ALT.NET is freedom
It seems to me that a lot of the confusion and/or distaste around the ALT.NET name stems from people associating it with the alternative rock movement from the early 90s. Of course that term was always grating from the beginning, and now that the fad is over, its even harder to take seriously.
I have no idea if "alternative programming" is what David Laribee had in mind when he coined it, but it certainly wasn't my first thought. I am, after all, a computer geek first, and a domesticated recovering punk rock skate rat a distant second. As a computer geek, when I see the words "alt dot something", I think of the Usenet hierarchy specifically dedicated to the free thinking and exchange of ideas:
All other Usenet hierarchies require you to follow a definite procedure to create a new group in that category. However, a newsgroup in the alt hierarchy can be created by anyone. The resulting set of newsgroups form a truly global democratic system, since each group in the alt category survives only if people show an interest in it.
To me, alt.net is about the freedom of developers to choose the tools and processes that bring them joy and get the job done. They are not constrained by the choices offered by a single vendor (Microsoft), just like backers of the alt Usenet groups were not constrained by the policies of the central backbone administrators.
Jeffrey Palermo wants to qualify the term to give it a more concrete definition. While I don't have a problem with what it means to him, I don't think it needs it. If you want to consider yourself part of the "alt.net" movement, you are. If you don't, well, you might be anyway. Any sort of checklist that attempts to define it any further will just succeed in creating a new set of artificial "backbone administrators" that some will inevitably find too constraining.
The idea of the alt. Usenet hierarchy is much bigger than just offering a place to talk about sex and drugs. It is offering a place to talk about Anything. Similarly, ALT.NET is much bigger than wanting to practice BDD or use NHibernate. It is about thinking freely within a community that previously never realized it could.