I just returned from a trip to Redmond, where I had a chance to sit down with (literally) a dozen people whom I've talked with, and exchanged email with but not previously met face to face. It was great.
(I also spent 1/2 hour with Scott Guthrie, and let me tell you, he is a blast. This is not sucking-up [I'm too old for that] he is just a gas to spend time with- he is on top of what is going on and that is because he insists on coding in every technology he is responsible for. He is also a clear believer in giving the people who work for him a lot of room and a lot of rope and seeing if they make a hammock or a noose)
The first question I was asked, by nearly everyone was (essentially): "and what is it you actually do?" Here is how I've come to sum it up: "Many people want to figure out whether or not to use Silverlight vs. some other development technology (for example, to pick something at random, Flash, or Flex). There are a lot of folks at Microsoft who are terrific at helping them figure that out… but not me.
Once a developer decides they do want to develop with Silverlight, that is where I come in. It is my job and commitment to create a community on Silverlight.net where developers can get the information they need to learn Silverlight, to integrate Silverlight into their development work flow, to get their questions answered and, generally to find whatever they need to be productive.
Code, Teach, Write
Before joining Microsoft, I spent the past 15 years dividing my time among three activities: programming, teaching and writing; and that is just how I intend to spend my time now: "teaching" through videos, tutorials and at events such as Mix, Tech-Ed, etc.; writing (watch for Programming Silverlight from O'Reilly Media Summer of 08), and Coding (initially example programs, but eventually considerably more than that). But now, I get to do so from the inside, looking out; it is like being a kid in a candy store at night.
One difference between me on the one hand and the Technical Evangelists and Development Evangelists on the other hand is that I work in ScottGu's group — that is in the Developer Division and as part of the Silverlight development team; and that (to me) makes a big difference. My hope is that this will play itself out more clearly as we move into Silverlight 2.0.
Please do not misunderstand, I have a world of respect for Tim Sneath and the folks who work for him (no joke, he is one of the brightest guys I've met) but his folks and I have somewhat non-overlapping jobs, and that is what makes this all work. Basically; I don't evangelize (at least, not on purpose)
Let The Geek Talk To The Press
A funny thing happened along the way (and, apparently this is pretty unusual). Someone decided that I should talk with the press (which, for a geek new to the company is almost weird. If you've worked for a large company you'll know that one is usually told to direct press inquiries to people who do that for a living.) I recently sat down with the folks who make such decisions and they asked if I wouldn't mind talking with the press quite a bit more, actually. Better, they encouraged me to be open, honest and direct and (their words) never dilute my "developer credibility" by saying anything I didn't believe (not that I would, but it was nice to hear).
So, you may see me quoted in some obscure journal or other, but if I begin to sound like I'm selling Silverlight please slap me silly (preferably here in my blog) so that I knock it off.
Let me say it just once more and then I'll stop: my job is to help you program in Silverlight or get the help you need; it is not to convince you to choose Silverlight (or any other Microsoft product for that matter). As I used to say about my books: I don't like Microsoft products because I write about them, I write about them because I like them. It is fair to say that I don't like Silverlight because I work for Microsoft, but that I literally joined Microsoft because of my enthusiasm about Silverlight and the Silverlight development team. I honestly believe it is the most important new technology in at least a decade, but that is a personal assessment; not one I wish to shove down your throat.
I'll stop going on about this (I'm afraid this may not be my first post on the matter) but it did seem worth repeating as I found there was some confusion even within Microsoft about what the heck it is I do.
Now, it is time I go do it.