This episode of Herding Code the guys talk to Jesse Liberty, Phil Haack, and Brad Wilson about writing technical books. Jesse has written dozens of technical books, and both Brad and Phil worked with Jon and K. Scott on the recently released ASP.NET Professional MVC 3 book. What’s it like to write a book? Why do it at all? How does the process work? How is it changing? Is Angry Birds your favorite story? Join us for a very literary version of Herding Code to find out.
- We start with a listener question from @tpdorsey (Terrence Dorsey): “*Printed* books? If so, why bother? I ask this as a print writer and editor for 17 of last 20 years.”
- There’s a discussion of the value that the editorial process adds to books as compared to blog posts.
- Twitter question from @schwarty: “Best way to work a first time deal? Submit queries? Try to team up with co-writers?” Phil, Brad, Jon, K. Scott, and Jesse tell stories about how they got their first book deals.
- Phil notes that most authors get a start in other mediums – blogs, magazines, possibly StackOverflow in the future.
- Jesse talks about his investigation of self-publishing. In the end, he decided that the editorial process tipped the scales towards working with a publishing company.
- Jon references Twitter questions from @devhammer and @jglozano on dealing with procrastination, making time to write, etc. He points to positive pressure of working for a publisher under a schedule and a contract to get the book out the door. Brad talks about how peer pressure from other authors to keep up is also helpful.
- There’s discussion about the challenge writing up an outline before starting the book. Phil talks about how the publishing industry in general is pretty stuck on older technologies like FTP, and in general the process feels like waterfall software development.
- Jesse says that if you’re reasonably on schedule, publishers are pretty flexible about changes to the outline.
- Brad answers listener questions from @stevenproctor “Have you found e-readers coming into their own to influence how you think about book?” and “has it changed how you think about layout/presentation for cross format reading” saying that it was difficult to write without seeing what the end result would look like, but he was very happy when he saw the end result, both in print and the e-book format.
- Jon talks about how working with book templates from various publishers has taught him to appreciate the use of styles in Word, explaining a case where he was able to search for code snippets based on the styles that were used.
- Kevin asks some interesting questions about whether working on the book puts pressures on when to ship the product, and whether writing a book about a product points out features that should be changed. Brad explains that the king of product changes due to writing (blogging in this case) is Scott Guthrie.
- Phil talks about how Eilon (the technical reviewer) was good at keeping him from digging too far into minute details that nobody would care about. Jon explains that Eilon pointed out that the Controllers chapter was going way into the weeds before actually showing the most common use case, and Brad says that he’s in good company with an example from Charles Petzold’s book on Windows programming.
- Jon talks about the tricky chicken-and-egg situation with trying to explain the MVC pattern in depth, since an in-depth explanation of the Model, View, and Controller requires an in-depth understanding of the other components. Jon asks Jesse about how he handles that, and Jesse talks about the importance of having a model user and getting volunteer readers as you’re writing.
- Jon talks about the benefit of working with other authors. Brad talks about the this is more important with products with quick release cycles, and Phil compares book writing with software development techniques.
- There’s a discussion on ensuring a consistent voice in a book with more than one author.
- Phil, Jon, and Brad discuss the conflict between beginner and advanced content. Are the experts who are asking for advanced content representative of most readers? Phil points out that writing advanced content is a lot more fun, but limits the audience. Can a book please everyone? Is there a way to include beginner and advanced content? Jesse describes some ways he handles this, and says that it’s important to set expectations.
- Jon talks about the decision to remove NerdDinner, referring instead to the MVC Music Store tutorial.
- Jesse says that it’s remarkable that books are still selling well, since they’re competing with blogs, tutorials, videos, etc. He speculates that the main selling point for books now is in context: telling a story. Jon asks how he manages to do that.
- Phil talks about the decision to put all the book’s code samples in NuGet (triggering the Haacked NuGet Drinking Game clause).
- Jesse talks about the mismatch between the publisher’s requirements for a flow of completed chapters and the software developer’s desire to refactor.
- Jon asks K. Scott how writing magazine articles compares to writing for a book.
- That’s pretty much it.
Download / Listen:
Herding Code 118: On The Writing Technical Books (with Jesse Liberty, Phil Haack, and Brad Wilson)
This episode of Herding Code the guys talk to Paul Betts about SassAndCoffee, a NuGet package that adds runtime Sass and CoffeeScript compilation to ASP.NET.
- Jon asks Paul about his role on the Office Labs team [Spoiler alert! Since this podcast, Paul has started a new job at GitHub!]
- Jon asks Paul about why he got interested in Sass and Coffee for web development.
- Jon asks Paul how an Office dev gets away with liking Ruby and Python.
- Paul describes Sass (Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets), a meta-language for CSS that adds in variables, nested rules, inheritance, mixins, etc.
- Paul explains how SassAndCoffee is designed to eliminate fiddling, so he’s gone to great lengths to make the NuGet package just work without any setup.
- Kevin points out that this is at run-time rather than at build. Paul talks about the advantages of run-time compilation (especially interactive CSS edit / refresh) as well as potential downsides (performance, potential for compilation errors). Scott K also mentions that it might be useful for CDN deployment and continuous integration.
- Jon asks about the new package definition file the 1.0 release, and Paul explains how it tells Visual Studio that the .coffee files are to be included with the project build.
- Paul explains how the CoffeeScript compiler works using an HttpHandler, Jurrassic, and V8. Jon asks if he’d looked at IronJS, and Paul describes why that didn’t work for him.
- Paul explains the hurdles he went through to get V8 running under an ASP.NET HttpHandler, since V8 assumes that it will always be accessed from a single threaded process.
- Scott K asks about the ability to swap out other compilers, e.g. the Google Closure Compiler.
- Paul talks about some of the commits he’s had recently, including support for Nancy, better cache configuration and some useful refactoring. Jon and Paul discuss how some refactoring patches – especially blind Resharpering – are less than helpful.
- The discussion shifts to how Paul got Sass working without requiring the user to have a local Ruby installation, including some crazy tricks with the DLR’s platform resource library to embed a portion of the Ruby standard library as an embedded resource in the NuGet package via a virtual R: drive.
- Jon asks if it’s possible for others to reuse Paul’s Ruby embedding technique in other applications.
- Jon, K. Scott, and Paul discuss commenting policy, and Paul explains why he liberally commented certain sections of the code.
- Paul mentions how the V8 integration falls back to Jurassic in case it can’t run for some reason.
- Kevin asks if Paul looked into creating native ports of Sass or CoffeeScript, and Paul explains why he decided to set up compilers for the original versions rather than port them.
- Jon talks about how he’d looked at Zen Coding and mused about how to implement it in Visual Studio, deciding as Paul had that it’s better
- Twitter question from @elijahmanor about IDE support for Sass and CoffeeScript. Note: since the podcast, the Mindscape Web Workbench has made this available.
- Scott K points out that the MVC 4 roadmap includes support for recipes, which should help with extending the IDE via NuGet.
- Paul wraps up the nerdy internals of SassAndCoffee by explaining how he’s handling loading the 32 and 64 bit versions of the V8 C++ CLI DLL depending on the user’s CPU architecture.
- Jon asks about what server-side hosting requirements are needed to run SassAndCoffee.
- Kevin asks whether the V8 API was easy to work with, and Paul says no.
- Jon mentions that he appreciated all the thanks that Paul had in the readme, and Paul talks about how great it feels to thank people.
- Jon asks what’s next for SassAndCoffee, and Paul says he wants to add Compass.
- Jon (jokingly) mentions that he’s a fan of BrainScript and asks for support.
- Paul and Jon discuss some of the nuttier esoteric languages they’ve seen.
- Jon asks what else Paul’s up to; Paul talks about the Reactive Extensions book he’s working on with Jesse Liberty. Jon asks Paul a bit about what’s new and interesting with Reactive Extensions.
- Jon asks Paul about the interaction between Reactive Extensions and Interactive Extensions, and Paul explains by way of a Reactive Extensions history lesson.
- There’s a discussion on the (intentional) lack of a ForEach operator in LINQ
- K Scott tells his terrifying story from NDC in which Eric Lippert was sitting in his talk.
- Scott K asks about Reactive UI, another of Paul’s projects, an MVVM framework which leverages Reactive Extensions.
Download / Listen:
Herding Code 118: Paul Betts on SassAndCoffee
This episode of Herding Code the guys talk to Llewellyn Falco about Acceptance Tests, an interesting testing framework for .NET, Java, Ruby, and PHP.
- Jon talks about how much he enjoyed Llewellyn’s talk on refactoring legacy code at So Cal Code Camp, and was especially intrigued by Approval Tests.
- Llewellyn explains how Approval Tests got started at a weekly coding for gun group.
- Llewellyn explains at a high level the problem that Approval Tests solves.
- Jon talks about what he noticed when he tried using approval tests – it’s not really so much about writing tests as in verifying output. Llewellyn how testing at the output verification level avoids many of the pitfalls of traditional unit testing.
- Jon asks about the use of diff tools in Approval Tests.
- Jon talks about the general flow of development using Approval Tests.
- Llewellyn mentions that Approval Tests has native implementations for .NET, Java, Ruby, and PHP.
- Jon asks about how the approved filetypes are set, and Llewellyn explains the overrides in Approvals.Approve().
- Llewellyn talks about how Approvals makes it easy to test complex objects.
- Llewellyn talks about how Approval Tests often only requires one test. Jon and K Scott ask about how that meshes with general testing practices which push towards very granular tests, and Llewellyn explains that he gets that granularity in the test coverage and results, but has the benefit of context in the test output as well.
- Jon asks about how output verification works with ASP.NET and ASP.NET MVC.
- Llewellyn explains how the use of Approval Tests combinations rules can make it really test output based on multiple input combinations.
- Llewellyn talks about how he especially likes using Approval Tests with legacy code , since it’s relatively easy to get good, working test coverage based on output rather than having to gain a deep understanding the internals of the legacy code . Jon and Llewellyn swap war stories about legacy code .
- Jon asks if he should be obsessing about a bunch of extra files with the approved results hanging around. Because he is.
- Jon asks about controlling file output; Llewellyn describes how namers, reporters, and writers provide flexibility.
- Llewellyn mentions the Rx Koans he worked on and says that Approval Tests Koans are on the way soon.
- Jon says that TDD has trained him to write tests that verify response to failure conditions.
- Jon asks what’s in the works for Approval Tests. Llewellyn talks about RDLC support and enhancements to the Visual Studio plugin.
- Jon asks what code coverage information Approval Tests can provide.
- Jon asks Llewellyn about how he get involved in Teaching Kids Programming.
- There’s a discussion about why it’s important to introduce computer programming to high school aged girls with a great analogy from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers book on the impact of birth month on competitive hockey players.
- Llewellyn explains how the program works, and Jon mentions the prior show with Sara J Chipps ( Herding Code 90) about Girl Develop It.
- Jon asks Llewellyn about upcoming speaking engagements
Download / Listen:
Herding Code 117: Llewellyn Falcon on Approval Tests
This episode of Herding Code the guys talk to Eric Lawrence, the author of the popular Fiddler web debugging proxy. Eric’s also a member of the Internet Explorer team and developer of several popular freeware tools.
- Eric explains how he’s been working on – and now runs – the team that works on the networking components for Internet Explorer.
- Kevin asks Eric to clarify what portions of IE he works on. Eric explains that he’s on fundamentals, which includes things like networking and security, not rendering or the DOM.
- Jon asks Eric about his development focus. Eric says that his main focus is on C#.
- Jon references an interesting bit of Eric’s MIX talk about Fiddler – Fiddler is an HTTP proxy, so it works with all browsers and devices.
- Scott mentions that he’s used Fiddler for low-level network debugging. Eric talks about the broad range of Fiddler users.
- Eric mentions that Fiddler’s used for security testing, and there’s a discussion of fuzz testing. Eric describes "dumb fuzzing" and "smart fuzzing".
- Jon asks how Fiddler is used with mobile devices.
- Jon asks Eric if he’s taking advantage of any "internal" info or API’s as a member of the IE team.
- Eric mentions how he’s tested a "pure .NET 4" version of Fiddler, and talks about the Fiddler itself runs on Fiddler Core, which is really close to running on the .NET client profile.
- Jon asks Eric about some of the interesting things he’s heard built on top of Fiddler Core. Eric mentions some testing extensions, ELMAH use, and FiddlerCap.
- Jon asks what IE9 features Eric is taking advantage of. Eric talks about IE9’s support for the X-Download-Initiator header, which allows tracing why a resource was requested.
- Eric talks about Fiddler now proxies Cassini traffic for ASP.NET developers, and Jon mentions how he saw from internal bug reports that Eric was driving ASP.NET debugging issues with pre-release versions of IE9.
- Eric mentions that the issue with IE9 betas and Cassini was due to IPv6, and since the podcast was recorded on IPv6 day, the conversation shifts over to a discussion of IPv6.
- Jon asks Eric about IPv6 use in the real world, and Scott K asks about issues with SSL over IPv6.
- Jon asks about IE’s and Fiddler’s support for HTTP verbs beyond GET and POST. Eric talks about how he had to drop some strict enforcement of protocols for non-standard verbs since actual usage often didn’t follow the specs.
- Jon asks Eric about the 100 Continue response. Eric explains why it’s there, and how he handles it in Fiddler, and how IE handles it.
- Jon asks about the Accept header, asking Eric’s opinions on its use and how IE9 handles it. Eric explains how he doesn’t think Accept really works, because proxies and servers don’t correctly handle them.
- Scott K asks about the advantages of being able to analyze aggregate HTTP traffic for a large organization like Microsoft. Eric explains that there’s not really a lot of opportunity for IE, but he does get advanced notice on Fiddler issues from internal Microsoft use against pre-released software.
- Kevin asks about the "Fiddler has detected a protocol violation" error. Eric explains that it’s helpful in debugging issues which browsers will attempt to hide due to being very liberal and forgiving with respect to protocol violations.
- Eric explains that there was an HTTP 0.9 version which didn’t have HTTP headers, and talks about how his awareness of protocol violations on major websites came in handy. He mentions that he’s thought about an HTTP-Lint module, which would be a lot more strict with respect to protocol violations.
- Question from Twitter – James Schmidt – "Will we see Fiddler features move over to IE Dev tools?
- Jon asks about the common import / export format that IE F12 dev tools and Fiddler share… kind of.
- Question from Twitter – Luke Foust – Hear about developing a side project inside Microsoft.
- Jon asks Eric about some of his other freeware applications, including SlickRun and a popup blocker (big in Brazil!).
- One of Eric’s freeware applications was a utility to tweak the number of simultaneous downloads IE would use, which prompts Jon to ask about how simultaneous browser connections have evolved over the years.
- Question Jarrod Dixon – "Possible to open source SlickRun? I use it a lot and would like to add some features?"
- Kevin asks if Eric would consider open sourcing Fiddler at some point.
- Eric wraps up with a description of what’s in the works for Fiddler. Kevin asks for auto-update.
Download / Listen:
Herding Code 116: Eric Lawrence on Fiddler, IE Internals, and HTTP
This episode of Herding Code the guys talk REST with Glenn Block (who’s driving the WCF Web APIs), Darrel Miller (a REST expert with a lot of real world production experience), and John Sheehan (author of RestSharp) about what REST really is and what practical value it really offers in real world, production applications.
- Jon asks Glenn for a quick overview of how WCF Web API fits in with REST.
- Darrel talks about how he got into REST in support of desktop systems.
- John asks Darrel about how HttpListener is working for him.
- K. Scott asks Darrel why he’s doing all the work to plumb RESTful services rather than just going with something like SOAP.
- Glenn asks Darrel how his RESTful services are more "evolvable" than previous technologies he’s used.
- Jon asks Darrel what REST means to him. Darrel says it means that there are just two things that the client and server couple on: media types and link relations.
- John says that very few people he interviews describe REST as how Darrel just did. Glenn talks about how his understanding of REST evolved when he more closely studied Roy Fielding’s original dissertation.
- Question from Twitter (@stevenproctor – Steven Proctor): "Do nice http paths really make an architecture RESTful? Wasn’t there something about next available commands too?" Glenn and Darrel talk about how this is the fundamental concept of hypermedia.
- Jon ignites a firestorm by asking why people who care about REST dislike how OData is implemented. Chaos ensues.
- Darrel explains how OData’s format doesn’t match with some important RESTful principles like link relations and metadata discoverability.
- Glenn points out that OData is an API that takes a constrained view of of HTTP, which offers a tradeoff which many developers find beneficial.
- Scott K asks the guests how many non-demo OData feeds are actually available.
- Scott K asks why not just use JSON instead of OData, and Glenn explains how the important difference is around metadata – JSON is just untyped data.
- Darrel talks about the concept of serendipitous reuse, and how common media types offer better reuse than untyped JSON data.
- John asks if anyone is actually putting the client re-use case into practice in the real world, and Darrel plugs the REST Fest. Glenn points out that just having multiple versions of a client working against a spec is a significant advantage, talking about HTTP 1.0 and HTTP 1.1 as an example.
- Jon asks if a microformat approach could work, and eventually an RDF discussion breaks out.
- Glenn talks about how many people view REST by mapping HTTP verbs to CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations, and they’re missing the importance of linking and hypermedia.
- Kevin asks where people "lose the path" with REST, and what are the most important concepts to stick with. Darrel comes back to the hypermedia constraint as the most important concept that’s commonly missed.
- Glenn points out that your architecture is up to you, and you don’t have to follow RESTful principles, but there’s a problem if you don’t and claim your API is RESTful when it isn’t.
- John points out that there are few examples of RESTful systems really paying off in practice. Glenn and Darrel point to Jon Moore’s Oredev talk about real business value to Comcast, and Jon mentions Glenn Block’s MIX presentation about device support based on content negotiation.
- Glenn explains that opportunities are emerging as we’re moving beyond the browser, and he sees a lot of opportunity for WCF Web API’s to shine here.
- Darrel describes another example of how a RESTful API could guide a common user experience across platforms, using Twitter as an example.
- Kevin asks for public examples of good RESTful API’s. Darrel mentions Sun’s cloud API and SteamCannon; Glenn says that ATOM PUB is the best public example.
- K. Scott asks about building RESTful clients.
- Kevin asks about the practicalities of clients navigating hypermedia.
- Question from Twitter (@kellabyte – Kelly Sommers): "I’m curious how REST might fit with an application that is wanting to store events and event sourcing. Is REST common for this?"
- Question from Twitter (@gsogol – Jeff Sogolov): "How about Rest in the enterprise? Securing Rest services with Saml or oAuth? Also impersonation."
- Jon mentions how WS-* defined methods for securing portions of message for different access and asks if REST handles that kind of scenario. Scott K, Glenn, and Darrel discuss.
- The show wraps up with a discussion selecting architectural styles based on concrete benefits.
- Darrel pimps REST Fest 2011, August 18 – 20.
- John mentions his upcoming talk at DevLink on August 17, and Monospace July 23-25.
- Glenn mentions the Portland Code Camp and //build/.
Download / Listen:
Herding Code 115: RESTravaganza with Darrel Miller, Glenn Block, and John Sheehan