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Microsoft, Open Source, & Why It's a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
Microsoft, Open Source, & Why It's a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer

Microsoft Loves Open SourceAs an open source enthusiast and a .NET developer I’ve been watching the transformation of Microsoft happen and it has been great to watch. You see I’m an avid user of DotNetNuke and if you know anything about DNN’s history you know that DNN was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, open source project in the .NET Ecosystem. From 2003 on DNN has been a pioneer in the .NET open source world.

A lot has happened and several trends have come and gone in the Microsoft world since 2003. As an open source project built on Microsoft technology the notion of being open source wasn’t always a popular conversation topic. Being open source wasn’t “cool” and sometimes negative perceptions about open source solutions were visible.

Boy have times changed!

Microsoft is Serious About Open Source… and It’s Not Just Lip Service
One of my college football coaches always said “Your words don’t mean anything, but your actions mean everything.” Actions are a really good sign of what someone really believes. Microsoft’s strategic shift to embracing and focusing on open source over the past few years has been such a refreshing transition to see, feel, and experience for me and my fellow DNN’ers because of the actions we are seeing.

If we look at the recent and strategic moves Microsoft has made it’s easy to see that Microsoft is indeed serious about open source. If you aren’t convinced that Microsoft is serious about open source or if you are not keeping up, let’s look at some of the actions Microsoft has taken related to open source. And these are just the ones I have observed… I’m sure there is even more evidence out there.

  • Open Sourcing of .NET Core - One of the recent Microsoft technologies in the web world is .NET Core. .NET Core is a cross-platform, open source, re-implementation of the .NET Framework and it offers some great features. Releasing .NET Core as open source was a major sign that Microsoft is serious about open source.
  • .NET Foundation Providing Resources For OSS Projects - The .NET Foundation is not technically owned by Microsoft, but it is led by very well recognized names in the Microsoft ecosystem. The .NET Foundation fosters and facilitates open source by providing resources to projects within the foundation. You can find a full list of the resources on the .NET Foundation website and you can see how we in the DNN Community benefit from these resources in my recent blog “5 Reasons We’re Glad to Be Part of the .NET Foundation”.
  • Buying GitHub - In buying GitHub not only did Microsoft make a strategic purchase, but it reiterated the commitment to open source as GitHub is the world’s most popular place for open source.
  • Strategic Position of .NET Open/Source Booth at Build & MS Ignite - I helped out with the .NET Open Source booth in the Expo area at Microsoft’s Build conference and at the recent MS Ignite conference. With all the amazing new technologies and top notch vendors one may think the open source booth would be somewhere stuck in a back corner. Quite the contrary, the .NET Open Source booth was dead in the middle of the action at both events. At MS Ignite, if you came to the expo there’s a high percentage chance you saw the open source booth. This strategic positioning and messaging from Microsoft to developers and IT Pros was simple - Open Source is important to us.
  • Open Sourcing Patent / Joining ION - In another bold move Microsoft open-sourced it’s patent portfolio. OIN (Open Invention Network) is an open source patent consortium and Microsoft just brought 60,000 patents to it. This move is a big one and protects open source projects from patent lawsuits. Here again the messaging is clear, we are serious about open source.

Why It’s a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
There has never been a better time to be a .NET Developer. Literally everything you need to get started building is online and free to use and even better it’s likely open source. Anybody, anywhere can download code, look at it, enhance it, modify it, and submit it back to the projects if desired. If you can dream it, you can build it and you may build an online team of users and contributors to assist you in the process. Microsoft is literally making it easy to build open source projects via the technologies and resources they are providing. They are removing roadblocks for developers and being 100% transparent.

Consider the following capabilities anybody, anywhere has...

  • Want to collaborate on a project - Create a GitHub account and get going
  • Find a bug - Make a pull request
  • Need help - Connect with the developers working on the project or in the open source community
  • Got a Popular OSS project - Join the .NET Foundation
  • Worried about transparency - Everything is developed in the open

In Conclusion
I referenced one of my college football coaches earlier, but he wasn’t the only one to to impart wisdom during my athletic days. My high school coaches had more one-liners than anyone could remember. One line that stuck with me was “If you do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” Microsoft is not only doing the big things, but they are also doing the little things that continue to reinforce their seriousness about open source.

We are watching a culture and paradigm shift occur in real-time and it’s awesome. By going “all in” on open source Microsoft is not only winning the hearts of developers, but they are making it easy for developers to get started with their technologies! I think the strategic decision to embrace open source will have a big impact for Microsoft in the long term.


DNN Prompt: Making DNN Admins Power Admins via the Command Line
DNN Prompt: Making DNN Admins Power Admins via the Command Line

At DNN Summit I learned of a new tool created by Kelly Ford called “DNN Prompt”. I first saw it in a session that Peter Donker gave and it immediately caught my attention. Since then I’ve learned more about it and want to share some initial thoughts on it.

Peter was demoing something related to the persona bar in his session on React.js when he mentioned that he was going to try a “new trick” he’d just learned from Kelly Ford. He then opened a panel up and a command line was visible. He typed in something like “new-extension” and voila, just like that a new extension was created. He closed the panel and moved on with this session, while I was left in amazement wondering what had just happened.

As one of the hosts of DNN Summit I was in and out of rooms all day, taking pictures and tweeting them, and just busy helping out in general. It was hard for me to pay attention to things, but whatever Peter had just done definitely caught my eye. I turned to the person beside me and asked them what was that panel he just used. I thought it may have been some Powershell script or something. The person to my left didn’t know either.

Enter DNN Prompt
After asking around and nagging enough people I learned that this new feature was called “DNN Prompt”. Prompt is the latest and greatest from Kelly Ford who most of the DNN Community knows as being the creator of XMod

Thinking back on it I think I remember hearing whispers around the DNN Community that Kelly had been working on something that was really cool, but yet I never heard any details. Now I’d seen it in action and was connecting the dots.  At first glance I thought it was black magic of sorts.

In the time since DNN Summit I’ve been able to connect with Kelly and the team of people working on DNN Prompt and actually use the tool. It is definitely neat. In this blog I want to provide a quick intro video on DNN Prompt and relevant links for those who are interested.

The Return to the Command Line
It seems there’s been a recent trend going back to the command line among developers. If you look around at NPM, Node.js, etc. you’ll find the command line being used more and more. Even Kelly’s recent presentation to the Southern Fried DNN User Group here in Charlotte referred to this notion as his title was “How Something Old Can Make DNN New Again”. 

Although the user interface for the command line is not as “user friendly” as a wizard based approach it does allow for faster execution of tasks. When you think about it, it really makes sense because the users of this kind of tool are typically admins or developers… not content editors… and they love this kind of power at their fingertips. Don't get me wrong though, this tool is more than just about speed. The vision Kelly has for the tool is very forward thinking and one to get excited about.

DNN Prompt is a Game-Changer
From my first few times using DNN prompt and from seeing people's reactions at the Southern Fried DNN User Group meeting (both in-person and online) I think it’s a game changer for DNN. Everyone's minds were spinning and it didn't take developer's long to see what this could mean for DNN as the tool is extensible. I think Prompt will be a DNN Administrator’s best friend. Normal DNN administrators will now be “Power Administrators” once they use DNN Prompt enough to know the commands by heart. At conferences in the future you’ll see everyone having Prompt installed, using, and referencing it. I plan on using it a lot in my own DNN sites and think that you will end up using it too! Kelly's goal is to get this into the core of DNN Platform and I hope he is successful with that goal.

As you saw in the video, DNN Prompt has the potential to be a game changer for DNN. It will impact the DNN platform, community, and ecosystem. Also, just as Kelly’s earlier DNN creation (XMOD) has done, I believe Prompt could follow a similar path and potentially spawn a new sub-ecosystem for DNN developers and administrators. DNN Prompt could open a new era for development within the DNN ecosystem as the possibilities are endless. Imagine doing all your daily tasks via the command line or imagine modules and other extensions having their own hooks into Prompt. What if you could instantly shut down registrations across 100 portals with one single command or script out batch commands to do whatever you want within your site… it could get interesting quickly!

Get Involved
Kelly ended his presentation with asking people to get involved. He wants to know your feedback, how you envision using the tool, the commands that would be important to you, etc. The good news is taht DNN Prompt is open source and active on GitHub! I know that the team of people developing the solution would love to have more people contributing to the code base and pushing the solution forward.

Here are some links for those of you interested in participating and knowing more:


Clint Patterson

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