just said…”
“We discovered that most people don’t actually need an entire hammer factory. Some people, for example, will never
a ball-peen hammer. So
there’s no point in someone buying a hammer factory that can produce every kind of hammer under the sun.”
“Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.”
“So, instead, we started selling schematic diagrams for hammer factories, enabling our clients to build their own
factories, custom engineered to manufacture only the kinds of hammers that they would actually need.”
“Let me guess. You don’t sell those anymore.”
“Nope. Sure don’t. As it turns out, people don’t want to build an entire factory just to manufacture a couple of
hammers. Leave the factory-building up to the factory-building experts, that’s what I always say!!”
“And I would agree with you there.”
“Yup. So we stopped selling those schematics and started selling hammer-factory-building factories. Each hammer
factory is built for you by the top experts in the hammer factory factory business, so you don’t need to worry about
the details that go into building a factory. Yet you still get all the benefits of having your own customized hammer
factory, churning out your own customized hammers, according to your own specific hammer designs.”
“Well, that doesn’t really…”
“I know what you’re going to say!! …and we don’t sell those anymore either. For some reason, not many people were
the hammer factory factories, so we came up with a new solution to address the problem.”
“When we stepped back and looked at the global tool infrastructure, we determined that people were frustrated with
having to manage and operate a hammer factory factory, as well as the hammer factory that it produced. That kind of
overhead can get pretty cumbersome when you deal with the likely scenario of also operating a tape measure factory
factory, a saw factory factory, and a level factory factory, not to mention a lumber manufacturing conglomerate
company. When we really looked at the situation, we determined that that’s just too complex for someone who really
wants to build a spice rack.”
“Yeah, no kidding.”
“So this week, we’re introducing a general-purpose tool-building factory factory factory, so that all of your
tool factory factories can be produced by a single, unified factory. The factory factory factory will produce only
tool factory factories that you actually need, and each of those factory factories will produce a single factory
on your custom tool specifications. The final set of tools that emerge from this process will be the ideal tools for
your particular project. You’ll have *exactly* the hammer you need, and exactly the right tape measure for your
all at the press of a button (though you may also have to deploy a few *configuration files* to make it all work
according to your expectations).”
“So you don’t have any hammers? None at all?”
“No. If you really want a high-quality, industrially engineered spice rack, you desperately need something more
than a simple hammer from a rinky-dink hardware store.”
“And this is the way everyone is doing it now? Everyone is using a general-purpose tool-building factory factory
now, whenever they need a hammer?”
“Well… All right. I guess that’s what I’ll have to do. If this is the way things are done now, I guess I’d better
how to do it.”
“Good for you!!”
“This thing comes with documentation, right?”
Friday, September 30, 2005.