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February 2010

Volume 25 Number 02

Editor's Note - Not Your Father's MSDN

February 2010

Keith WardAs MSDN Magazine Editorial Director Diego Dagum mentioned last December, changes are coming to your favorite developer publication. This month is when they start to kick in.

To begin with, we’ve made some changes to our column lineup. The changes will be implemented gradually over the next few months to a year. The biggest change is that many of the columns you now enjoy on a quarterly or other irregular basis will start to appear more often—most of them monthly.

We’ll also be starting a few new monthly columns with this issue. And it begins with the end in this case—specifically, the new back-page column. February is the unveiling of “Don’t Get Me Started,” by (literal) software legend David S. Platt.

The literal part is that Platt was named a Software Legend by Microsoft in 2002. You may know him better, however, by his landmark book, “Why Software Sucks” (Addison-Wesley, 2006). It’s one of 11 software development tomes he has penned, but is by far the most well-known. The title of that book gives good insight into who Platt is, and how he writes. There are no sacred cows with him; only heifers ripe for the slaughterhouse. His humor shines through, but it’s never without a serious point.

Beyond those strengths, what really makes Platt good is his ability to think like a non-programmer; to put himself in the place of the end-user trying to muddle through lousy UI design, cryptic error messages and other development no-nos that leave folks like my Mom in a state of confused depression.

His first column is a perfect example of that. Floating menu bars in (earlier versions of) Microsoft Word? How did that one get through QA? Word’s auto-correct feature, on the other hand, is a thing of beauty, something that’s useful for my Mom—and me.

(Side note: I was having breakfast recently with two friends of mine who are veteran developers and longtime MSDN Magazine readers. I told them Platt was coming onboard. They knew his work well, and were ecstatic about it. That’s Miles Davis to my ears.)

Another new column kicking off is from an old friend of yours. Charles Petzold is just as legendary as David Platt, having written numerous programming books over the years, teaching generations of coders how to do their jobs better. He’s one of the original contributors to this magazine; in fact, he first appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 in October 1986, when the magazine was called Microsoft Systems Journal.

More recently, Petzold has been a contributor to the Foundations column, but his stuff is so good that having him in the magazine three or four times per year wasn’t enough for me. So, after much begging, pleading and threats of physical and psychological torture, he agreed to go monthly with a new column called UI Frontiers.

Petzold’s vision for the column is that it will, in his words, “Explore the new presentation and UI capabilities enabled by the XAML-based programming environments of the Windows Presentation Foundation and Silverlight, with a special emphasis on cross-platform compatibility. Modern UI design is characterized by an extensive use of 2-D and 3-D graphics and animation, but also (where appropriate) sound, music, speech and touch.”

Also going monthly is Test Run, by Dr. James McCaffrey. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. McCaffrey recently in Redmond, Wash., at Microsoft’s headquarters. He’s just a great guy, and gave me and my colleagues tremendous insight into the readership of MSDN Magazine, and many of the issues that are near and dear to your hearts.

He’s also a brilliant writer and developer. It probably gives him headaches to talk down to my level of comprehension, but with the help of him and others, I’m getting better.

More changes are in the offing, including more monthly columns, a re-focus of content to better serve our day-to-day developer audience, and other goodies that we’ll be launching in the near future. I hope you like them, and will tell me about it. I’m at