Few developers generate as much interest and following as Scott Hanselman. He's achieved near rockstar-status within the Microsoft developer community and has successfully built credibility and respect outside of the Microsoft world through his oft opinionated and unbiased views on technology and culture.
Apart from being an incredibly talented technologist, he's also one of the most accomplished speakers I've ever met and if you've never seen him talk, you're truly missing out. And if you're a remote worker, he IS a person you want to follow and read.
I've had the good fortune of having him as both my manager and my colleague and now I've managed to wrangle some of time away from his insanely busy schedule to ask him some questions.
Q: Scott, what should .NET web developers be looking at if they want to stay on top of their game?
Q: There are a ton of tools that seem explicitly targeted to *nix environments. Are Windows-based web developers being left out in the cold?
Q: How has open source affected the way that .NET-related technologies are managed at Microsoft in terms of transparency?
I can only speak to my own group. There’s no secret meetings, fewer NDAs, more software drops, and we’re developing in the open in a Git repo on CodePlex.com and GitHub. Everything is lighter-weight, except lawyers, but even they are improving.
Q: All the big platforms now have native apps. Will web development eventually be relegated to the fringes in favor of targeting specific native platforms?
Nah. Native apps raise the water level and web apps float up to meet them. It’s the cycle of healthy competition. We’ve got Unity3d coming, so clearly the Web can push pixels pretty darn well. I’m not worried.
Q: Your presentations have a rare attribute I call "humorous professionalism". How did you develop the skill to deliver serious material that, while making developers laugh, also ensure they take you seriously?
I’m a theatre geek and frustrated stand up comic. I like calling it edutainment, but I think KRS-One beat me to it.
Q: I’ve seen a growing number of speakers embracing the "potty mouth" method of presenting. Why do you think this is happening? Have we lost our sense of professionalism and manners?
Comedy folks call this "working blue." It’s easy and it’s shocking. For developers if someone swears it’s supposed to immediately broadcast authenticity and a sense of "I keep it real.” I find it totally unnecessary. Perhaps it age, perhaps its culture. I just think it’s sloppy.
Q: You travel worldwide. What are the cultural considerations you need to think about and how do you prepare accordingly (e.g.: so you don’t offend someone)?
From his blog:
When I was in Malaysia for TechEd, I spent 3 full days with locals, I learned snippets of each of the languages, tried to understand their jokes and get an idea about what was important to people in Malaysia. American analogies, much humor, and certain "U.S. specific" English colloquialism just didn’t make any sense to them. When it came time to give the presentations, I better understood the Malaysia sense of timing, of tone and timbre, and I began each of my presentations by speaking in Bahasa Malaysia. I changed aspects of my slides to remove inappropriate content and add specific details that would be important to them.
While this is an extreme example, the parallels with any audience are clear. If you’re speaking to a room full of IT guys who work in the Automotive field, or the Banking industry, the fact that we are all programmers only gives you a small degree of shared experience. Remember if you’re giving a presentation on Commerce Server or VB.NET, to get into the mind of the audience and ask yourself, why are they here and what can I tell them that will not be a waste of their time. What would YOU want to hear (and HOW would you like to hear it) if you were sitting there?
Q: Along those lines, have you encountered any language barriers that have prevented you from delivering easily understandable presentations? If so, how did you handle it?
Sure, often I’ll have a translator in a box. I spend a few hours with them beforehand in order to make sure they understand the essence (not the words) of any stories or “tales” I might tell. I also make sure all my slides won’t offend and I try to fit some local humor in as well.
Q: Which countries do you feel are completely underrepresented when it comes to technology events but based on their communities deserve more attention?
I think most of Africa outside South Africa and perhaps Kenya is doing interesting stuff in constrained bandwidth situations with lower powered machines but isn’t getting the attention they deserve.
Q: You are the model of a productive remote worker. What are the biggest benefits and challenges you face daily being remote?
The challenges are basically loneliness (I have to get out some days) and staying up to date. I miss all the water cooler talk so I often learn about important stuff by accident. This makes me feel perpetually out of touch. I have regular meetings with “folks on the ground” to talk to me about what’s going on in the office.
Q: Yahoo! recently called all of their remote workers home. Do you see this as the beginning of a trend in our industry?
I think this was just Yahoo tightening their belts. It’s needed for them, but I think Remote Workers are safe.
Q: You give great advice to those who want to be remote workers but what type of advice would you give companies about having a remote workforce?
Don’t forget us! We are here and we are useful.
Q: From a technology perspective, what are the big limitations you find in terms of working remotely?
No one in the office seems able to set up a darn camera. We spend 10 minutes at the beginning of every cool messing with the phone and camera. Every meeting, for the last 5 years
Q: When you visit Microsoft, what’s your thought process for prioritizing your time for maximum benefit and facetime?
It’s all about face time. I try to see as many people as I can and remind them that I exist. I start with my boss and find out who HE thinks I need to see.
Q: You travel quite a bit, write books, produce podcasts, blog (a LOT), and you contribute to the community. How do you manage all of this while maintaining a balanced personal life?
You just go go go until it’s time to stop. Many folks say they don’t know how to find an extra hour but they mess about on email from 9 to noon every day, or they mow their own lawn (and hate it). Automate the things that make you sad. Do the things you like.
Q: How have you worked with your family to help them understand “work time” and “family time”?
I have an “on air” light outside my door. Google for “hanselman busylight” for a picture.
Q: One of the biggest challenges of being a remote worker is disconnecting from work. Have you experienced this? If so, how do you manage it?
Yes, everyone does. We did an episode of This Developers Life on this: http://thisdeveloperslife.com/post/1-1-0-disconnecting
Q: You’re a true tech power user and you use many different non-Microsoft devices. How does that work out for you at Microsoft?
Some bosses don’t like it, but the reality is that the world is a hybrid. Everyone has a mix in their home. Why not embrace that?
Q: In terms of web development, Google seems to be the darling for web developers. What are they doing right and what should other companies be thinking about to stay in the game?
I’d say the open web is the darling, not Google. Chrome has lost some shine with some buggy releases and their ongoing font issues on Windows. Firefox has added auto-updates and fixed some memory issues, IE10 us on Windows 7, I think it’s more competitive and interesting than ever before.
Q: In terms of mobile, iOS, in my opinion, reigns supreme. What does Windows Phone need to do to get the same level of passion and commitment from consumers for their devices?
Apps apps apps. I think also a better model for HTML apps like Mobile Safari’s “add to home screen.”
Q: The Google Pixel embraced touch so it seems that the “Gorilla arm” perception is bunk.
All laptops will have touch. It WILL happen. http://www.hanselman.com/blog/ReviewTheLenovoX1CarbonTouchIsMyNewLaptop.aspx
Q: Do you think touch is a generational thing? Will gen-x adapt to it?
They already have.
Along those lines, do you think cloud-based, inexpensive devices are the future? If so, how do you see the typical developer leveraging these devices?
Yes, I think everything will be a multiprocessor supercomputer. Watches, glasses, backpacks, phones, mice, everything. It will all work together to collect and save power, and distribute work.