Editor's Note

A New Year—A Fresh Perspective

Howard Dierking


One of the most important things I've learned from working at Microsoft for a while is how much we love metrics. In any endeavor of a non-trivial size, having some sort of yardstick enables you to define what success or failure looks like before you even begin to work on the project. Think of it as Test-Driven Development for running a business.

Well, being a part of Microsoft, MSDN Magazine is no different in this respect. We recently received the results from our annual reader survey, which gives us an excellent opportunity to see how well we are doing in serving the developer community. While there's still quite a bit of analysis to perform, along with Excel pivot tables and PowerPoint decks to create, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the data points that jumped out at me. After all, the survey reflects your collective opinion—and that opinion is what we will use to help us determine what topics to focus on in the coming year.

The first question asked about what technologies you are most interested in exploring. The vast majority of you expressed interest in exploring software design in more depth. This happens to be my area of interest as a developer. Because of that, I have been a little hesitant to steer the magazine in this direction for fear of making a decision that would impact you based on my own personal preferences. As I'm sure you can imagine, this data point is a great personal validation for something I already wanted to do.

Other top-rated technology interests indicated in the survey were Web services development, database development (which we currently do not plan as much content on as the survey results indicate we should), and Web client development.

That question also had a field for direct text entry, which offered the funniest repeatable response: "I am not a programmer."

A second interesting data point related to the desired extent of coverage for technologies at different levels of maturity. An overwhelming majority of you said that you were most interested in seeing us focus on technologies that have been released over the last year. Looks like you prefer that over coverage of the other options, older technologies and pre-released technologies.

Finally, a data point that may not be as easy to act on as the first two—but that I found interesting nonetheless—is the number of you with computer science degrees. I have a minor in CS, and, after being a professional developer for the majority of my career, I have often wondered how relevant this kind of training is for the modern professional developer—and by extension, you as the reader of MSDN Magazine. In fact, in a recent interview that we conducted with the person who runs recruiting for Microsoft worldwide, we asked about how important Microsoft considers a CS degree (I'm sorry, but you'll have to wait until next month for the answer to that). However, according to the annual reader survey results, the majority of you with a bachelor's degree have that degree in computer science.

If you didn't participate in this year's survey, I hope this note has shown that we pay especially close attention to your thoughts and opinions through these surveys, and I sincerely hope that you'll participate in the next survey opportunity. Also, the ability to make good decisions based on this kind of data is predicated on asking the right questions in the survey. If you have ideas about topics you'd like to see us cover in 2008 or if you have opinions about anything we're doing here, please let us know. You can always write to us at mmeditor@microsoft.com. In the end, we want to continue working to make MSDN Magazine more relevant to you—but we can only do this if you tell us what that means.

Thanks to the following Microsoft technical experts for their help with this issue: Shawn Burke, Ben Carter, Steve Lasker, Bertrand Le Roy, Eilon Lipton, Thomas Marquardt, Diana Milirud, Larry Olson, Ladi Prosek, Travis Querec, Dave Reed, Jeff Schwartz, Varun Sekhri, Bill Staples, Chris Tavares, Stephen Toub, Varun Vaswani, and Buck Woody.