Holding Court in Orlando
Readers questions on VSM from VSLive! Orlando.
At VSLive! Orlando, I held court (or was it court held me?) with a handful of developers who were eager to discuss the magazine and all things Microsoft, as well as the relationship between the two.
I've been at the magazine for more than 10 years, since April 1996, and these kinds of exchanges have always been the most interesting aspect of working for a magazine devoted to computer programming. The developers who attend VSLive! and related shows tend toward the passionate (and opinionated) side about the magazine and its content. Topics we discussed included everything from VSM's relationship to Microsoft, and the amount of coverage devoted to future-oriented versus currently-shipping technologies, to the percentage of articles based on VB versus C# versus other technologies in Visual Studio. We also discussed the fun factor, and what might make the magazine more fun to read.
A couple of the participants recommended I summarize some of the questions and answers from this meeting for my blog and/or Editor's Note. I agreed. Without further ado, here is an abridged version of that discussion, with an emphasis on the complaints/questions we hear most often at the magazine.
Does Microsoft own VSM and/or dictate which articles to run?
No. VSM is owned and produced by Fawcette Technical Publications, Inc. The content you see in the magazine is assigned by me and other editors at VSM. We bear all the credit (and blame) for what you read in the magazine.
Why do you do so much/so little coverage of future technologies?
It is our goal to strike a balance between the two, but whatever balance we strike won't please everyone. Our main emphasis is on articles that pass the keyboard test—that is, articles that make you want to get up and try out the solutions described. We try to weight the magazine more heavily for the here and now, as opposed to what is coming down the road. At the same time, some coverage of upcoming future technologies is critical—both because of reader interest in them, and because they can point you toward better paths when developing today if you know where your development tools are going.
Why do you have so much/so little coverage of VB versus C#?
We try to weight the coverage of VB to C# at about 60:40, but we admit this ratio can be skewed in a given issue. We weight the coverage toward VB for two reasons. First, there are more VB developers. Second, C# developers are more likely to read a VB-based article than a VB developer is to read a C#-based article. Weighting content more toward VB helps us target the magazine at a larger audience. In a perfect world, I'd have enough space to do enough VB- and C#-based articles to make everyone happy. But for now, it's about achieving the best balance we can with the number of pages we have available.
Why do you devote so much space to VB6 in your letters and opinion sections when Microsoft no longer supports the language?
VSM has not run VB6-specific articles in its features and columns in the magazine since the introduction of .NET several years ago. The letters/opinion sections are the only places people who have opinions about these subjects can express them. I agree that the argument gets wearisome at times, and we've debated a moratorium on the subject internally. At the same time, this magazine started out life as a journal devoted to Microsoft Basic and then Visual Basic, and many of these developers haven't made the transition to .NET. I think the Visual Studio community would be better and stronger, if it were to bring these developers in, so we continue to listen to their concerns and advocate positions that we believe would make Visual Studio .NET (and Visual Basic, in particular) a better tool for them to use.
At VSM, we do appreciate the chance to discuss the magazine and its content with you. As the editor in chief, I'm always searching for ways to better fulfill the magazine's mission, and your advice and feedback have a significant impact on how we approach the magazine's editorial direction.
Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.