(This a cross-post from remlog.net: http://blog.remlog.net/?p=33)
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Vincent, who is on the Board of Directors of INETA (International .NET Association) which works to coordinate a huge community of .NET user groups. INETA, is a non-profit almost entirely driven by volunteers who have an interest in sharing .NET knowledge and helping .NET user groups to be successful.
Mike was in town for an INETA board meeting, the Visual Studio Extensibility (VSX) Conference and to meet with various MS product teams to see how we could work together to improve the .NET User group experience.
Mike was meeting with Harry Pierson (IronPython PM) and Bill Chiles (Dynamic Language Runtime Lead) to discuss INETA and dynamic languages so I was lucky enough to tag along and ask some questions.
One question we asked was how important Mike saw Visual Studio Integration for the Iron languages. We get feedback at times that it is more important to have a lightweight, quick to bring up, quick to close down, editor for script editing than full VS integration. Others tell us, make sure that we integrate well with VS now since this is their primary code editing tool. Mike's response was that VS integration is "a big deal" for adoption by the mainstream .NET developer and consequently a must have.
Mike mentioned a cool concept that INETA is embarking on around speakers. INETA is known for its speaker's bureau (and virtual user groups) which has been national in scope. They are now introducing regional speakers bureaus that will enable folks to speak regionally at smaller venues which can lead to the larger national opportunities. Harry and I have talked about similar ideas for folks at Microsoft to start speaking at smaller venues that could lead to bigger opportunities such as Tech Ed and PDC. Mike also mentioned that INETA is also heavily encouraging virtual presentations, recording live presentations, and having them available via the INETA website. I wonder if there is some way Microsoft could leverage that as well, pointing customers to these presentations as they become available ... hmm, a todo for me.
I asked Mike how he viewed dynamic languages in .NET. The value he sees is that advantage of providing more tools for the .NET developer's toolbelt. "Dynamic languages allow you to do some things much more easily than a static language". The low ceremony aspects of IronPython and IronRuby in particular help.
Mike has special interest in a project to allow NUnit tests to be written in IronPython. Using the low ceremony language like IronPython can make this feel very much like a DSL for testing. We didn't get a chance to talk about it much but I look forward to learning more about it. Harry has some ideas for how the IronPython team might be able to help.
I asked Mike what the major issues with .NET and in his constituent user communities. The most significant one that came to mind for him was the problem with shops remaining on older releases (many in the user groups are still using .NET 1.1). Developers get frustrated since so many of the user groups and Microsoft talks are focused on new features (LINQ, et al) which are not yet available to them. He recognizes the tension between customers who feel there are too many releases and pressure from other customers (and the competitive landscape) to keep innovating. Perhaps, we strategized, Microsoft should do more to innovate around helping customers move successfully from one .NET release to the next.
It was great to meet Mike and hear about more about INETA. It appears INETA has great momentum, with greater than 250 active user groups and over 100,000 active developers in North America, and a reach of approximately 1.2 million developers world-wide. I look forward to working with Mike and INETA to improve the .NET user group experience as well as .NET developers in general.