In his blog posting entitled On probation Eric Gunnerson writes

I got an email today from the owner of all the MSDN columns, telling me that if I wasn't able to produce a column every other month, my column would be put on probation, and then cancelled.

I'm frankly surprised it took this long - the whole essence of a column or any other periodical is that it is just that - periodical. The combination of me writing a blog and spending a lot of time doing PM stuff has meant that my column has been neglected. June, September, and February does not a periodical column make.

I got the same email that Eric got since I'm the author of the Extreme XML column on MSDN. From looking at the history of the column since I took it over about two years ago I have averaged an article every two months so the new schedule actually accurately reflects my rate of output and I no longer have to make excuses about publishing missing an article every other month or so.

Eric asks whether he should keep blogging or keep the column. I believe this is a false dichotomy and shouldn't be an EITHER-OR choice. Comparing an MSDN column to the typical Microsoft blog at I see a number of key differences. A column on MSDN hits different needs and different audiences from a blog. A column is read by tens of thousands of developers online and several thousands more who get it as part of the MSDN library CDs/DVDs. A blog is read by a couple of hundred people or few thousand people. A blog posting typically contains quick tips, interesting tidbits about future technological directions or answers to an FAQ question. A column provides insight into a particular technology or feature and usually provides significant code samples that developers can build upon which helps them significantly in their daily lives. Up until I started RSS Bandit I had never written a GUI application but learned most of what I know about building multithreaded GUI apps in Winforms from Chris Sells' Wonders of Windows Forms column. Then there is the information on how system tray applications work that I learned from Eric Gunnerson's article Creating a System Tray Application. Oleg Tkachenko was inspired to build XInclude.NET by Chris Lovett's article XInclude, Anyone?. The list goes on...

I think Microsoft's developer customers should get both and don't think one necessarily replaces the other. If given the choice between less postings from Eric about things he wishes were different in C# and why C# doesn't have const methods or articles about how to get Exchange to talk to Excel using C# or building a system tray application complete with code samples, I definitely could do with less blog postings and more articles.

As blogging became the vogue at Microsoft I've worried that people will think blogging should replace traditional, more useful means of providing information to our customers. It's one thing that blogging lets out the voices that couldn't surmount the high barriers to producing official content (MSDN articles, product documentation, KB articles, etc) but it's another when it is expected to replace official documentation. By the way, don't get me started on the email discussion I saw where some product team wanted to use a link to some blog postings in lieu of product documentation. *sigh*


Tuesday, May 18, 2004 2:31:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I can't help but think that blogging will eventually converge with more traditional means of providing information. I think the idea of a d-log (the documentation log your colleagues mentioned) or a p-log (the project log that seems to be the new hype on slashdot), while in its infant form, is still worth exploring. Making developers talk about their code is half the effort needed to produce good product documentation and blogs seem to be the best thing yet to make developers talk.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004 4:28:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree that it isn't an either or choice, and I said that in the last line of my post.

But's it's definitely true that if I devote time to doing the column every two months, something has to give, and it will be blogging.

But that doesn't mean I'll stop writing articles. They just won't be part of a column
Wednesday, May 19, 2004 5:21:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I do think, however, that blog content could be an outstanding feeder to MSDN content. If we had better stat tracking and perhaps post ratings we could say "The top most read blog posts were.... it seems we should take these 5 and turn them into KBs and these 2 and ellaborate further in an MSDN collumn becuase it seems there is a desire for it.
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