Jeffrey Blankenburg is a Microsoft senior developer evangelist who last month kicked off a month-long series of daily blog posts titled “31 Days of Mango” (bit.ly/suibvf). The idea: To introduce developers to the features and capabilities of the updated Windows Phone 7 platform and tooling, known widely by the code name “Mango,” in a way that was both compelling and valuable.
It’s a process Blankenburg has been through before. In December 2009, he published “31 Days of Silverlight” (bit.ly/tDvxFN), a month-long dive into the Microsoft rich Internet application platform, and last year published “31 Days of Windows Phone” (bit.ly/sQomr7). While Blankenburg was concerned about being able to produce a full month of new content based on the updated platform, he needn’t have been. As he told me, it quickly became clear that Mango was going to be a significant upgrade. In the end, he said, “I actually had to decide what wasn’t going to be included.”
The project helped Blankenburg come to terms with some underappreciated aspects of the platform, including the concept in Windows Phone 7 Mango of Launchers and Choosers.
“These are tasks that allow a developer to grab the e-mail address of a user-selected contact, for example, or to pre-create an e-mail message for a user so that all they need to do is press the ‘Send’ button,” Blankenburg explains. “My message about these tasks was that we didn’t want to give developers direct access to the contact list, because malicious devs will exploit that access. When I discovered that there was a UserData namespace in Mango that delivered all of the user’s contact data, I was surprised and delighted.”
He also singled out in Mango the new emulator as one of the biggest improvements in the tooling, with its built-in ability to emulate the Accelerometer and GPS sensor.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the project is the unique dynamic of having to punch out a coherent piece of developer how-to content day in and day out for a month. As Blankenburg told me, the self-imposed rigor is a source of both stress and inspiration. A lot of the challenge is simple time management, because each post takes six hours or more to research and produce, but the payoff is impressive.
“In previous development roles, I found myself constantly referring to the MSDN forums and documentation to understand how a specific concept works. I don’t do that anymore with Windows Phone development,” Blankenburg says. “I can sit down to work, and it’s nothing but building an awesome app. I literally know how to do everything I need to do.”
The 31 Days series illustrates the increasingly diverse ecosystem of developer support, which spans the spectrum from blog posts and forum conversations to structured courses and full-length books. Blankenburg says the serial nature of his blog projects enables him to build out concepts, while still respecting the need to make each article stand well on its own.
“I think that there are tons of resources out there for developers, but many of them are one-off blog articles that rank well in the search engines. My future vision of the tools Microsoft offers to developers will include not only links to specific parts of the MSDN documentation, but also those articles that solve those specific one-off problems,” Blankenburg explains. “By curating a list of articles for each topic, much like they do for MSDN, it would encourage more developers to share their knowledge, and make solving problems significantly easier for those that need it.”
Michael Desmond is editor-in-chief of MSDN Magazine.
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