# Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Google and Verizon unveiled on Monday a proposal that would create two internets: an open one that we know and love today and another one that is more expensive with dedicated pipes and has premium content and services. In theory it would work like this: if you wanted something like YouTube in 3D HD quality with special content (like new movies, etc), that content would only be available on a different set of pipes, pipes you would have to pay for. This will  lead to a tiered, less open Internet.

As expected Net Neutrality supporters went nuts. As reported by Wired, Free Press Political Adviser Joel Kelsey said:

Google and Verizon can try all they want to disguise this deal as a reasonable path forward, but the simple fact is this framework, if embraced by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, would transform the free and open Internet into a closed platform like cable television. ... It’s a signed-sealed-and-delivered policy framework with giant loopholes that blesses the carving up of the Internet for a few deep-pocketed Internet companies and carriers …

I am torn on this issue. I consider myself to be a free market libertarian. I know what Friedrich von Hayek would say: let Google and Verizon do what they want, tiered pricing is a way to deal with scarcity.

von Hayek is right, there are only so many fat and fast pipes on the internet (scarcity) and if people are willing to pay for premium content and services, like cable TV, then the market should allow for that. The theory also says that there will be positive externalities and the innovation will trickle down to the free/open/other internet. This was the case with cable TV, cable started with HD TV and innovative programming and “regular” free TV caught up.

On the other hand, the Internet is more important than cable TV. The Internet is a platform for business and entrepreneurship. The internet is also a platform for social change (and political protest in some countries.) Living in China I already live in a tiered environment. When I am home in Hong Kong, I can do whatever I want. When I travel 30 minutes north to Shenzhen, I am on the less open, firewalled internet. I see how people use the internet to create businesses and social change here in Hong Kong and how that does not happen in China. (Don’t be fooled about online entrepreneurship stories in China, it does not exist as it does in more open countries.)

While my example of China is a politically charged one and one that deals more with censorship, the internet is a great way to level the playing field. With cloud computing and cheap skilled software programming labor in developing counties, just about anyone can start a business today and be the next Google. If only certain applications and services were available over the “premium” internet, innovation, entrepreneurship, and social change will all suffer.

posted on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 04:38:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 09 August 2010

Last Thursday I did a Scrum session at VSLive on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wa. I lectured for about 30 minutes and then we went for a Q&A, just how I like it. Actually we really had a true conversation, people commenting on each other’s questions and comments, etc. Here is what we talked about:

  • The Agile Manifesto and how it is just four items
    • The Agile Manifest is about values, not rules
    • The values of the Agile movement: communication, delivering business value, collaboration, embracing change
    • How some agile practitioners are not really agile, they forgot the core values and are too rigid
  • Other agile methodologies like XP and Kanban
  • Where scrum came from: Japan and Harvard Business Review (1986)
  • The Scrum 101 stuff: the daily scrum, iterations, the team, backlogs
  • The world’s greatest project management tool: Microsoft Excel
  • A little on velocity and agile estimation
  • A lot on testing, where to put testers
    • One guy had his testers outside of the sprint-and it worked for him
    • One guy thought about staggering the testers one week behind the dev sprint (we had mixed reviews on that)
  • It is ok to change Scrum!
    • How the inventor of Scrum wants my head for that bullet ;)
    • The best approach is a “buffet table
  • Lean processes at Toyoda and how it relates to software development (a la  Kanban)

Glad that we had a conversation rather than a straight lecture.

posted on Monday, 09 August 2010 08:41:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, 05 August 2010

Yesterday I did the “Building RESTFul applications with the Open Data Protocol” session at VSLive on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wa. We had a lot of fun, we did the following:

  • Looked at some public OData feeds listed at Odata.org
  • We randomly picked a feed, the City of Vancouver street parking feed, and consumed it
    • We also discovered that they have weird primary keys
    • we also discovered the FireFox consumed the OData feed much faster then IE (this on Microsoft’s own network!)
  • Saw how to create a feed automatically from SQL Azure tables
  • Consumed a feed in Microsoft PowerPivot
  • Build a feed on the fly using the Entity Framework and WCF Data Services
  • Consumed that feed in ASP.NET and Silverlight
    • Also looked at Query Interceptors and Service Operations briefly
  • Talked about security, both at the service level and at the IIS/ASP level
  • Made fun of the previous speaker
  • Showed how you can create a feed using 3rd party tools

I wrapped up the talk with a discussion about when you would use OData compared to other technology, such as RIA Services. My rule of thumb was that if you are building an application that you control and your users will consume, you should consider technology such as RIA Services (if you are using Silverlight) or ASP.NET, MVC, etc. If you want to expose parts of your application as a data feed and let others consume it and build applications around it then consider OData.

You can download the slides and code here.

posted on Thursday, 05 August 2010 09:25:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Wednesday, 04 August 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, 04 August 2010 09:30:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3] Trackback
# Tuesday, 03 August 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.

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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, 03 August 2010 02:10:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 02 August 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!

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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, 02 August 2010 05:38:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, 30 July 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, 30 July 2010 03:17:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, 29 July 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!

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posted on Thursday, 29 July 2010 05:46:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback