The Imaginative Universal

Studies in Virtual Phenomenology -- by @jamesashley, Kinect MVP and author

How to find a Silverlight Expert

Despite being available for several years now in different forms, Silverlight is still a technology that few developers are experienced in using.  Not many companies have roles for fulltime Silverlight developers, which limits the opportunities for developers to become proficient in using it.

On the other side, when a company has need of a Silverlight developer they want someone with a lot of experience.

This makes finding a Silverlight developer very difficult.  Contrarily, it makes being a Silverlight expert very rewarding.

An additional complexity is that there are different kinds of Silverlight experts.  Some are Line-of-Business Silverlight developers.  They are primarily concerned with questions such as whether to use REST, WCF SOAP services or RIA Services in order to retrieve data.  They compare the advantages and disadvantages of using MEF versus Prism.  They spend their free-time developing better MVVM frameworks and they spend most of their development time with Visual Studio open.

Integrators are a different breed of Silverlight expert.  They spend most of their time in Expression Blend and are concerned with how a Silverlight application looks.  This is often mistakenly referred to as eye-candy.  It is much more than that.  Integrators are proficient at making a compelling experience.  They devote their energies toward timing animations, making applications usable, and drawing the user into the Silverlight experience.  They are practitioners of subtlety and believe that the best user experience is one the user doesn’t even notice. Getting a Silverlight application to talk to a database is important, but if it looks bad no one is going to use it.  Some Integrators, by the way, also spend their free-time developing better MVVM frameworks.

If you are fortunate, you will find a Silverlight developer who does LOB work as well as Integration.  But you have to know what kind of SL developer you are looking for.

The best place to find a Silverlight expert – besides at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond – is probably Microsoft’s MVP site.  The MVP program is sponsored by Microsoft and recognizes accomplished developers in a variety of specializations.  One of the specializations is Silverlight.  There are currently 52 Silverlight MVPs worldwide.  There are an additional 30 Blend MVPs.

In addition to Blend and Silverlight MVPs, you will find that many Phone, ASP.NET and especially Client App Dev MVPs are also now working in Silverlight fulltime but haven’t shifted their designation.  This is quite a large pool of Silverlight experts to work with and at least a few should be in your region.

And then there are the creme-de-la-creme Silverlight Experts.  Some are independent and some work for companies or consultancies.  They are mostly known by word-of-mouth and no two lists of who are the best Silverlight experts are going to be quite the same.  At the risk of missing a few, here is a non-exhaustive and unordered list of people I consider to be Silverlight gurus:

Shawn Wildermuth, Jeff Prosise, Corey Schuman, Jeff Paries, Rick Barraza, Robby Ingebretson, Erik Mork, Bill Reiss, Justin Angel, Jonas Follesoe, Laurent Bugnion, Adam Kinney, Page Brooks.

I know I’ve forgotten someone important and I apologize in advance.

Among consultancies that specialize in Silverlight work, the three I know the most about are Pixel Lab, Vertigo and Wintellect.

Pixel Lab is simply the all-star team for Silverlight and Windows Phone development with Robby Ingebretson, Kevin Moore and Adam Kinney all working there.

Vertigo is well known for doing high-profile, beautiful Silverlight sites.  They also have a very close relationship with Microsoft.

Wintellect is another boutique consultancy that happens to specialize in Silverlight back-end work.  They are headed up by Jeffrey Richter, Jeff Prosise and John Robbins and tend to hire only the best.

If you are looking for Silverlight training rather than Silverlight development, both Shawn Wildermuth and Erik Mork are excellent trainers who cover the Silverlight field.

How to become a Silverlight Expert


I am a Silverlight Expert (And So Can You!).

You may have come across this con before.  You find a short ad in a magazine or a newspaper or a flyer that offers you a secret recipe for making lots and lots of money from your home.  All you have to do is send in $10.

A friend of a friend of a friend of mine actually did this.  The secret recipe is that you create an ad in a magazine or a newspaper or a flyer offering a secret recipe for making lots and lots of money and all people have to do is send you $10.

If you google (or google on Bing) for a Silverlight Expert you are likely to come across this blog entry by Caleb Jenkins: 5 Steps to becoming a Silverlight Expert in which Caleb pretty much explains the secret recipe.  You write a blog post with the words “Silverlight” and “Expert” in it and, wham, bam, there you go.  Instantaneous SEO success.  Put Silverlight Expert in your meta tags (go ahead and check mine now, if you like; I’ll wait) and there you go.  More SEO magic.  Link anchors to other sites that score high for this particular set of keywords is also very effective.

In addition to Caleb, a Silverlight Expert search on the web will likely bring up Erik Mork, Corey Schuman and Shawn Wildermuth.  For the record, they all really are Silverlight experts just as Caleb really is.  Erik and Corey are recognized by Microsoft as Silverlight MVPs and Caleb is an ASP.NET MVP.  Shawn has been an institution in the MVP program for a decade.

Besides saying you are a Silverlight expert, you can also, of course, pay to be a Silverlight expert.  A google search today will lead with three paid spots for Northridge Interactive, Implicit Web and Axmor.  Are they Silverlight experts?  I don’t really know.  All I can say is that paying to be recognized as Silverlight experts doesn’t mean you are not Silverlight experts.

You may have come across this joke before:

Socrates: “To be is to do."

Sartre: "To do is to be."

Sinatra: "Do Be Do Be Do."

I first came across it in a 1985 Luc Besson film called Subway starring Christopher Lambert (of Highlander fame).  It exemplifies, trivializes and then revitalizes an ancient philosophical debate between the man of action and the man of words about what is the best life – that is, a debate between the politician and the philosopher/scientist.

For the politician, words and public speaking are a form of doing – it has a goal, to convince the polis on a course of action.  For the philosopher, action is a form of being.  What we do reveals the sort of person we are – and so we must choose our actions carefully.  Socrates drinks the hemlock because that is the sort of man he is.

Only in modern times have we thrown up a third option for the best life – a life achieved through marketing.  We should give a nod to the German transcendentalists for laying the groundwork for this third way, since they developed and expanded on the concept of “appearing.”

In the world of marketing, “to appear” to be something is “to be” it.  The world is nothing more than a representation, after all -- a collective agreement on what we value and what we believe.  Both the speeches of Pericles and the final moments of Socrates in the Apology can now be seen as great marketing moments that were memorable as well as influential.  If we could only go back in time and get a product placement in there somehow.

In a virtual world dominated by marketing, the secret recipe to success seems to be a recognition that “to say” is “to do”.  If you don’t believe me, just check Wikipedia.

If you want to “really” be a Silverlight expert, however, then there just are no shortcuts.  You’ll have to just do it*.

[* “Just do it” was coined by marketing guru Dan Wieden for an extremely successful Nike campaign and is probably copyrighted. According to the film Art & Copy it was inspired by the last words of a death row inmate as he was waiting to be executed.]