Web Services Getting More Accessible

Microsoft to Release New Developers Tools (AP). AP- Microsoft Corp. is releasing several new tools to help developersbuild software applications that work with its online search andcommunication products. [Yahoo! News: TechnologyNews]

Fascinating seeing competition changing the marketplace. A yearor so ago I considered some business ideas that were heavilydependent upon the ability to map data through some sort of webGIS. At the time youcould either buy a very expensive product that you ran on yourown servers, serving rather craptacular raster graphics, or youcould sign-up for MapPoint Web Services (MWS). MWS was very expensive (I can’tremember the details, but I believe it was something like $50,000up front, and then a considerable per transaction fee -considerable relative to the extremely low yield of most webventures, though it would have been very worthwhile for manyinternal asset tracking style apps). I abandoned the idea as it wastoo speculative.        

Of course now countless sites are popping up utilizing Google Maps as their GISback-end system. That seems like a very tenuous decision to me (atleast until Google figures out their mapping revenue model), butthe result is some outstanding graphical mapping apps that lookspectacular and respond fantastically. I find it remarkable thatGoogle Maps offers a more responsive (and more aestheticallypleasing) experience than running a thick-client MapPoint applocally.

Proper Typing Technique

This isn’t a very hardcore developer tip, but it cansignificantly affect productivity and communications: Learnhow to type properly.

A good portion of two-finger typists, when advised todo this, will reply that they can type faster than any”formal” technique already, often referencing dubious onlinetests that affirm their mastery (claiming some ludicrous number togo along with their 170 IQ). It’s highly unlikely – notimpossible, but unlikely. I say this with inside information, as I,too, started as a two-finger typist, teaching myself all thewrong techniques on my Atari 800XL. I becameso confident in my mastery that in my first year ofhigh-school I signed up for a course called “keyboarding”- basically training for a classic prototypical 1970ssecretary (learning margins, various letter layout standards, andof course typing…err “keyboarding”). It satisfied the needfor a business credit, and I figured it’d be an easy period, sothere I was.

This course taught proper form, and it was no time at all beforeI was typing with the best of them. My accuracy and speed increaseddramatically, and I could spin off paragraphs with a minimum offuss and spectacle. So much so that they sent me to the county-widebusiness “Olympics”, where I won the lucrative and heavily soughtafter typing contest. How nerdy is that Yes, very.

Of course the rate of data entry for software development ishardly the limiting factor when you consider that mostdevelopers complete a couple of dozen lines of code a day(averaged over a year, and that’s actually overstating theaverage): Instead good development often entails a lot of research,planning, and thought, and a minimum of actual coding. Nonetheless,once you factor in communications (e.g. emails, IMs, and so on),comments, and documentation, the average developer actually typesan enormous amount of information intotheir PC every day, and the capabilities of their person-machineinterface becomes extraordinarily important: The last thing youwant is negligent documentation, deficient comments, or spartan andpoorly communicated emails, all because one can’t efficientlyand effectively turn their thoughts into digital form.

So if you want to maximize your ability to use this medium, andreduce the amount of shock and awe (and time) required to convey apoint, make sure you’re using proper form when you’re typing. Don’tget bogged into debates over Dvorakvs QWERTY tojustify poor form — just pick one and do it right.

System.Net Suggestions

Much of the development on .NET 2.0 is wrapping up (the releaseis closing in on us fast), and the teams are setting their mandatesfor the next release (Orcas).Now is the time for the development community to convey theirwishes to the teams, letting them know where there are gaps, andwhat doesn’t provide the solutions it should. The System.Net teamis activelysoliciting for input. Take a moment and let them know what youthink. The results will be a better long term development platformfor all of us.

Bloggers Unite!

This is a bit off the topic of software development, but I findit fascinating, so please excuse the detour.

Bloggers bemoan Yahoo’s role in writer’sarrest. Blog: There’s lots of buzz out thereabout a media watchdog group’s claim that Yahoo providedinformation that helped Chinese officials… [CNETNews.com]

That’s so funny – one of the features of Radio Userlandis that it lists current news stories from several major feeds,letting me perform a single click and turn it into a blog post.Voila, I’m a pretend newspaper!

Personally I find this a bit disturbing – are people signing upfor feeds from bloggers to allow them to be their news filters,carefully applying their bias to whatever stories they want peopleto hear Are we in a world where there are half a dozen sources ofinformation, and there are vast armies of Winston Smithsmanipulating feeds to fit their perspective?

Secondly, this story above details how “bloggers bemoan”(including some snippets from blogs, which is a pretty fragilebasis of a news story), as if “bloggers” are some sort ofcollective consciousness (which has been a bit of a mantra in themedia as of late). Bloggers, as a composite, have very little incommon with each other, and this constant portrayal of someunderlying binding thread is ridiculous. Having, or writing in, ablog is universally accessible. There is no great skill, sacrifice,or motivation in being a “blogger” (why blogger is being linked isa mystery to me – it’s just the word in quotation marks. Sort ofannoying). Furthermore, I’ve been seeing some readership numbersfor some of the most popular blogs, and man are they a world lessthan you would think. Many of them were less than 1% of the dailyreads that I would have expected given the perspective ofblogs.

Visual Studio Quick Tips

Two more Visual Studio.NET quick-tips while I’m doing a flyby(again because I’ve seen so many developers that don’t takeadvantage of these simple productivity improvements)

  • Use a good font forprogramming 
  • Use Windows/Auto Hide All (the menu item) in VisualStudio. The additional space for viewing code and laying outdesigns is incredibly valuable