REDMOND – Jan. 13, 2011 – Meet Jialiang Ge, a software developer’s best friend.
Jialiang Ge, a support engineer 2 with Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Community Support
Ge, support engineer 2 with Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Community Support, tries to help out developers surfing for answers at the MSDN, ASP.NET, and Silverlight forums. Each month, Ge and his team wade through thousands of questions and do their best to answer them.
A little more than a year ago, Ge got an idea as he observed that many developers were asking the same questions about programming tasks – what he started calling developers’ pain points.
“If our engineers duplicate the efforts to research each of them, it will not only waste the customers’ time, but also our engineers’ efforts,” Ge said. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we write code samples based on these frequently asked programming tasks, put those code samples in an all-in-one code sample solution, and allow customers to download it for free?’”
And so the All-In-One Code Framework was born. What began as a small side project by Ge and a group of support engineers in Microsoft’s Shanghai office has since grown into a centralized library of code samples that includes all Microsoft development technologies, said Ge, who is now the program manager for the project. Each entry – there are 500 and counting – offers step-by-step instructions on how to develop code for a specific Microsoft technology. The code samples are all based on actual customer questions posted in places such as the MSDN forum.
After a little more than a year, the All-In-One Code Framework has been downloaded more than 300,000 times by developers around the world. A “beautiful increase trend” over that period has driven the project into the Top 3 on CodePlex, Microsoft’s open source project hosting site, Ge said.
In November, the team launched a free code sample request service, encouraging developers to submit code sample topics. Developers can also vote for existing sample topics, and Microsoft engineers pick the topics with the top votes and provide code samples accordingly. This is a new way to listen to developers’ needs and reduce the amount of effort needed for developers to complete their work, Ge said.
Ge’s team is currently partnering with Microsoft’s Product Quality and Online (PQO) team to help spread the word and create knowledge base articles on top of the code samples. Delivering an online self-help experience to reduce customer’s effort in solving problems is a key component of PQO’s mission. They’re also social media pros, Ge said, and they’re spreading the word about the All-in-One Code Framework with Microsoft MVPs and the wider developer community on their social media properties. They helped come up with a series of short, humorous videos that promote the project.
Developer support escalation engineers and knowledge engineers are working with Ge’s team to ensure the quality of the code samples. For example, Dan Rude, a principal escalation engineer, worked with Ge to set the standards of the code samples and streamline the process.
Recently, Ge and his team partnered with the Garage, a network of support for grassroots innovation in Microsoft, to invite more volunteers to add code samples to the ever-expanding library. Fourteen members of the Garage signed up for the project in the first month.
Ge said he’s been pleased with the response to his project. “Today, various code samples are scattered throughout cyberspace, and often of varying quality. Developers usually type a query into Bing or Google and cross their fingers,” he said. “That’s not a very good customer experience.” With vetted samples in one centralized location, the All-in-One Code Framework aims to make life much easier for developers.
Centralized code libraries are rare, Ge said, but they are invaluable to developers.
After early positive feedback from customers, Ge’s bosses gave him the green light to go all-out. He recruited a team of seven engineers to build the library, and from the outset they had big plans for the project. “We wanted to revolutionize code samples,” Ge said. Today the framework includes 500 code samples for technologies such as Azure, Windows 7, ASP.NET, and Silverlight. All samples are available in three different programming languages and are localized for non-English speaking countries.
The team will continue to expand the All-In-One Framework, and their plans for the next two years are no less grand. “We want to change the world of development,” Ge said. “We want to make people’s lives easier and change the programming practice of developers to ‘example-centric programming.’”