Friday, 14 October 2011

Daily Review #14: XAML, HTML and MVP Hypocrisy

The Daily Review - 12th October 2011
Photo © Jason Schulz |

XAML, HTML and MVP Hypocrisy

First off, welcome back and apologies for being 'off air' on the blog for so long. Life gets complicated sometimes and a lot has happened since the last 'Daily Report'.

Technology -wise perhaps most notable while I've been away has been the release of the iPhone 4s, the deaths of Steve Jobs (Apple founder and figurehead) and Dennis Ritchie (co-creator of UNIX and C) - and of course the usual 'echo chamber' Shill reaction to all of this.

'Shill' does seem a rather harsh phrase to throw around, and I've had some MVPs get very upset with me about my liberal use of the word. Not all MVPs are unpaid Microsoft shills of course, but as time goes on it's becoming more and more evident to me that the vast majority are - whether they're prepared to admit it or not.

The last seven days have really brought home to me that if anything I've been too diplomatic in not pointing out that most MVPs are just unpaid (well actually an MVP award and its perks isn't exactly unpaid when you look at it) shills is an accurate one. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the endless tweets around the Apple iPhone 4s vs the Windows Phone 7 Mango release, and, far more alarmingly, the whole debate over whether one should focus on HTML or XAML when writing Metro Style apps for the new Windows 8 operating system.

When Silverlight MVPs tweet endlessly about XAML in the new Metro world being a 'first class citizen' and 'the one true way', whilst simulatenously starting to blog for the first time about JavaScript, or tweet about new courses and books they're writing on this HTML5 feature, or that HTML5 feature, it's very hard not to add the word 'hypocrite' to the term 'shill'.

It's proven that there is a distinct lack of any sort of real independence from those keen to curry favour with Microsoft and either (a) get their MVP status renewed, or (b) keep their careers through working for companies whose ONLY source of income seems to be writing demo applications for Microsoft (no names, but it's glaringly obvious who these companies are!)

The reason I beat on about shills so much ("We shill overcome" t-shirts coming soon?) is that this whole ridiculous, brown-nosing, "got to stay 'in' with Microsoft, whatever happens" so-called 'community' culture is a large part of the reason Microsoft are in the sorry shape they are in now. You really don't want to surround yourself with nothing but 'yes' men if you're in trouble and want to find out whether what you're doing is anywhere near approaching what the market wants and needs or not!

And, sadly, there's a complete lack of any kind of 'real world' common sense in all the re-blogged and re-tweeted marketing rhetoric.

Too harsh? Let me pose a few questions you might want to ask these shills who, when you complain, won't fail to point out how they work so tirelessly on your behalf, in their own time (Hmmmm), for 'nothing' (double hmmmm - have you seen the perks you get as an MVP, or as a company doing demo apps for Microsoft?) whilst maintaining their integrity ;-))

Did you hear any of these folk, who have been continually hyping up Windows Phone 7 as if people actually cared or had bought it, tweet or blog the link to Steve Ballmer admitting sales were significantly lower than expected?

In their 'independent' Windows Phone 7 tweets and news did you hear any of them mention the story that Dell, whose Windows Phone 7 series phone they were so keenly over-hyping a year ago, has decided to drop Windows Phone 7?

Did any one of them carry the story that 2 weeks ago the Three network in the UK accidentally tweeted that they were no longer going to offer Windows Phone 7 handsets?

Did you hear anything other than how lame, useless and disappointing the 'competing' (erm. It's only competition when you actually have some market share, Windows Phone 7 fans!) Apple iPhone 4s is?

By the way, that's the Apple iPhone 4s which has the largest pre-orders in phone history - yes, a lot bigger even than the iPhone 4!

iPhone 4s sold more in 24 hours than Windows Phone 7 in a year

The responses to the launch of the iPhone 4s, just like those when the iPhone and iPad were first released, are as depressingly predictable as they are laughable, and nobody seems to be learning from the lessons of the past and pushing for change or any kind of reality check at Microsoft or within its shill 'partnerships'. This 'circle jerk' (I'm too annoyed to use the politer term 'echo chamber') mentality really needs to stop before the last shill standing who's actually got a real job realises he's sat in a circle of one!

And then these people get upset when I point out EXACTLY what they are - shills for Microsoft. How is it possible to call them anything else, given their biased, one-sided reporting that endlessly promotes just one company and its products, or those that feed off it, and constantly denigrates alternative, superior offerings?

There are MVP exceptions to my generalisation of course, but I'm struggling to count them on more than the fingers of one... erm finger (Hello anyway, Jeremy. And thanks for pointing out some of the independent posts and tweets instead of burying your head in the sand, pretending it's not there as pretty much all of your fellow MVPs do).

But, what really annoys is not the lack of vision outside a very narrow Microsoft Marketing one - after all we all need to make a buck and need gainful employment - but the total hypocrisy that is often so clearly evident when these people try to defend what they're doing to make their Microsoft bucks.

The constant referral to anybody who dares point out Apple makes stuff that's pretty good and very popular as 'Apple fanboi's, from a group constantly touting the 'success' of a phone (Windows Phone 7) nobody in the real world has bought or cares about is bad enough.

But then there's the whole HTML vs XAML 'Silverlight isn't dead' nonsense they've been pushing for a year now, and still keep pushing, with anyone who dares to point out any kind of reality instantly dismissed as 'negative' or 'bitter' or 'a hater' or 'a trouble-maker' or any other kind of insult they see fit. By comparison the term 'shill' seems positively polite!

To believe these folk, Silverlight isn't dead because the future is XAML, a true first-class citizen in the world of Windows 8. So 'first class' in fact that nearly all the downloadable samples are in HTML/JavaScript, and there isn't even a version of Blend available that will cope with XAML in the Developer Preview, just HTML but oh, there I go being all "negative" again and pointing out facts instead of recycled Microsoft marketing guff.

And not one of these 'community leaders' seems to be saying a word about Microsoft's refusal to say anything concrete about what happens after Silverlight 5 or WPF 4.5 etc, despite Microsoft having promised us for the last six months they would make a definitive statement at Build (the reality is, of course, that we all know there won't be a Silverlight 6 or WPF 5, but none of these shills have got the balls to actually say that, for fear of the media running with it and Microsoft getting the bad rap it deserves).

"It's still supported." "It will be around for years" (so's ASP without .NET in some shops. Your point is?). "No need to panic". Blah! Blah Please renew my MVP award Blah!

"XAML is the same as Silverlight" is the nonsense the shills are currently peddling, taken in by a ludicrous con trick at the Build keynote where a silly Silverlight 2 tutorial app was magically converted in a few minutes.

Tried porting your Enterprise app yet? Have you discovered that the MEF stuff you need isn't there (you were using modules? oops - that doesn't fit the app store model), nor are behaviours, nor is whole bunch of other stuff because it won't fit with the 30% money-making app store? Heck even simple basic controls have been renamed so that you're going to have to go through your code changing element names and attributes left, right and centre, with no condition 'if' statement logic available to maintain a single XAML code base and.... Well I won't bore you with all the details. After all, it's easy to port. It must be because Carl Franklin on yet another 'partner' spin-off echo chamber show says so (there's gold in them thar special relationships and sponsorships).

Last night I attended an excellent user group talk on the new stuff in Windows 8. But when it takes a first class (and he really was first class) developer and presenter 10 minutes just to show all the XAML changes needed to take a simple 'About' page in Silverlight (that should never have been written in Silverlight in the first place - it would have taken 10 minutes to write it in HTML and have it running on all available devices), and port it to Windows RT you know that the 'it's simple to port' message is marketing lies and has no relevance to porting REAL apps in the REAL world.

And marketing MVP shills telling you it's simple are lying to you, but then they're not the ones going to have to pay the cost of all this completely needless re-work.

The reality is this 'It's all just XAML' is marketing bullshit, just as it was marketing bullshit when Microsoft pretended that VB.NET was 'the same' as VB6. Does NOBODY remember the lessons (and pain) of the past?

The number of 'flavours' (I'm being polite in calling them 'flavours') of XAML are now six - that's more than the number of browser versions I typically have to worry about when writing HTML5 code, which everybody knows is a nightmare of incompatible bits and pieces not supported by different browsers. But at least with HTML5 I have a great set of libraries like Modernizr.js that sort out most of the problems for me! I'm certainly not having to maintain multiple copies of HTML, the way I have to with XAML, if I want to support any more than one of these 'flavours'.

If I'm an XBox 'Silverlight' developer (Did you see all the excited 'Silverlight is coming to XBox - told you it wasn't dead' tweets - laughable!) I have to deal with a hacked version of Silverlight 3, some bits from Silverlight 4, some bits from Windows Phone and some bits that are new, complete with a hacked version of Blend that apparently gets released and patched every few weeks. And 'you can't get help from your usual Silverlight contacts because this stuff is supposed to be still secret'. Weren't we talking Silverlight FIVE this time last year, but a hacked version of Silverlight 3 is still in 'secret' mode?! But, heh, it's all XAML, right, what's the problem?

The fact that XAML isn't one thing, but six different things right now is a fact that has seemed to escape those eagerly retweeting the exciting XBox has Silverlight. news! "Yay! Proof that Silverlight is alive. It's NOT dead. Pah to those nay-sayers who said it was dead. It just got a shiny new platform!" (one that, for the record, was over-promoted and first promised two years ago, as I recall from a Scott Guthrie London .NET User Group talk given in July 2009 - I've still got the video if you want to go look see!)

Just to be quite clear here: there is NO 'one' XAML. There are now six different, variant flavours. That's more flavours than HTML which the shills keep telling us is way too fragmented to be considered by 'professional developers'. You have to laugh at the utter hypocrisy of it all.

Except, as you've probably guessed, I don't feel like laughing.

It's just adding insult to injury when these same shills let slip in the odd tweet here and there that despite the fact that XAML and C# are the future, and nobody in their right mind would touch Javascript and HTML5, that they're blogging about Javascript, or writing new courses on HTML5 features, or writing new chapters for upcoming books about canvas or video or whatever in HTML5. The hypocrisy in doing this while claiming they're totally committed to XAML and C# really is unbelievable.

I chose the picture at the top of today's daily report quite deliberately. Some may think it somewhat fudges the case in favour of HTML4 and HTML5, but in reality HTML5 is just HTML4 with a bunch of extra stuff added on top so if anything I'm exaggerating the HTML mismatch. This XAML mess is all a result of the Microsoft approach to marketing, which is all about 'putting out fires' TACTICAL nonsense instead of any proper STRATEGY or VISION.

Where is there any sign of leadership? Of real commitment to something? Of vision? Did Microsoft learn NOTHING from the security fiasco, the Vista fiasco ('Clarity' my arse!), the Entity Framework v1 fiasco, the Silverlight fiasco... because yes, despite what the shills keep saying, by any reasonable yardstick Silverlight has proven to be a TOTAL fiasco. Those who didn't waste any time on it (the vast majority of .NET developers) are rightly laughing from the sidelines going 'You muppet, why did you think Microsoft would ever stick to their commitments on that and waste time learning it?' Mea culpa. I took Ray Ozzie's "strategic UI" at face value, forgetting that whenever Microsoft say strategic they ALWAYS mean 'short term tactical'.

And I say Silverlight is a fiasco because I know - I've had multi-million pound clients seriously pissed off at the way Microsoft have handled Silverlight and all its associated 'bits and pieces that don't really gel' technologies, and they're RIGHT to be pissed off - it's cost them a bloody fortune! Just because a few companies who earn all their money through writing Silverlight demoware apps for Microsoft at nice fat juicy fees keep telling you Silverlight has a long future ahead of it and isn't dead does NOT make it fact!

Saying 'Windows 8 XAML is the same as Silverlight' is as ridiculous as saying 'Apps are just code''. It may be true in a very general way, but the customer paying for this stuff and then wondering why it is he can't just take a cheap specialist in xxx technology and have him immediately produce the app he needs in yyy technology isn't going to see it as 'the same' at all.

I even saw a tweet today from a Microsoft employee suggesting that developers who didn't expect such ridiculous constraints and limitations in a software product as Silverlight developers have struggled with over the last few years (constraints and limitations that exist solely because Microsoft didn't do their job properly) then they probably shouldn't be working in the industry. The arrogance in that statement is unbelievable. I mean, really, you couldn't make this stuff up! And they call themselves 'professional'. Now that's REAL irony!

If you really pin these 'shills' down with facts and reality, as I've tried to, you invariably get the 'Developers need to learn more new stuff. They're not good developers if they don't keep learning' speech, along with an explanation of how all these differences and change 'are good'.

Silverlight had threads. Shame Microsoft abandoned their Cross-Platform solution

See what they did, there? They're not the problem. YOU are. Well sorry to butt in here but you're completely wrong: NEEDLESS CHANGE IS NOT GOOD. Microsoft's continual re-invention of a wheel that doesn't need reinventing is not good. And the only reason this 'change' is happening is because there's no strategy, no consistency, no damned clarity of vision to what was forced on the market in the first place. That change benefits nobody, least of all the poor sods paying for all this over-engineered, poorly performing shit, other than those shills who find they have new stuff to peddle that they can get money from Microsoft for. And to trot out a hackneyed 'Change is good. Embrace it' excuse for such a lame lack of foresight, strategy or even the most basic planning, is just insulting.

Anybody who does REAL work, as opposed to riding on the Microsoft partner 'shiny and new' partner promotion gravy train, knows that working in this industry is already a time-pressed 10-14 hour day just coping with the existing crap, let alone the new stuff Microsoft shove out seemingly every couple of weeks.

But don't take my word for it. Talk to the people who deal with real developers day-in, day-out - people like Microsoft's developer evangelists. They work for Microsoft, they won't be biased (snort!) and they'll tell you the ONE CONSISTENT MESSAGE they keep getting from developers is that Microsoft are pushing out much too new stuff much too frequently, and nobody can keep up.

Well guess what guys? The shills say you need to keep learning even more if you want to be able to call yourself a 'professional' developer.

What a crock! The word 'professional' has been hijacked by a bunch of poor marketeers to justify their own weaknesses and hide their own hypocrisy.

It makes the story of the Emperor's new clothes look positively idealistic, and THAT my friends is why I will continue to call such charlatans 'shills'.

Stand and do nothing or jump on the HTML5 bandwagon

Today's "News" Links

Must read! Evolving the Start Menu (Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft)
There's been much criticism of the Windows 8 start page and start menu in the Developer Preview, much of it unwarranted in my view. In this blog post Microsoft explain their decision making process and give clues as to what they're going to change before the public release.
Must read! Reflecting On Your Comments on the Start Screen (Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft)
A follow-up piece and companion post to the one above about the Start Menu, reacting to comments made on the original post, and sharing new information about future plans.
Must read! Reducing Runtime Memory in Windows 8 (Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft)
Crucial information on reducing runtime memory and improving battery life so that a WinPad slate can compete with competitor offerings in this space.
Good read! MVVM Light Toolkit for Windows 8 Preview Available (Laurent Bugnion, Galasoft)
Arguably the most popular MVVM helper kit, MVVM Light, has been ported to Windows RT in an early preview format. Me, I've recently become a Caliburn Micro convert, so I have no idea how solid or usable this preview is.
Good read! Microsoft Prepared for Windows 8 Beta with Developer Preview Install Fair (Tom Warren, WinRumors)
If you jumped on the shill gravy train quickly enough, you may have been invited to a special Microsoft-run Developer Preview Install Fair last weekend. Oddly, my invite seemed to get lost in the post ;-) Blogosphere has been surprisingly quiet since the fair took place, so I'm guessing it was a bunch of 'non disclosure' stuff that was revealed.
Good read! Steve Ballmer Awarded 2% Pay Increase by Microsoft Board (Tom Warren, WinRumors)
Buried in the small print of Microsoft's annual proxy statement was the news that Steve Ballmer recently got a pay rise. Must be for all the wonderful work he's been doing on mobile and tablets over the last 2 years (snort!)
Good read! Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview (Lisa Feigenbaum, Microsoft)
Microsoft are soliciting early feedback on the Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview so they can improve things before final release. Take the survey to make sure your feedback gets heard.
Good read! Microsoft launch 'Your Browser Matters' Marketing Site (Microsoft)
With Metro Style look and feel this site purports to be about getting users to upgrade their browser to a newer version for better security. It seems mostly to be about spreading FUD on other vendor browsers. Internet Explorer 9 gets a 4 out of 4 security rating where Google Chrome gets 2.5 out of 4 and Firefox gets just 2 out of 4. There's a surprise! <sarcasm>
Good read! The BBC Does a U-Turn on HTML5 (Dharmesh Mistry)
The BBC have changed their policy on HTML5, after dismissing it as a 'ship that was sailing off-course' and are writing an HTML5 version of iPlayer, according to this report.

Today's "Opinion" Links

Good read! Enterprises Not Fully Embracing HTML5 Yet (Erica Ogg, GigaOM)
Quotes from some Enterprise folk about why they're treading cautiously with betting on HTML5.
Good read! Windows 8 Server Marks Shift to GUI-less Future (Jeff Martin, InfoQ)
Or 'Windows catches up with UNIX' as one rather biased pundit put it.
Good read! Still on Windows XP? Don't Wait Until Windows 8 To Upgrade (Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica)
Gartner are warning customers they need to move from Windows XP to Windows 7 today rather than wait for Windows 8.
Good read! 15 Cool Things Windows 8 Does that Windows 7 Doesn't (Mike Williams, Tech Radar)
Good high-level overview of some new features that make Windows 8 a joy to use.
Good read! Adobe Gets Serious about Mobile, Cloud and HTML5 (Colleen Taylor, GigaOM)
Good overview of the announcements made at the recent Adobe MAX Conference. It's HTML5 all the way apparently (some cool CSS3 recommendations that should have Silverlight developers scared, too)
Good read! Windows 8 Daily (.NET Doug)
One of those 'newspaper' compilations of stories from the web dedicated exclusively to Windows 8. Of course you don't get my incisive editorial comment and story ratings, but heh, this guy doesn't keep skipping days because he's found more fun things to do ;-)
Good read! Microsoft Windows 8 Testers Clamor for More Interface Customization (and may get some) (Mary Jo Foley, Ziff-Davies)
An analysis of the 200+ comments made on Steve Sinofsky's blog post about the Windows Start feature.
Good read! Windows 8 Supports Zero Power Optical Disk Drives (Martin Brickman, gHacks)
There's a registry key setting to disable this feature if it's giving you grief.
Good read! If You Want a Microsoft WinPad This Is What you Get (Until Next Year) (Mary Jo Foley, Ziff-Davies)
Good overview, but why would anybody want to pay way over the odds for something with less than 3 hours battery life? Meh!
Good read! Metro Colour Designs (Scott Barnes, Riagenic)
Scott Barnes isn't a fan of Metro's primary colours, and shares some sensible thoughts on palette colour design when writing new Metro apps.
Good read! Windows 8 Metro Apps in JavaScript (Ward Bell, DevForce)
Ward's been writing his first Metro apps in Javascript rather than his beloved Silverlight XAML. He's sticking with XAML... for now!
Meh! Windows 8 Will Be Free (I think) (XamlGeek)
Hmmm the (I think) wasn't there in the link-bait tweets that promoted this blog post. Nothing to see here. Move along. Ding! Ding!
Meh! IPads less Desired than Windows Tablets says study (Rue Liu, SlashGear)
Total spam-bait. It turns out that what the study actually says is that users would like Windows on their ipad (well, duh!) which is NOT the same as saying a Windows tablet that's way more expensive and has crappy battery life is what people want in preference to an iPad!

Today's "Technical" Links

Watch It! Hands-on Intro To Blend for HTML Video Plus Code (Lori, BlendInsider)
The video is just the Build talk, but this blog post tells you where to get the source code so you can follow along.
Download It! Colorful Expression Add-in for Blend (Codeplex)
Colorful Expression is an add-in for Expression Blend and Expression Design that brings you the Adobe Kuler community directly into your toolbox. Nice!
Download It! Colorful Expression Add-in for Blend (Codeplex)
Colorful Expression is an add-in for Expression Blend and Expression Design that brings you the Adobe Kuler community directly into your toolbox. Nice!
Good Read! Blend 4 Does Not Start after Installing the .NET Framework 4.5 Developer Preview (Richard Griffiths, XAML Ninja)
Richard has some fixes to get around this issue.
Good Read! Async Performance: Understanging the costs of async and await (Stephen Toub, MSDN Magazine)
Stephen explains some possible pitfalls you should avoid when using the new C# 5 await and async commands.
Good Read! Learning Windows 8 Development with Quickstarts and How To's (Microsoft)
If you're suffering information overload, this blog post has some good pointers as to the best place to start with regard to getting started with Windows 8 App development.
Good Read! Windows 8 Metro Declarations: Protocol (Andrej Tozon)
Andrej continues his examination of the commands available in the new Metro app application manifest.
Good Read! Windows 8 Metro Declarations: File Type Associations (Andrej Tozon)
More from Andrej on the new Metro app application manifest, this time covering file type associations.
Good Read! Windows RT Storage Overview (Lunar Frog Software)
All about the Windows.Storage namespace.
Good Read! My First Metro App (Wynapse)
David (I think it's David - no information on the blog that I could find) has been writing his first Metro application and shares his code and thoughts.
Good Read! Metro Apps Wiki (Carl Franklin, Plop Productions)
The DotNetRocks founder kicks off a Metro Apps wiki. It was a bit sparse when I checked, but there's some info on porting Silverlight apps to WinRT on there that many will find useful.
Good Read! Improving Developer Productivity with Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview (Steven Clark, Microsoft Visual Studio Team)
Nice overview of some of the new productivity features you may not have noticed in the preview version of Visual Studio 2012.
Good Read! Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview: Search Everywhere (Radhika Tadinada, Microsoft Visual Studio Team)
More tips and tricks for improving productivity using Visual Studio 2011, this time focussed on new Search functionality.
Good Read! How Windows 8 Memory Management Modifications Make for a Better User Experience (Peter Bright, Ars Technica)
Nice gentle overview of the Windows 8 Memory Management implementation.
Good Read! Adding an Application Bar to your XAML Metro Applications (Michael Crump, Telerik)
Nice straightforward tutorial on how to add a Windows Phone 7-like App bar to your Metro Apps.
Meh! Install Windows 8 Metro UI on Apple's iPad (Tammay P, Windows Club)
Or not. More spam-bait. It's about remoting in from your iPad and not about installing at all.

1 comment:

  1. You are absolutely right about the current status. After read the conversation with the Gu about Silverlight and XAML, I now consider myself as XAML developer and not a Silverlight developer anymore. I really can't follow you on the HTML bandwagon. However, I was thinking the same when I heard about Silverlight for XBox, Silverlight 3+ wtf another version and not even based on the newest SL bits? The current XAML situation got at a point where is is even more heterogeneous then HTML. On the other hand I see XAML still as superior technology over HTML and with great patterns like MVVM and .NET as the backbone it's much easier to target the current XAML multi-platform mess. But more important is that you have to take into account the Windows long term strategy . Unfortunately Microsoft isn't very clear about that and it's implication but the declared aim is to run Windows (nt-kernel + app model) everywhere. The classic Desktop dies with the next two version of Windows and with it Win32/WPF/Silverlight. We know Windows is going to be run on phones (maybe with WP8, surely with WP9) and since Windows 8 runs already on ARM I wouldn't be surprised to see it on the XBox720. Think about all investment in streamlining Windows with MinWin and the new Metro shell. It's all about loosing ballast and making Windows FastAndFluid :-). I know it's very long term prediction and maybe to optimistic, but I expect that Windows 9 is going to consolidate the current XAML diversity.


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