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MIX 2008: What the hell is this MIX thing, anyway?

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Some of the brains behind MIX08 went for drinks and discussion with me to talk about what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not about the upcoming consumer web conference happening once again in Vegas at the Venetian hotel on March 5-7, 2008. Why is Steve Ballmer keynoting? What’s the scoop with Guy Kawasaki? Do we really care about designers or is it a developer world? Will Microsoft have anything new to say? What’s the scoop with Silverlight? What's the difference between MIX and PDC (and TechED for that matter)? Who should attend MIX? Why? 

Be a fly on the wall and watch the conversation with the MIX team (forgive the lighting . . . it’s a little dark . . . we were in a real bar after all on a dark, rainy Seattle night). Then go and register at http://visitmix.com/2008 and take Thomas Lewis up on his offer for a free drink in Vegas!

Enjoy. Lot's of candid info about MIX in this one.

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  • Interesting video. Insightful comments on developer/designer roles. I love the bar social atmosphere and tone. 
  • irascianirascian Irascible Ian
    Aren't we just getting the same tired "designer/developer separation" scenario to sell the Expression/Visual Studio products that was being over-sold at the first MIX two years ago? We should have moved on by now, and yet the same old overly-simplistic platitudes are being spouted out as if everything was there today. If the world really was this simple every web site would have been written in Flash 5 years ago!

    According to this video we now have Designer/Developer integration at "No cost"?!! - excuse me, last time I looked Expression Studio was the same sort of price as the old tools it replaces from rival companies that are much more in evidence and proven tools that designers are reluctant to move away from.  But that's OK because we're now "Fully Integrated because we have Visual Studio 2008". Funny how the need for that wasn't mentioned when the same stuff was being over-sold 2 years ago.

    And pardon me for not drinking the KoolAid but where is source control integration (with Team Foundation Server) for the Expression products - this is pretty basic stuff that's missing even after all this time, but curiously no mention is made of it.

    There is so much rewriting of history going on here (it's taken two years of feedback that designers weren't being catered for? Come on guys the whole point of MIX was that it was touted as being the first Microsoft conference for designers as well as developers - has it really taken you two annual conferences and two years to realise you weren't actually meeting designer needs? Comments about the difficulty of getting designers on board were being made even BEFORE the first MIX and yet here we are talking about changing the agenda as if that's magically going to change everything and designers are all going to rush to attend because Microsoft say they've taken on feedback from two years ago?!!

    I'm looking forward to MIX08, but please let's not fool ourselves. Simply repeating the words "Passion", "enthusiasm" and "Web 2.0" every year MIX comes around isn't going to change things and if MIX really is "about the conversation" why has so little been learnt from two years of "conversation" that have already been had?





  • William Staceystaceyw Before C# there was darkness...
    irascian wrote:


    And pardon me for not drinking the KoolAid but where is source control integration (with Team Foundation Server) for the Expression products - this is pretty basic stuff that's missing even after all this time, but curiously no mention is made of it.


    You can use TFS for any files (including Expression).  You can do this today.  Or are you talking about integration within Expression?
  • irascianirascian Irascible Ian
    staceyw wrote:
    
    irascian wrote:


    And pardon me for not drinking the KoolAid but where is source control integration (with Team Foundation Server) for the Expression products - this is pretty basic stuff that's missing even after all this time, but curiously no mention is made of it.


    You can use TFS for any files (including Expression).  You can do this today.  Or are you talking about integration within Expression?


    Perzactly. The Microsoft sales pitch says designers can live in their own cosy world of Expression products (cosy because they're fairly familiar in that they 'borrow' a lot of look and feel/user interaction from traditional Adobe/Macromedia products) away from that nasty developer-y thing called Visual Studio Wink The strategy says that they can happily share everything with developers asis instead of developers having to manipulate things or adapt them, but things can get very messy if developers have everything in Visual Studo under Team Foundation Server control (which they SHOULD have) while designers are out in limbo land happily changing the same resources in Expression which aren't under any kind of similar check in/check out source control system.

    In the real world of changing requirements and modern software development this just smacks of a disaster waiting to happen, unless I'm missing something fundamental here!
  • earnshawearnshaw Jack Sleeps
    The natives are restless tonight.  Of late it appears that many popular web destinations offer a Rich Internet Experience.  Animated this and video that.  And you can be certain it wasn't all executed using Silverlight.  I've been Adobe Flexing for six months.  As per industry standard, the documentation is terrible, the literature execrable and the most useful hints are available via Google.  I hope Microsoft does not repeat Adobe's mistake.  If you want a nice looking column chart, Flex is very good.  If you want eye popping transition effects, that will take some ECMAScript.  All this was supposed to be "a simple matter of coding a few lines of XML."  Well, simple it isn't.  Good enough to meet revenue targets?  Yep.
  • MinhMinh WOOH!  WOOH!
    Well, I'll be damn. Heterogeneity.

    This video reignites many question I've had regarding web development over the years.

    The barrier-to-entry to web development used to be really low. (Once you've had access to a web server), you can script your way to a decent site. These were the ASP, PHP days. Even when you throw in database access, you can still copy+paste your way through it.

    We didn't have a good UXP-designer-developer experience, and we liked it. (come to think of it, we weren't very performant, either)

    Come ASP.net, Flash, Silverlight, and things have "improved" tremendously, in terms of the factors above.

    But the barrier-to-entry is no longer NOTEPAD.EXE.

    What are the IDEs for a silverlight app?

    Expression Design,
    Expression Blend,
    Visual Studio,
    WPF,
    ADO.net,
    ASP.net,

    I worry that we'd lose variety of sites in the near future. Variety in exchange for "professionalism" of apps. Can we have both? Easy to make easy apps, but the ability to make world-class apps if you have to. Is that possible?

  • Vesuviusvesuvius Count Orlock
    This projected designer/developer overlap using the available tools today is pie-in-the-sky. The unity is possible but this is going to take quite a little longer than anticipated.

    What worries me most, is the lack of dazzling designer/developer programs that are available now. Tim Sneath has collated a list of Great WPF Applications, but these are hardly coming thick-and-fast now are they? Anyone just getting to grips with WPF should be able to create a Notescraps without too much fuss.

    The thing about designers, is that they too are like coders in that they are restless. They like to release their work. Look at oswd.org or freecsstemplates and see the plethora of free designs available, that you can learn from or modify. It's a case of 'Old mother Hubbard, going to the WPF cupboard and finding that it was bare'. Even from the major vendors nothing jawdropping is being released.

    The Vista SDK or Blend have examples, but most if not all of them are not exactly jawdropping. You need to lead by example and release top-knotch learning material. You also need a repository for WPF examples that is current.

    Most importantly though is to finish off blend, and make sure it generates the same code as Visual Studio including the missing source control feature.
  • Minh wrote:
    The barrier-to-entry to web development used to be really low. (Once you've had access to a web server), you can script your way to a decent site. These were the ASP, PHP days. Even when you throw in database access, you can still copy+paste your way through it.


    The barrier to entry is still low - you just have to look outside the Windows World. I do this a lot, and specifically because I don't want my world view to be limited by what Microsoft wishes me to use. 

    How many of the *big* web-apps use Microsoft technology? I'd guess, and it is a guess, that the number is small - not that I am suggesting that either technology is better than the other, but buying into Rails or Django/Turbogears doesn't tie me into what Microsoft thinks is right ... and doesn't try and force me into working with my designers in a certain way.

    I'm only being negative because everyone else is Smiley


  • Vesuviusvesuvius Count Orlock
    Rossj wrote:
    
    Minh wrote:
    The barrier-to-entry to web development used to be really low. (Once you've had access to a web server), you can script your way to a decent site. These were the ASP, PHP days. Even when you throw in database access, you can still copy+paste your way through it.


    The barrier to entry is still low - you just have to look outside the Windows World. I do this a lot, and specifically because I don't want my world view to be limited by what Microsoft wishes me to use. 

    How many of the *big* web-apps use Microsoft technology? I'd guess, and it is a guess, that the number is small - not that I am suggesting that either technology is better than the other, but buying into Rails or Django/Turbogears doesn't tie me into what Microsoft thinks is right ... and doesn't try and force me into working with my designers in a certain way.

    I'm only being negative because everyone else is





    Check http://www.asp.net/get-started/. There are some of the biggest sites there (not to mention Microsofts websites as well). My space is the busiest in the world. I think that your 'checking out' of other stuff is entirely healthy and advisable though.
  • MinhMinh WOOH!  WOOH!
    Rossj wrote:
    I'm only being negative because everyone else is
    It'd be interesting to video you & irascian at a bar all pissed talking about MS. Smiley
  • irascianirascian Irascible Ian
    Rossj wrote:
    

    I'm only being negative because everyone else is



    Errrm, no! Everyone else is busy "living the dream" telling the world how excited and passionate they are about xxxxx, without actually stopping for a second to think through what they're saying or looking at the practicalities of ONLY being passionate about something instead of critiquing it because after all, this time next year they can move on and be equally passionate and excited about whatever it is someone's dreamed up to replace xxxxx.

    Which is how things got into this mess in the first place! Tongue Out

    FX: retires to seat by the fireplace in the corner marked 'Reserved for old curmudgeons'   
  • Do yourself a favor and lose the phrase technical designer. Wink

    Integrator is better.

    Cool
  • You can't please everyone
  • I agree Minh, I think things have gotten much more complicated. Just ask someone around here which data libraries that they should use and you will fall under the avalanche of three-letter acronyms and then some.

    The getting started series mentioned in the thread is a good start, but I think we also need to think about simplifying how we talk about things. We tend to dive deep before we even understand the "why" sometimes. I don't think it is a matter of dumbing down anything as some might think, but just explaining things better (e.g. Why should I use x? What is my investment to learn x?).

    There is some work my team is starting on how to simplify things, so if anyone else has feedback on how we can do it or point to good examples (even non-Microsoft), it would be great to hear from you.

    Thomas Lewis {Evangelism Manager}
    Web User Experience Evangelism Team

    [6]

  • Nishant KotharyNishant Kothary User Experience Evangelist

    Some of you are spot-on regarding some of your nits around Expression (simplification of the true story, lack of TFS integration, …) The short answer for TFS is that we’re really looking into it. You wouldn’t guess this by looking at the results, but the Blend team is really small and hence, picking TFS support over other stuff becomes a very tough prioritization exercise – enable tooling parity for Silverlight 2.0 or TFS or one of a thousand other feature requests? It’s a tough call, and I’m happy I don’t have to make it (but I do occasionally throw fuel at the fire for the same reason internally. It’s too easy). I won’t delve into each of the points made, but suffice to say that I agree with a lot of the issues you raised and so do folks on the teams. They’re working on it.

    Aren't we just getting the same tired "designer/developer separation" scenario to sell the Expression/Visual Studio products that was being over-sold at the first MIX two years ago? We should have moved on by now, and yet the same old overly-simplistic platitudes are being spouted out as if everything was there today.”

    We could do a better job across the board as we talk about the progress being made to enable a better workflow amongst folks who build web sites and web apps. Agreed. But let’s not stop talking about solving the core problem of fixing the workflow. It’s a tough nut to crack and it is what makes me wake up every morning. The real message that often gets lost in translation is this – Expression Studio is built on the core philosophy that the workflow between folks creating web sites, RIAs and applications is broken and that’s what the tools and the platform are striving to fix. Are we there yet? No. But, it’s a fantastic start, especially for a v1.

    I could go into some of the comments about designers and MIX, but I’m going to save that for another day. That stuff is close to my heart, and I have lots of opinions in that area.

    Great comments in this thread. Thanks for the feedback and conversation.

    Nishant Kothary
    User Experience Evangelist

  • Minh wrote:
    Come ASP.net, Flash, Silverlight, and things have "improved" tremendously, in terms of the factors above.

    But the barrier-to-entry is no longer NOTEPAD.EXE.


    I have to disagree. You can still write your website using nothing but notepad and ftp, it's just a lot of work. Of course, "good" websites were always a lot of work, which is why there were (are?) so many bad websites.

    Using an entirely Microsoft stack, one can write all the web content and code using a simple text editor, and just place all the files on the server. No IDE required. Writing XAML by hand, though, reminds me of the days of writing <table>-formatted web pages in text editors: nothing I'd want to do ever again. As for the code, having Intellisense and an integrated debugger beats poking around with Console.WriteLine() and alert().

    Things are more complex, yes; that's the price of progress. But no one is requiring the use of IDEs for production. It's just that managing that complexity is so much easier with the proper tools.

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