2016 Year in Review

new-year

With the new year upon us, it’s always worthwhile to reflect on the previous year.

So, just like I did last year, I compiled a list of general stats about this blog from 2016:

Read more of this post

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Microsoft TechNet and MSDN blog contributor

The month of February has been an interesting one. Over the past weeks I have been asked join two Microsoft-hosted blogs as a contributor.

WikiNinjaThe first is the TechNet Wiki Ninjas blog which is the “Official Blog of TechNet Wiki”. If you know me or have been reading this blog, you know that I am an active contributor to the TechNet Wiki. So, to be asked to join this blog is an honour. The blog helps people become more familiar with TechNet and it encourages them to submit articles to the communal library.

For my first blog article I contributed tips about image compression and it was posted on February 24, 2016: Wiki Life: Image compression in the TechNet Wiki.

MSDN_logoThe second blog site I have joined is the Azure Development Community. Whereas the Wiki Ninjas blog has been active for sometime, this blog is brand new. It was developed by Ed Price at Microsoft and its authors are a collection of Microsoft employees, MVPs, Partners, and Azure development experts who are interested in Azure.

My first post appeared February 25, 2016 and is an Azure Content Spotlight centered around Deployment Slots for Azure Web Apps.

Please check out both sites and the large amount of articles on each. While there, drop a comment or rate an article. The authors would be grateful.

2015 year in review

2015 WordPress blogging stats image

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,387 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Some other general stats:

  • 40 new posts published.
  • 31,950 visitors each having 1.23 page views per visit.
  • 204 pictures uploaded.
  • The busiest day of the year was April 27th with 511 views. The most popular post that day was Microsoft Azure Essentials free eBook series.
  • The top referring site of 2015 was Stackoverflow.com.
  • There were visitors from 174 countries. More than one third of all page views came from the United States, followed by India and the United Kingdom.

Top 5 posts written in 2015

These five posts, written in 2015, received the most traffic:

  1. Microsoft Azure Essentials free eBook series (April 2015)
  2. Azure PowerShell cmdlets version updates (May 2015)
  3. Custom Telemetry Events with TrackEvent in Microsoft Application Insights (June 2015)
  4. Using Microsoft Application Insights in an MVC application (April 2015)
  5. How to enable line numbers for C# in Visual Studio 2013 (July 2015)

Top 5 posts of all time

These 5 posts have received the most traffic overall:

  1. Export an ODBC Data Source from the registry (July 2012)
  2. Using Notepad++ to write C# code (March 2014)
  3. Extending PhoneGap for Visual Studio to Android devices (August 2012)
  4. PowerShell: Invoke-WebRequest and URL links (December 2014)
  5. Creating a developer’s blog (March 2012)

Write Once, Publish Anywhere

This article was also published on the Canadian Developer Connection blog under the title Write Once, Publish Anywhere.

Developers love to write code and a great many also like to write blog posts. However, it can be hard to find time to publish blog articles and to keep your site updated. I want to use this space to share an idea that I have been trying recently to motivate myself to put out more content.

I have often said that every developer needs a developer’s blog. As Scott Hanselman eloquently states, Your Blog is The Engine of Community. The benefits of having your own site can be immense:

  • It is a place where you can share your opinions on technology.
  • You can showcase your skills and display your side projects.
  • Demonstrates that you can learn on your own time and that you are abreast of current technologies.
  • That you care about the developer community and you want to give back.
  • All of your posts are searchable and your work is easily accessible to future employers.
  • It shows that you can communicate your thoughts in a professional manner.
  • Serves as a portal to all your social media profiles.

I have been blogging more lately and I have recently adopted the theory of “write once, publish anywhere”. Based on the developer’s axiom of “write once, run anywhere”, it is the idea of producing one item but being able to use it at least two times. Another analogy that I can relate it to is simulcasting in TV. The television episode is created once and then it is distributed to multiple TV stations.

My blogging activities are trying to replicate this philosophy as I want to reuse my articles in several places. First I look for third-party sites that I can submit to initially. Once it appears on the site I then take the same piece and re-blog it to my own site several days later. This way I create content for two sites. I get the benefit of my work being listed on another’s site, RSS feeds, Twitter announcements, etc. and they get fresh material for their pages. As well, I am still providing new content to my own blog.

The nice thing is as .NET developers and Microsoft technologists there are a lot of places where you can contribute articles. The following links are sites you can use to post content to:

In addition, if you search for the term “Write for us” (in quotes) combined with the topic you wish to talk about you will generally find a blog or magazine looking for submissions. Granted, you do not want to author for just anyone so vet the site first. Read a few excerpts and see if the items are of value.

If none of the links above appeal to you then reach out to your favourite website or blogger and ask if they accept guest pieces. They just might surprise you and say yes. Then, once you have found the one you want — go for it! Work with the editors to get it just right for their audience. Even if your content is rejected in the end you will still have a post you can use on your own site.

Do you know of other sites that accept Microsoft-based articles? If so, feel free to add them in the comments!

Getting started with Curah!

Curah!

I must admit that I had never heard of Curah! from Microsoft until a few weeks ago. Now that I have created my own account and played around with it I can see the potential of it.

Curah! allows you to “Curate the web and share what you know,” according to Microsoft. It is a portal to both share and discover collections of technical content. The premised is simple. You sign in at http://curah.microsoft.com with your Microsoft account and create a profile. Your profile and picture act as a sort of advertisement for your curations. People can look at your background to see if you have knowledge of the areas you are curating.

A curation is designed to target common user questions. It contains a title, description and tags. It also has links to websites, blog posts, videos, infographics, and basically anything else you want to share with others on your topic. You can include whatever you think people will need to learn about the subject. The links can be resources that you used to learn or they can be items you wish you knew about when you were learning your subject.

Curations are easy to create and once they are published become a collection of annotated links available for all to see. Your name remains on the curation. I created three curations easily enough and they were published in no time. I focused on topics I knew well and in the end I built curations on Application Insights, Azure eBooks, and .NET User Groups in Ontario. All of my curations can be seen under my profile.

If you only wish to use the site for technical content research then you do not need an account. You can search for any topic and it will scan curations by description and title. You can also filter curations by their tags.

So, give Curah! a try – either if you are looking to find a resource or if you would like to create your own curations to share your expertise.

Being a Technical Reviewer

I was contacted last month by UK publishing house Packt Publishing about being a Technical Reviewer for their recently-published book WordPress Mobile Applications with PhoneGap (ISBN: 1849519862). I accepted even though I did not know a lot about the subject. However, the whole experience was a learning process for me in terms of both how the publishing world works and about the technologies I was reviewing.

WordPress Mobile Applications with PhoneGap book coverThe book is positioned as a way to:

  • Discover how we can leverage WordPress as a content management system and serve content to mobile apps by exposing its API
  • Learn how to build geolocation mobile applications using WordPress and PhoneGap
  • Step-by-step instructions on how you can make use of jQuery and jQuery mobile to provide an interface between WordPress and your PhoneGap app

The reviewing process is pretty straightforward. The chapters are sent to you by email as the book is being written and they are usually in Microsoft Word format. The chapters are early drafts and usually contain typos and formatting errors. Eventually those will be corrected by the book’s editors. Your job is to review the code and text for technical accuracy. You also make sure the chapter structure is logical and easy to follow for readers. Any corrections/clarifications/notes you make are placed in Comment tags as you do not edit the text directly. After you finish your review you then fill out an opinion questionnaire about the chapter you just read. The editors want to know what you would like to see more of, less of, if there were important topics that were missed and your overall score out of 10.

If you are interested in being a Technical Reviewer for Packt you can check out their Reviewing for Packt information page. Although you do not get paid to be a reviewer you will receive acknowledgement on both the “Credits” page and the “About The Reviewers” page where they will include a short biography about you. This is a great promotional tool for you as you can mention your blog/website address and Twitter accounts if you wish. As well, you will receive both a paper copy and an eBook copy of the book you reviewed. You will also get an eBook copy of any other book in their catalogue.

Being a Technical Reviewer is a great way to learn more about a topic and to see how the publishing industry works. It is also a neat way to see how books are put together and you can learn many useful writing tips which will help your writing in other areas including making you a better blogger. It will also especially help if you are interested in writing a technical book in the future. As a Technical Reviewer you will gain a publishing credit and it might just make your book proposal that much more enticing to prospective editors.

Creating a developer’s blog

This post is Day #3 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

In this next article in my series on personal branding I want to talk about the first item every developer should have in their toolbox – a blog. I say the word blog but what I really mean is a website about your professional life. I will discuss the differences below and why a site is so important.

A professional blog or website allows you talk about all the things you find interesting, frustrating or funny about your profession. This site should be exclusively about your work as a software developer. In trying to project a professional image I would not suddenly take your site about funny cat photos and start promoting it as your professional site. While your colleagues might find this amusing the HR person who Google’s your name will probably not.

So, you know you need a blog/site but you are unsure of where to start. Now because we are software or web developers you think ahhh… I got a leg up on everyone else. I can create my own site. Not so fast. You might be a web developer but how are your design skills? Are they just OK or do they really rock everyone’s world? The role of a web developer has changed over the years and specialization has come to the fore. Designers should definitely develop their own sites. Developers who are design challenged like myself should leave it to the professionals.

If you would rather focus on your site’s content instead of its design then you can use a service like Blogger or WordPress.com. There are also other sites like Squarespace that provide templates to create a personal site.

As with either method there are some trade-offs you need to explore. With a personal site that you create and maintain you can generally have your own domain name. It is still impressive to see JoeSchmo.com as someone’s personal site. You can go there and learn all about them. If you code and maintain your own site it shows people that you have the level of technical proficiency to do these tasks. However you will need to find someplace to host your site. It could be hosted by you or through a third party. Whatever you choose you will need to factor in the cost of the domain plus the hosting fees.

If you use a site like WordPress you can buy your own domain and host it there but more likely you are going to go for the free option. So your domain will be something like YOURNAME.wordpress.com. While this is not a bad thing you do not get the instant name recognition you do with a personal domain. However, where these sites shine is that you get their themes and page layouts to generate a unique UI in a short amount of time. You also get a platform to create new pages and posts quickly. Plus there are lots of plugins like polls, Twitter feeds and word clouds of article tags that you can add to your site to provide an extensive amount of user interaction.

With whatever method you choose you will be providing information about yourself and demonstrating your knowledge about the topic you have chosen to write about. The site can serve as a centre for information about you. You can post a resume or you can share source code of some projects that you worked on. In your blog you can talk about methods or workarounds that you learned to solve certain coding problems. Whatever it is you are writing about the blog serves as a forum where you can establish yourself as an expert. You can demonstrate here that you can learn and that you have a willingness to share your knowledge – an important attribute for team leaders. It also allows you so showcase your skills and shows that you can communicate your thoughts in a professional manner.

However, the site is not just a demonstration of your writing skills. It can also act as a way to promote all of the things you have done on the internet. You can list the websites you have built, the open source projects you have contributed to, the apps you have built and added to mobile marketplaces. You could also list links to your profiles on GitHub, Stack Overflow, CodePlex, etc. You want to demonstrate that you are an active programmer and that you are contributing to the internet.

Finally, when you have your name on your site or blog you start creating an online presence for yourself. The blog and its contents will be indexed by Google. This means when people search your name you will start showing up. You will also start to appear in searches when they look for items related to your field of specialty. This connection can quickly establish you as an expert. With your name now out there you also want to keep people coming back. Thus, content is king. Creating the blog is in some ways the easy part. Maintaining it and coming up with fresh content is going to be the tricky part as time goes by.