Every once in awhile, gosh, once a year at
this rate, I crank out something simple to write for my ancient ASP.NET
site. This year...
Build an RSS feed using LINQ to XML
I haven't done a lot of writing since my book, and I kind of miss it. I just can't find the time to do it.
In my self-employed "summer vacation" without a standard day job, I find myself working on things that I'm interested, a luxury you obviously don't get whilst working for The Man. Some of it is naturally for the now five-years-old CoasterBuzz, which is an embarrassment of a site for me to look at (despite its continued financial success). What I've been into is AJAX stuff, building controls of all things. Every control I build is easier than the previous, and I find myself feeling ninja-like around the AJAX framework. I really enjoy working on this stuff.
I'm wondering though, as I now think about going back to work full time, if being a ninja is valuable these days. It's hard to be a ninja at all things (or at least, it is for me), but I find that really getting deep into something is rewarding personally. But is it valuable to employers? While I'm all giddy about ASP.NET AJAX, I've done little more than give MVC a casual glance.
There is always something new to learn, and I find that few developers, unfortunately, endeavor to keep up on it (which exlpains why there are so many COBOL-only devs out there). If you had the time on your hands the way I do, what would you be doing? Girls love guys with computer hacking skills (gosh!).
Before it sounds like all I do is complain, let me first say that the advances in C# 3.0, along with LINQ and ASP.NET AJAX, have made programming more fun than ever. I've spent a lot of time lately using all of this stuff on my own projects, and I'm having a great time. I'm going to make some lucky employer very happy (or annoyed because they're still using v1.1).
That said, the documentation situation is bad. It's better than it was circa 2004, but all of the rapid shipping and fragments of the .NET world are leaving the docs a mess. It starts with the MSDN site itself, which has much better search than it used to, but is still heavy and slow because of the treeviews. It also doesn't look right in Firefox, and doesn't retain your preference for programming languages.
The ASP.NET site (which, by the way, also beachballs Firefox on the Mac with every page load making it unusable) has the outline of the new features in v3.5 SP1, and presents you up front with video. Video is not particularly useful when you want to just get to the examples. I go to the link for the browser history feature, and, after the five second beachball, see nothing but a video. OK, so where is the link to the docs? I had to watch the video (which is painful because it's VB.NET, and the presenter is "rusty" on his VB), and then see that it involves using ScriptManager, so I finally can go to MSDN and look up the right methods. I get there and find no examples of how to use the history point related stuff. Lots of wasted time. I end up having to rely on Googling third parties for a decent reference.
I'm a huge fanboy of Microsoft's, but this kind of thing frustrates me. I think the company needs a new role: Barrier Detection Monitor. This is a person who, in their product group, would look for things that make it harder for people to use the product. Too often there's something brilliant coming out of Redmond and it doesn't get the use or attention it deserves because of some kind of silly barrier.