Interview Series: Four Questions With … Matt Milner

I’m continuing my series of interviews where I chat with a different expert in the Connected Systems space and find out their thoughts on technology.

This month, we’re having a powwow with Matt Milner.  Matt’s a Microsoft MVP, blogger, instructor and prolific author in MSDN Magazine.  Matt’s a good sport who was subjected to my stupidest stupid question so far and emerged unscathed.

Q: You’ve recently delivered a series of screencasts for Microsoft that explain how to get started with WCF and WF. What has the reaction to these offerings been so far? Do you believe that these efforts make development in WCF and WF more approachable? Why do you think that uptake of these technologies has seemed a been a bit slower than expected?

A:  The response to the screencasts has been great; with a lot of positive comments from developers who have viewed them.  I think the smaller bits of information are easily digestible and the goal is definitely to make the technologies more accessible to .NET developers.  I think uptake on Windows WF is slower than hoped because many developers have not seen the “killer application” of the technology to really help them understand how it can save them time. 

Q: There are a wide range of technologies that you’ve written about and researched (e.g. BizTalk Services, WCF, WF, BizTalk Server).   Which technology are you truly excited to work with and learn more?  For the traditional BizTalk developer, which technology would you recommend they spend free time on, and why?

A:  For me, the combination of WF and WCF is going to be huge moving forward.  These are primary underlying technologies for BizTalk Services and other platform plays coming from Microsoft.  Both technologies will be used in many different products from Microsoft and other vendors as they are key enabling technologies.  Understanding these two technologies on top of the core .NET language fundamentals will provide developers with a solid base for developing in the next generation Microsoft application platform.

Q: In addition to your day job, you’re also an instructor for Pluralsight (with a course coming up in Irvine, CA) which means that you are able to watch many folks grasp BizTalk for the very first time.    What are some common struggles you see, and what sort of best practices do you teach your students that you wish seasoned, self-taught BizTalkers would adhere to?

A:  One of the biggest struggles for most students new to BizTalk is getting your head wrapped around the message oriented approach.  Most .NET developers focus on objects with methods and parameters and BizTalk doesn’t work that way.  The other two key things that trip people up are a lack of knowledge around programming XML, schemas and XSLT which are important technologies in BizTalk Server; and the sheer number of tools and concepts that surround BizTalk Server and make it an extremely powerful server platform.

Q [stupid question]: In addition to being an instructor, you also are a consultant.   This means that there are countless opportunities to introduce yourself to new people and completely fabricate a backstory which baffles and intrigues your audience.  For instance, you could walk onto a brand new project and say “Hi, before doing IT consulting, I toiled in the Bolivian underground as an oil wrestler with a penchant for eye gauges.   I currently own a private farm where I raise boneless chickens and angry ferrets who provide inspiration for a romantic thriller I’m writing on weekends.”  Ok, give me your best fake back-story that you could use for your upcoming BizTalk class. 

A:  Over the summer I lived my dream of opening a booth at the Minnesota State Fair where food “on-a-stick” is a common theme.  My family and I perfected the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich-on-a-stick, pancakes on-a-stick, and deep-fried huevos rancheros on-a-stick.  The whole family worked at the booth and got to meet people from all over Minnesota including celebrities Al Franken and Jesse “the body” Ventura.

Stay tuned for next month’s interview where we can digest some of the announcements and information from the upcoming PDC.

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Author: Richard Seroter

Richard Seroter is Director of Developer Relations and Outbound Product Management at Google Cloud. He’s also an instructor at Pluralsight, a frequent public speaker, the author of multiple books on software design and development, and a former editor plus former 12-time Microsoft MVP for cloud. As Director of Developer Relations and Outbound Product Management, Richard leads an organization of Google Cloud developer advocates, engineers, platform builders, and outbound product managers that help customers find success in their cloud journey. Richard maintains a regularly updated blog on topics of architecture and solution design and can be found on Twitter as @rseroter.

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