Contributor Stories: Ed Burns
Published Apr 17 2023 05:40 AM 3,268 Views

If you have ever taken any training modules or learned something new by going through the official documentation, the material you used was probably written or co-authored by one or many contributors. These individuals offer their time and expertise to cover knowledge gaps in our portfolio or to keep the existing content current.

In this series, we’ll interview repeat contributors to the Microsoft Learn platform to get to know them better and learn what motivates them to keep contributing.

Today, we're thrilled to introduce you to Ed Burns, Microsoft's Principal Architect on the Java Tooling and Experiences team. Ed has an extensive background in client and server-side web technologies dating back to 1994, including working on web browsers like NCSA Mosaic, Netscape 6, and Mozilla. He has also contributed to the development of Java technologies like the Sun Java Plugin, Jakarta Tomcat and JavaServer Faces, and the Servlet specification.

Ed has even led or co-led expert groups for Serverlet and JavaServer Faces, making him a leading voice in shaping the Java ecosystem. Aside from his contributions to Java development, Ed has also authored four books with McGraw-Hill. His publications include JavaServer Faces: The Complete Reference, Secrets of the Rockstar Programmers: Riding the IT crest, JavaServer Faces 2.0: The Complete Reference, and Hudson Continuous Integration In Practice.

Ed Burns' contributions to the Java platform documentation ecosystem over the past few years have been incredible. In recognition of his valuable contributions, Brendan Mitchell and Karl Erickson from the Java content team nominated him for his frequent and significant contributions to Java content.

Here are the links to his five recent contributions:

Ed Burns, Principal Architect on the Java Tooling and Experiences team at MicrosoftEd Burns, Principal Architect on the Java Tooling and Experiences team at Microsoft

Meet Ed Burns

Sherry: Hi Ed, thanks for joining us today. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your expertise and experience.

Ed: Hi, Sherry. Thanks for having me. I consider myself very fortunate to have had a career full of opportunities to work on exciting projects and collaborate with amazing people. One of the most significant opportunities I had was during my time as a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the early 1990s. As an officer in the ACM student chapter, my knowledge of programming UNIX networking and the X window system landed me a student programmer job on NCSA Mosaic for X - the world's first graphical web browser.

Another magic tuple, as I like to call it, was joining the Java group at Sun Microsystems in 1997. This led to my involvement in the Java community, which continues to this day. Currently, I am a Principal Architect on the Java Tooling and Experiences team at Microsoft, working to make Azure the best platform for Enterprise Java.

Sherry: Your extensive experience and contributions to the tech community are truly impressive. Speaking of your contributions, you're recognized as one of the top contributors in the Java documentation repository. What inspired you to start contributing, and what motivates you to keep going?

Ed: Thank you, Sherry. As the steward of two foundational parts of the enterprise Java stack, Serverlet, and JavaServer Faces, I quickly realized the importance of lowering the barriers to entry for community members to make concrete contributions. I'm passionate about reducing friction and making it easier for others to get involved.

In my book "Secrets of the Rockstar Programmers: Riding the IT crest," I had the opportunity to talk to some of the best programmers in the field to explore the factors contributing to their success. When I saw the inner-source model of Microsoft Docs, using GitHub, I knew it was something special. Microsoft Docs has invested heavily in making it easy for everyone to contribute, and I'm proud to be a part of that community.

Now, whenever I see an opportunity to improve anything in the vast portfolio, I don't hesitate to fix it and submit a pull request. Contributing to the tech community is not just about personal gain but also about helping others succeed. That's what motivates me to keep going and continue making a positive impact.

Sherry: I think it's fantastic that you're so dedicated to helping others succeed. Can you share with us how your contributions to the tech community have helped you acquire new skills and advance your career?

Ed: Absolutely! Contributing to the tech community has been a valuable experience for me on many levels. Trust is at the core of Microsoft's values, and contributing to the community has helped me build trust with my peers and colleagues. While making a small contribution to the Azure Architecture Center, I had to learn how the content was organized to ensure that my contribution was useful. As I look forward, I'm eager to make an even more significant impact in the coming semester by contributing more to the community.

Sherry: That's great to hear. What advice would you give to those who are interested in contributing to open-source content but are unsure of where to start?

Firstly, it's crucial to know your audience. Using the Microsoft Style Guide and Acrolinx tool helps me stay focused on the developers who use our software and avoid using too complicated language.
Secondly, I recommend starting with the contributor guide. This resource is an excellent place to begin, including templates, guidelines, tips, and tricks for contributing to open-source content. Finally, it's essential to be mindful of the language you use. For instance, instead of using the word "click," use "select" to be more inclusive and accessible.

Sherry: Your insights on contributing to open-source content are very valuable, Ed. On a different note, could you tell us about your hobbies or interests outside of work?

Ed: Sure thing, Sherry. One of my favorite hobbies is music. While I'm not a super talented musician, it's a fun and enjoyable pastime. Another hobby of mine is classic video game emulation. I'm a big fan of the TI-99/4A and enjoy exploring classic games in my free time.

Sherry: That sounds like a great way to relax and have fun. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience contributing to open-source projects?

 Ed: I found it super helpful to have a docs mentor. In my case, it is Karl Erickson. Without Karl's mentorship, I would not feel as confident as I do with contributing to docs. I am grateful for his support and expertise.

Sherry: That's a great point, Ed. Having a mentor can be incredibly beneficial, especially when starting out in a new area. It's great to see how your mentorship with Karl has helped you become more confident and successful in your contributions to open-source projects. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights with us today. It was a pleasure talking with you!


Ed’s recent contributions to Microsoft Learn:

To keep up with Ed:

To learn more about contributing to Microsoft Learn, visit the Microsoft Learn documentation contributor guide.



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