October 15, 2003 spout

How Does One Obtain Inside” Information?

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I got an email today from John Reilly today asking me a question I get from time to time:

I got my signed copy of your book. It is a great read. You have information that a friend and I have been trying to dig out for weeks.

Which leads me to our question. How do you find out all those details? They are not to be found in the MSDN documentation, as far as we can tell. Do you just experiment, like we do? We have been unable to find any .NET training that is much more than how to use the IDE. Alan and I crave detail, meat, the stuff of your book. Seriously, how does one obtain this seemingly inside information? We are personally and professionally motivated weenies.

Now that I’m a Microsoft employee, I have access to not only the source for most of what I’m researching, but the architects and internal mailing lists populated by the developers on the project, so that really is inside information.” However, over the 8+ years that I was a contributing member of the Windows developer community, 99% of what I’ve done has not been based on inside information. So, before I had access to internal info, how did I figure stuff out if the docs don’t answer my questions? I do the following, in order of decreasing frequency:

  • I experiment, writing hundreds of projects consisting of 10 lines of code or less to experiment with particular features
  • I read the source, even if that means reverse engineering it first (Reflector is fabulous for .NET code)
  • I search on the Microsoft-specific Google search page
  • I IM, email and call my friends who know more than I do (which is most of them : )
  • I ask questions on my favorite mailing lists and newsgroups
  • As a last resort, I ask my friends at MS. Buying a Microsoftie a beer at a conference, being smart in online forums and saying nice things about their technologies are all excellent ways to gain friends at MS