Volume 33 Number 12
End of an Era
By Michael Desmond | December 2018
It’s not unusual for MSDN Magazine column authors to embark on in-depth explorations that span multiple issues. These series can sometimes carry on for three, four or more installments. Heck, Dino Esposito’s Cutting Edge column is right now in the throes of a multi-part spelunking of the .NET-savvy Blazor framework for Web app development.
Even by those standards, what Ted Neward has done with his extended series on the MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node.js) is extravagant. He kicked off the first in his “How To Be MEAN” series of columns way back in August 2015 (msdn.com/magazine/mt185576). Now, 30 columns later, it all comes to a finish with the aptly named “How To Be MEAN: End-to-End.”
I asked Neward to single out his favorite columns in the series, but he declined, saying, “Honestly, that’s sort of hard. Kind of like with kids, you love them all, even if some are more difficult to work with than others.” He admits, though, to a server-side bias, which made getting up to speed with Angular’s front-end antics both challenging and ultimately rewarding.
“I’m not as ‘hip’ to some of the browser-side things people are doing these days, like virtual DOM and such. One of the nice parts of learning about Angular, though, was the realization that it can abstract most (if not all) of that away, and leave me working exclusively in a land of components. That was a nice realization.”
The evolving nature of the stack could be an obstacle. AngularJS introduced a component-based application architecture with version 1.6, but Angular 2 in September 2016 was a sharp break that put some adopters in a bind. Neward also points out that when he launched the series, full-stack frameworks like MEAN.io were commanding attention in the Node.js space. Now, he says, those solutions have “almost completely faded from view,” as developers worry less about hiding the network between single-page application frameworks and the server.
During the course of the MEAN series, Neward says that in some ways the MEAN stack has simplified, with Angular taking on some of the steps needed to build out the stack. But it has grown more complex in others. As Neward puts it:
“MEAN now doesn’t always mean Mongo-Express-Angular-Node, but rather ‘some kind of single-page applications framework and some kind of Node.js back end and some kind of NoSQL storage,’” Neward says. “When a term loses some of its precision, we lose the ability to communicate about it (and around it) effectively.”
So MEAN is finished. What’s next for the column? Neward urges readers to e-mail him with topics at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime he has a few ideas: “A working programmer’s work is never done. I’ll talk a bit about WebAssembly, maybe explore some CI/CD pipeline tools, as well as the odd programming language or two.”
Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine