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Visual Basic and Respect

Will VB's new LINQ to XML prowess finally gain it the community respect accorded to other mainstream languages?

feel that all my life, I've been channeling Rodney Dangerfield (may he rest in peace). For those of you too young to remember ol' Rodney, he was a comedian, most famous during the '80s, whose catchphrase was "I don't get no respect." When you hear someone refer to Rodney Dangerfield as part of a metaphor, the assumption should be that they're referring to the fact that they, too, don't get any respect. (Nothing like having to explain your jokes, right?)

In any case, when I was a kid, the cool kids smoked cigarettes and rode motorcycles and played football (this was the early '70s, in Texas, mind you). I, on the other hand, played the piano and did my homework. Not cool. No respect. After college, when I started teaching, did I teach a cool subject and coach a cool sport? Nope. I conducted the glee club and taught geometry.

When I started in the software industry, I started in technical support. Even back then, when software support actually occurred in the US of A, tech support got no respect. Certainly, the developers who worked at the company didn't respect us. So I figured, "I'll get a job in development, and then I'll get some respect." Not so. I got a job working on translations with the development team, and the "real" developers gave us no respect. So then, I figured "I'll get a job on the real development team, and then I'll get respect." Well, not quite. In our company, the software team I was on didn't get any respect, because their product didn't sell as well as the "big" product.

Even after leaving the corporate world, I've "tied my cart" to products that, well, never seem to get the respect they deserve. I spent years programming in Microsoft Access, and you know how most of the development world feels about Access as a development platform. When the .NET revolution began, I, of course, focused on Visual Basic, because I had spent years and years honing skills with that language. And now, look: Visual Basic doesn't get respect. "Real" developers use C#, right? (I say that sarcastically, in case you missed that subtlety.)

Actually, I shouldn't complain. I get the respect that I need. I'm just looking for a tie in with the technical portion that follows. But I did have dinner last night with the woman who's conducting the community theater production I'm currently playing piano for. We were discussing trying to control the 13-piece orchestra, and she popped out, "Well, you know, I'm the Rodney Dangerfield of conductors." My response: "One gets the respect one demands." And that's my theory: if you do work that garners respect, you get the respect. (And she does, and people respect her. I have no idea where the comment came from.)

Did I mention that Rodney Dangerfield actually spoke at the festivities surrounding my college graduation? I feel he's been with me all my life…

But back to Visual Basic and getting the respect one demands. Visual Basic, in the .NET world, has been continually fighting public perception issues. I still love programming in Visual Basic, but there are times when the disdain in an audience is palpable when I do a code-heavy presentation using Visual Basic in public. (Real programmers, by the way, can read and write Visual Basic and C# with similar ease. That's my theory, and I'm sticking with it.)

In Visual Studio 2008, both Visual Basic and C# have added some really great new language features. I love implicit type declaration, the use of anonymous types, and more. C# has some advantages in the new environment, but I must confess: there's one specific area where Visual Basic has pulled way out in front, and severely demands the respect it deserves. That area is in the support for LINQ over XML. (Actually, Visual Basic excels at LINQ in general, but most clearly, when it comes to handling XML.) Let me show you some comparative code samples, to prove my point.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in the January/February 2008 issue of CoDe Magazine, and is reprinted here by permission.

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