The Microsoft Guys
So why, exactly, was I there? Because it was snowing in Toronto, airfares were cheap, it was my last chance for ages, and because Ronald Laeremans knows his restaurants (He too has an aversion to deep fried cheese coated onions rings).
I was a little worried that his invitation to dinner was a chance for him to roast me for my sterling reporting effort last time, but Ronald is a really great guy. For those who don't know Ronald he came over from Belgium over 2 years ago to work on the Visual C++ compiler. He's a fairly shy, unassuming guy but he really knows his stuff and has little patience for pretenders. He also knows when to be scarce (ie. when I have a camera ready) so no pics - sorry. He started out as a Microsoft MVP (basically someone Microsoft recognises and rewards for spending hours helping others in newsgroups and mailing lists). Ronald spent many years working with the early, poorly documented versions of ODBC. He made a poignant comment about those who seek help for free.
People who help others in discussion boards, newsgroups, and mailing lists do it because they enjoy helping others. Often they remember what it was like to be starting out in an unfamiliar technology, or because they understand the pain you have to go through to deal with bad or missing documentation and know they can save you many hours of frustration. What many who seek out help from these people forget is that they are not a 1-800 number provided for their convenience. They are not paid, they are using their own time (often spending hours working through a solution for you), and they are free. What invariably happens is that the person who has developed the reputation as a font of online help starts receiving unsolicited emails asking for help, demands for fast solutions, and often whole school assignments sent to them. Sometimes, if the request is refused, or if the person is pointed gently towards rewarding parts of the online docs, a barrage of abuse can follow. That person giving out the free help starts to wonder why they bother at all.
Please – remember that the help you get from guys on websites, mailing lists and newsgroups is free. I think it would be really cool if once a month you pick someone who has helped you a lot, or you have seen help others, and just send them a note or post a message on a board saying "thanks".
I’ll get off my soapbox now…
|Kent Sharkey. Keep an eye out for him|
Speaking of soap (how’s that for a segue!) Kent Sharkey is the SOAP evangelist and is learning a fear of my camera and me. He was also very easy to blackmail into getting me some Microsoft shirts so I like him a lot. To those who are in charge of this sort of thing: if I ever post anything sensitive about Microsoft internals, it wasn't Kent who told me, OK? (Kent: I'm a size "M" - something in dark blue please). Kent is a quiet, unassuming kind of guy with an ironic sense of humour. He doesn’t come across as you imagine a Microsoft evangelist should be – loud, brash and continually singing the praises from the hilltops. Instead he is a genuinely likeable guy who is passionate about his work and very, very smart. All the things an evangelist should be, really. We like him so much that we are basing our next competition on him.
|Nenad Stefanovic. Great guy.|
Nenad Stefanovic is the man behind WTL and is a very cool guy. He loves what he does and is pragmatic about where WTL fits into the new .NET world. It's a library for those who wish to get work done now.
Nenad loves the mentality of those who use his library. He says they are understanding if it doesn't do everything they may hope for, forgiving if there is the occasional bug, and appreciative of his work. Way cool. He spends about 50% of his time working on the library - adding functionality and bug fixes, but is restricted to synching with the Platform SDK for releasing updates. Those who work with WTL and know the history behind it will no doubt have a hundred questions. I asked a bunch of these but some simply can't be answered. Microsoft is just like any other company, so there is always a trade off in what we as developers want and what they as a business can provide.
|This is not Chris Andersson.|
I also met with a bunch of other guys and girls on campus - so many that my notes degenerated into things like "Chris Anderson - brown hair, wears T-shirts, does GDI.NET/Security n' stuff". Hmm - that really narrows it down to mere hundred or so people. I guess payback was when a guy came down to the foyer of a building to take me to a meeting and asked if I was "that Australian guy". Nope - just an
Australian guy. We're everywhere.
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