Interview with Steve Todman (litdev) - many times Small Basic TechNet Guru Contributions Gold Winner

Hello community!

Today is Monday and I am interviewing Steve Todman (litdev) who won several gold medals in TecNet Guru Contributions in the Small Basic category.

Let's start the interview:

What got you interested in writing TechNet Wiki articles?

The main reason was to create extended explanations for common questions made on a forum I contribute to, having been prompted by Ed Price. This forum is for the Small Basic programming language which is a simplified language for children and others starting out programming.

I wanted to create a set of structured articles that go beyond the basics of syntax and introduce some ideas about good programming style, graphics, writing games, practical hints and tips and explanations of why some approaches may be better than others.
I can then use them as references to point forum questions to.


Who are you, where are you, and what do you do? What are your specialty technologies?

I am Steve Todman and live near Edinburgh in Scotland.  I work for a small company writing software for the petroleum industry.  My main interests are the physics and mathematics used to write software modelling heat and mass transport in porous media; for example the solution methods for coupling interacting non-linear models together such as geo-mechanics, rock-water chemistry and fluid flow.

I started programming as a child in the 80s on a Sinclair spectrum and now mostly code in FORTRAN, C++ and C#.  I have no formal software education, having picked it up along the way.  I am keen to help the next generation of children, including my own, to gain some knowledge and have fun learning what programming is all about in a similar way that I did.


What do you do with TechNet Wiki, and how does that fit into the rest of your job?

My main use of the TechNet Wiki so far has been to write articles encouraging new programmers into the creative fun developing software through the Small Basic project.  I sometimes browse other articles; perhaps other Small Basic related articles or featured articles.

From a work perspective computer science is just a tool and I try to limit its impact - it's the physics that interests me not the IT.  But outside of work I do try to keep up-to-date and learn new things in the CS world and I am a bit of a hobbyist programmer.  MSDN and TechNet are great resources for inspiring me to have fun learning new things.


On what Wiki articles do you spend most of your time?

The idea for a Wiki article usually comes from some forum questions that I feel need a more in-depth answer.  It then usually consolidates into a structured idea over a couple days mulling it over.  Actually writing it is then pretty quick.  I write the section headings and sub headings, then create any code examples and write the text around it.  I write it off-line, then post the HTML in one go to the Wiki and upload any pictures.  So far I have tried to keep my articles quite generic or encyclopaedic rather than discussing specific examples and only write one when I am sure there is a need and I can say something useful.

What are your favorite Wiki articles you’ve contributed?

I've only created 10 articles so far, but I think the one that has had the most impact was one on writing graphical games.  Not surprisingly most young new programmers want to write slick graphically interesting games.  Small Basic makes this about as painless as it could be, and the programming basics are usually picked up very quickly.  The next hurdle is programming with a good structure for graphic intensive event driven programs (games) which I tried to cover in this and a few other articles.


What does success look like for TechNet Wiki?

I think success requires a consistently maintained quality, good searching capabilities, cross-referencing and referencing from outside TechNet Wiki.

These then require an active community that categorize, cross-reference etc. as well as write content.  For example, it would be nice to be able to order search results by 'most viewed', 'rating', 'date created', 'referenced from other articles (citations)' etc.

For me it is easier to find answers to specific questions using other sources, while TechNet Wiki is good for general surfing and seeing what 'fun stuff' I might have a go at.  There may be a general reluctance to substantially add to or even alter some-one else's article, which makes it a bit more like a set of blogs rather than a systematic Wiki.  As a simple example, there is nothing that simply explains 'lambda expressions', just a lot of interesting articles using them in all sorts of ways, while Wikipedia has a great easy-to-find page explaining it.



Thanks a lot, Steve, for interviewing with me today. If you have more questions for Steve or just want to congratulate him, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Thanks and see you soon with more interviews...