It's Only Code
Finding a good balance to current and future coverage is one of the challenges of Visual Studio Magazine.
Writing about current and upcoming technologies can be difficult, especially when the technologies and information you write about are so fluid. It is our mission to show you how to use Visual Studio better by giving you lots of practical advice and how-to articles. We also try to keep you informed of impending developments, with semi-regular articles about future technologies and the potential implications of those technologies on your current development.
It's always a risk covering technologies that are coming down the road. For one, they change frequently, occasionally obsolescing past articles in an instant. It is for this reason that I'm always wary of how we handle coverage of future and/or beta technologies. I think it's important to provide a context for them from the standpoint of what you're doing now, but it's important to remember that the information relayed in such pieces shouldn't be taken as gospel, but rather as a working template of how things exist now. A good working template with practical examples can help you steer your future course more successfully.
Finding a good balance to current and future coverage is one of the challenges of Visual Studio Magazine. The recent changes to Longhorn announced by Microsoft served as a good reminder of how things can change, and prompted several letters to the editor, a number of which, like this one from Jeremy Givens of Omaha, took us to task for our recent focus on upcoming technologies:
"I still fail to understand why you devoted such a large amount of space to the subjects of Whidbey and Longhorn in the past year, especially Longhorn, when the timeframe for shipping the tool was so far from shipping. As I recall, you covered these subjects in large, back-to-back, special issues, at the expense of more current topics. Now that Microsoft has essentially gutted what it intended originally with Longhorn, and given that these changes are probably only the tip of the iceberg compared to what we will see down the road, perhaps now you will abandon the future-lust that affects so many magazines today."
Only a couple days later, Paul Langley, hailing from Mobile, Ala., e-mailed us:
"A longtime reader of your magazine, I liked your recent coverage of Longhorn and am looking forward to its features. I even recall the warning from one of your authors to keep in mind that this was beta software and subject to change. It's a little frustrating watching the sands of technology shift so suddenly sometimes, but I'm looking forward to an updated version of your Longhorn coverage. I'm especially interested in Avalon (hint hint). Keep up the good work."
The letters from Jeremy and Paul are similar to other letters we've received. There is a constant tug-of-war in requests from readers, who alternately urge us to cover current technologies and technologies that won't appear for a while to come.
Regardless of the balance we strike, it's important to keep things in perspective. There is a lot of hullabaloo about many of these technologies, and some technologies will undoubtedly have a significant effect on you in the future—but not right away. My favorite letter on the changes in Longhorn comes from Garrison MacKenzie of Cincinnati, who urges us all to just calm down:
"Watching the endless parade of technologies that tumble one after another like clowns at the circus leaves me dizzy. All of them are accompanied by the shrill screeching of a carnival barker proclaiming 'the next great thing,' but in truth, most of the tricks are simply minor variations on technologies that came before. I hate the circus, I hate clowns, and I hate the breathless way everything from .NET to Whidbey to Longhorn is announced and reported on. Almost as bad is the way my fellow programmers moan and shriek and rend their hair in response to these announcements, as though the world is coming to an end because the next version of the operating system will have a different storage mechanism than was promised originally. It's not that big a deal, people. Take a deep breath, and tell yourselves: It's only code. Whichever version of bits you'll be using tomorrow, you'll still be accomplishing the same job."
How much emphasis on future technologies do you want to see? Post a comment below.
Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.