Paul Ballard's WebLog

.NET All Day.... .NET All Night. The semi-coherent ramblings of a sleep deprived mind.

  • Happy to NOT Be an MVP!!!

    Wait, it's not what you think.  This isn't some "sour grapes" post where I bitch and complain about not getting awarded the MVP this year.  I'm not tossing Vista out the window for penguin software nor am I going to start abbreviating Microsoft with M$.  It was actually my choice.

    Receiving the MVP award is a great honor, and one that has to be earned each year.  I was very proud of having received it for the past four years and appreciated Microsoft recognizing the support I gave the community.  But this past year I've been buried with work in my new job and just didn't have the time to speak and write as much as I should have (as the lack of blog posts here shows).  So this year I didn't ask to be renewed, preferring instead to step down and make room for some other more deserving folks like Rob Marshall and Chris Hay

    I want to thank my US MVP Lead Ed Hickey for supporting me all those years as well as Akim Boukhelif for supporting me on this side of the big pond.  Best of luck to all of the new MVPs and maybe when my work life settles down I'll once again be worthy of the MVP title.


  • Great quote from Steve Ballmer on Apple’s “Cult Following”

    I attended a TechNet event today called “Technologies to Change Your Business:  How Customers Are Implementing Tomorrow’s Strategies Today”.  It was primarily geared around Microsoft’s virtualization stories and SQL Server 2008, but I attended to see if Steve Ballmer was going to drop any news about Microsoft’s Cloud Services.  After his keynote, there was a question and answer session where a question was asked that led to the presenter talking about Apple’s “cult like following” for its products such as iPhone.  This was Steve Ballmer’s reply:

    Currently 97% of people run our software.  I don’t know if that qualifies as a cult but we’re pretty happy with our numbers.

    Well said sir, well said.

    First published on my new blog at


  • MVP Summit 2008 - Wish I Could Be There

    Well, the MVP Summit started today and I'm starting to see both blogs and pictures come out.  Sadly, this is the first one since becoming an MVP that I've missed.  The distance and expenses of getting to Redmond from London were just too much for me to overcome, to say nothing of the piles of work to do here at BT.  But even though I'll miss the festivities I'm sure my MVP brethren and sistren (is that a word?) will have a great time and hopefully know that I'll miss seeing them this year.


  • Facts vs Web 2.0

    I was recently wallowing in my usual firehose of RSS feeds when I came across a link from Heather Leigh's blog about Mozilla's attempt to poke at Internet Explorer by quoting statistics that say IE users are more likely to get, have, or be living with cancer.  The firestorm of disgust and outrage that they have since been dealt is certainly justified.  But what really bothers me isn't that the ads were in incredibly poor taste, and they were, but that all of the so called "stats" were in fact complete works of fiction.

    In the past several decades the world has seen a huge rise in the amount of information available with the click of a few keystrokes.  But information IS NOT fact.  Information requires interpretation and the application of judgement.  Facts are information for which there is actual evidence.  Now of course you can say that facts change, after all in my lifetime scientists have discovered that the electron is not the smallest particle of matter.  But those cases are rare enough to be largely irrelevant, paritcularly when you're just trying to find out who the heck invented cheese in a can.  So then, as information overload hits us all sifting through the rubbish for actual nuggets of fact is becoming ever more difficult.  And Web 2.0 is making it worse.

    I read through literally hundreds of blogs a day, a habit that first started while I was the editor for TheServerSide.NET.  During my reign there (sounds better than job), I saw first hand how information is misinterpreted as facts.  In a blog post Clemens Vasters joked about a meeting with Don Box where a new technology was going to be created called BOA or BML.  It was a joke, but Mary Jo Foley from Microsoft Watch picked up on it and reported it as a new technology on the horizon from Micorsoft.  Okay, so you can say shame on her for not getting her facts right (or ever reading the post correctly) but the real shame is on us, because if they hadn't pointed out her mistake we'd all be wondering when BOA and BML would be released.  Blogs are great, you're reading one now.  But whether you believe what I write is based on what exactly?  A perception of my expertise?  The fact that I have an MVP logo on my page?  Just because somebody can throw up a blog and pump out deeply thought out pontifications on the evils of corporate programming doesn't make them experts nor does it make their products actually sell (Yes, I'm talking about Joel Spolsky). 

    Another case in point where Web 2.0 is blurring the line between fact and fiction is the case of Socal Networking.  Now I believe that social networking can be a valuable tool.  I like looking at the recommendations in Amazon or Rhapsody from other readers/listeners.  I've found some really cool music that way.  But social networking is predominantly an aggregation of opinion, not facts.  You wouldn't go to Facebook to find out how magnetism and motion are converted into electricity, although I'm sure somebody has an opinion about it up there somewhere.  However, people often look to sites like Wikipedia for actual facts even though it has had numerous scandals of individuals posting incorrect information or information slanted toward a company's product line.  In that sort of world, the loudest voice is the expert (see earlier reference to Joel) and facts are largely irrelevant.  But even in sites like FaceBook, data is often fiction.  How many articles do we have to read about teens thinking they are talking to another teen only to find out that they are actually a 43 year old dock worker looking to take advantage.  A teen reads the age quoted and accept it as fact automatically.   

    It all comes down to who do you trust.  Where can you get factual information online?  If I put up a flashy website with a nice corporate logo saying that I'm an expert in brain surgery and get enough links in Google, I can post any sort of rubbish I want to and it will only be a matter of time before I'm speaking at AMA conferences.  The ease of large scale broadcasts that Web 2.0 has enabled means we need to be even more careful about not trusting what we read.  And Mozilla, well they're just idiots. 



  • New Year's Eve in London - Amazing

    Last night was an excellent example of the pleasant surprises you find when moving to a new place.  I usually watch the ball drop in Times Square on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve and often thought how great it would be to be in the crowd cheering as countdown reached 0 and the new year started.  That desire has been replaced though with what I saw last night.  Now I want to be a part of the 700,000 member crowd gathered along the Thames counting down to 0 followed by an awe inspiring near silence as we listen for the tolling of midnight by an illuminated Big Ben in the distance.  This was followed by the biggest, most impressive fireworks display I've ever seen, even if it was just on TV.  They launched fireworks from several floating barges, at least two moving speedboats, and directly from the London Eye. 

    That was New Year's in London and next year I will be on the bank of the Thames, freezing my arse off with the rest of the Londoners to see this amazing show in person.



  • Happy To Be... An MVP.. Again...Again!!!

    I am once again honored to announce that I have received a Microsoft MVP (Visual Developer - Visual Basic) award for 2008.  Much thanks to Akim and Vicki my new MVP Leads here in the UK. 

    As I look back to when I made a similar announcement last year I would never have imagined the events that have lead me to where I am today.  My wife and I started 2007 on the losing end of a bitter and expensive custody battle for two children who we felt needed our help.  At the end of March, I wrapped up one of a seemingly endless stream of consulting projects, this one having me travel full-time during the week to Houston while still living in Dallas.  After fifteen years of being an independent consultant, I was ready for something new.  It was just about that time when a friend sent an email that his company was looking for people in London and New York.  I half jokingly asked my wife if she'd want to move to London, to which she fatefully said "Sure, why not".  That one statement would lead to the end of my consulting practice and me taking a full-time job for a firm who moved my wife and me to London. 

    Things didn't go well at first, the adjustment to living in London was a lot harder than I expected and things went bad quickly with the new job.  But things are much better now.  I have a new job that might be one of the most challenging positions I've ever had.  We finally found a place to live and managed to get moved in after more than three months of living out of suitcases.  I still miss my family and friends and also my dogs Maggie and Libby.  But since coming to Europe, I've been to Spain twice, I've driven across the whole of France, and visited Paris twice. 

    Looking forward to 2008 it's tough to say what the year will have in store.  My new job is going to have me hopping, but I do have plans for getting more involved with the local developer communities.  I am looking forward to adding Italy, Greece, and maybe Prague or St. Petersburg to my list of adventures.  And I am looking forward to a trip home to see family and friends as well as my fellow MVPs at the MVP Summit in April.  All in all, I think its going to be a very good year.



  • You Know You're NOT In Texas When...

    My good friend and native Texan Noah Coad recently wrote a post entitled "You Know Your In Texas When" highlighting the sights and mostly tastes of Texas that stood out during his visit with family over Christmas (Noah works for Microsoft and now lives in Redmond).  Being a former Texan who transplanted himself even farther away than the Pacific Northwest, I couldn't help but make the opposite comparisons in my new home (which for those of you who didn't notice the picture above is London, UK). 

    • Its December and the sun goes down around 3:30pm. 
    • You can't see across the street for the thickness of the fog. 
    • Very few people say "Merry Christmas", preferring instead to say "Happy Christmas". 
    • Instead of watching NFL Football, you watch "The Great Escape" but aren't entirely sure why.
    • The local "Barbecue" joint, and I use that term generously, has a full page "vegetarian" menu
    • The women are amazingly beautiful but with fewer blondes and slicone "enhancements"
    • A drive of 70 miles from London to Felixstowe today left my wife and I physically and emotionally exhausted
    • The vehicles are tiny, but with better headroom than 90% of all US cars.  Go figure.
    • There are NO parking spots, compact or otherwise
    • As opposed to a statue of a somewhat unpopular one-term president that everybody knows about, you see a statue of a hugely popular historical figure that you've never heard of. 
    • Mexican food here is baaaaaad.  How in the name of Guadalupe do you have Mexican food with no beans?
    • While shopping at the local Waitrose for a Christmas ham you end up settling for a Gammon Joint which in fact turns out to be ham.
    •  Bluegrass music is not played here ever, I'm pretty sure there's a law.  Country music is rare.  Dance music and R&B are everywhere.  You dream about XM Radio.
    • It seems the younger population outnumbers you about 100:1.  Either London is a very young city or I'm getting very old.
    • Gas (Petrol actually) is ~£1.20/l or roughly $9.00/gallon.
    • Restaurant servers barely acknowledge your existence. 
    • You're 4500 miles from your friends and family.



  • Updated WCF RSS Toolkit for Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5

    Now that I'm happily living in the exciting, fast paced world of Greater London you'd think my weekends would be spent enjoying the active nightlife or soaking in the culture and history all around me.  But you'd be wrong.  I'm a nerd and so I spent my weekend in nerd bliss, a.k.a. getting reacquainted with my old friend WCF.  Sorry ladies, I'm taken.

    I had reason to look at building a RSS service with WCF and ran across the WCF RSS Toolkit.  This is a very cool sample app written I believe by Clemens Vasters which allows developers to build services that expose endpoints encoded for RSS or ATOM.  The implementation is pretty slick in that it checks the QueryString for operations and routes the calls accordingly.  It also formats the feeds dynamically to RSS or ATOM using XSLT transforms before unwrapping the message from SOAP using a custom POX Encoder.

    While this is all extreme coolness, and I take absolutely no credit for any of it, it did have one major problem.  It was built quite some time ago and uses the CTP version of WCF.  I assumed that somebody must have a more up-to-date version or a better way to generically build an RSS/ATOM service but after looking around for several hours I couldn't find much.  And so with a weekend to kill and my nerd gene complelling me I dug into the code and started migrating it to Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5. 

    There were several small changes that needed to be made to update some class names that were different between RTM and the CTP version and also a few abstract method implementation changes.  A more significant change was that the POX Encoder functionality wasn't really necessary anymore since WCF will send POX messages if you specify a MessageVersion of type "None".  After making these changes I loaded up the samples and confirmed that they all worked.

    So here then is the updated version.  I've posted an item on as well.  If there's anything I missed please let me know.  Also, if there is a newer/better way to implement RSS/ATOM services in WCF feel free to comment to this post as my search wasn't necessarily exhaustive.


  • Visual Studio 2008 is Out and Startup Is FAST

    Okay, so I have to admit that in the two days I've had Visual Studio 2008 installed on my desktop system I haven't had a chance to look at everything.  However, when I was at Tech-Ed Barcelona I saw several demos where the speaker started Visual Studio 2008 and it seemed to just spring to life.  My experiences with Visual Studio 2005 was far from "springy" including seeing the "Preparing Visual Studio for first use" diaog about every 5th time I started the application.  In every demo, I had to make sure VS2005 was already running to avoid long delays and audience boredom.

    So one of the first things I tried after installing it (and getting the first use dialog dealt with) was looking at just how fast it comes up now, and boy is it fast!  This is going to make demos and just daily development life much easier.  Well done VS Team!


  • Tech-Ed (Developer) Barcelona Bound

    An observant reader looking at my blog directly and not in their favorite feed reader may have noticed that several months ago the image at the top changed from the skyline of Chicago to that of London.  That's because in July my wife and I threw all expectations of decent customer service to the wind and relocated to scenic London England.

    A side benefit of this move is that for the first time ever I'll be attending Tech-Ed Europe in Barcelona, Spain.  As with Tech-Ed 2007 in Orlando, I'll be working at the "Ask The Experts" booth in the Learning Center.  So if you happen to be attending the conference next week stop by and quiz me on Visual Studio 2008, or maybe just teach me to swear in the language of your country!