Angus: RPG rises from another grave

Wait? What?

Mel Beckman asked the question “Is RPG Dead?” and now Aaron Bartell says “it is time for Mel Beckman to retire“! And Jon and Susan tell us “It seems to us that articles such as this only serve to harm the community“.

So, what should we think about this? Let’s review.

Mel says “But every technology has an end to its adaptability, and I believe RPG has reached its limit”. This is simply one man’s opinion – he even used the words “I believe”. And, having read and disagreed with Aaron’s opinion before, I know he has posted many things quite as controversial. If Mel is to retire for his opinion, shouldn’t Aaron be forced out also?

Looking at the harm value of Mel’s words, the resulting outcry to support RPG has been, on the whole, quite fabulous. Of course, as with any controversial opinion in our industry, there have been replies from the negative, the upset, the scared and the whiners. But Jon and Susan’s blog, along with other postings, have been well reasoned, well written and strongly in support of RPG and its future. Certainly, if a reader were to stop at Mel’s words, they may believe his opinion and suffer some harm. Also, if certain other industry and RPG detractors were to jump onto the same dinghy from the RPG ship, there could be additional backlash.

However, there is now a conversation in the community about RPG that did not exist yesterday. We talked about it among ourselves, in sessions at conferences, and at user group meetings. But in the bigger world of the internet and social media, the conversation that resulted from Mel’s article has shown how strong RPG is, and how Mel’s opinion is simply just one person’s opinion. I believe – that is, my opinion is that no harm has come to RPG and the resulting press will simply bolster its longevity.

I do think two things should come out of this. One, Aaron should retire – ok, that is tongue in cheek, we need his strong opinion and perspective in our community. Two, the language should be renamed to reflect its longevity. Maybe RPG-NGA for “Never Going Away”? Or Z-RPG to reflect RPG’s ability to rise from the grave one more time and live as a well functioning Zombie.


Aaron BartellMay 25th, 2012 at 4:09 pm

So you think Mel simply putting “I believe…” at the front of a sentence exonerates him from every other very pointed statement he made in there?

Do we want somebody that publicly believes RPG has no future to be a senior technical editor of one of the few technical magazines we have left? Seems very counter intuitive on iProDeveloper’s part.

Is the press good? Of course, because it gives us a chance to address the falsity. But this is intentional friendly fire. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Oh, and thanks for putting your tongue in your cheek about me retiring. I was all riled up until I read that ;-)

angustheitchapMay 25th, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Well, iPro developer could have represented this as an “opinion piece”. And, I do think they need to offer alternative opinion pieces.

I believe worse crimes have been done to our platform than someone wailing the same old ‘RPG is dead’ cry. Worse opinion pieces have been offered as ‘news’ for many years. All that has happened is that Mel wrote about a sensitive subject, and it pissed some people off. I wrote an opinion piece about vendor-speak ( for iPro Developer, and it was passed off as a regular article. It is the way of our community, industry, and pundits. All of us fight for our noise to be heard, so claiming this particular article does not belong would mean a rather thin iPro Developer edition next month…

P.S. I don’t think “I believe” excuses his article, but it did set a tone that it would be his opinion…

Aaron BartellMay 25th, 2012 at 4:26 pm

>so claiming this particular article does not belong would mean a rather thin iPro Developer edition next month”¦

The reality is the content he supplied was terrible (didn’t put references to support his claims) and false (Javascript *natively* on IBMi?). I would rather have a thin mag than somebody writing an article near purely for sensationalism purposes.

Yes, yes, yes, I know I operate in the world of sensationalism with my posts. But I am fighting *for* something. He is fighting *against* his own team. I think that’s wrong.

angustheitchapMay 25th, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Ok, so his job as ‘senior technical editor’ may be in question. But, it is the same as many other opinion pieces. And, if he keeps up that quality, he will be dumped sooner than later. So don’t argue that it should not have been posted, argue that it was not well-researched, and argue for a competing opinion piece.

And, Mel is also fighting for something….it may not be what you and I believe in, but it is still his fight.

I once asked one of the moderators of a community web site to remove a ‘detractor’ from the list. They refused, their argument being that it would have been censorship. I reluctantly had to agree. What I have discovered is that if there is enough pushback against negativity and BS in our community, the support for the platform, the languages, etc is immense and overwhelms the crap.

Aaron BartellMay 25th, 2012 at 4:56 pm

>and argue for a competing opinion piece.

TOTALLY agree! And I think it should come from many people. I am trying to think of a good place to collaborate on something like this. The iProDeveloper forums probably aren’t a good place. Maybe we could start a Twitter hash tag and have people post their “Why RPG” to that. Actually, maybe #WhyRPG is the hashtag we should use :-)


Bob CozziMay 26th, 2012 at 9:47 am

I believe (that was for Aaron) that there has been this turrets-syndrome style comments about RPG by the Duke & Co. press since the beginning. They perhaps either didn’t like it, felt it was too hard to learn, or just wanted to grab attention. Well they certainly got attention on the dieing “magazine” didn’t they.

RPG will be used in production shops and be updated via maintenance programming for a lot longer than whatever that publication’s-name-is-this-week will be.

I mean, while I do like most of the folks at News/?magid? who, like Mel have been there for 3 decades, and have no ill will towards any of them, I have to say this:

I believe the real issue is, “News/?magid? (News/34, News/34/38. News/3x/400, News/400, I lost track after that change) is dead, time to cut the cord and move on.

Aaron BartellMay 29th, 2012 at 8:44 am

Bob, what do you mean by iProDeveloper being dead and it is time to move on? I personally believe the mag has a lot of value (each issue is quite packed with stuff that is of great benefit for IBMi shops). I am hoping this latest RPGisDead was simply a mistake in sensationalism and hope iProDeveloper remedies the issue with a formal statement.

Jean MikhaleffMay 29th, 2012 at 11:37 am

The first sentence of Mel is:”The headline is a question that must be asked, and one that finally has a rational answer: Yes”
Instead of rational answer I understood answer from Rational. You know, I am French, and after a plate of frogs and some glasses of wine… nothing is rational and Rational worth nothing.

Bob CozziMay 29th, 2012 at 12:50 pm

As with the comments from Mel, what you an I “think” or “hope” doesn’t matter. What will happen, will happen with respect to that publication, regardless of what you or I say about it. Sure there is some goodness in there, but in these changing economic environments, well, let’s just wait and see what happens next. My guess? RPG will be around a bit longer than News/?magid?

angustheitchapMay 29th, 2012 at 12:54 pm


But you did not answer Aaron’s question… Your statement is vapid, and has no explanation. Could we have one?

P.S. for those who are reading this, Bob’s use of the characters “magid” refer to his own abbreviation for “magazine id”. It is not a misspelling of “magic”…

Bob CozziMay 29th, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Trev, I gotta say, your Tweets are cracking me up on this one.

I don’t want to inflame the issue in this comments section. I said what I meant. That publication is dieing a lot faster than RPG and RPG will be here long after the parent company decides that the publication is no longer viable. So we should expect these Fox News-style ‘scare up some audience/eyeballs/readership” articles for a while, until they cut the cord.

angustheitchapMay 29th, 2012 at 1:37 pm


That makes more sense, tho.

Although, this comments section is just my blog. Feel free to flame on.. Some of the debris could do with a good burning!

Nathan AndelinMay 29th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Mel Backman says, “establishing a boundary for life is important to letting the professional community move on to new computing paradigms.”

What “computing paradigms” does Mel suggest we move to? Most of the other languages he suggests as alternatives to RPG either don’t run under IBM i, or are used primarily on other platforms. So it appears to me that Mel is suggesting that we move to other platforms.

Moreover, pronouncing the death of RPG is essentially equivalent to pronouncing the death of IBM i. Mel may be soft peddling that sentiment, but I believe that is his opinion. It baffles me that a publications that supposedly supports the IBM i platform would make such pronouncements. I agree with Aaron, it’s time for Mel to retire.

Mel is not the first insider to suggest the death of IBM i and advocate moving to other “computing paradigms”. A significant part of the community are simply using the community to support their migration proposals. We shouldn’t be asked to support them. Weed them out. Let them go.

BuckMay 29th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

‘Moreover, pronouncing the death of RPG is essentially equivalent to pronouncing the death of IBM i.’ I believe this is exactly right. Mel is far from the only one saying things like this. It’s industry-wide. Every facet of the IT industry is being crushed with the relentless trend of commoditization. We IBM midrangers stand out like a sore thumb in that world. Custom hardware, custom OS and custom programming language. So it’s unsurprising to hear someone say out loud that the age of RPG is over.

Our challenge is to demonstrate that stable, reliable and simple are virtues that surpass the current language of the month. Our challenge is to demonstrate that software is not a commodity like electricity, and that the decades of business experience we RPG programmers command is a genuine business advantage. It looks like Mel conceded those battles in favour of a commodity language running on a commodity OS based on commodity hardware and a commodity database.

I have a web group where I work, and I provide them with stored procedures so they can easily get the information they need about customers, products, etc. They don’t have to learn the database, the relationships or the naming conventions. As we continue to modernise the back end, we don’t need to be intimately linked to the web group – we can change the databases so the web group never knows a change happened. We write those stored procs in ILE RPG because it makes good business sense to do so.

Aaron BartellMay 29th, 2012 at 4:32 pm


> That publication is dieing a lot faster than RPG and RPG will be here long after the parent company decides that the publication is no longer viable.

I am trying to make sense of your comments. You do of course realize iProDeveloper just went through a number of changes to keep themselves relevant including a name change, format change, forum change, etc, etc. Now they can publish submitted articles in a fraction of the time it took before. How does that put them out to pasture? Sounds like they are doing right things if you ask me (minus Mel’s article, of course :-)

Bob CozziMay 31st, 2012 at 9:22 am

Aaron, maybe, but in my experience, those brought kicking and screaming into the new/next thing are usually the ones who act like they invented it, while being nothing more than lemmings or perhaps posers. If you only copy you can’t survive very long and they will not IMHO. While you do need a big pile of cash behind you to keep an engine like that running, and Chapter XX helps with that, you can’t expect advertising and subscription rates based on 1990s business models to work in 2012 and beyond. But I could be wrong–we’ll see.

So why continue to support them at all? There are at least 2 if not more web-based portals that are relatively up to do and evolving. IT Jungle and midrangeNews are two, and there’s MC Press Online. Why exactly do we care about Penton again? What have they done for you exactly?

Aaron BartellMay 31st, 2012 at 9:34 am

>Online. Why exactly do we care about Penton again? What have they done for you exactly?

They’ve supported me and the RPG community for MANY years – initially as a reader only and now as an author. They (Scott Klement specifically) are the ones that let me do my first writings (ClubTechTips back in 2005/2006 I believe). Thanks Scott for taking a risk with me.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, Bob. If I had to guess I would say you’ve got other issues with them and are using this gaff to bring them further into a mud puddle. I would much prefer they recant the article and move forward with great prosperity. How would the IBMi/RPG community be better off with one less trade rag? I don’t understand that logic.

Evelyn Bridge, Publisher iPro DeveloperJune 1st, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I am sure I will have a hard time expressing a stance for iPro Developer that doesn’t appear self-serving but here goes…the System iNetwork staff spent over a year consulting with our technical writers (veteran and new), our audience, our vendors, and IBM to determine the right direction for our communities beyond the System i outlook. Through countless research initiatives, heartfelt discussions and with a general passion and integrity for this community we felt the time was right to devote a focus specifically for developers and programmers, hence iPro Developer.

As publisher, I feel strongly that opinions have a place and time for expression, particularly being an independent voice in this community — it is the very essence of this community’s passion that pushes myself and this staff to continue to innovate what we offer and to ensure that all opinions have a time and place and vehicle for sharing. I appreciate this dialogue and truly believe that out of the spirit of this dialogue comes great solutions, renewed vigor for our technologies and “possibly” the consideration of new directions to help thrive in our professions as advocates for this platform. Your opinions, all of them, are appreciated.

angustheitchapJune 1st, 2012 at 3:01 pm


Thanks for your comments.

As you can read here – both my blog and in the comments to this piece, I strongly believe in opinion pieces. I truly think it fosters dialog in our community. Of course, with any considered debate on the internet, we are going to get a lot of flak from those who are scared or trolls. If we can see through those, and temper Aaron’s call for Mel to retire, I think the dialog has a benefit inside the community. As Scott mentioned, though, it could be harmful if it is used against us.

I commented on Mel’s article, and he replied, but I will reiterate. I think this thunderstorm would have been a smaller one if the article was much more clearly identified as opinion. And, as you have shown with Scott’s opinion response, this can be a productive dialog.

Thanks again,

Aaron BartellJune 1st, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Evelyn, is there anything you wouldn’t publish if it has the “opinion” label on it? iProDeveloper just took cheap shots at it’s audience. I consider that quite bad.

Kicking&Screaming (as Trevor says :-)

Evelyn BridgeJune 1st, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Trevor — “I think this thunderstorm would have been smaller…identified as opinion.”
> Point taken, while the article was labeled “Opinion” in the June issue of iPro Developer, it does not have any label or status indicator on the web site. That is something we can work to correct.

Aaron – We most certainly wouldn’t publish anything that clearly put our readers, our writers (although Mel might not agree with me on that one:-) or this community in harm’s way.

One opinion piece in our publication doesn’t reflect our commitment to cover all aspects of RPG — and you can anticipate continued focus, training, and dialogue on this topic. Perhaps now than ever — we’re acutely aware of this community’s dedication, innovation and determination to see continued success for RPG development.


Mel BeckmanJune 1st, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I’m not even going to mention what I think of climate change ;)

Nathan AndelinJune 4th, 2012 at 10:09 pm


In reply to:

“RPG “” and you can anticipate continued focus, training, and dialogue on this topic. Perhaps now than ever “” we’re acutely aware of this community’s dedication, innovation and determination to see continued success for RPG development.”

That’s a step in the right direction. Now, if you’ll just stop all articles, training, and material designed to promote Microsoft .Net development; except material dedicated to migrating MS .Net and MS SQL Server applications to run under IBM i … Then we’ll know that you’re truly sincere about your dedication to IBM i and RPG.

I should admit that I don’t expect you to do that because of the loss in revenue to your publications and other offerings. Unfortunately a number of your customers and advertisers are bent on migrating applications off IBM i, and are probably silently cheering Mel Beckman’s RPG death pronouncement. They are the real audience he’s catering to.

But as Aaron indicated. RPG death pronouncements are a VERY cheap shot.

Nathan AndelinJune 4th, 2012 at 10:12 pm

One quick note. A few of us have been discussing Mel’s RPG death pronouncement in the IBM i Professionals group at Linkedin:

This topic has spread like wild fire.

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