Developers Turn to Blogs
Blogging gives developers (and others) a new way to share information on the Web. Learn more about blogging, as well as FTP's own blogging site.
You're probably familiar with the range of development Web sites that pertain to your specific areas of interest. There are literally thousands of sites on the Internet that share code samples and other information about developing applications with Visual Studio. Together, these sites serve as an important resource for those who create the applications that the world uses.
But you might not know much about Weblogs (blogs), a relatively new permutation to dispensing or sharing information over the Internet. Part online diary, part Wiki, part global logrolling competition, blogs are typically first-person posts presented in a stripped-down format with basic calendaring features to jump forward and back chronologically. They also tend to be highly interactive with numerous links to other sites and other blogs, although it isn't unusual to get a ping-pong effect from the same two people pointing to each other repeatedly. One reason for the popularity of blogs among those who create them: The software you use to publish them is much simpler to use than what would be required to handcraft your own Web site. Blogs are about conveying information, not creating a place to showcase it.
Blogs are still permeated by the anarchic and free-spirited enthusiasm that seems a hallmark of all-things-Internet in their infancy. There is an amateurish quality to most blogs, not least because most people who write blogs are amateurs. Many bloggers see this as one of blogging's virtuesblogs give people who lacked a platform to share their views on a widespread scale a means to do so. True, the Internet itself held the same promise initially, but blogging software lowers the barrier to entry.
The nature of blogging is evolving rapidly, much as the World Wide Web evolved before it. Remember early Web sites like "Bert is Evil" or "Watch the Coffeemaker"? Screw professionalism, they made you laugh. Bert is Evil was crude, in poor taste, and violated who knows how many copyright and trademark laws. Its lone saving grace was that it was funny and irasciblethe more so because it was unfair to its target and completely over the top.
One of the more interesting blogs is composed by an Iraqi who lives in Baghdad (dear_raed.blogspot.com). Like the early Internet sites, it is far from professional in its tone or presentation, but that isn't the point of the site. It's an engaging and compelling individual account by an idiosyncratic and interesting individual of what it is like to live in Baghdad at the moment.
Developers create the software that makes blogging possible, so it's not surprising that developers are well represented among bloggers. Indeed, I think blogging serves a significant role in the developer community. At the least, blogs serve as a catalyst for getting the word out about upcoming events pertinent to developers. It is finding compelling content that makes people return to any site repeatedly. Blogging sites that cater to developers are numerous, and Visual Studio .NET is well represented, whether you're interested in VB.NET, C#, ASP.NET, or enterprise frameworks. In the run-up to the Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft sponsored a whole community of blogs around Longhorn. Many Microsoft developers have themselves caught the blogging bug. A short list of these includes Paul Vick, technical lead on Visual Basic .NET; Don Box, architect of XML messaging in .NET; Scott Guthrie, product lead on ASP.NET and the .NET Framework; and Yasser Shohoud, who works on the XML team at Microsoft and has been a frequent contributor to this magazine.
While most blogging sites are written by amateurs, professional organizations are jumping in. Whether that's good or bad depends on your perspective. I miss the good old days of the Web, too, but will also admit, if pressed, the Web is more useful as it is now. The BBC has a blogging site, as do technology reporters Dan Gillmor and Jon Udell. FTP is launching its own site, with content posted by FTP's various magazine editors and Jim Fawcette, FTP's founder. Be sure to visit www.ftponline.com/weblogger to read our accounts of the development world. As a tease and a bit of personal logrolling, I'll post the links to the bloggers mentioned here and others blogs pertinent to Visual Studio .NET. I'll also post on the interesting coda to the Bert is Evil Web site.
Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.