posted on 2005-08-11 at 22:12:51 by Joel Ross

Steve Rubel started it. He's posted his list of 10 indispensable blogs - the ones he would take on a desert island with him.

Then, he created a Technorati tag so everyone can participate.

Side note: adding tags for Technorati is pretty simple! Just add a link to (for examle)  with a rel="tag" in the link. Nice!

Ok. Back on topic. My ten blogs I can't live without. That's tough, but here's my list. If I read your blog and don't list you, please don't be offended. Getting it down to 10 was hard!

1. Andrew Connell - He's one of two on this list that I've actually met in person and talked to. His blog is a great resource for finding information about CMS (and Sharepoint, but I'm not into Sharepoint) and ASP.NET development in general.

2. Dare Obasanjo - He wrote RSS Bandit, which was my first aggregator. He also has a bunch of great posts about RSS and XML in general. He's now working on the MSN team and his posts have been excellent regarding the things going on over there.

3. Dave Burke - He got me into customizing .Text, and has had me hooked ever since. Great technical content!

4. Jason Salas - Only recently has his blog been chalk full of good technical content, but it's had his podcast on it for a while. It's a great podcast - I dedicate the end of just about every night to listening to him.

5. Larkware - A great resource for finding what's new in the community just about each day. There are those who don't consider it a blog, but it's syndicated, so to me, that's enough!

6. Michael Swanson - He doesn't post very regularly, but when he does, his posts are excellent. He's also the other one I've met in person.

7. Scott Guthrie - Another who doesn't post much, but since he's responsible for managing the ASP.NET team, his posts are very informative and authorative.

8. Rob Howard - He was a key piece of the ASP.NET team - he helped design the provider model as well as database cache invalidation. Then he left Microsoft to start Telligent Systems and built Community Server. This guy is sharp!

9. Scott Hanselman - If for nothing else, then his tool list. He also has great content beyond that, and provides some very in-depth code samples.

10. Scott Mitchell - He runs 4GuysFromRolla, and always puts out great content.

There's a disproportionate amount of Scott's! Anyway, who's on your list?

Categories: Blogging


Projectless Web Projects in VS.NET 2005

posted on 2005-08-11 at 21:57:09 by Joel Ross

There's been a lot of talk about ASP.NET 2.0's model of project-less web sites (including from Jeffrey Palermo on the latest DotNetRocks show), and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. The consensus seems to be that it's bad.

I'm still not sure. I haven't dug in enough, but I can think of some pitfalls already. How do you manage references and know to re-copy them if they've been updated? How can you exclude a file from a web site without deleting it? With a project file this is easy.

On the other hand, how many times has the project file come back to bite you? And I don't just mean two people needing access to it at the same time - that's an easy one. I'm talking about virtual folders and the pitfalls of dealing with those, editing project files by hand, getting a new developer the latest version, things like that. I've gotten intimately involved in the details of the csproj file, the .sln file and .csproj.webinfo files. Not something I should have to do, in my opinion.

So what's the best method? I have no idea. The pitfalls are potentially big to me, but the benefits are enticing too. Being able to open any folder as a web folder sounds pretty nice, but in practice, will it be used? If no project file is needed for web apps, why then do we need it for other project types? They still have them, right? Couldn't most of the problems have been solved by just removing the IIS binding information from the solution and projects, and using the "Cassini-esque" web server built in? That way, managing what files are included, references, where code is, etc. would all be easy. You could also then provide a way to handle compilation easier - yeah, the compile into 100s of DLLs may be useful for debugging (pseudo edit-and-continue!), but in release mode, you don't need this.

I'm sure this is too simplistic, and I haven't played as much as I should have, but to me, it sounds like we've gone from one extreme to another. Maybe in the next iteration, we'll settle somewhere in the middle.

Categories: ASP.NET


What's the Best Community Site?

posted on 2005-08-11 at 21:44:30 by Joel Ross

A little bit ago, Roy Osherove asked what is the best community blogging site for a beginner.

I recommended GeeksWithBlogs. Why? Well, first, I've met the two admins on the site - Jeff Julian and John Alexander and they're both nice guys and passionate about what they're doing. Also, they have a plan for the future of the site, something I haven't seen come from most community sites. Most are happy doing what they are doing right now, but GeeksWithBlogs is evolving - they are writing a custom blogging solution that will allow for targeted feeds for specific topics, so the readers can get exactly what they want without the excess. More signal - less noise!

They're also starting to add on more than just blogs for their members. They may start adding podcasting services in the future which is very cool.

Overall, I think someone who's new to blogging would be in good hands at GWB!

Categories: Blogging


Characteristics of a Senior Developer

posted on 2005-08-11 at 21:33:59 by Joel Ross

There's a post on DevAuthority about five qualities of a senior developer. Here's the highlights.

1. Be a leader
2. Be a teacher
3. Be compassionate
4. Understand customer service
5. Understand technology

The list is spot on in my opinion. Understanding technology is even intentionally last - because technology changes, and the senior developers are the ones that can adapt to change the best.

So how do you measure up?

Categories: General


RossCode Weekly #012

posted on 2005-08-08 at 00:43:52 by Joel Ross

Welcome to the 12th episode of the RossCode Weekly. Busy, busy weekend for me, so this'll be short and sweet!

For you ASP.NET developers out there, you'll want to check out the ASP.NET 2.0 Provider toolkit. It was released this week, and if you want to use the Provider model in your own apps, you'll want to check this out.

Yahoo was very busy this week. First item. They've released an API for their shopping software. That's pretty cool. You can pull price comparisons from the many Yahoo stores to get a good range of prices. That's pretty cool - you can do comparisons from one source!

It's in beta, but Yahoo is now competing with Google's AdSense. How will they pull people away from Google? Well, I'm going to try it, and we'll see how they compare. My guess is that, at least initially, they'll be paying a higher rate than Google does.

Last Yahoo item. They now have audio search. I haven't been able to find many good results, but in theory, this is cool!

Last week, I talked about the bad week that Firefox had. One of those items was that Greasemonkey was vulnerable. Well, that's fixed now. This latest release is the first one that fixes the bug and maintains backwards compatibility. It's still beta, but it's worth a look.

Sticking with the whole Firefox thing, Mozilla has started a corporate wing to manage the development and release of Firefox and Thunderbird. So far, the community has been very supportive. I guess we'll see if that continues. If they really start profiting from open source, will that hinder their popularity?

Ok. That's it. I'm way behind in feeds, but I think I caught most of the news. If not, I'll post a follow up tomorrow when I get caught up.

Categories: RossCode Weekly


DotNetRocks Roadshow

posted on 2005-08-03 at 23:46:55 by Joel Ross

It's official. DotNetRocks is hitting the road. Unfortunately, there isn't a location close to me. I think Philadelphia is the closest location. Too bad. It would have been fun. When I talked to Carl at Tech Ed, he mentioned a stop in Chicago. Apparently, that isn't going to happen.

Even if you can't go, it should still be cool. There'll be a new DotNetRocks show for every city! If you're close, you should definitely check it out. It would be a good time.

UPDATE: Cool - there's a quick note at the bottom - there's a northern state tour in the Spring. Carl, make Grand Rapids a stop!

Categories: Podcasting


AJAX Shopping Cart Follow-up

posted on 2005-08-03 at 23:44:45 by Joel Ross

This whole blogversation thing has been an interesting experience. I'm glad I decided to go ahead and do it - I wasn't sure I had any good input, but figured I would try it out and see what happened.

So far, it's been a good thing. My traffic is way up from what it normally is, and Tim Haines' blog is my number one referrer in the past month - and the post has only been up for 24 hours!

I've also found three new blogs so far: Keith Nicholas, Phil Cockfield, and Nic Wise. And that is the real point, right?

Anyway, Keith posted a follow up to my comments about bookmarking. He said his idea was not to eliminate the linkable product detail page, but to be able to see the details when you hover over the product - that way, you don't have to go to the product detail page if you don't want to. The developer in me wants to fight this ("but that's duplicate code!"), but this isn't about how to implement something - it's about what would be useful, and Keith is right on here.

There's been another entry into the blogversation. Phil Cockfield takes an inverse look: What features wouldn't be better with AJAX? A nice approach, and one that I think we're all considering, just not explicitly stating. He mentioned two main downfalls mentioned so far - linkable pages, and downlevel browsers. I think he was quoting me when he was talking about linking. That's obviously one of the issues I see, but there are others (thanks for asking, Phil!). They all revolve around the same issue - when you perform an action, and it uses AJAX to perform that action, you are sidestepping the functionality built into the browser. This is bad. This means you can't use the back button to go back if a page is loaded dynamically. You can't use the forward button for the same reason. You can't use refresh either. Yes, you can work around those - Gmail (off topic - I still have invites if you are the last person on earth not to have a Gmail account), for instance, traps the back button and, using AJAX, mimics it's functionality. But hit refresh when you're in an email and you'll see what I mean. You end up back at your inbox list.

I've also asked the question before. Is this the problem of the web developer or the problem of the browser developer? Should the fact that a technology doesn't currently support what you want to do in an ideal way stop you from doing it? Or should you push technology advances by exposing a weakness? I would say the latter...

Categories: Development


Using AJAX In An E-Commerce Store

posted on 2005-08-03 at 00:13:40 by Joel Ross

First, some background. Tim Haines is starting a blogversation about how the use of AJAX can improve a user's online shopping experience.

I'm going to write this post in two parts. The first part will be without looking at any of the other responses, and just tossing out ideas that I think could be beneficial. If there's a page on Tim's demo site that this would apply to, I'll link to it.

For the second part, I'm going to read through some of the responses I've seen, and highlight the ideas that I agree with, or maybe even those I don't. We'll see. I haven't read the responses yet!

Anyway, if you want to join the blogversation yourself, you can find the details here.

Ok. Part one. I've surfed the demo site a little bit and I'm ready to comment on what I think would be good to add. I'm probably going to be listing more than you would want to implement, but taken in moderation, I think each of these would be great.

First, adding items to your cart. Use AJAX. On a product page (and others), you have a shopping cart on the left side navigation. When you click the plus button, AJAX could add that to the left hand navigation, as well as adding it to your cart on the server without a page refresh.

Next, once you have your items in the cart, why not be able to sign in using AJAX? Give me a login box, and log me in automatically. I'm not sure that registering would be a good option, but logging in certainly could be.

Now that you're logged in, and added items to your cart, it's time to check out. On the checkout page, the obvious one is updating your cart. When you update quantities, everything can be done without posting back. The demo site doesn't offer it, but most shopping sites will calculate taxes and shipping charges based on your zip. You could do that through AJAX too, so you can get an accurate view of your costs easily.

So that's the shopping process. Overall, though, if you have a very dynamic site, where things change fast, then you could have a side bar of some of the newest or hottest deals that update on a given interval. Or, if you're a site like eBay, then you could include all of the user's current bids and how they are doing.

Ok. There's my suggestions. Pause with me, while I read the feedback Tim's gotten so far.

There's only a few unique ideas, and I can cover them by highlighting Keith Nicholas' post. The others are in line with what I suggested, or are in line with what Keith suggested. He mentions up-sells. Good idea! Based on your cart's contents (which are added using AJAX), you can also check to see what else might interest the user and display those items. His second suggestion I disagree with - loading the details page using AJAX. Why? If you have to browse to it through categories, then you can't bookmark a product, which means you can't send the link to friends. Also, the comments are telling. Rick Strahl points out that downlevel browsers need a different experience, which means doubling your coding effort.

So, now that I've put all this out, why did I do it? Well, why not? AJAX is hot right now, and exploring what I think are good uses of AJAX is a good exercise, as is seeing how others view the use of AJAX. I'm definitely not sold that AJAX is a good thing to use everywhere, but it has it’s uses. It's also interesting to hear about features from developers. I think we have a different perspective on them than a business analyst would. We think in terms of implementation rather than features ("How would you do this?" vs. "Would someone use this?"). Oh yeah, and the $150 gift certificate!

Categories: Development


Reloading The Laptop

posted on 2005-08-01 at 23:02:54 by Joel Ross

Well, today was finally the day to take the plunge. Performance of my laptop was WAY down, and it was time to start fresh.

It actually didn't turn out to too bad. I had two things going for me: First, we have ghost images for our laptops, and that got me quite a base - Windows XP SP2, Office 2003 all patched up, Visual Studio .NET 2003, SQL Server, etc. That was loaded in 20 minutes.

Second, I don't use my base box for most of my development - I've switched to using VPC. So, there wasn't much else I needed to get back up and running. I have two clients I'm working on and one uses BizTalk and the other is using CMS. Had I had to reload to get back in shape for them, it would have been much more difficult, but all I had to do was install Virtual PC, and I was ready to start developing again. I was back up and running in an hour! Nice.

Categories: General


Productivity Losses In The Workplace

posted on 2005-08-01 at 22:52:46 by Joel Ross

There was a recent study that said that internet usage in the workplace is costing companies $178,000,000,000 a year. That's a pretty large number, and I question it - how do you measure something like that?

Apparently, I wasn't the only one. Frank Hayes, of Computer World, has an article in the latest issue basically debunking that claim, saying that if that was the case, why wouldn't companies turn off internet access? I've seen a company basically do this, and here's what happens: The employees eventually need access to something that is restricted, and they spend more time finding work-arounds than they would have in the first place if they just had access.

This goes back to something I've said in the past, only on a different subject - you have to trust your employees. If someone is surfing the 'Net at work, you need to trust that they will still get their work done. If that means they stay later, then that's their choice. It's not so much a matter of how much time they waste - it's a matter of how much work they're getting done.

For me, if I surf at work, then I just know that's more time I'll be working, either later that night at home or staying later in the office. Maybe that's why I never get to bed before 1!

Categories: General


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