Microsoft's Developer Division just hosted its second Connect(); event, which I suspect many of you have been following on

I got to be in the heart of things this year. I've been temporarily managing the Visual Studio Blog while Radhika Tadinada, the PM who owns it, is out on maternity leave until about March enjoying her adorable little baby girl. For Connect();, this meant two things. First was managing the content for the VS blog itself, which included working closely with John Montgomery on posts like his news/announcement rollup. Second was that I coordinated the efforts of all the other blogs that are represented on the header menu on the blog site…and that was quite a few of them!

Anyway, I compiled a list of all the blogs that went out yesterday for Connect(); and wanted to share that here.

Announcing .NET Core and ASP.NET 5 RC
Entity Framework 7 RC1 Available

App Insights and HockeyApp
Introducing Mobile DevOps with Visual Studio Team Services and HockeyApp
Deep Diagnostics for Web Apps with Application Insights
Azure Diagnostics Integration with Application Insights

Apps for Windows
Vungle SDK for Windows 10 Released
November improvements in Dev Center: submission, promotion and developer agreement
Windows Bridge for iOS: Where we are and where we are headed

Azure and Azure SDK
Azure: The cloud for any app and every developer
Public preview of Azure Service Fabric
Public preview of Azure DevTest Labs
Announcing the Azure SDK 2.8 for .NET

Brian Harry
News from Connect(); 2015

Announcing the VS GDB Debugger extension

Introducing the Microsoft Graph

Visual Studio
News and Announcements at Connect(); //2015
Node.js Tools 1.1 for Visual Studio Released
Announcing the Intune App SDK

Visual Studio Code
Announcing Visual Studio Code Beta

Web Development
Announcing ASP.NET 5 Release Candidate 1

Visual Studio ALM
Getting Started with DevTest Lab for Azure
MacinCloud Visual Studio Team Services Build and Improvements to iOS Build Support
Announcing Public Preview for Visual Studio Team Services Code Search
Announcing the new Release Management service in Visual Studio Team Services
Subversion integration with Visual Studio Team Services
Announcing Public Preview of Visual Studio Marketplace
Announcing easy to use browser-based exploratory testing for Visual Studio Team Services
Git Credential Manager for Mac and Linux
Test Results in Build

Xamarin (I didn't have anything to do with this one, but it's referenced from the VS blog, so I’m including here)
Introducing Xamarin 4

The other day an old co-worker from my days at Microsoft on the Oslo/M/Quadrant projects, asked if a college friend could pick my brain on being a content developer in advance of his upcoming interview at Microsoft for that role. I wrote back a lengthy reply (because it's fun for me to think about such things), and in the spirit of Scott Hanselman's Keys Left pricinple, I'm sharing all of that here.

To respond to the young man's question, I asked myself, what would I be looking for if I interviewed someone for the job? I had to admit that I've been through only one content-specific interview myself. It was just a couple of hours because I already had such a strong reputation. The interview was really more about getting to know people I’d be working with.

First, let me explain how I see the role of "content developer" vs. "programming writer." I personally like the idea of “content developer” much more because it opens itself to many kinds of content that aren’t just about writing: code, videos, presentations at conferences, improving answers on StackOverflow, etc.

I’ve seen too many people with the title of “writer” get stuck in the mindset that their job is to put words on a page, and that they measure success by how many words they write. A content developer, on the other hand, measures success in terms of effectiveness of communication—does the content I’ve produced help developers get to the needed information and answers quickly? And does it answer the questions they actually have, including one they’ve not identified yet because they’re still learning a technology?

Thinking this way, content development is an ongoing process just like software development. And just as with software, sometimes the right answer in that development is to cull, prune, and even wholesale delete large amounts of previous work because they’re obsolete, unhelpful, or otherwise don’t have much value.

Side note: It’s worth thinking about what this means in terms of metrics collected for content. Traditionally, people have worried about page views and time spent on page, but for developers, this doesn’t necessarily make sense. For developer documentation, the real question is whether they found their answer quickly, which means time spent on page is actually irrelevant. (That measure is really applicable only to sites that have on-page advertising, because more time means they can charge more for that advertising space!)

Next, I looked through the job listing itself (on the Microsoft Careers site) to see what skills it identifies for the role. Here are my thoughts on those:

  • “Enable the creation of amazing apps, innovative services, and creative experiences through the education of the developer ecosystem.” This tells you that the role is very much about education, not performance as an code-monkey. It’s about the ability to effectively and clearly communicate, so be prepared to demonstrate where you’ve had success in this way.
  • “It will be your job to learn about Microsoft platforms and technologies in order to teach devs…” I like to say that this role is all about suffering as much as possible in order to save many other developers from suffering. That is, I like to go through pain and anguish to figure out some difficult task because within Microsoft you have the luxury of then going to the engineering teams that create the stuff itself. Nobody on the outside—that is, the customers your serving—have this luxury. So you’re the bridge to take what they know and present it in a way that external people can most effectively utilize. A specific implication of this is that although engineering teams can afford to think in the silo of their particular domain (such as touch input), a content developer has to meaningfully relate those specifics to a much broader picture, such as “gaming apps” that happen to use touch input…and a whole lot of other stuff! So be prepared to demonstrate any experiences you’ve had in being that kind of a bridge, of taking specific details and putting them in a broader context.
  • “This role leverages your passion for teaching, writing, and coding.” And in that order! So be prepared to demonstrate that passion. I will add that one of the most important qualities to demonstrate—something I would certainly look for in a candidate—is empathy. You cannot be an effective teacher or writer if you don’t understand the people you’re trying to educate or communicate with. So how do you go about understanding that audience? Think about that and be ready to talk about it, and if people don’t bring up matters of empathy or knowing your customer, bring it into the conversation yourself. I, for one, like to go to developer conferences for this purpose. I also like to read other blogs, monitor questions on forums (and answer a lot of them!). And when I’m writing, I try to keep part of my awareness separate so it can immediately respond to my work as if I was an outside reader. In that way I’ve been able to anticipate questions that someone might have, and then answer them right away.
  • In fact, a short time later the description says, “You’ll walk in the shoes of your customers…” This is what empathy is all about!
  • “You’ll start by diving into code and collaborating with people across engineering, design, and marketing to understand the end to end story.” Again, big picture thinking is part of the equation here, so demonstrate that you have the ability to collect a lot of specifics and abstract them into the big picture. And clearly, the ability to collaborate is very important. You need to be able to relate well and work with people who aren’t like you, but just as essential to the shared goals. Be prepared to give examples of anything you’ve done along these lines, e.g. working effectively in teams. As a new college grad you won’t be expected to have done too much of this, but even to understand the need is super-valuable.
  • “Deliver code samples and technical assistance”: this is where the rubber meets the road, because in the end it is about delivering content. Be prepared to talk through how you’ve managed your own projects and assignments—how you’ve organized tasks, kept yourself to a schedule, and checked for quality.
  • “Engaging deeply with the community”: again, this is super-important for developing empathy.
  • “Excellent writing skills”: Do you know what the big secret is about writing? That it’s 80% editing. It’s one thing to put your thoughts down on a page. It’s another skill entirely to go through it several more time to make it better and better. If I were conducting an interview I’d actually quiz people on this, i.e. give them a piece of writing and have them think through how to improve it. I’d spend more time on this than I would on code, although I’d probably do the same thing with code (more on this in a moment).
  • “Graphics background a plus”: This isn’t so much about being a graphic designer as it is about the ability to express concepts through diagrams and illustrations. Take a look at the latest MSDN magazine article of mine for some examples. Or for a much bigger piece of work, download my free ebook Programming Windows Store Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, 2nd Edition. I did all the illustrations and graphics for that one myself—what’s in the book is straight from my files.
  • It’s not mentioned in the job description, but if you’ve done any video production and editing, showing those projects would be a big plus. Take a look at the One Dev Minute video series ( These are really working to communicate as efficiently as possible—they have lots of studio and graphics support, but if you have anything to show that approaches thoughtful editing in the video space, that would certainly be a plus.

Now for a few other thoughts:

  • Don’t worry about tooling—you'll learn on the job in a matter of days. At best, familiarity with some industry standards like Markdown might help, but really, you’ll get all the specifics in the process of the job.
  • The ability to do on-the-spot coding exercises as is traditional with software development interviews is not all that important to content development. In content, your job is much more about using code as a means for explaining concepts, techniques, and so forth. It’s part of documentation. I would want to make sure a candidate could write good, clean, and well-documented code, especially where the commenting explains the bigger picture of how all the code works and how it might relate to code that uses it. In other words, being able to explain why you chose to do something the way you did is often more important than the simple how or what.
  • In fact, what I would potentially ask a candidate is to show me an application project they’ve worked on, walk me through what it does, give me an architectural overview, illustrate the relationships between the key pieces, and explain what pieces could be most useful to other developers writing similar applications, and what parts are more specific to the project itself.
  • Let me return to the question of editing. There are two main things you to consider, and perhaps also practice instead of trying to solve coding problems.


    • I highly recommend spending time with the existing content produced by the team you’re be interviewing with. For example, if someone was interviewing for the team I'm currently in, I'd want them to go through the topics on MSDN under Cross-Platform Development. Reviewing that material would familiarize you with the technical areas that my team's involved with, but more importantly, pick a few topics that you understand pretty well already and ask: how would I improve this content? And overall, could you think of ways to improve the whole table of contents? Does the ordering of Getting Started material make sense to you? If you were just starting out, would you find this content engaging and effective, or are there changes that might improve it. These are things that writers and content developers should have opinions about.
    • If I were doing an interview, instead of having you write code from scratch, I’d show you a few pieces of code and ask how you would improve them to make them more useful as samples or as documentation? (Samples are documentation.) I’ve seen plenty of crappy samples in my time, and could explain to you exactly why they are crappy as a sample (even if they are good code from an engineering standpoint). To that end, find some samples that are relevant to the team you're interested in (including ones they've produced), and study them. Do you think these are good samples? What about them works well as educational material? What about them can be improved and how would you make those improvements? It would probably be helpful to spend more time with one of the samples to the point where you can give an on-the-spot tutorial about how it all works, as I suggested above.


In the end, I think content development is a pretty cool career path. You get to be deeply involved in technology, but you don't get so buried in the details of creating it that you lose sight of how it relates to everything else. I, for one, thrive on seeing, understanding, and communicating those relationships, and enjoy serving other developers in this way. In fact, I'm more delighted with a clear, well-written explanation or a clear illustration about how a piece of code works than I am about getting that piece of code to work in the first place. That's why I've always gravitated to content and community work.

If you feel the same way, this is definitely a career path to consider, especially as content is increasingly seen today as one of the keys to technology adoption, which is especially important with startups and innovators.

It's been a few years since I've taken the time to write a fuller essay for my site, but I'm delighted to offer a new one. Comments are welcome with this post as I don't have comments enabled for the articles themselves.

The California Drought: A Problem of Consciousness? – A defense of my claim that "all problems in the world are ultimately problems of consciousness." It's easy to see this truth in matters of human interactions, but is it also true with impersonal factors like the weather and other natural events? And it ths claim defensible without resorting to metaphysical explanations? It is, because what makes such things a problem in the first place is that humans happen to be in the way of such events, and that placement is subject to human choice and thus a matter of consciousness. The very act of classifying a natural event as a problem in the first place is also itself an act of consciousness, because we could just as well classify such things as opportunities. September 2015

I just learned today that the "M" language and runtime that I worked on a long time ago (2008-2010) finally found a home in Excel 2016. See Integrating Power Query Technology in Excel 2016 and Getting Started with Get Transform in Excel 2016.

M was a language designed specifically for specialized data shaping and transformation that's draw from multiple data sources. I'm delighted that customers will now benefit all the engineering that went into this.


I was cleaning spam comments off my blog just now. One of them clearly missed going through its pre-processor, because it just posted the source file from which these guys generate their junk. Askimet should have this file! And anyone want to make the kitten setting version?

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yet I never found any interesting article like
yours. {It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and
bloggers made good content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from}
commenting. {Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally
well} written!|

{I will|I’ll} {right away|immediately} {take hold of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your {rss|rss feed} as I {can not|can’t} {in finding|find|to find} your {email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or {newsletter|e-newsletter} service.
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I could I {want to|wish to|desire to} suggest you {few|some} interesting things
or {advice|suggestions|tips}. {Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can}
write next articles referring to this article. I {want to|wish to|desire to} read {more|even more} things about it!|

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{next|subsequent} articles {relating to|referring to|regarding} this article.
I {want to|wish to|desire to} {read|learn} {more|even more} {things|issues} {approximately|about} it!|

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{It’s|It is} {lovely|pretty|beautiful} {worth|value|price} {enough|sufficient} for me.
{In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made {just right|good|excellent} {content|content
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really really {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} on building up new {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}.|

Wow, this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} is {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious}, my {sister|younger sister} is analyzing {such|these|these
kinds of} things, {so|thus|therefore} I am going to
{tell|inform|let know|convey} her.|

{Saved as a favorite|bookmarked!!}, {I really like|I like|I love} {your blog|your
site|your web site|your website}!|

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is a great} {blog|website|web site|site}. I stumbledupon it 😉 {I will|I am going
to|I’m going to|I may} {come back|return|revisit} {once again|yet
again} {since I|since i have} {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} it.
Money and freedom {is the best|is the greatest} way to change,
may you be rich and continue to {help|guide} {other people|others}.|

Woah! I’m really {loving|enjoying|digging} the template/theme
of this {site|website|blog}. It’s simple,
yet effective. A lot of times it’s {very hard|very difficult|challenging|tough|difficult|hard} to
get that “perfect balance” between {superb usability|user friendliness|usability} and {visual appearance|visual appeal|appearance}.
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{Superb|Exceptional|Outstanding|Excellent} Blog!|

These are {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {great|enormous|impressive|wonderful|fantastic}
ideas in {regarding|concerning|about|on the topic of} blogging.
You have touched some {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {points|factors|things} here.
Any way keep up wrinting.|

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and {exposure|coverage|reporting}! Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works guys I’ve {incorporated||added|included} you guys to
{|my|our||my personal|my own} blogroll.|

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this {site|website} with us so I came to {give it a look|look it over|take a look|check it out}.
I’m definitely {enjoying|loving} the information. I’m {book-marking|bookmarking} and will be tweeting this to my
followers! {Terrific|Wonderful|Great|Fantastic|Outstanding|Exceptional|Superb|Excellent} blog and {wonderful|terrific|brilliant|amazing|great|excellent|fantastic|outstanding|superb} {style and design|design and style|design}.|

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up too. {This sort of|This type of|Such|This kind of} clever work and {exposure|coverage|reporting}!
Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works guys I’ve {incorporated|added|included} you
guys to {|my|our|my personal|my own} blogroll.|

{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey} would you mind {stating|sharing} which blog platform you’re
{working with|using}? I’m {looking|planning|going} to start my
own blog {in the near future|soon} but I’m having a {tough|difficult|hard} time {making
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The reason I ask is because your {design and style|design|layout} seems
different then most blogs and I’m looking for
something {completely unique|unique}. P.S {My apologies|Apologies|Sorry} for {getting|being} off-topic but I had to ask!|

{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hey there|Hello|Hey} would you mind letting me
know which {webhost|hosting company|web host} you’re {utilizing|working with|using}?

I’ve loaded your blog in 3 {completely different|different} {internet
browsers|web browsers|browsers} and I must say this blog loads a lot {quicker|faster} then most.
Can you {suggest|recommend} a good {internet hosting|web hosting|hosting} provider at a {honest|reasonable|fair} price?
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{I love|I really like|I like|Everyone loves} it {when people|when individuals|when folks|whenever people} {come together|get together}
and share {opinions|thoughts|views|ideas}. Great {blog|website|site},
{keep it up|continue the good work|stick with it}!|

Thank you for the {auspicious|good} writeup. It in fact was a amusement
account it. Look advanced to {far|more} added agreeable from you!
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heads up. The {text|words} in your {content|post|article} seem to
be running off the screen in {Ie|Internet explorer|Chrome|Firefox|Safari|Opera}.
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compatibility but I {thought|figured} I’d post to let you know.
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Hope you get the {problem|issue} {solved|resolved|fixed} soon. {Kudos|Cheers|Many thanks|Thanks}|

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{Cheers|Many thanks|Best wishes|Take care|Thank
you}! {Where|Exactly where} are your contact details though?|

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as compared to {books|textbooks}, as I found this {ar

ticle|post|piece of writing|paragraph} at
this {website|web site|site|web page}.|

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but, I’d like to {send|shoot} you an {e-mail|email}.
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blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great {site|website|blog}
and I look forward to seeing it {develop|improve|expand|grow} over time.|

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{site|web site|website|weblog|blog} for {a long time|a while|some time} now and finally got the {bravery|courage} to go ahead and give you
a shout out from {New Caney|Kingwood|Huffman|Porter|Houston|Dallas|Austin|Lubbock|Humble|Atascocita} {Tx|Texas}!
Just wanted to {tell you|mention|say} keep up
the {fantastic|excellent|great|good} {job|work}!|

Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Los angeles|California}!
I’m {bored to tears|bored to death|bored} at work so
I decided to {check out|browse} your {site|website|blog}
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I’m {shocked|amazed|surprised} at how {quick|fast} your blog
loaded on my {mobile|cell phone|phone} .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G ..
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Its {like you|such as you} {read|learn} my {mind|thoughts}!
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you|such as you} wrote the {book|e-book|guide|ebook|e book} in it or something.
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the audio {quality|feature} for audio songs {current|present|existing} at this {website|web site|site|web page} is {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {marvelous|wonderful|excellent|fabulous|superb}.|

{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hello}, i read your blog {occasionally|from time to time} and i own a similar one and i was just {wondering|curious}
if you get a lot of spam {comments|responses|feedback|remarks}?
If so how do you {prevent|reduce|stop|protect against} it,
any plugin or anything you can {advise|suggest|recommend}?
I get so much lately it’s driving me {mad|insane|crazy}
so any {assistance|help|support} is very much appreciated.|

Greetings! {Very helpful|Very useful} advice {within this|in this particular} {article|post}!
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make|that produce|that will make} {the biggest|the largest|the
greatest|the most important|the most significant} changes.
{Thanks a lot|Thanks|Many thanks} for sharing!|

{I really|I truly|I seriously|I absolutely} love {your blog|your site|your website}..
{Very nice|Excellent|Pleasant|Great} colors & theme.
Did you {create|develop|make|build} {this website|this site|this web
site|this amazing site} yourself? Please reply back as I’m {looking to|trying to|planning to|wanting to|hoping to|attempting to} create {my own|my very own|my own personal}
{blog|website|site} and {would like to|want to|would love to} {know|learn|find out}
where you got this from or {what the|exactly what the|just what the}
theme {is called|is named}. {Thanks|Many thanks|Thank you|Cheers|Appreciate it|Kudos}!|

{Hi there|Hello there|Howdy}! This {post|article|blog post} {couldn’t|could not} be written {any better|much better}!

{Reading through|Looking at|Going through|Looking through} this
{post|article} reminds me of my previous roommate! He {always|constantly|continually} kept
{talking about|preaching about} this. {I will|I’ll|I am going to|I most
certainly will} {forward|send} {this article|this information|this post}
to him. {Pretty sure|Fairly certain} {he will|he’ll|he’s going to} {have a good|have a very good|have a great} read.

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{Wow|Whoa|Incredible|Amazing}! This blog looks {exactly|just} like my old one!
It’s on a {completely|entirely|totally} different {topic|subject} but it has pretty much the same {layout|page layout} and design. {Excellent|Wonderful|Great|Outstanding|Superb} choice of colors!|
{There is|There’s} {definately|certainly} {a lot
to|a great deal to} {know about|learn about|find out about} this {subject|topic|issue}.
{I like|I love|I really like} {all the|all of the} points {you made|you’ve made|you have made}.|

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{Any kind of|Any} help would be {really|greatly} appreciated!|

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Most of us are likely accustomed to the kind of "we wish you'd hang up and go away" level of customer service when calling a call center or support line. It's not too hard to notice the strategies that most companies use to attempt to hide the fact that they spend as little money as possible on their call centers. For starters, we're typically shunted into a long series of automated options that seem designed to stall one as long as possible, and even perhaps to discourage continuation of the call.

If you're patient enough to get through the automated tree to "speak to a customer service representative," we're typically told that "we're experiencing higher than normal call volumes." It doesn't seem what time of day I call, I almost always get this message. I pretty much figure it's a euphemism for "we have all of one or two people on staff, or otherwise outsource our call center but spend a little as possible, so of course you're going to have to wait."

Then, if you're still patient enough to wait through some minutes of reall bad music played through some dreadful audio system, you finally get to a human being. Now, I usually get to talk to someone who is kind and courteous enough, but there isn't much encouragement for small talk or relating to the representative as a human being. The point, obviously, is to get the issue handled as quickly as possible.

Today I needed to call into Disneyland's service center to complete payment for an upcoming trip. (I'm taking my son to Disneyland in October for his birthday.) And I was delighted with the experience.

For starters, the initial automated response gave only three quick options, and I spent about all of 5 seconds here. Choosing the option for making a payment, I was connected immediately to a human being–no waiting whatsoever, even on a Saturday morning. The woman I spoke to was a real pleasure.

She wasn't in any hurry to collect a payment and let me go. No, while we waited for the reservation record to come up, I joked with her a little about making database queries against backend systems, and how that often takes a while because of the load on the server. She was interested, so we talked a bit about the nature of data centers, and why you can have a really fast computer and a fast internet connection, and still end up waiting because the computer on the other end isn't particularly fast.

Well, we did eventually get to the matters at hand, but still, no hurry. We talked about Disneyland, discussed a few questions I had about things going on during our time there, and so on. In the end, I think my "quick call" to make the final payment on our package ended up being about 20 minutes.

After the call, I completed the short phone survey and also went to to express my appreciation. What I enjoyed here was that they asked whether there was any "magic moment" in the conversation I just had, and I was happy to describe my delight at making a real human connection.

In the end, I was left with a deep apprecitation for how much Disney works to make the entire experience enjoyable, including even how their customer service works. It's a model that other companies would do well to follow!

Over the next few weeks I'll be taking over management of the Visual Studio blog on MSDN while Radhika Tadinada, the usual owner, heads off on maternity leave until the spring. I've already done a couple of roll-up posts (Top News for July, and Top Azure News), and am now managing the pipeline of content coming in from the various DevDiv engineering teams. That said, I'm not sure what cycles I'll have for blogging here on my personal site, but I might have some guest posts coming.

The second part of the article I posted earlier is out now: Cloud-Connected Mobile Apps – Build a Xamarin App with Authentication and Offline Support. I think it's been out for a week already, but I've been catching up from the last hurrah of summer vacations.

This Part 2, which covers the Xamarin client side of the project, is the piece that I mostly wrote, with contributions by Mike Wasson on the authentication parts. The code for both the backend and the client are available now via (which goes to GitHub). Feel free to make contributions!

And a reminder that there are three extra pieces of content for this article that are posted on my blog here already:


Note: this is a placeholder article so I can create a link for an upcoming MSDN Magazine article that will point to the real documentation for this feature. Those docs are currently in progress and will likely be available by the time the article is published. But we have to finish the galley proof for the print magazine now, hence the placeholder!

Until just recently, here in the summer of 2015, the Visual Studio Online build system didn't have support for cross-platform apps like those created with Xamarin. That support has now been added.

When you're on VSO's Build tab for a project, you'll see "Build definitions" and "XAML definitions." The latter, XAML definitions, are those that worked with the previous build system that does not have cross-platform support.


If you create a new definition with the big green +, you'll be presented with the new list of templates:


Clearly you can see the options for building Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS projects, along with the Xcode option for building a straight iOS native app.

What about Xamarin for Windows? I'm told you can use the Visual Studio template for that, but I haven't tried this myself. In any case, when you use one of the Xamarin templates you'll be required to enter your Xamarin credentials to activate the necessary platform licenses:


Anyway, that's all I'll say for now because I haven't tried out all of this myself. Again, proper documentation will be appearing soon on MSDN for all the details.