Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tools and the Silverlight Tool-ability Story

Yea, yea enough with the corporate marketing ‘fu fu’, just remember I learned real manly man programming on a Mac in ANSI C that happened to be a 68k series Mac in code warrior using the mac tool box in the 80’s and if you even know what that means then you might really ask why all the devotion to Microsoft and Silverlight. And for that matter why write a book for developers AND designers? So here is my case.

I have built some cool things in tools like flash, and by all means this is cool stuff. One of my favorite things about flash in particular is that it runs anywhere on any reasonable browser even my current old fashion PPC phone or my friends Mac or my other friends Linux box. It’s just cool what you can do. But have done my share of action script it really reminds me of a comparison between ‘classic’ ASP and ASP.NET. It is a fundamental shift. Take the Emmy site we did at IdentityMine, this web app had to mix and match video, allow users to play producer suck up numerous feeds running off of Linux box’s using Perl scripts to build out UI elements in Xaml and do drag and drop different kinds of video scrubbing depending on the state of the application and the mode it was in and really provide a rich Web 2.0 experience and by all means there are some things that flash does that Silverlight doesn’t but building this complicated system in 8 days would have been just impossible at least for any dev team I have dealt with in Flash. The tools just are not there.

Granted I probably would not even considered doing it and it really was laughable when first presented to me but hey the money was in line with what it would take to give up 8 days of my life and we had a reputation for doing the impossible so what the heck we would try to do it. And 8 agonizing days later I’ve changed religions as it were and now I’m writing a book and live a breath Silverlight.

Getting back to this tool ability story around Silverlight when I first went to collage I studied photography and computer science for a year and a half. In high school I loved computers but having been music and art I loved beautiful things. I would spend hours rearranging this at my apartment to the point that they would look out of a magazine and I would make my own deco to get the right look and would obsess of design. Photography as opposed to other art allowed me to get to the level or precision in my art that I loved. I’m not Michelangelo so hand drawings and the like I could never get to the level of perfection that my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) needed to not send me into some kind of break down.

So in photography I found a home, I loved the idea of lines of composition and building form and contrast and the like but when it came to deciding I felt that my best path was to focus on one, namely computer science and programming in particular. In this case my code became my art but I kept this obsession for perfection in design and when my designer friends got me hooked on using Expression blend on one side and Visual Studio on the other… I was hooked. Truly Zen has been achieved in a superior design tool and Visual Studio at the same time. What more could I want from a toolability story.

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