Rating Development Stacks for Startups

On the Seattle Tech Startups mailing list, there’s been a discussion recently about the pros and cons of various development platforms.  Eventually it devolved, as many of these discussions do, into a general throwing up of hands and a recommendation by several people to avoid development stack debates, because it inevitably leads nowhere.

I’m not so sure I agree with the proscription.

It seems to me that there are few things in play:

  1. Very few developers know more than a few stacks well enough to assess whether or not they are REALLY better or worse for certain tasks.  For example, I don’t have enough Python or Ruby experience to be able to pass on anything other than secondhand knowledge (and my own guesses) about their true capabilities relative to, say, .NET.
  2. There are intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can be evaluated for each stack.  Intrinsic factors are things like readability, breadth and depth of built-in libraries, expressiveness, flexibility, etc.  Extrinsic factors are things like cost, availability of developers, vendor support, etc.
  3. The notion that each common stack is as good as the other is bunk, in my opinion.  Maybe it’s my latent objectivist streak, but just as C# is objectively more productive than assembler for web development, you could pit any two languages, and – given perfect information – come up with a rank-ordered list for any required scenario.

Someone on the STS list asked the reasonable question: “where do I go to get information about the various choices?”  I agree with the commenter who thought listservs like STS are a great place to go in theory.  It’s mostly working professionals, in or near the startup experience, and refreshing lacks the anonymous yahoos that flame away on Google Groups tech lists.

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2 Responses to “Rating Development Stacks for Startups”


  1. 1 Doug August 21, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Not having read the original mailing-list discussion…

    It seems to me that these aren’t “development” stacks. They’re “production” platforms. Unless you aren’t planning on the software ever making it into production. Like if you’re just playing around with toy applications on your home computer.

  2. 2 Damon August 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I think too much time is spent on the technical aspects of a given stack and that while it’s true that certain stacks can be “proved” to be better at certain jobs, they are close enough that the real difference comes from having developers passionate about using a stack. I’m not a fan of the Microsoft stack(s) but give me a team of passionate MS guys over a team of middle of the road developers any day.

    Good post.


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