Ode to third party software

Third-party tools can be very useful, if not essential, when developing applications. But what I find really interesting is the way people talk about and criticize third-party products. Here are some observations that I’ve noticed over time:

Most developers think that if they had the time, they could do a better job of developing a third party product than the people who actually wrote it. OK, I’ve been guilty of this one too. This probably the same reason that most developers, when given an application or module that they didn’t write, will usually recommended that it be completely refactored and rewritten. We don’t always understand code that we didn’t write. This, however, doesn’t make the code bad.

Have you ever tried and develop a base control for your team to use? It’s hard! You create it and people start using it, but then you find something that you could’ve done better, but going back and changing it is really hard because now all of these other people are using it and you might break their code. So I have lots of respect for people who try and write controls that 10,000 people are going to use.

Also, most developers are much quicker to point out the fault of a third party package than they are to point out the good aspects of it. In my opinion, just because you have issues with someone’s coding style, their overuse of reflection or generics, or whatever it may be doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore a third party product and go off and write your own! The real question you need to ask is whether or not the software is going to provide business value and help you accomplish your task better, faster, and cheaper.

So next time you have to evaluate third party software, ask yourself these questions:
– Is this software going to provide business value and help me accomplish my task?
– Is something in this software package going to prohibit me from doing what I need to do?