Microsoft and Open Source

In a couple of weeks, I‘m participating in an internal “Presentation Idol”competition. It’s a contest of presentation skills against impressive competition (I can’t name names, but rest assured it’s a strong group) being judged by Microsoft executives (again, I can’t name names, but this time it’s because I don’t know who’s judging) in front of what I assume will be a large technical internal Microsoft audience. To top it off, we each only get three minutes and thirty three seconds each to deliver our presentations.

So yeah, no pressure.

The topic we’re all presenting is “What is the one thing we should do to improve Microsoft?” For those who know me, it should come as little surprise that I picked a variant of “more open source” for my presentation. More specifically, I’m planning to present the following:

  1. Any product Microsoft gives away for free should also be Open Source.
  2. Open Source Microsoft products should accept contributions from the community.

I realize that many people consider this separation between “source availability” and “community contributions” completely artificial. Sure, the accepted definition of Open Source only addresses the availability and distribution of source code, but most Open Source advocates consider the ability to collaborate and contribute – what Wikipedia calls “Commons-based peer production” – a critical aspect of Open Source. For example, with respect to the announcement that ASP.NET MVC would be released under the Ms-PL, Keith Elder tweeted:

“Giving someone your source code is NOT open source. So although Asp.Net MVC’s source code is out there for download, not open source.”


In what now seems like a huge coincidence, Keith and his co-host Chris “Woody” Woodruff interviewed me later that day for their podcast Deep Fried Bytes. As you might imagine, while we started with talking about IronPython, we eventually started discussing open source at Microsoft more generally. It was a great conversation, and we found lots of common ground.

Personally, I think Microsoft is making small steps in the right direction when it comes to Open Source. Not only have some high profile Microsoft projects go Open Source like ASP.NET MVC and MEF, but we’ve even started taking baby steps for including external intellectual property. Releasing ASP.NET MVC under Ms-PL is a big deal, but I think including jQuery “in the box” is a much, much bigger deal. It remains to be seen if it’s a one-time-only deal or if it’s a new trend inside Microsoft.

Obviously, I hope it’s a trend. Going from “include jQuery in ASP.NET” to “accept community contributions in ASP.NET” seems like a relatively achievable goal.

Now, here’s where I need your help.

I can easily fill three and a half minutes talking about Open Source community collaboration. But since my presentation is about taking contributions from the community, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and crowdsource it:

What is the elevator pitch *you* would make for including community contributions in Microsoft Open Source products?

Leave me a comment, send me an email, tweet it, whatever – I’ll be keeping an eye out for responses. Please remember that I only have three and a half minutes to present, so keep your ideas short and sweet.

The PDC Prep Death March – It’s Almost Over

So it’s been just over a month since my last post, and I think it’s safe to say it’s been one of the busiest of my career to date. If you’ve been following my Twitter stream, you already know that I’ve spent the last two weeks in PDC dry runs – we went thru almost every session in the track, reviewing content and giving feedback to the speakers. Some were very good (as I twittered at the time, Ed Pinto’sBuilding WCF Services with WF blew my mind). Others, needed more work, but I think will be great by PDC. I got into several disagreements about the best way to present content, had to raise my voice once, and called some speakers “a little creepy”. (No, I’m not telling you which sessions those were.)

After 9 days of dry runs, I spent Friday with Jason Zander, General Manager for Visual Studio, again reviewing almost all the decks with him and some marketing folks. Frankly, spending that much time with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss is a bit intimidating, but Jason’s been great and I’m guessing the visibility will be great for my career. I mean, come review time, he won’t be saying “Harry who?” I’ve also gotten to meet people from far and wide across my division, which has been great since I’m still new over here.

Unfortunately,  I can’t talk much about what I’ve seen, since as you know most of it is new and being revealed at PDC for the first time publicly. For example, I can tell you Ed’s talk was frakking awesome, but I can’t tell you why I think it’s frakking awesome, yet. But I’m queuing up some posts now that I will publish later once the sessions are public.

Tomorrow, I’m back to my “day job” as the IronPython PM. My teammates have been soldering on in my absence – the one time I was in my office in the past two weeks I joked that no one would recognize me since I’ve been gone so long. We’re coming up on the final release of IronPython 2.0, and my exclusive focus on PDC has left me a mountain of work to do here in the final stretch.

In addition to my teammates, I need to give a quick shout out to Shoshanna Budzianowski and Mike Swanson, without whom I’m not sure I would have survived the past two weeks. Mike is the PDC content owner, so as hard as the past two weeks have been for me, I’m sure they’re worse for him. Shoshanna is the track owner for the “Tools and Languages” track (that’s what the TL in the session codes stands for) and I’ve been the main representative for the VS group in the track. I don’t know if she’s ever done something like PDC before, but she’s awesome.

I leave Friday for southern California. I’m going down early to see a few friends and to do my Pumping Iron talk at the SoCal Code Camp next Saturday. That should be fun since it’s being held at my alma mater. Then Monday starts PDC proper. If you’re going to PDC, some find me in the PDC Lounges. I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time there, since I’ve seen all the content in my track already!

Missing Missing Persons

I’m having a hard time focusing on work today. I just found out that a good friend and ex-teammate Robert Satterwhite passed away last week.

I spent a year on the .NET Adoption Team with Robert back in 2002 & 2003 – basically my last year in the Microsoft field organization. NAT – as were were known – was a national team of developer and architecture evangelists, so while we were all teammates, we didn’t see much of each other in person. However, Rob and I both lived in the Puget Sound area and called on many of the same customers – I was an architect evangelist and Robert was a developer evangelist – so we ended up working together often. We drove together to Olympia many times- he drove and I hacked code in a kind of strange pair programming effort.

Robert grew up in the Pacific NW and had spent almost his entire career as an enterprise technology sales engineer here, so he had friends everywhere. I often used the lame line from the Dragnet movie with Dan Aykroyd: “They ought to put you in Missing Persons. You know everybody.” because it seemed like everywhere we went we’d run into someone he grew up with, had worked with or had sold to. If we hung around before or after a sales call – coffee shop in Olympia before a meeting, debriefing with the sales rep on the steps outside of Costco HQ in Issaquah, etc – chances are someone would recognize him.

When I was leaving the NAT, Robert and I went to Phoenix so I could hand off my customers there to him. I joked that at least I could be sure we wouldn’t run into anyone he knew in Arizona. Yet, it turned out he used to work with the woman who was sitting in front of him on the flight home. She and her husband owned car dealerships in Phoenix and Tacoma. I was astonished – what are the frakking odds? – but Rob just shrugged his shoulders. It happened to him all the time so I guess he was used to it.

I only saw him off and on since I left the team, though as fate would have it I did see him last week on the day he died. I was heading into building 18 for a meeting as he was pulling into the parking lot – I hadn’t realized he was working on campus. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and promised that we’d get together soon. He was blocking traffic, so it was a short conversation. 24 hours later, he was dead.

Rob wasn’t your prototypical blue monster, but he sure touched a lot of people and he made the world a better place by just being himself. You will be missed, Rob.

Programming Languages @ PDC08

The PDC folks pushed out a bunch of new sessions yesterday, including a bunch from my part of DevDiv. You can see the full list of sessions that have been published (so far) at the PDC site.

An Introduction to F#
Learn about Microsoft’s new language, F#, a typed functional programming language for the .NET Framework. F# combines functional programming with the runtime support, libraries, tools, and object model of .Net. Understand how F# asynchronous workflows help tame the complexity of parallel and asynchronous I/O programming and how to use F# in conjunction with tools such as Parallel Extensions for .NET.

Deep Dive: Dynamic Languages in .NET
The CLR has great support for dynamic languages like IronPython. Learn how the new Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) adds a shared dynamic type system, a standard hosting model, and support for generating fast dynamic code. Hear how these features enable languages that use the DLR to share code with other dynamic and static languages like VB.NET and C#.

Future Directions for Visual Basic
Come learn about the new capabilities in the next version of the language, including: extensions to LINQ, syntax simplifications, and improvements to the IDE. We’ll provide insight into the direction of the language, including dynamic binding, meta-programming, and scripting.

The Future of C#
In this talk Microsoft Technical fellow and C# Chief Architect Anders Hejlsberg outlines the future of C#. He will describe the many forces that influence and shape the future of programming languages and explain how they fit into C#.

Visual C++: 10 is the New 6
Get more done. The next version of Visual C++ is all about improving developer productivity for large-scale applications. Learn about the IntelliSense and browsing experiences, changes to the project and build system, project-less browsing, collaboration through remote symbol indexing, and custom visualization of symbolic information.

Morning Coffee 164

  • Big news since my last Morning Coffee post was the announcement of Live Mesh. I’ve been running it for about a month, and I’m really digging it. Make sure you check out the team blog and watch the developer tour video (be on the lookout for IPy about half way thru the video)


  • I had a great time @ the ALT.NET open space conference last weekend. I was somewhat distracted on Saturday as due to a family communication mixup, I had to bring my son Patrick with me. Jeffrey Palermo shot a cute video of him (3 minutes in) where he explains that he’s at the conference “to be with my dad”. Having a five year old is a little distracting, but everyone was amazingly cool with having him around. When he gets a little older I have no doubt he’ll be attending conferences and leading open sessions.
  • I did a session on F#, but it felt kinda all over the place. I hadn’t touched F# in a few months and it showed IMO. Matt Podwysocki was there to help keep the session from devolving into mass chaos. Thanks Matt.
  • My favorite session of the conference was Scott Hanselman’s “Are We Innovating?” talk, which I think originated from a question I asked him: There are many examples of large OSS projects in other dev communities that get ported to .NET (NHibernate, NAnt, MonoRail, etc). Can you name one that’s gone the other way? I can’t.
  • I took Matt’s advice and joined the local ALT.NET Seattle group.

DyLang Stuff

  • Martin Maly posts about how dynamic method dispatches are cached in three different layers by the DLR. You shouldn’t care about this stuff if you’re a DLR language user, but you will certainly care about it if you’re a DLR language builder.
  • I’m really excited to see Phil Haack (whom I met F2F @ ALT.NET) is experimenting with IronRuby & ASP.NET MVC. True, I’d rather it was IPy, but his Routes.LoadFromRuby would work with Python with very little code change.
  • Note to self, take a deeper look at Twining, the IPy database DSL by David Seruyange.
  • Daily Michael Foord – Ironclad 0.2 Released. Ironclad is a project to implement Python’s C extension API in C# so that IronPython could load standard Python C modules like SciPy and NumPy. So far, they’re able to load the bz2 module.

Other Stuff

  • Congrats to Brad and Jim for shipping 1.0.
  • Everyone seems to be jumping on the functional C# coding bandwagon. Bart De Smet’s series on pattern matching in C# is currently at eight posts. Now Luca Bolognese is in on the action, with three posts so far on functional code in C#. I like how Luca keeps writing that the C# syntax is “not terrible” for functional programming. Again, why suffer thru the “not terrible” syntax when you could be using F# instead? (via Charlie Calvert)
  • I need to take a look at VLinq. Charlie and Scott Hanselman both mentioned it recently.
  • I would like to have been in the conversation with Ted Neward, Neal Ford, Venkat Subramaniam, Don Box and Amanda Silver.
  • I haven’t had any time to play with XNA of late, which means the great list of GDC videos Dave Weller posted on the XNA team blog will remain beyond my ability to invest time for now.
  • There’s a new drop of Spec# from MS Research. IronRuby is using Spec# heavily as I recall.