Though my blog has been quiet for several days, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on online projects. Since I launched it over a week ago, http://www.dotnetinfluencers.org/ has taken a lot of my time, but it is coming along better than I had hoped for! If you not familiar with what I’m doing over at dotnetinfluencers.org, basically it is a Wiki, but with a twist. Instead of a normal wiki where everyone is encouraged just to write stuff, I’m encouraging people to help me define an XML schema about people, activities, events, and so forth related to .NET programming.
The idea is instead of a lot of writing define a list of properties for each item and then programatically we can generate lists based on those properties. I’m using FlexWiki and it has a language called WikiTalk which we’ll use to process the properties and provide the lists. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here is most of the actual text at this moment for a Wiki page about MSDN Magazine (the properties are the list of the colons, the values on the right; to understand the rest you’ll need to learn about WikiFormatting):
:Summary: About MSDN Magazine
PeriodicalName: MSDN Magazine
PeriodicalFormerNames: MicrosoftSystemsJournal, MicrosoftInteractiveDeveloper
From the above and numerous other wiki "topics", we can generate an automatic list of periodicals on dotNetInfluencers.org:, and/or many other lists. Now don’t those page properties look suspiciously like attributes or subelements of an XML element? I thought you’d think so… If you haven’t seen dotNetInfluencers.org, check it out. Browse around to get a feel for the site, and then add yourself and/or anything related to .NET. Better yet, if you’d like to help me build this site to the point we can define and public the XML Schema which is the purpose and goal of the site, send an email to mikes (at) xtras.net.
UPDATE: This project is no more and my email address has changed.
On Monday July 5th, 2004 I blogged about a project on which I was working. That project was a Wiki based on FlexWiki located at www.dotNetInfluencers.org, and it is now live and public on the Internet.
Click Purpose and Goals to read what I’m attempting to accomplish with dotNetInfluencers.org. If you are cynical and believe I might have a hidden agenda (as some of my friends told me people might question why I launched the site), please read this.
As it is wiki, it is designed to be a community project. I am the catalyst for launching it, and I wrote some ground rules for participation, but if it is to succeed it will be because the community drives it, and it is succeeds, it will be the community that benefits.
If you think this is a worthwhile project please blog about it and/or suggest to three .NET Influencers you know they add to their resume on the site (and it doesn’t have to be complete; they can just start listing their activities and recognitions with a note that it will be completed later.) For example, here is the list of people I’ve added already but for which most I don’t have an influencer resume.
Anyone with a blog about .NET, please list it.
Also, I encourage not just the .NET Influencers themselves but also Magazine publishers, Book publishers, Conference promoters, Training companies, and other organizations whose business involves .NET Influencers to post their list of books and authors, magazine articles and authors, conferences and sessions, training courses and trainers, and more. This is a site whose purpose is to collect and collate information about the community, and it won’t succeed unless the community contributes.
Thanks in advance for your help to make dotNetInfluencers.org a success.
I’m a categorization junkie. I have always been that way. If I’m interested in something I go out and research ad-nauseum, and then create exhaustive categorized and cross-referenced lists. I think that’s why I like databases and XML and data-driven websites. There’s something fundamentally satisfying about having data in a format that it can be easily sliced and diced, especially when you can be confident the list is incomplete.
Though I have frequently created lists of things and categorized them, with the exception of my business Xtras.Net where we list and categorize 3rd party components and tools for .NET, all of those lists are made at a point in time after which their accuracy fades.
Several years ago I wanted to purchase a loft condo and after several web searches I learned two things about real estate and the web. First agents for the most part don’t get the web, and/or second it is the goal of those in the real estate business to control access to information; too much money is at stake. All I wanted was a comprehesive list of loft condos in Atlanta so I could do my own research before going to see an agent, but such a list was nowhere to be found.
I spent an entire weekend researching the web and came up with a list that I later thought "What the heck, why not put on the web?" You can find that list here: Atlanta Loft Condos. It is now hopelessly out of date, and I keep thinking one day I’ll spend a weekend and update it, but that weekend will probably never come.
Anyway, one of the things that I’d love to have is a good comprehensive list of of what I call ".NET Influencers." That list would include all the activities in which they’ve been involved such as conferences, books, magazine articles, user groups, and so on. Why do I want this? Well, honestly, it just seems like it would be really beneficial to a lot of people, myself included.
For example, a company was were working on a Web Services project where security was extremely important. The project needed to integrate with SQL Server and ASP.NET. They want to develop inhouse, but don’t have time (or realize it would be foolish) for their staff to learn best practices on their own. They could send their staff to training classes, but as a former trainer I know training classes can be a blunt instrument when you need surgical precision. (Trainers don’t get all mad at me; training classes are great when someone needs to learn a broad base but not typically when they have highly specialize learning requirements.)
What if instead they could find someone who specialized in Web Services security, had experience with SQL Server and ASP.NET, who proved their expertise by writing books or magazine articles on the subject, and had their expertise acknowledged by giving sessions at conferences? They could hire that person for a 2-3 day crash-training/consulting project to teach their team best practices specifically for our project. They could pay that person a premium hourly rate, and it would likely be the best consulting money they had ever spent (I know this to be true; around 1997/98 we needed to learn SQL Server so we hired Mike Hotek for a two day consulting job and paid a handsome daily rate. It was definitely the best consulting money we ever spent.)
So who would benefit in the prior scenario? The client company would because they’d get their specific project addressed yet the cost of the consulting plus development would likely be much less than if they learning it on our own or even outsourced it. The expert consultant would also benefit because he would be paid handsomely for his time on a close-ended project without the need to be concern about a non-paying call-back.
In another scenario, imagine a conference promoter is sceduling a .NET-related conference and wants speakers for the hot topics dujour. Rather than just going with the same old people they already know and asking them to whip up something, they could find world-class experts. That would make the conference content tremendous. Who would benefit? Clearly the conference promoter, the newly discovered experts, and most of all, the conference attendees.
I could go on with similar scenarious, but I think you get the picture. I’ve wanted to, for quite a while actually, put together an XML Schema that would allow .NET Influencers to document their "influencial activities." I’ve worked on it on and off for months, but each time I’ve run into road blocks because I’ve not actually used XML enough to intuitively know how to best design a schemas. I’ve spoken with many XML "experts" and several said they were interested in helping, but nothing ever came of it (in one case, I never got around to emailing back…my bad!)
The XML Schema is perfect for this, I believe. Such an XML Schema would allow someone to create and publish what I’ll call an "Influencer Resume" containing a list of all their .NET-related activities (i.e. it should contain everything that would qualify them as an expert in some area of .NET, but not contain that they worked at MacDonalds until they were 18.) Once lots of .NET Influencers created and published their Influencer Resumes, it would give .NET-related websites all over the Internet something else to aggregate making the information searchable and sortable in a variety of ways. Practically everyone would benefit, don’t you think?
Over the holiday weekend I have finally it figured out. How do design the schema that is. I’ve prepared a proof-of-concept, and it is very close to fruition. It could be released to the world within days.
But first, I need some help. I need about ten (10) .NET Influencers to spend about an hour to create a subset (or complete version if possible) of their Influencer Resume and then review what I’ve done in context. A few hours work for you, no more, and when done you’ll have that which you’ve put off for years, that which you need to market yourself; the list of articles your written, conferences sessions you’ve delivered, other things related to .NET you’ve done.
Can you help me out, please? If you don’t think you are one to help with the above but you do have a blog, you can help by blogging a short blog about my need for this help? Or if you know someone who would be a great candidate, email him a link to this post, please. The sooner I can get past proof-of-concept, the sooner this think will see light of day and we’ll all benefit!