Category Archives: Blogging

ALT.NET Geek Code Generator

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Last year (December, 2007) I had the honor and privilege of being invited to participate in the ALT.NET Leadership council in NY. I blogged about that here. This generated a large number of comments and a ton of conversations.

I was unfortunately, due to health reasons, not able to attend last month’s ALT.NET conference in Seattle. Some of my friends in DPE, like Peter Laudauti from New York. He’s posted a picture of the session board at http://blogs.msdn.com/peterlau/archive/2008/04/19/alt-net-open-space-seattle-schedule-grid.aspx. There were talks on IronRuby, DSLs, Mocking, Scaling Agile Teams, Test Driving Silverlight, Diversity, Pairing, F#, Funding Open Source Projects and many more great topics. I really wish I could have been there.

So, what is this ALT.NET thing. Really, it’s about about alternatives in .NET. It’s about listening to a multitude of sources of information and making an informed decision about the way that you’re going to do development. The guys that are at the ahead of this movement are heavy on Agile practices. Most of them are proponents of BDD (BDD for the TDD head), Refactoring, ORM (Object Relational Modelers) and so on. They lead with process and then find tools that help them get their jobs done. Sometimes that’s a different language, like Ruby, or a different IDE plugin, or a different source control system. But none of these tools, platforms, etc. should get in the way. They should lead to better process.

Are we talking about throwing out the current spiritual leaders in the .NET world? No… Jeremy Miller wrote a great article on CodeBetter.com called “We need ALT.NET To supplement the traditional .Net Leadership” that addressed the reasons behind it all.

Honestly, I don’t care what you call it. I agree with the fundamental principle that we should investigate many different ways of getting things done and make informed decisions. So, with that in mind, look for coming announcements about the Agile Summer Camp (hint, we’re actually going to go camping… πŸ™‚ ).

And if you like, check out Hanselman.com for his ALT.NET Geek Code Generator

32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking by Scott Hanselman Presentation

A while back I posted about Scott Hanselman‘s 32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking post. At some point later, I created a slide deck to tell the story. Since then, I’ve given the presentation a few places and Scott even borrowed the deck to do a presentation to a number of the Developer Evangelists in the US.

Anyway, here’s the deck that I created…

See the original post at 32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking by Scott Hanselman

Changing RSS Feeds

image Ok, that’s a lie – I already moved my feed a LONG (not quite a year ago) time ago.

My new feed is http://rss.joshholmes.com/joshholmes.

But in an effort not to disrupt everyone, I’ve left my old RSS feed in place. This is not hard to do but unfortunately, those that are still subscribed to the old feed make it difficult to leverage some of the reasons that I moved the feed in the first place.

I moved it for a number of reasons

  • Allows me to do a little bit better job of statistics and the like (it’s actually being hosted by another service that does that for me)
  • Allows me to change out my blog engine or host with relative transparency
  • Allows me to do some interesting things with caching or offloading to a separate server
  • And I’m sure that there are other good reasons as well

Do me a favor, if you get a chance and move your RSS subscription if you’re still subscribed to the old feed.

BTW – for those of you who are still subscribed to the old feed – Thanks for sticking with me this long!

Joining the Lounge by Infozerk Inc.

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It’s been a long time coming but I finally decided to put a few ads on my blog. Basically, I’m hoping to make enough money to cover hosting.

I’ve thought about doing this for a while and have held out until for for a number of reasons.

A large part of it is that I don’t want to look like Nascar. I’ve been trying to figure out what the right mix is and how much real estate I should devote to it.

One of the huge blocking issues has been that I didn’t have any control over the ads that some company might be posting on my we site. I’m joining the Lounge by Infozerk because it’s run by James Avery, a guy that I trust, and his ads are targeted at a particular developer segmentation and they are screened personally by him. That’s a combination that I like.

The other thing that I like a lot about the Lounge is that I’m in a “room” with a lot of other developers with similar topics and thoughts. This is a great set of guys that includes Jim Holmes (no relation but I’d be proud to claim him), Steven Harman (Fellow geek and ALT.NET enthusiast), Michael Eaton (Great speaker and consultant from Michigan) and so on. This means that we can get together and decide not to allow a particular advertiser. That’s cool. It also means that these advertisers are able to look at the set of people that they are sponsoring and make intelligent decisions about their audience and if they are the right fit. I like that as well. It’s also good because I’m basically in a room with a lot of my blogroll…

Quick summary:

  • Payment will cover my hosting costs at least
  • The advertisers are carefully screened and are all companies that I’m happy to support on my blog
  • The network is carefully screened and consists of many people I respect in the development community
  • James Avery is running it and will make sure the other three continue to be true

Now, to be honest, I’m not in the “big boy room” with Haack, Jon Galloway and the like but I’m in with good company.

All in all, I think that the Lounge is a good fit for me. High quality advertisers and high quality publishers associated with it.

James posted about it at Lounge Update : Infozerk Inc.

<update>The original post had Hanselman in it but Avery pointed out that Hanselman is not advertising through the Lounge so he’s not one of the guys in the “big boy room” at the Lounge either. I should have done the update post rather than an edit – and Hanselman has rightly called me out on that in email.</update>

Twitter

I just saw an interesting article from the BBC. It’s evidently big news that the populous of England is sending 1 Billion text messages each week. Now, that is 25% higher than last year which represents fairly explosive growth. What it tells me is that they obviously haven’t discovered Twitter yet because it’d be a ton higher if they had.

I’ll be honest, when I heard about Twitter – I thought it was rampantly stupid and couldn’t understand why people would be interested in it. At this point, I’m trying to imagine keeping in contact with all of my friends without it. I first saw Twitter in action at Mix07. Larry Clarkin was the first guy I saw using it. Then Chris Bernard, then Scott Barnes and soon there were a ton of people around me using it. I went to the web site and saw the slogan – “what are you doing in 140 characters or less”. I thought to myself – why on earth would anyone care what I’m doing in 140 characters or less. If it can be said in that amount of characters, then it’s probably not worth saying.

Wow was I off. As Alan Steven‘s said “So far, Twitter is like hanging out in the speakers’ lounge. Meaningless chatter from smart people. πŸ˜‰ “. I really like that aspect of it. There are days where it’s like a giant multi-person chat. There are other days when everyone seems to be busy at the same time and it’s really quiet. Someone else, and I can’t remember who, said that it was blogging for the ADD. There are times that that’s true. On busy days, there are 400+ messages that come across Twitter for me. Yes, you really need an unlimited texting account to really get into Twitter with the SMS interface… I get to follow what people from Australia to my own back yard are doing. Guaranteed that I wouldn’t keep in as close of contact with 80% of my contacts as I do without twitter. I know that’s true because just a few months ago – I was friends with but not really connected with most of the guys on my followers and those that I’m following. It’s helped friends get jobs (because I saw him post that he was interviewing at a company that I know and told him to use me as a reference), it’s answered technical questions, it’s replaced text messaging and IMing a lot of people with direct messaging through Twitter. For example, I’ve set up drinks with @ryanstewart and @larryclarkin this Sunday evening in Redmond over Twitter’s direct messaging. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

image They started up in March of 2006 as a research project but they really didn’t take off until March 2007 at South by Southwest. Twitter won the blog category. In April 2007, they hit 11,000 page views a second taking Ruby on Rails further than it ever had gone and exposing more than few holes in it’s performance. They have since re-architected and taken care of a lot of the operational issues. I mean it’s ridiculous, they couldn’t keep up and had to double their operations staff in October by hiring an extra person. Right, they now have a whole 2 operations people. In case you didn’t catch the sarcasm there, I’m really impressed with their uptime, responsiveness and number of users given the fact that they have been running with just one operations person until very recently. There have been some serious performance problems. Every once in a while messages will start delaying but sometimes up to 30 minutes getting out. Some of the SMS messages will be blank. Sometimes the site will go down for maintenance or new features and they will put up a humorous little blue bird that says that the site will be back in a bit – oh how we all hate that little bird. The good news is that I’ve seen less and less of the little bird and other problems as time has gone on.

The question remains, however, how did they become as popular as they have become – especially in light of the performance problems that they were having. As we talked about in last quarter’s ArcReady, Twitter really has become one of the Web 2.0 poster children. For one thing, they would be nothing without their hundreds of thousands of users. They really lean on their users to form their new features. such as the @username syntax. They started to notice that there was a convention growing up where that’s how people would refer to each other so they made it an official thing where it actually links back to the username as follows – @joshholmes. They haven’t tried to build every front end or even control the front ends that are out there. Instead, they built a front end web site, an SMS service and an easy to use API. There has been an explosion of Twitter Applications. I use SMS still when I’m away from the house, but I use WittyTwitter during the day. But there’s obviously a choice here as there are 20+ windows applications for Twitter. There are almost 20 for the Mac and just short of 10 for Linux. It’s a great Web 2.0 example.

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JUXtapose

 Jeff Blankenburg has a new video series that he’s starting to do called JUXtapose which stands for Jeff on User Experience. That’s a clever twist on words there.

What Jeff doesn’t mention is that he “grew up” in the technical end of a marketing firm implementing the whims and ideas of the designers. Through that experience, Jeff learned a lot about user experience and design. He was the designer of the original CodeMash site and gear head logo. imageThat’s why in his video he said that he was “familiar” with the gear head.

In his first video, he builds a Silverlight 1.0 gear head with spinning gears. I like it for a number of reasons. It clearly demonstrates the power of declarative vector graphics and timelines in XAML. I’ve done the stupid demo that everyone does for Expression Blend and Silverlight where you take text, put it on a timeline with a gradient and have it spin about the screen a little. As Chris Bernard put it – that’s Silverlight Blink meaning that it’s the thing that everyone is going to do because it’s simple but it’s annoying as all get out to the user. However, that was random movement around the screen. To actually make it do something deliberate like Jeff did has been well outside of my depth.

In his second video, Jeff tracked down the CTO as well as the Dev Tools Product Manager, Visual Design Manager of Component One and interviewed them about the controls that they are creating for Silverlight 1.1. That set of controls, called Sapphire, went Alpha yesterday which happened to be the day that he posted the video. It’s a well done video with lots of good information. I liked the their attitude where they see Silverlight as a way to reuse their desktop development knowledge, toolset and more for web development. This is the direction that Microsoft is taking things – extending our current base’s (mostly desktop developers) experience and abilities to the space known as RIA. Adobe has been in the RIA space for a while and with AIR, they are trying to extend their base’s (mostly web developers) experience and abilities to the desktop. This is a subtle but hugely important distinction that Component One understands and is excited about.

On a side note – it was interesting to hear that Component One, as a control vendor, is an agile shop developing in an iterative fashion.

JUXtapose – Jeff on User Experience

Code To Live!

CodeToLive_black_email

We’ve launched a new Channel9 show called Code To Live!.  Josh Holmes (me) and Steve Loethen are the hosts.

We are taking a fairly wide departure from a lot of the other things that you see on Channel9. Code to Live is about highlighting customer stories. There are a couple of different formats that will be on Code To Live. The main show is an interview format that will highlight heroes from our customers that are passionate about what they do and have a good story to tell. To this end, we are riding a 2007 Harley-Davidson Road King around the central part of the US to do interviews. The second format will be Microsoft employees (such as Jennifer Marsman) showing how to use the technologies that our customers are passionate about.

The first show is on XNA and Independent Gaming. Dave Redding and John Stevens were our guests. Dave is a corporate developer by day but he builds XNA games by night and extends into building game consoles, such as a race car, an arcade cabinet and a flight simulator. John runs an independent game conference in Minneapolis.

Want to get involved?  Have a good story to tell?  Want to be seen by thousands of developers all over the world?  Then send them to me.  My email is josh.holmes@microsoft.com

Another great option is to video yourself saying the phrase “we watch codetolive in <location>” and we will put it in the show.  Become the person with the video from the farthest place from my home base (Ann Arbor, MI) and Steve and I will take care of you some how.

The bike will be running around the middle of the US through June of 2008, with stops planned all over the place.  I will be riding it to the Expression Day in Ann Arbor, AdobeMax, DevLink and then turning the bike over to Steve Loethen to drive to the Heartland Developers Conference.  Come track me down and I will get you a code to live sticker for your laptop.

Technorati Tags: codetolive

Code to Live!

32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking by Scott Hanselman

A while back I posted about Scott Hanselman‘s 32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking post. At some point later, I created a slide deck to tell the story. Since then, I’ve given the presentation a few places and Scott even borrowed the deck to do a presentation to a number of the Developer Evangelists in the US.

Anyway, here’s the deck that I created…

See the original post at 32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking by Scott Hanselman

New Blogger in the World – Jon Box with Out Of The Box

Jon Box is blogging now! Jon is a fellow Architect Evangelist. He’s a former RD and a prolific author (at least before he joined Microsoft). He’s a fellow mobile fanatic –  he’s even written books on the topic.

It’s great to see my co-workers start blogging. I’ve been encouraging Jon (and some of the others) to start blogging. They keep coming back with questions like “What do I have to say?” and “Where do you get inspiration?”. For me it’s not finding inspiration – it’s finding time. I’m honest with them and tell that it’s hard work and a lot of time to really keep a solid blog going and I don’t do the best job. The real reason that I’ve been pressuring Jon (and some of the others) to start blogging is that I have a tremendous amount of respect for the team and want to hear their thoughts.

The time issue is a big one when it comes to blogging. I don’t know how people like Scott Hanselman find the time do keep up with everything that they do. It’s super human and he must not sleep.

In the mean time – let’s welcome Jon to the neighborhood and show him a little blog love… (his term – not mine πŸ˜€ )

Link to Jon Box