Grunt. Oh, the inanity!

I was just reading Brian Rinaldi’s roundup of 2013 in web development and was struck again by how many times Grunt gets a mention. After my first knee-jerk response (“Oh, the javascript guys have re-invented yet another wheel to make the javascript ecosystem go from terrible to slightly less terrible, and we’re supposed to open the champagne”) I thought I’d have another look. While I’m basically in sympathy with Miller Medeiros1, it’s true that there isn’t yet a build automation tool that has really nailed the problem. Be nice if Grunt could be The One, but the case isn’t being made particularly strongly.

Today’s #someonesaidsomethingdumbontheinternet is this, in a comparison with other build tools: “Make…Released in 1977 – can’t we do better?” Well, maybe, but what’s 1977 got to do with it? I can just see this guy on a staff review panel: “Yeah, Geoff is working well, but c’mon – he was born in 1965. Can’t we do better?”. And the silicon chip? Sooo 1950’s.

1. Miller’s argument is a special case of the DSL trade-off. External DSLs such as build scripting tools have to be really, really slick and exquisitely tuned to the problem at hand to overcome their two main drawbacks: developers are better at the tools they use all the time, and that’s usually a general purpose language; and unless the DSL abstraction doesn’t leak at all, it increases the cognitive complexity of the task rather than reduces it.

2 thoughts on “Grunt. Oh, the inanity!

  1. Thanks for reading and commenting on the post. I think 2013 was a year that many JavaScript developers went from ad hoc development to actually creating a real development process. Grunt played a big role in that – sure, there was a bit of hype around it but perhaps it was approachable in a way that other task runners weren’t to someone who knows primarily JavaScript. There’s still room to grow and for debate, as you can see by the recent discussion around Gulp, but I don’t think that negates its value.

  2. Hey Brian,

    Wow, I’d totally missed the Gulp thing. Exciting times. Thanks for the pointer, and thanks for your great work on

    BTW, if it wasn’t clear, the “inanity” was the “ageist” comment about make, not Grunt per se. I’m very happy to resile from my knee-jerk reaction on that front.

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