Our European Tour has brought us to Prague on Monday. This was the first time for me to visit Prague and I was completely blown away by the beauty of this city. I thought Paris was beautiful; Prague is even more beautiful (to me anyway)!
In the afternoon, we met with 5 Developer Evangelists from the Prague subsidiary of Microsoft. Stepan Bechynsky was our host, and he was very warm in welcoming us. Their office building is located in BB Centrum - a constellation of high-tech companies. Actually, now that I have been to several European offices, I feel like the offices back in Redmond are the most modest. The Prague office has a cool projector that hides itself completely away behind one of the ceiling tiles when it's not in use. The automatic door to their conference room looks like it's from a spy movie as it just looks like a wall when it's closed.
Microsoft building in BB Centrum, Prague.
We started the meeting by presenting our VSX positioning slide deck. We wanted to give them a good idea about what our team does, what we care about and how it impacts developers. We chatted about various opportunities to make more VSX events accessible to Czech developers and we also chatted about some of our upcoming work. There were several key pieces of feedback from this group:
- We need to make VS localizable by the community. Czech Republic is a small country and they understand why there is no Czech version of Visual Studio yet. However, they really want us to provide the tools needed so that the Czech developer community can localize on their own. It won't be perfect and it doesn't need to be. They strongly feel this would be huge in improving developer satisfaction in Czech Republic. They also mentioned that whenever they issue surveys, localized version of tools is always the #1 thing the developers bring up.
- We should build tighter integration to get VS extensions directly inside the IDE. The evangelists in the room see the value in Visual Studio Gallery, and think there is a huge opportunity there. However, they think we need to provide tighter integration of how you obtain extensions directly inside the IDE.
- We should think about reusing the same shell between Expression tools and Visual Studio. The feedback here is that a lot of developers in small shops are also the designers who use the Expression tools. They prefer to have a more consistent user experience so they don't have to re-learn the environment. I have my doubts whether sharing the same shell would really address this problem. Even if Expression tools were provided inside Visual Studio today, they would still proffer new user interface objects that are focused on designer tasks that these developers would still need to learn. In fact, in the absence of being able to support multiple work surfaces, I think it may worsen the problem since it is probably not as convenient because you can Alt+tab between your designer tasks and your developer tasks. Longer term, I think this makes sense from an internal engineering perspective to save development costs on maintaining two shells. The look-and-feel for the Expression tools is quite different from Visual Studio's; if you have seen these tools, you will know what I mean. Since the current Visual Studio environment doesn't give you the ability to "skin" itself, it made sense that the Expression tools are not using the Visual Studio IDE.
I thought our meeting was useful. Of particular interest to me, is that I discovered that our central localization team in Sever & Tools Business is looking into how they can solve the localization problem for the smaller countries where we don't provide a fully localized version of Visual Studio. I am not going to drill into the specifics here as I am unsure how much of this information is public or how much I am supposed to disclose. But I think what's in the works will be of really big help to these developers.
In the evening, we proceeded with our user group meeting. Over 60 people registered for the event, but as Stepan said, the weather was against us. It was very sunny and warm, so about 30 of those registered had chosen to venture outside instead 🙁 Of course, we still delivered our session with the same enthusiasm. We did something a little different this time as we wanted to try something new and improve the talk all the time. This time, Jean-Marc challenged me to building the Source Outliner Lite in 15 mins instead. Thanks to my practice the night before, it went smoothly and I think the audience liked it. Compared to the audience from the other cities we have visited so far, a lot of the audience has played with the VS SDK already. One gentleman had a specific interest in DSL tools and really liked what Jean-March demo'd. In the end, it was obvious that he's completely bought into the value that DSL Tools can deliver, but he asked about tips for convincing his management 😛 I think this area is ripe for a case study to show how different companies (including Microsoft) have used DSL Tools and what type of return on investment they have been getting. I know Stuart has talked about some of those numbers in the past, but it's time to do a formal case study!
Our next and final stop is Budapest. I am really excited about this last stop. The subsidiary in Budapest is hosting a half-day event called VSX Day so I am expecting a larger audience. Istvan and Gabor will also be there talking about VSX. In fact, another colleague of mine, Kalman Beres from the Dynamics found out from Gareth that we will be going to Budapest and he is planning to come to VSX Day too as well. His team is a user of the MPF project base classes and we have met several times in Redmond. He works remotely for the site in Copenhagen but he is located in Budapest (yes, Microsoft has lots of remote work arrangements these days). It will be great to see all of them for our final destination of the tour.