March 2012

Volume 27 Number 03

Editor's Note - What You Want

By Michael Desmond | March 2012

Michael DesmondOver the past two months in this space I’ve written about Charles Petzold and John Papa, two longtime MSDN Magazine columnists who have seen their share of change over their tenures. Petzold, of course, came on board while developers were still arguing about the relevance of GUIs. Today, he leads our coverage of cutting-edge mobile and touch UI development.

For Papa, the changes are no less significant. As the man once responsible for our Data Points column, he felt that data access and development had long been neglected by the industry. 10 years later, we’ve experienced a burst of data-oriented advancements in the Microsoft .NET Framework space—notably around technologies such as LINQ and the Entity Framework—and our coverage has scaled to match. More to the point, Papa is arguably the leading authority on Silverlight development. Yet you’ll find him now writing as much about HTML5, jQuery and JavaScript as you will about Silverlight and its XAML sibling, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Times change.

And yet, many of the most widely read MSDN Magazine articles over the past year were written not in 2011, but before 2010. Readers on the Web keep returning to articles with titles such as, “WPF Apps with the Model-View-ViewModel Design Pattern” (February 2009), “Data Binding in WPF” (December 2007) and “Regular Expressions Make Pattern Matching and Data Extraction Easier” (February 2007). Content that was important in June 2002 (“XML Comments Let You Build Documentation Directly from Your Visual Studio .NET Sources Files”) or in July 2001 (“What You Need to Know to Move from C++ to C#”) clearly remains important to developers today.

If you look at the traffic a bit, patterns emerge. WPF is a point of overwhelming interest, representing four of the top 10 most-visited articles in 2011. There’s also a clear focus on design patterns, as three of the top 20 articles (including two in the top five) are focused on this topic. And I’m not at all surprised to see data-oriented features and columns peppering the ranks of most-read articles on the MSDN Magazine Web site over the past year. There’s also healthy interest in C# development—based on articles dealing with issues like migrating to C# from C++ and calling Win32 DLLs using p/Invoke—as well as in ASP.NET.

Obviously a lot of this traffic is being driven by searches, links from referring newsletters and Web sites, and who knows what other organic sources. But it’s interesting that a list dominated by broadly deployed technologies includes the presence of one very fresh face: HTML5. Despite being published in the second half of 2011, Brandon Satrom’s feature, “Building Apps with HTML5: What You Need to Know” (August 2011), ranks among the 10 most-read articles over the entire year. We’ve seen similarly impressive traffic for other HTML5-related features and columns published over the past several months.

Do these figures mean that there’s little developer interest in articles on contemporary Microsoft platforms such as Windows Phone and Azure? Not hardly. A glance at average page views per article by topic shows that articles on Windows Phone and Azure published in 2011 actually produce Web readership slightly higher than data-oriented articles.

It’s always a challenge to balance coverage of both established and emerging platforms and technologies in the magazine. Our goal is to ensure that developers are getting insight into the tools and techniques they need to succeed today, even as we introduce them to important new technologies that will define their jobs tomorrow. HTML5 is a case in point. Microsoft has been vocally supporting the emerging World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard for about two years now, and the announcements at the BUILD conference last September certainly proved out Redmond’s conviction. Our response: Produce an ongoing series of features on HTML5 development and launch a new column—John Papa’s Client Insight—to address this important new flank in the Microsoft developer ecosystem.

Still, the challenge remains: How can we best gauge which topics and technologies are most valuable to MSDN Magazine readers? In truth, the only way to answer that question is to ask the developers themselves.

So we’re asking. What do you want to see in the pages of MSDN Magazine in 2012 and beyond? What topics do you feel are being given short shrift, and what technologies and issues are we perhaps over-covering? E-mail us at mmeditor@microsoft.com and let us know!


Michael Desmond is editor-in-chief of MSDN Magazine.