Are You a .NET Hero?
Profiling those who show the power of .NET.
A reader dropped me an e-mail about our now-defunct Basic Heroes column the other day. The column, which ran for many years, remains my personal favorite in my eight years at Visual Basic Programmer's Journal and Visual Studio Magazine.
It showcased interesting or novel applications created with Visual Basic. We chose the applications we profiled based on how vital they were to the businesses that used them. The purpose of the column was to show off what was possible with VB. We were out to demonstrate what many of our readers already knew: VB was a strong language for writing serious business applications. Never mind the criticisms that VB was a toy language or that it didn't have this or that feature. Banks, financial services companies, insurance companies, utility companies, call centers, and medical companies flocked to VB because it let you create powerful applications at a reasonable cost.
We wanted the people who used VB to understand the scope and versatility of the language. We also wanted to give them something to reach for. In this sense, the column echoed the larger goals of the magazine, which were not only to help you program better and faster using the tool, but also to help readers reset their expectations for what was possible with the language.
The person who wrote me wanted to know why we no longer run the column, and would we consider starting it up again. He noted that he works at a shop that still uses VB6 because "people think it does everything we need it to do." The general attitude is, why learn something new when the tool you have works just fine? He noted that VB6 does often serve the purpose at hand quite well—and it can be made to adapt to most circumstances—but that it was far more limited in creating certain kinds of desired applications, especially applications that weren't confined inside his company's firewall. He explained that running such a column might help others see what he has known for some time: that VB6 is a great tool, but it doesn't do everything, and a regular column that details what is possible in .NET might go a long way toward helping companies like his see the value of using .NET.
At VSM, we are always interested in hearing what people are doing in the real world. It gives us insight into what topics we should be covering inside the magazine. It's true that .NET developers no longer fight the perception that they use a toy language—.NET is a robust environment, and many commercial ventures use it to write applications, including many of the companies that provide third-party tools and services for use with Visual Studio .NET.
This is in distinct contrast to the situation with VB6, where most of the third-party add-ons were written in C or C++, for use in VB. If anything, the perception has swung the other way. The .NET-based version of VB is far from a toy, but far from easy to use, as well. What makes it so powerful—the underlying .NET Framework—is also what takes the most time to come to terms with and learn.
I like the idea of a regular feature promoting .NET heroes. We at VSM want people to understand the power of .NET. We think real-world examples of what people are doing with .NET can help, and we want to profile interesting, non-commercial applications written in VB.NET and C# that you've created to solve basic or important business problems. But we can't write about them if we don't know about them.
If you think you've done something noteworthy—something that pushes the envelope of what's possible or perhaps something that simply provides an invaluable service to your company or the community—e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include information on what your app does, whom it serves, how many people use it, how long it took to create, and other information relevant to understanding why your app is so special. We look forward to writing about you soon.
Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.