So, I know it’s months later than I meant for it to come out, but, I did in fact get the first of my “VB Newbie” series of articles published on MSDN. It’s the only one that doesn’t have any code sample/example attached because it’s filled to the brim with screen shots. I’ve got two others going through the process and two I have not written yet because I’m still figuring out what the best approach is….to be clear and illustrative and not completely lame. (I learned after these initial three that it’s much easier to write the code, then write about the code, than the other way. ) I also get to make ridiculous jokes as I masquerade as a technical writer of substance. And make Mom proud of me (she already corrected a typo that my editor promptly fixed…go Mom!)!!!
Working in the group that produces MSDN and TechNet can be very intimidating; you have content strategists known for the technical specialities they manage on the site, product teams who created the stuff, and of course our own developers and testers who got their own technical mojo going on. And, like a lot of Microsoft, there is a measure of technical “fronting” that goes on every day, casual acronyms and metaphors that say more about our technophiliac culture than the technology (Ok, “have you GACed that yet?” just sounds to me like a cat hairball moment rather than anything you’d say in a business setting, but whatever).
This can also happen in the real world – and it can be intimidating to the newbie, who sees the acronyms and the in-joke metaphors as a way of showing them they are excluded from this world, rather than feeling welcomed in. Reading a Web site that presumes you are already one of the “cool kids” though you are getting lost in the mumbo-jumbo can be disheartening.
My VB Newbie articles are not going to stop any intellectual posturing, but I’m hoping that they will dispel some intellectual confusion among the folks new to Visual Studio and new to Visual Basic .NET. I’ve apparently been getting some dissing in my article ratings by people who felt the article was too simple and easy for MSDN. With all due respect, I think they missed the point.
MSDN isn’t some elite club where they do a brain scan before you come to the Web site (although perhaps they should before you come to my blog <g>). Just as the brainiacs and the leading lights of technology come to look up arcane reference material and see what higbrow thing Kent Sharkey said today, the maniacs and ” .NET lites” also come to our site, looking for basic answers and the technology conversation that makes up a real interplay between Microsoft and its customers. We don’t screen for who you are; we let anyone with a Web browser load the pages.
We are not writing these huge documentation sets and articles to make you feel stupid, we are writing them for that tingly, refreshing feeling when our Moms notice we’ve done something good. Er, we are writing them for the tingly, refreshing feeling developers get when they are done reading them and they’ve figured out how to fix their code. We are writing for the tingly, refreshing feeling of hearing you tell us what you think about Microsoft technologies and making them better. We are perhaps in it for parental approval (is that SO WRONG?) but for the most part, we are in this technical writing game for you, and making newbies feel like idiots is not the plan. Newbies can feel like idiots on their own – trust me, *I* know. And, if there are no kindly articles, they may indeed freak out the first time they see the Visual Studio IDE.
I don’t think my VB Newbie articles will change the world, or stop the technical elitists from dissing me for my simple, plainspoken ways. But they might make life easier for the person who is a bit daunted and just wants a friendly bad joke or two on the way to technical mastery. Is that so wrong?
Live it vivid!