Tuesday, September 27, 2005

CodeProject Article Review - VSS Automation

I have created an article for CodeProject that discusses Visual SourceSafe 6.0. It covers integration with the SourceSafe API into a .NET Project, in addition to using the SS.exe command line utility.

See the article here.

The focus of the sample code is to iterate through an entire project hierarchy and do a rollback to a particular label or file.

I am asking anyone who wants to, to please review this article before I post it on CodeProject. It is my first article, and I would like to simply make sure that I am not making any large blatant mistakes, or outright stating something that is incorrect.

Please post any comments here you may have, or email me. Thank you in advance for any advice you can give.

Monday, September 26, 2005

MSDN Webcast notes - blogging from the Dev's perspective

I have just listened to today's WebCast on Blogging: MSDN WebCast: Blogging from the Developer's Perspective (Level 100). It was mostly the same as the last WebCast from TechNet, but there were many different questions from others; I also got to ask a lot of specific questions arising from experimenting with blogging last week.

Here are some random points of interest from this WebCast:

Google returns blog hits
Google's main search engine includes several of the larger blogs sites. Regular searches there will return hits from blog articles. I was under the impression that someone had to search a Blog Search engine; the trick is, then, to make your blog interesting enough such that enough people link to it. The more people that link to your blog, the higher you will appear in the search results list.

According to the WebCast, most people don't go past the first page of results when searching on engines such as Google or MSN search or Yahoo. That stands to reason, because I know I have the tendency to click on the first page's links first, even if they don't look 100% relevant to what I've searched for.

Blogging Academy
Check out this site from Josh Bancroft: http://www.bloggingacademy.com/. This is a tutorial site for blogging with Podcasts discussing many how-to's and tips, along with a lot of blogging resources.

Advertise your Blog
Pheedo.com is a site that will offer services to promote your blog and set up advertisement on your blog.

RSS is not just for blogs
Here is a quote from WebCast when I asked to give some examples of how RSS is being used: "Some other examples of RSS: Halo 2's stats are sharable via RSS. Our plasma screens at the PDC got all of its data via RSS feeds from various places. The next version of Sharepoint spits out RSS. SO does the next version of CRM".

It was also suggested that, since RSS is just XML, it could be developed internally for use in custom reporting applications.

Blog Spamming
To my understanding, the CommentAPI is a plug-in that will allow you to post a comment to someone's blog right from your syndication application (like RSS Bandit or NewsGator). Many spammers, however, are exploiting this - they will automatically post a comment on your new blog with a link to their web site, in an attempt to boost their statistics and thus drive more traffic to their site.

I had to turn on comment verification because I noticed this was happening to me. I was all excited about getting a comment not 2 minutes after I posted my article last week, only to be disappointed when I realized it was spam.

According to theMSDN Bloggers site, OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) is "a format based on XML that facilitates the exchange of outline-structured information between applications running on different operating systems and environments".

That doesn't really make sense to me - I think it's a way to download and import blog lists into aggregators.

Now that I'm looking for it, it seems that blogging is everywhere - where was I? Apparently, many search results I have been coming across are actually blog hits. It seems that you can customize your Blog site (even on free sites such as this one) to the extent that it practically looks like a small informational web site.

In any case, it looks like blogging is here to stay, so it's our job to see how we best fit into the blogging world, and to jump in before the train passes.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Added myself to TechNet

I have added my blog to the Microsoft TechNet blogger site; my challenge now is to keep up with my blogging. At first, I plan on simply repeating what I heard in a WebCast, like I did in my previous blog.

I also have to figure out the styles and formatting this template site is using, because I noticed my header sections were pretty large and obnoxious. At least I got rid of the Pink fluffy template I tested a week ago - it looked like Barbie revisited.

I have signed up for the next blogging webcast coming up Monday: MSDN Webcast: Blogging from the Developer's Perspective (Level 100). I hope to post by Tuesday night a summary on that info like I did with the first one.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Notes from MSFT WebCast

I mentioned in my last blog post that I had seen a fantastic WebCast from Microsoft that indroduced Blogging and RSS Syndication.

This webcast was recorded, and is now available for download at the following link: TechNet Webcast: Introduction to Blogging for the IT Professional (Level 100). I watched the recording and took some notes this time, which I sharewith you here. This is my own interpretation, so anyone who wants to correct me, please do.

Don't forget the next live webcast coming up: MSDN Webcast: Blogging from the Developer's Perspective (Level 100). And this link is at the bottom, but it's a good one - check out this Microsoft blogger site: TechNet Webcasts & Events Bloggers

Intro to Blogging

Some points on blogging:
  • Newest posts are listed first
  • Most blogs are written by a single person
5 things that make blogging hot:
  • It is very easy to publish to - free web interfaces
  • Discoverability - it's very easy to find your blog post/article on blog search engines
  • Most blog tools will show who's linking to your blog and how much traffic they have sent to your blog
  • Many blogs will have what is known as a permalink - you can get a url for just that entry. Users, therefore don't have to navigate to a page and then scroll down to find the particular posting.
  • Syndication (RSS, ATOM) and news aggregators
Locate blogs using a Blog search engine such as the following: What makes a good blog
  • Be Passionate - talk about what you love to do. Don't make it boring: keep your personality in it.
  • Be Authoritative - Do you talk about the entire industry? Are you well rounded? Do you know what you're talking about?
  • Be Credible - Don't lie, let people know your background and biases
  • When posting about an event or news story, post quickly after the story breaks. If you don't post within the first few hours you won't really be "part" of the conversation (especially technology).
Some blogging tips:
  • A great way for a techie to get started on a blog is to post questions and answers - problems they've run across and how to solve them. Similar to articles on CodeProject, but more informal and much shorter. That will help get links to your blog.
  • Pick a niche. People don't like when you talk about mixed topics in the same blog, or about personal events. If you want to post personal events, post in another blog.
  • Put what you're talking about in your title tag so it's easy to see that searching. Don't just write "My Blog", write "My Racquetball Blog" for example.
Why Blog? or What's the use for blogging?
  • Good bloggers have more following than some good authors
  • Practice your Tech writing skills
  • Interviews - many employers search on prospective employees by seeing if they are respected in the blogging communities
  • Word-of-mouth for your product. For example, If you write a software application and someone blogs about your software (i.e. reviews it), it helps to get the word out about that application.
  • You can very quickly check out lots and lots of news and info using blogs and aggregators.
How do you become known?
  • The more others link to your blogs, the more the search engines will find you, and the more of a following you will develop.
  • Do a podcast, videocast, or screencast in addition to your blog. (Be careful with the amount of bandwidth that your ISP's will limit you on). Check out this site http://www.blogcastrepository.com/ for some good screencasts (or blogcasts)
  • Go register on technet at http://techneteventsbloggers.net/ - if you have good content in your blog, it will be posted to the community. This is a good way to get discovered if you are a small blogger.
Some places to host your blog:

Intro to Aggregation

  • An aggregator is what Outlook is to Email - it's the client for effective blogging. Most are free or very cheap. Some aggregators are web-based, so the status of your items are carried with you.
  • It draws readers that want to stay with you and your posts.
  • Aggregation makes blogging more powerful. Think of how you would typically read someone's blog every day: you would create an internet favorite to their blog, go back there manually every day, and then have to examine the site to see what you have read and what you have not read.
  • RSS - Really Simple Syndication - is an XML document that aggregators use to read content from weblogs.
How do I subscribe to a feed?

Usually you will see RSS or XML on a web site. This is a link to the XML document used to subscribe to the blog.

Some aggregators will let you simply right-click on that link to subscribe, or else just use the subscribe feature in your aggregator by typing in the URL directly.

Some aggregators: Why use an aggregator?

Q: "Do I have to go to your web site every day to check to see if you have new blog posts?"
A: "No, you only have to go once to my blog, and subscribe to it via RSS; then my blog comes to you."
  • Distinguishes between read and unread posts like email clients
  • You can subscribe to different sites and topics
  • Automatically updates the information for you. You don't waste time browsing to a web site that has no new posts.
  • Very powerful for getting through lots of news fast
What is a podcast? (Portable Device + Broadcast)

Blogging Communities

  • Each individual blogger has their own blog feed and the community also has a cumulative main feed.
  • The more people that subscribe to these community sites, the better thechances are that you'll get higher readership, than if you just had your own blog site.
  • You need to fit into the group - don't post cat photos or off-topic articles, as youmay have your posts removed by the administrator(s)
  • Community blogs may have ads on them
  • Visitors are looking for specific topics so may find your blog easier than on your own blog site
Some community blogs you can get started on:

Corporate Blogging

Be careful what you say, if your company can in any way be linked (i.e. using their name, or having pictures with their logo).
  • Assume your company or boss will eventually read your blog - especially ones referencing your company's name or your full name
  • ell your company or boss about your blog beforehand
  • Find out what your company's guidelines or policies

Technet Blogging Resources

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

MSFT Webcast on Blogs and RSS

I Just saw a fantastic WebCast today from Microsoft. This webcast explained:
  • What are Blogs?

  • Why you would use Blogs?

  • How do you set up your own Blog?

  • What is Aggregation (RSS)?

  • What free Aggregation tools are out there?

  • How do you subscribe to a Blog through an aggregation tool?

  • What are Blog Communities?

  • How to blog without getting fired ;-)

There's another webcast coming up which is about blogging from the Developer's perspective:

TechNet Webcast: Introduction to Blogging for the IT Professional (Level 100) (thanks to Dean Andrews for providing the direct link).

So to try this all, I have downloaded RSS Bandit, one of the free tools suggested in the webcast. I went to the "Dashboard" for this Blog and found out that Blogger.com automatically creates an RSS Document, such that bloggers can provide links for subscriptions. In Settings, under Site Feeds, Blogger.com has created the link http://newbiedotnetdev.blogspot.com/atom.xml to this blog.

In the Template manager, which is used to configure the look and feel of the blog's home page, I added a link to this xml document on the right-hand side of my home page in the Links menu. I wanted to display that cool-looking orange RSS button, and I found I could actually do that just using a font style. Here it is if you want to use it:

<font style="BORDER-RIGHT: black thin solid; PADDING-RIGHT: 1px; BORDER-TOP: white thin solid; PADDING-LEFT: 1px; FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 10px; PADDING-BOTTOM: 1px; BORDER-LEFT: white thin solid; COLOR: white; PADDING-TOP: 1px; BORDER-BOTTOM: black thin solid; FONT-STYLE: normal; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; BACKGROUND-COLOR: coral">

Next, I opened up RSS Bandit and added the xml document's URL as a subscription. I refreshed the feed by clicking Update Feed, and lo and behold, this very posting showed up! It turns out that every time I edit this posting, RSS Bandit also updates the posting as well (during its update schedule).

As I began editing this post, I noticed someone posted a comment already! I hadn't believed it when in the webcast, they mentioned that if you add links to other sites (such as I just did to the Microsoft Webcast), it increases your chances of getting "seen" on Google or some other search engine. I would be very interested to find out how people are finding this post...

On a final note, I will be posting again later, talking about some of the interesting points covered in the webcast.