# Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Microsoft has made two interesting announcements this summer: one is the WebMatrix initiative and other, made yesterday, is Visual Studio LightSwitch. Both have driven developers to the point of dogma over the role of these tools.

WebMatix, along with IIS Express and SQL Server Compact Edition, is a tool aimed at the geeky hobbyist or college kid in their dorm wanting to make a web application, or dad wanting to build a web site for the youth soccer team.  As part of WebMatrix there is ASP.NET Razor, a new streamlined ASP.net view engine, making it easier to mesh C#/VB and HTML. Let’s be clear, WebMatrix is not targeting the professional developer. To quote from Scott Gu’s blog:

If you are a professional developer who uses VS today then WebMatrix is not really aimed at you - at least not for your "day job".  You might find WebMatrix useful for quickly putting a blog on the web or doing lightweight scripting on the side.  But it isn't intended or focused on hard-core professional or enterprise development.  It is instead aimed more for people looking to learn how to program and/or who want to get a site up and running on the web without having to write much code.

Ok, glad that we cleared that up. ;) Well, the story goes on. As part of the WebMatrix stack Microsoft made some updates to the Microsoft.Data namespace. It was announced on this blog here and started a debate. One group on the blogs and Twitter, lead by Oren Eini, was very critical of the new Microsoft.Data. I can sum up the online debate like this:

Developers: Wow, are you crazy! SQL is dead, ORMs will inherit the earth. These changes should have come in .NET 2.0, not in 2010!

Microsoft: Yes we get the ORM thing. The changes to Microsoft.Data are for WebMatrix and beginning developers. If you have already used ORMs and implement best practices and patterns, great, keep going, these changes are for a different audience.

On top of all of this, yesterday, Microsoft released Visual Studio LightSwitch, beta1. LightSwitch, formally known as Kitty Hawk, is a RAD tool targeted at the non-professional developer who wants to build line of business applications.

Professional developers are like: Why do I need WebMatrix? Or LightSwitch? Some debates have even gotten downright nasty. The answer is, WebMatrix and LightSwitch are not for professional developers! (Or the changes to Microsoft.Data.)  A newbie at home or a college dorm would use WebMatrix to build a web site. A geeky guy in a corporate job would use LightSwitch to build a business application. This is a good thing.

What Microsoft is doing is building a bridge to .NET and professional development. Without any formal computer science training, I was once this target market. For example back about 18 years or so ago, I was a hobbyist hacker in my dorm room discovering PCs. (If that were me today, WebMatrix would target me, however, 18 years ago there was no web. <g>) About 16 years ago when I graduated university, I was that geeky guy in corporate who needed to build a line of business application. (If that was me today, LightSwitch would target me.)  I used Lotus Script and 1-2-3, FileMaker Pro, and Excel and Access. Eventually I taught myself some VBA and not to long after I “graduated” to VB, when VB 3.0 shipped the database compatibility layer (ok I am now dating myself!) Fast forward a few years later to VB 4.0 and 5.0 and I made the jump from a hacker geek to a professional developer. A few years later when .NET came out I was well into my professional developer career.

The problem is that there is no bridge today to .NET. Back in the mid-1990s, there was a bridge from hacker/corporate geek to professional developer: VBA. If you built some advanced formulas in Excel or some forms, reports, and database logic in Access, you would usually hit a wall and have to learn some VBA. This is in addition to your day job, you know, as financial analyst or credit adjuster. Along the way, you may realize that the coding thing is really your game, not your day job. That happened to me. Today there is no bridge and there hasn’t been for years. WebMatrix and LightSwitch are an attempt to build that bridge. I just hope that the professional developers today realize that.

Just as BMW has entry level cars, even completely different brands like Mini for one market segment, and the turbo charged hand made engine M series for another, Microsoft is segmenting the market, trying to build a bridge to .NET. I hope they succeed.

posted on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 9:30:56 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3] Trackback
# Tuesday, August 3, 2010

If you are going to the Microsoft MVP Global Summit in late February 2011 in Seattle, Washington, or just will happen to be in the neighborhood, you should sign up for GeekGive. GeekGive is an organization that sponsors a one day charity event in the community where a bunch of geeks are congregating for a conference. The first GeekGive was a project was back in June for Habit for Humanity in New Orleans, where Microsoft TechEd was located.

image

At the MVP Summit, GeekGive will be supporting Northwest Harvest, Washington's own statewide hunger relief agency. In New Orleans many people wanted to help GeekGive but did not know about it or did not have enough time to plan their travel around the event. Well, the MVP summit is now 208 days away, so you have well over six months to plan. See you there!

posted on Tuesday, August 3, 2010 2:10:32 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, August 2, 2010

In a little over 5 weeks from now I will be headed back to Nepal. I will be going to visit the Hillary School in Khumjung and trek to Gokyo Peak and Mt. Everest Base Camp. I am doing all of this to raise awareness for a charity I am involved in, Education Elevated. (Donate here!) We are raising money to follow-up our September 2009 trip to Chyangba village where we built a library for the current school. Next April (2011) we will go back to Chyangba and distribute the school uniforms and text books that your last round of donations purchased. We will also start a campaign to raise money for a new building to house the school. Thanks to all of you who have donated!

image

PS I’ll also be carrying in donated supplies for a high altitude health clinic. If you want to donate, you can pay me directly via PayPal and I will be bringing in over the counter drugs and medical supplies from Hong Kong.

posted on Monday, August 2, 2010 5:38:27 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, July 30, 2010

The Microsoft Developer User Research team regularly does surveys of developers to provide feedback on processes, tools, initiatives etc. At the moment they are looking for Agile project managers and practitioners. Give your opinion! You can sign up to take a survey here.

posted on Friday, July 30, 2010 3:17:58 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, July 29, 2010

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy of Kristin Arnold’s book Boring to Bravo and I highly recommend it. This is a book about being a better presenter. It stands out because it is the first book that I have seen that acknowledges the generational change of the audiences and what the consequences of those changes are (like embrace folks twittering in your meeting rather that have them switch off their cell phones.)

I have been a public speaker for 15 years, a professional one for over 13, and found this book very useful. I learned several things while reading it, including many things I am doing wrong! Based on the advice in the book, I am going to use some of the techniques at my two talks at VSLive in Redmond next week.

The book is a fun read with lots of checklists, sidebars, illustrations, and to do lists. Kristin even quizzes you at the end of each chapter, often using the techniques she demonstrated in the chapter, a brilliant way to reinforce the points! She stresses energy and engagement with the audience and also makes you think of the small things (the side of the stage you walk in on, passive v active voice, using inclusive language, etc) and how they effect the mindset of the audience. If you want to be a more engaging, dynamic speaker, read this book!

image

posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 5:46:15 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Wednesday, July 28, 2010

People usually know Telerik for our individual developer productivity tools. With the release of TeamPulse yesterday, Telerik is entering the Agile ALM space and delivers team productivity tools to the market.

The idea for TeamPulse was hatched a long time ago at Telerik. It started when we realized that we had a lot of agile teams that compete in a very dynamic marketplace. Our teams at Telerik are agile, high performing, and need to rapidly react to new conditions. (I remember when we were building our Silverlight controls, each CTP/beta of Silverlight v 2.0 broke our code so deeply that we had to start over at each beta!)

As we acquired companies and added more product lines and divisions, we needed a better way to manage the projects, requirements, teams, resources, and iterations. Simply put, with close to 200 developers and many products in several categories, we needed an agile application lifecycle management (ALM) solution. We decided to build some tools with our partner Imaginet for internal use. We liked them so much, we decided to release them to the world about a year ago as the Work Item Manager and Project DashBoard. That is when we decided to build and bring TeamPulse to the world.

We wanted to bring a unique product to the market, a product for teams that lived up to the Telerik values of productivity and simplicity. A product that made it easy for agile teams to manage themselves. At its core, TeamPulse is an agile project management tool that focuses on collaboration. The core features of TeamPulse v1.0 are:

As I have written on this blog before, a true high performing team has to be both “high bandwidth” and transparent. TeamPulse helps the teams get there with its stress on ease of use, collaboration, and tracking/analytics. In addition, TeamPulse will help you be “more agile” and give you advice with the unique to the industry Best Practice Analyzer (BPA). The BPA is an engine that will examine your project data and help your team conform to certain agile characteristics. The cool thing is that you can bypass all of the rules that we ship and write and enforce your own!

image

We are very excited to bring you TeamPulse. I hope you find it as useful as our development teams do.

PS. TeamPulse is written in Microsoft Silverlight 4.0, so you can run it in any environment and out of browser. All you need is a Microsoft backend to host the product, your clients can be Windows or a Mac.

posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 6:25:33 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998 was amended yesterday when the US Copyright office released new rules and exceptions. This is the biggest legal tech news in several years, possibly the biggest news since the DMCA’s passage. The new rules are pretty substantial, they have the potential to change the web and many business models.

The ruling yesterday states six classes of new rules and exceptions. I list them in order of importance (to me):

  1. It is ok to unlock your cell phone (i.e. buy a locked iPhone and unlock it to use it in Europe or a different network like T-Mobile)
  2. It is ok to run any legal software you want on your phone (i.e., it is now legal to have alternatives to the AppStore)
  3. It is ok to crack a DVD’s encryption for fair use purposes in education or criticism
  4. It is ok for an eBook (Kindle) to provide text to speech, even if the book has controls to prevent the text to speech
  5. It is ok to crack a video game’s DRM for legitimate security testing
  6. It is ok to crack computer programs protected by dongles if the dongles is obsolete or are no longer being manufactured

It is now legal in the United States to unlock your cell phone! I never thought I would see the day. Make no mistake, this is Row v Wade for the wireless industry. I have been blogging that the US carriers should do this for a long time. I thought that Google could save us; Google tried with the Nexus One to change the way we buy phones but failed. What Google started, the US Copyright Office continued: this is the first step from decoupling the phone from the carrier, allowing innovation to prevail. Overnight nothing will change, however, in a few years buying a phone in the US may be like buying a phone in Hong Kong: go the electronics store and pick out a super cool phone, then put your chip in it.

The second item is a direct swipe at Apple. Remember last year when Apple blocked Google Voice in the AppStore? Now it is legal for you to bypass the AppStore and download to your iPhone Google Voice via Google.com. Take that Steve Jobs. That said, an era of openness on the iPhone is not upon us. Pundits expect Apple to play cat and mouse with its OS updates. I suspect that they will use the OS to cripple unapproved apps, and possibly get sued for it under the DMCA as well as anti-trust. This new ruling will favor Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone over Apple unless Apple opens up.

The third item opens the door for mash-ups, you know those short videos of a famous movie with a new soundtrack that is totally funny. YouTube will now take a deep exhale. The fourth item is a swipe against the publishers who are holding Amazon and Apple hostage. The last two make sense and finally legalize something that was rational and done pretty widely anyway.

The web and wireless as well as well as eReader industries are about to change, potentially drastically. Today, copyright law just stepped foot into the 21st century. There is still a long way to go, but this is a great first step.

posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 6:42:20 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Monday, July 26, 2010

Next week, I will be speaking at VS Live! at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington. I will be doing two talks.

Wednesday, on the data track, I will be following Chris Selles’ Entity Framework and OData and Database Projects and Jon Flanders’ Building RESTful Services Using Windows Communication Foundation talks with my own: Building RESTful Applications with the Open Data Protocol, so I will skip the “What is REST” slides up front and just start coding. ;)

On Thursday, they lumped my “The Daily Scrum” talk on the Visual Studio and .NET track. While the title is The Daily Scrum, I will give some Scrum overviews and then open the floor to Q&A. All levels of participants will benefit from the talk. There will be zero discussion on Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0. Actually, there will be no code at all.

In addition, I will be addressing the recent rift in the agile universe between the “pure” Scrum folks and the “Scrum, butters” which Ken Schwaber labels me. At the end of the talk, I will also address the rise of Kanban, an alternative agile methodology originating at Toyota in Japan. Kanban is quite popular here in Hong Kong where I live and I have seen it work at some very large global organizations as well as startups. Living in Asia over the last year has changed my perspective on agile and Kanban: I have seen how this Japanese invention works and can compliment a flexible agile strategy. I’ll weave this experience to my presentation. You won’t want to miss out.

image

posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 9:53:51 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback