9/18/2008

Learning Experiences: What Developers Want

“The last update to the Hypertext Markup Language — the lingua franca of the web — was the 4.01 specification completed in September, 1999.” –Digg Post

Recently I read a post on Jesse Liberty’s blog about getting flamed by some commenter who didn’t like what he was publishing. I responded in a comment that I thought he was doing just fine, and that you cannot expect to please everybody. But I also recommended that he put up one of those free poll “thingies” that would allow his visitors to vote on what they did want to see, and Jesse took me up on it.

He put up a comprehensive poll that allowed write-in suggestions. I thought it was very well designed. The preliminary results of some 250 responses (including mine) is quite revealing, I think:

“The results have held steady from the very beginning – Webcasts have overwhelmingly been the "last choice" for over 2/3 of users and in-depth tutorials have been the first choice; with short videos and short tutorials splitting the middle position.  In any case, there is almost total unanimity that all presentations should be at the Intermediate (300) level except for tutorials,  which nearly 2/3 of you think should be more advanced”


What this is saying is something that I myself have known and stated many times: Developers, when looking for learning resources on the web,  overwhelmingly prefer to read in-depth tutorials (preferably with downloadable code too) rather than viewing Webcasts or downloading Podcasts. And, at least as far as reading Liberty’s material on Silverlight, they prefer that the tutorials should be at the advanced level. Your “basic” level stuff usually comes from the articles and FAQs at the main silverlight.net web site.

For example, you can make a very nice screencast of “How to create a Silverlight Custom Control” (and people like Mike Taulty have done excellent ones, with pretty good voice narration). But the point is, you can also create an article / tutorial with screenshots showing the important stages and text explanations, and downloadable code -- and according to Liberty’s poll, this is what developers prefer. Oh, and did I mention that PODCASTS SUCK?

Item of Note

My “playground” short url and social tagging site, ittyurl.net, now has over 600 links on Silverlight! That’s right, over 600 user-submitted links, all searchable by tags, with nearly 30,000 clickthroughs to date. Thanks to all who have contributed. And a big thanks to my eggheadcafe.com site partner Robbe Morris for agreeing to host the site and get me out of “gate.com hosting company hell”! Boy did that company go down the crapper!