Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a yearly tradition: the Year in Review edition of The Catch Block!
In this edition, let's look back at (really not great) year that was 2020 to find the top events, reads, and people in the world of programming this year.
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We can't really acknowledge 2020 without talking about the single biggest event this year: the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health issues aside (as I am certainly not qualified to discuss those), living in a COVID world has changed how we work. The vast majority of us are now working from home, at least temporarily, and have had to get used to the issues that come along with that.
On the one hand, being able to wake up later and not have to commute is fantastic! On the other, many of us are missing that person-to-person interaction and collaboration that comes with working in an office, and the connections it can lead to. Remember: this is not a normal situation, and it's OK to not be OK right now.
But there is hope: a couple vaccines have been approved and are being distributed to first responders and medical workers as you are reading this. At some point in the future, we will have reached herd immunity, and much of our pre-COVID life will be able to come back. We just need to hold out until then.
As I told my kids: this will almost certainly be the only time we have to deal with this kind of situation in our lifetimes.
With the elephant in the room sufficiently acknowledged, let's turn our attention to some major events that happened in the programming world this year.
Events in the Programming World
- Back in March, Microsoft and Github acquired NPM, thereby ensuring that the backbone of web development will remain supported for the near future.
- In May, Microsoft held its popular Build conference virtually. The conference itself was a huge success, and included announcements like MAUI, a new C# type called Records, and Codespaces. Due to the pandemic, a great many other major conferences were held virtually, from smaller, more local ones like CodePaLOUsa up to major national ones like NDC and the more recent GitHub Universe.
- In October, the case Oracle v Google was argued in front of the United States Supreme Court. The outcome of this case could have huge ramifications for our industry and open source software in particular, and I encourage you to read about it at Electronic Frontier Foundation.
- In November, the long-awaited release of .NET 5.0 came to fruition. I am very much looking forward to getting to use the latest edition of .NET in all my projects.
- Throughout the year, more and more vital web services and platforms got a dark mode. From StackOverflow in March to GitHub just a couple weeks ago, I personally am very appreciative that more and more people and services are noticing usability issues and helping to fix them. Also, I just love dark mode.
My Favorite Things I Wrote
In February, I published a series of posts about how to improve your technical speaking skills. Though it didn't get as much traction as I would have liked, I'm still proud of it, and I use many of the tips in this series in my own talks.
Back in July I switched the design of Exception Not Found to a new, paid Ghost theme called maido. I am still extremely happy with this design, primarily because it lets me get some color up in my blog. You, dear subscribers, are the reason I was able to get a theme that costs real money in the first place.
A while later, in September, I started my longest mega-series yet: C# in Simple Terms. The goal of this series was to introduce concepts in C# readers who might be familiar with another programming language, but needed a way to more easily understand how C# functions and what kinds of features it has. You, dear readers, should stay tuned, because a special announcement will be happening concerning this series after the first of the year.
The Best Reads of 2020
In keeping with the spirit of this issue being the year in review, here are the best articles and blog posts I read this year. Each of these were featured in at least one issue of The Catch Block.
- Phil Haack has a wonderful working from home series that he started publishing right as COVID was becoming a real problem here in the States. The four part series contains posts about How to Work From Home, How to Lead From Home, Geographically Distributed Teams, and When Remote Work Goes Wrong. All of these are useful posts separately, but together they are something more: a handy guide to the situation we all suddenly found ourselves in.
- Rion Williams touched on something a great many of us were feeling as the pandemic kicked into high gear in April: that this whole situation sucks. His thoughts were echoed by people from Scott Hanselman to Bill Gates. Though the situation is getting better, it's still not great.
- It's a bit strange to think that an article with a clickbait-y title like "23 Alternative Career Paths that Software Developers Can Grow Into" is one that I'm still thinking about months after it was published. But I do think that I am not going to be a software developer forever, so it's worth pondering the long term from time to time.
- I consider it an essential skill to be able to write "readable" code, but Trisha Gee's article "Reading Code is a Skill" is a fantastic as to why we should never assume that just writing readable code is enough. After all, what does "readable" even mean?
- Finally, and just because it's tremendously fun and more than a little nostalgic, check out the implementation of classic arcade game Galaga in Blazor. There's also a GitHub repository for it. I think I'm gonna need more quarters!
Blogger of the Year: Khalid Abuhakmeh
I did a study of all the issues of The Catch Block that I published this year, and in my Quality Reads section, one name appears more than all the others: Khalid Abuhakmeh.
His personal blog (khalidabuhakmeh.com) is chock-full of tips for C#, .NET, and Microsoft-realm programmers, most of which are at least interesting, if not straight-up fantastic. One of his articles was featured all the way back in issue #1, and it seems like he gets an article into the newsletter every third or fourth issue. And this is without even mentioning that he also writes for the JetBrains (makers of Resharper) blog.
Seriously, check his stuff out. If you're anything like me, you'll love both the C# content and the retro-future design for his post headers.
Thank You Subscribers!
I can't do any of this (Exception Not Found, Blazor Games, The Catch Block) without you and your support. Your subscriptions enable me to do more projects, write more posts, send more emails, and generally be as good as writer as possible without having to rely on ads. I am in your debt.
A very sincere thanks goes to Michael, Paul, Kerry, Mahery, Joseph, Robert E., Olivier, Nicolas, Mark, John, Vishal, William, Christian, Mike, Peter, Robert C., Danilo, Dhanuja, Loren, Malcolm, Alexandra, Franz, Frederick, Sandor, Panduranga, Emily, Neyt, Timothy, and Felipe, plus those whose names I do not have because Stripe did not require it at the beginning :). Your continued support means I can keep doing what I love: writing the best technical articles on the web.
Previews and Announcements
- No cookie for you (Nat Friedman) - Apparently GitHub hates cookie banners as much as everyone else, so they decided to get rid of them by getting rid of all non-essential cookies.
- What’s next for System.Text.Json? (Layomi Akinrinade)
- An F# Primer for curious C# developers (Ianeas)
- Scaling a Monolith Horizontally (Derek Comartin)
- The art of Rubber Ducking or Rubber Duck Debugging (Scott Hanselman)
- A Guide To Making A Good Pull Request (James Croft)
- How to Effectively Skill Up As A Developer? (Adhithi Ravichandran)
- The State of .NET: Q&A Compilation (Galina Jordanowa)
Catch Up with the Previous Issue!
Thanks for reading! The Catch Block will be off for the next two weeks so I can enjoy the holidays with my family. Regular issues will resume Wednesday, 6 January 2021.
We'll see you next year!