A lot has happened since I last put pen to paper in my blog. Silverlight 3 has shipped, and I’ve been in the proverbial cone of silence while I worked with non-public builds of the product. I’ll be publishing lots of new and updated Silverlight samples in coming weeks highlighting the best new features of the platform. But I have another reason for writing today.
My latest Wicked Code column is online. It takes a deep dive into Silverlight Deep Zoom and shows how to build image tiles on the fly. But what’s significant (for me, anyway) is that it’s my last Wicked Code column. I have officially retired as a magazine columnist.
I’ve been writing articles for computer magazines since 1986, and for most of the intervening 23 years, I’ve written regular columns as well. Writing a column is fun, but it’s also a grind. During the early 90s, I was often on the hook for several columns a month: two a month for PC Magazine, and one each for other magazines such as PC/Computing and Microsoft Systems Journal (the forerunner of MSDN Magazine). At the same time, I was usually writing a book and trying to put food on the table for the family.
For the first time in more than two decades, I don’t have a single book or magazine deadline looming over me. It’s liberating. And it frees me up to do more blogging about technical topics, something I enjoy immensely. I used to look at books and magazines as vehicles for teaching, to get the word out about new technologies and provide fun and practical tips regarding their use. Times have changed, and a blog is an incredibly powerful teaching tool that gets the information out there without delay due to lead times and publishing schedules. In fact, I can’t imagine being a developer today without blogs and other online resources to help out when the going gets tough.
Last week I pulled all my MSJ and MSDN Magazines out of storage boxes and took a trip down memory lane. I have every issue since the one in which my first article appeared in November 1988. My first regular column—MS-DOS Q&A—debuted in the November 1991 issue and ran until May 1995. Wicked Code began in August 1996. As best as I can recall, the column was Eric Maffei’s idea. He was editor-in-chief in those days and he called me and said “How would you like to start a new column?” We kicked around ideas for topics and titles and I believe it was Eric who came up with the name Wicked Code. He said “just write something cool every month,” and who could turn that down? Columnists are often boxed in and restricted to writing about certain topics. From the beginning, the folks at MSJ/MSDN gave me the freedom that every writer dreams about, and the editors there have always been the absolute best. It has always been a blast writing for MSJ/MSDN, and I hope to continue to contribute occasional articles.
For the record, let me state that never—not once—has MSJ/MSDN asked me to alter what I’ve written to avoid criticizing Microsoft or a Microsoft product. I’ve heard people say that the magazine is “biased” and that it would never publish anything critical of the mother ship. Not true, and I can attest to that personally.
I’m feeling more than a little old as I write this. I have many wonderful memories of my years at the magazine, particularly of Eric Maffei, Tony Rizzo, Joanne Steinhart, Josh Trupin, Stephen Toub, and others too numerous to name. Virtually all of these folks have moved on now, but my hat’s off to them for building what I believe was (and still is) the best developers journal in the world. I am proud to have been a small part of the MSJ/MSDN franchise.