I’m going to wander philosophically for a little bit about the very recent yet surprisingly welcome divergence of my job role.
Though the functions are much the same, the differences feel pronounced.
The primary job of a technology evangelist is to know technology, connect with people, and inspire.
That’s my definition at least.
I work hard to understand the concepts behind Microsoft technologies - our platforms, frameworks, applications, and libraries.
Then, I work to create genuine engagements with folks online and in person. The key word there is genuine. I’m not here to blow smoke. There’s no room in the industry for shills.
Then, I do my best to relay the bits about bits that will really turn people’s cranks. There really are a lot of developer concepts that make me go “whoa… that’s completely awesome.” I’m thinking about the first time I saw zen coding, the first time I saw Signal R, or the first time I wrote a Node.js app.
So what’s changing? Well, nothing and everything.
I’ll focus on the everything.
Think about three years ago. I mean architecturally speaking. Pretty different, right? The cloud as we know it was still nascent, and the Internet of Things concept was not really on most people’s minds. Fundamentally, app domains were narrow. Your total app was that code running on your client’s device, and perhaps included some cloud data and authentication.
We were still talking about the 3 screens that each person was going to have connected to the internet - not the 47 different gadgets, sensors, and other things.
Right now, we’re in an ambiguous time. Blogs and tweets about with decent speculations of what the imminent future of technology will look like, but I feel like a few bombs have dropped - 3D printing… boom!, cloud-based platform as a service options… boom!, and an unlimited number of device form factors… boom! - and everyone’s still trying to get the ringing out of their ears and adjust to their new surroundings.
That’s where I’m at. I’m resurrecting formulas I studied in my electronics degree decades in the past. I’m doing Azure training on new features weekly it seems. I’m trying to keep up.
When I on-boarded at Microsoft, they said it’s going to feel like drinking from a fire hose. It hasn’t stopped and someone turned the hose up on me. And don’t think I’m saying I don’t LOVE IT.
One unavoidable component of this modern evolution is what you might call the Maker Movement. It’s not new, but I think it has new steam. It could just be me, but I don’t think so.
What gives the maker movement its appeal? It’s a subjective question, but for me, it’s just a perfect definition of what we have been doing anyway - we’ve been building things. We’ve been making. Today, however, the convergence of a number of technology categories has enabled someone with the maker gene to step into a few categories.
I can do some design, make a site, a cross-platform app, an electronic device, and an enclosure. If I’m ambitious (which I am), I can build a UAV and strap it on, then fly it around the neighborhood. Then I can upload the design, the code, and the end video all to Instructables, and get good feelings from giving back to the community.
And all of these things have something in common. It’s making. It’s essentially taking chaos and turning it into order. The meaning of the order is determined by the producer and interpreted by the consumer, but it’s usually order (about half of the YouTube videos out there withstanding :)
It’s all pretty inspiring. I’m thinking again about those “Awesome!” moments. I’m thinking about when my colleague Bret Stateham and I pulled a creation out of the laser printer in the Microsoft Maker Garage the other day and then proceeded to look at each other and go “Awesome!”. I’m thinking about the first time I hooked into the elegance of Twitter’s Streaming API.
Putting a raw piece of plywood into a laser cutter and pulling out the intended shape is certainly the ordering of chaos, and so is writing code. It’s all just arranging atoms and bits into patterns that communicate something to the consumer.
Whether it’s code, wood, plastic, DC motors, or solder, it’s all media for making. It’s all awesome!