Rob Caron

Developer-related topics and other stuff.

The Greatest Story Never Told

The Greatest Story Never Told

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While reading the comments on Sam Gentile's post, What's Great about Being a Microsoft Developer, I followed a link to a post by Martin Plante that ended with: 

So for me, the "Microsoft Way" is only a street name, as there is no Microsoft Way, no real influence in the future decisions we make, no single "graspable" philosophy, just an aggregation of bits. Microsoft sells bits. Microsoft sells ingredients. But don't ask them for recipes.

Source: slimCODE, aka Martin Plante : Microsoft: No recipes, just ingredients

Their posts got me thinking about something that's been nagging me for months: What is the Microsoft Developer Story? What is that "single 'graspable' philosophy" that puts everything into perspective? Is it even possible to capture it in a single story anymore? Thirty-two years after releasing our first developer tool, Altair BASIC, we now have a list of ingredients that seems to grow faster and more complex every year.

I think the steps we're taking for Managing Complexity on MSDN are steps in the right direction, but it I think it only provides the framework for the story. Walter Fisher proposed a theory called the Narrative Paradigm that "all meaningful communication is a form of storytelling or to give a report of events and so human beings experience and comprehend life as a series of ongoing narratives, each with their own conflicts, characters, beginnings, middles, and ends."

I don't think technical content is exempt from the narrative paradigm. I think this is one reason why blogs by people like Raymond Chen and Joel Spolsky are so successful - they don't just dish tech babble, they tell stories. In addition, their posts appeal to our narrative rationality:

Fisher says that not all stories are created equally. He thinks that everyone has the same innate ability to determine the narrative rationality (interpreted value) of the stories we hear based upon two aspects. First we examine the narrative coherence. This is our way of determining if the story holds together and makes sense in our world. Then we check the narrative fidelity. Here we see if the story matches our own beliefs and experiences and, hence, portrays the world we live in.

Source: A Brief History and Theory of Speaking: Walter Fisher's Narrative Paradigm

Once we start to tame the complexity of MSDN, I think we'll be in a better position to tell the Microsoft Developer Story, which over the years has grown into a multi-volume tale consisting of several, more focused stories - such as the Microsoft Developer Story for Windows Developers or the Microsoft Developer Story for Game Developers. Until then, it remains a messy pantry of ingredients.

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