.NET Expert: Chris Payne
week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive
interview with, Chris Payne, an international expert
in the .NET framework. Two of his most recent books
include the best selling “SAMS Teach Yourself
ASP.NET in 21 Days” and the recently published “SAMS
Teach Yourself .NET Windows Forms in 21 Days.” We
caught up with Chris in Orlando Florida.
Q: First of all, thank you for agreeing to this
A: Absolutely! I'm glad to be of service.
Q: Having established your expertise to an
international audience through your writings, what
does your wife Eva think about you being a noted
A: She's very excited about it. In fact, I think she
tells people about it more than I do, which is
Q: What led you into computing? Have you had an
opportunity to use your biomedical engineering
A: I've been interested in computers for as long as
I can remember. When I was young, I was mostly into
video games, and as I got older, I wanted to start
programming those video games (in fact, I still have
some designs I created from middle school). That's
how I started programming, though I never get very
far into building games. Once I got my own computer
to play with (my first year in university), which
was near the beginnings of the "internet boom," I
started trying to learn everything I could - that's
just my nature. From there, I began to build Web
sites, and the rest is history.
As for biomedical engineering, well, I came out of
high school with a love for physics and biology, and
biomedical engineering was the perfect blend. I
realized, though, after a few years in college that
it wasn't for me - too much time required in a lab,
which just isn't my idea of fun.
Q: How did you get involved in writing? Looking
back, would you do anything differently?
A: Writing has been another one of my hobbies for a
long time; I used to write short stories throughout
high school. As for technical writing, I (along with
my business partner at the time) was presented with
an opportunity to share my knowledge around the time
we founded Enfused Media. This was a great way to
gain exposure for our company, as well as make
money. I guess my articles caught the eyes of some
publishing companies, because after a few months I
was approached to write a book (or two!).
I think I've been very lucky with the opportunities
I've had in writing, and I don't believe I would do
anything differently - it worked out perfectly
thanks to many people I've met along the way.
Q: Can you share some insights from having
co-founded Enfused Media, Inc., which designs and
develops applications to automate business
A: Business or technical? From a business
standpoint, I learned that things don't always go
the way you plan - always have a back up. That said,
however, you don't ever want to be stuck in the
planning stages trying to be prepared for every
possible situation. Sometimes it pays to just jump
out and put yourself at the mercy of the world. And
that applies to more than just business.
Technically, I learned a lot. We developed
automation and management applications for our own
use that were typically only available for hundreds
of thousands of dollars (though ours weren't, of
course, as robust as those). A key point that I took
from that was that anything can be done if you put
your mind to it, and that there is never, never only
one way to do something.
Q: What are some useful tips that you can share from
your book on Windows Forms?
A: Well, rather than a specific tip, what I would
like to say is explore. Explore the documentation.
Explore the framework, and your applications. Almost
all of the time, there are different ways to do any
one thing - the .NET framework is very flexible. If
you are constantly exploring alternatives - even
when you think you know best - you'll only make
yourself stronger, and sometimes even surprise
Q: Do you have some additional tips from your book
A: The previous tip applies to ASP.NET as well. I
think the top tips listed in my ASP.NET book
summarize specific tips very well, and many of them
are similar to what classic ASP are already using.
There's not much loss of skills there.
Q: How will .NET evolve in two years and in five
years? What improvements do you see coming in Visual
Studio.NET, the Common Language Runtime (CLR),
Windows Forms, Web Forms, Web Services, C#, VB.NET,
A: That's a tough question! In the beginning I was
very afraid for .NET - what if it didn't take off?
Or what if Microsoft decided to scrap the whole
thing? Not a good thing if you're writing a book on
I don't think .NET will supplant any of the
technologies currently out there for quite a while,
but it will slowly gain prominence, eventually
replacing older Microsoft technologies.
As for improvements, that's another tough question.
I think all of the .NET technologies have a very
good base to start from. If anything, I see
improvements being made to accommodate the constant
change in the security world.
Q: Can you describe some of the projects that you
have worked on and lessons you have learned from
A: An overriding concept I've learned from my
projects is to listen to what is required. I've
built search engines, content management systems,
employee management systems, and a few others. I
count very, very few unsuccessful projects because
my goal in building the application is to solve
someone's problem. Therefore, I have to have a
thorough understanding of that problem before trying
to begin a solution. With that in mind, you'll
always end up with satisfied clients, and a stronger
final product. This applies to everything from the
smallest project to the largest.
Q: What are the hottest topics that all IT
professionals must know to be successful in the
short term and long term?
A: It's difficult to generalize a set of skills to
all IT professionals - it really depends on what one
is trying to do. In general, and these don't
necessarily apply only to IT professionals:
A few other things in the Microsoft community you
- Focus. Just because there are 20+
programming languages/databases/web servers/etc
out there doesn't mean you need to know them
all. The more you focus on one thing, the better
you'll be, and the more in demand your skills
will be - regardless of what you focus on.
- That said, always be ready to learn. You
can't spend a large amount of time on every new
thing that comes out, but make decisions based
on your interests, and at least follow the news
on new technologies. Be a student.
- The .NET Framework. If you aren't familiar
with it yet, you'd better start.
- Security - you don't need to be a security
expert, but at least learn strong coding
techniques. It's nice to say, "Oh, I've already
built a fix to that bug into the application"
when a new vulnerability comes about.
Q: What would be your recommended top ten references
for the serious software specialist?
A: This often surprises people, but I'm not really
into computer books. I love to have them as
references, but often find that the information
contained within doesn't cover all aspects of
whatever they are dealing with. For example, a book
that focuses on a particular coding style misses the
benefits obtained from other styles, by design. Many
people, unfortunately, then take this limited view
as dogma, thus holing themselves in. I obtain much
more of my knowledge from the internet, or other
more volatile areas. I'd say, in no particular
- MSDN - for all Microsoft related
- 4guysFromRolla.com - very good ASP site
- www.sqlteam.com - a lot of valuable SQL tips
- Google - if you can't find it in one of the
above sites, you'll probably find it here
- www.sql-server-performance.com - more great
- www.wdvl.com - very valuable resource for
HTML, ASP, and so on.
- Any and all documentation - there is often
tons of untapped material in any given
technology's documentation - the more you know
the docs, the better off you are
- www.15seconds.com - another good ASP and COM
- For Dummies books - I love this series of
books - anytime I need a quick primer on any
technology, I look first if there is a dummy
book that covers it. Perfect to get you going.
- Friends - you'll almost always find someone
who know a little more about something than you
do. Other people are your greatest resource.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what four
questions would you ask of someone in your position
and what would be your answers?
A: I'd first ask the same question the same question
that you just asked me - what are your best
Second, what do you see currently as the hottest new
technology - that you would like to or have already
"jumped on?" For me, that would be .NET and Java.
Third, how did you get started doing what you do?
I've explained my answer previously.
Finally, what do you see yourself doing in the
future? I would love to continue writing, eventually
going full time there.
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you
like to give to enterprise corporations and
A: Treat your people well! A happy employee will
turn around and do more for your business than you
asked for. And that doesn't necessarily mean more
money (in fact, money does not equal happiness, as
I'm sure many developers can attest to) - it can be
as simple as a free vending machine day. Many
companies have already discovered this policy, but
there are many more out there that need to learn!
Q: What future books can we expect from you?
A: Well, currently the only technical book I have on
the slate is the second edition of my first book,
Teach Yourself ASP.NET in 21 Days. Other than that,
I'm working on my first fiction novel - it's slow
going, but something I've wanted to do for a long
Q: Thank you for sharing your valuable insights with
us today and we look forward to reading your books,
A: It's been my pleasure, and I'm glad to hear that!