Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Saturday, May 31, 2003

Jeffrey Randow says that RSS Bandit has passed Sharp Reader as his favorite RSS aggregator. I can't keep up!

I'm just kidding about the 12 hours a day. Microsoft has never officially asked me to put in any set amount of hours. Most of the employees I've asked say they try to put in a 40 to 50 hour week. But, most of the people I've met are total geeks. Can you turn off your geek gene when you get home from the office? I can't. Last night I was talking with a geek about work stuff at Victors. Was that work? Is this work here? It's Saturday night. I see a whole bunch of geek work being done.

Then there's this article in Fortune magazine about a suit against Nike that has a few of us concerned. Is what we say on weblogs "commercial speech?" Has the simple fact that you know I work for Microsoft tainted this speech?

Personally, I'm gonna act like it has. There's plenty of things to write about that won't get me into court anyway.

Adam Kalsey has asked me to write about my first computer experience. I'm writing it now. But, first, I have to remember what Jr. High was like all the way back in 1977. Yes, that was when Apple was one building and there were still quite a few orchards in Silicon Valley.

Adam Barr (former Microsoft employee) brings up an interesting point. Is blogging on company time (presumably 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) any different than on personal time.

I don't think so. Plus, I'm salaried. I think I'm supposed to put in 12 hours a day. And, is this official work product or not? It's a very gray area.

Personally, I look at it as I'm always a company representative of some kind. At NEC I knew of an executive that got fired for a personal opinion that he posted in a public web forum. Presumably on his own time. That really isn't a defense, though. That's why I think the disclaimer is sorta nutty. Really, if someone gets upset at me, they'll write Steve Ballmer and say "this guy must be stopped" and it doesn't matter if I try to say "it was on my private time time." What do you think?

Eric Norlin says there is one cure for when you feel you should be careful with what you write. He writes an obscenity to his weblog three times.

Today Maryam and I went house hunting and I was reminded just how much work we have to do at Microsoft. At one place a nice lady opened the door for us and said "show yourself around, we're up playing on the computer upstairs." Eventually we got upstairs we overheard her and her husband, both in their 70s, trying to install a new printer on their older computer. Drivers were giving them hell on their Windows XP computer. I listened to them go back and forth "right click on that to see if it's the right one," he said. "It doesn't work," she said.

Just another reminder that our products are too freaking hard to use. They got it setup, though, and are now printing out their grandkids' photos. It's nice to meet average users who are just trying to do basic things. Gets your perspective back onto what really is important for the industry to do.

I'm now reading Matt Croydon's weblog. He's the one who pointed me to Denise Howell. Thanks!

Ryan Lowe: "Browsing Zenith Upon Us?" and "DHTML has reached its practical zenith. People are doing UI things with browsers today that just seem unnatural."

Denise Howell is the best in the weblog world at taking transcripts of events at conferences. Read her stuff about Steve Jobs and Walt Mossberg.

Mary Jo Foley interviews weblogger Randy Holloway about the next version of SQL Server (code-named Yukon).

OK, it's official now. RSS is a big deal. Sun Microsystems just opened up a developer-focused RSS feed, says Nauman Leghari.

Ernie the Attorney talks about why Apple hasn't done a Tablet yet.

I use a Tablet every day now too. My Tablet has a keyboard built in. I don't get the anti-Tablet crowd. Try using your laptop while standing up. I can.

Also, don't assume that the only people who are anti-typing are old. Bad bad bad assumption. Go visit Asia. Or Iran. You ever try to type in non-English languages? I've watched people do that. It's horridly hard.

The Tablet is popular where the Newton wasn't because of one thing: it's a real OS. The OS on a Tablet is simply Windows XP. Anything that you can do on a standard old laptop I can do on my Tablet. It's just a laptop with a digitizer and some new software to make some use of the ink. Nothing more revolutionary than that.

The Tablet is taking off, even despite articles that decry "declining sales." Well, hello, no Tablet manufacturer has released a Centrino yet. Why would consumers pay more for less processor power, is what that report is telling me. On the other hand, NEC's and Toshibas continue to pop up like flies inside Microsoft.

I was just catching up on my BoingBoing reading and saw these Chinese MSN Messenger emoticons for SARS times. Heh!

Trend report from the nine-year-old Silicon Valley crowd: 1) Trading of Yu-Gi-Uh! cards is getting to be nuts. My son has somehow gotten into this craze -- in Silicon Valley the trend has gotten so big that 7-11s are selling the cards now. My son, Patrick, carries his card set everywhere. Last weekend we were in a Chile's in Silicon Valley and he meets another couple of kids who are also carrying their set. They instantly trade some cards.

I don't know what is so cool about these cards, but at $5 for a set of five or so, it sure must be a profitable thing. My son can tell you everything about these cards. Which is pretty much all he did all weekend long.

2) Neopets. Maryam's niece is crazy about Neopets. The first thing she wants to do when she sees me is to get on my computer and start playing with her pets. Neopets keeps the kids busy for hours. It's gotten so that her parents don't let her play it at home. Which, of course, makes her very anxious to come to our hotel and play.

Ahh, complicated family life. Every two weeks we fly down to the valley to see my son and hang out with friends and family.

Tim Bray writes more about his comments on IE. He also says that comments here are disappearing. That's weird. I didn't delete any other people's comments. I'm using the commenting system from Haloscan, though, which is really buggy. I guess the best way to comment on something I've written is to write it on your own weblog and point to me. Send me email if you do.

High-tension performance art, huh? Sometimes that really explains my life.

Eric Hancock: "it must be a pretty powerful drug to be working there in Redmond."

It is, Eric. Yesterday I was meeting with the Tablet PC team. I realized that I was meeting with people who had changed my view of what a computer should do.

But, beyond that, it's the same drug available to geeks anywhere. Build something cool and ship it. That's the true drug. All the rest is just artificial sweeteners.

Everyone cool that I've met in the past few years is someone who is building something. Creating something. Doing something for humanity. Whether working at a charity distributing food. Playing an instrument on the local orchestra. Or writing software that the world uses. That's the drug. The real thing.

But, yeah, the free Cokes here don't hurt.

Yeah, I have noticed the trend for Microsoft employees to add a disclaimer to their weblog (Harry Pierson's DevHawk is the latest).

One of the weblogging guidelines Microsoft has given us is to put a disclaimer on our weblogs. Personally, I just try to make it clear when I'm speaking officially for Microsoft and when I'm speaking for myself only.

The real problem is, I think the whole thing is bull. If I make a mistake that causes PR trouble for Microsoft, do you think a little disclaimer will really help me or Microsoft? You all know I work for Microsoft. You all know I have a lot of connections inside Microsoft. Does anyone really think that my protestations that I'm speaking only for myself will really help if I go off and do something that hurts Microsoft's PR?

You think so, huh? Well, in that case, here is my disclaimer: "The information in this weblog is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. This weblog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer. It is solely my opinion."

Ray Ozzie (founder of Groove Networks) asks: "what is Microsoft's official position on weblogs?"

I really can't say that Microsoft has an official policy one way or another. On our intranet there are a set of guidelines. I'll try to get permission to repost those here. I'll be on a panel discussion on June 17 (Microsoft employees, if you're interested in coming, send me email).

Right now I think we're all trying to figure out what they are good for, how to avoid any bad press, and how to stay out of legal troubles. On the panel discussion is a senior lawyer, so it'll be interesting to hear what the lawyers who work for Microsoft think.

I'm hearing that there's great support from the upper levels of management. I'm hearing that Steve Ballmer regularly reads through weblogs to see what people are saying about Microsoft. The fact that Eric Rudder, a senior vice president at Microsoft, now has a weblog, shows that the highest levels of management are thinking about them.

On the other hand, anyone who works at Microsoft should know that anytime they write something down they are putting their careers at risk. This is a risky business. Anytime you communicate with other people in a way that can be brought into a courtroom, you are putting yourself and your company at risk for getting sued. At risk of losing customers. At risk of pissing people off. At risk of creating a PR nightmare.

Weblogging is like dancing in a field of land mines. I find I've had to make friends in the legal profession. Friends in the PR profession. Friends in the journalistic professions.

Will I step on a landmine I didn't see? It's very possible. I guess that's one reason I have 18 readers who come by here every day. "Will Scoble blow up?"

On the other hand, I'm happy to work for an organization that has some tolerance for making mistakes. I just hope I don't end up being one of those guys who has to explain a mistake to Bill.

Paul Thurrott: "IE development is only important when it can be used to steal market share from other browsers."

Randy Holloway pointed me at that and asked "what say you Scoble?"

I'm gonna stay out of this one. I'm working on seeing if I can get execs to comment publicly, but there are two things I could do to cut my Microsoft career short: 1) Start acting like I know all the reasons for Microsoft doing or not doing things and speaking on behalf of the company. 2) Reveal future product plans without permission of someone very high up in the company.

I've talked with enough people who are working on Internet technologies inside the next version of Windows to know a few of the issues, and I just don't see a way to discuss the issues at this time without getting into career trouble, so I'll wait until the plans are made public.

I was hired as an evangelist for the next version of Windows. Not as a new PR arm of Microsoft or a replacement for Waggener Edstrom. Expanding my job role right now wouldn't be too expedient, you think?

One misperception of Microsoft that I had before coming to work at Microsoft is that all 55,000 employees are working lock step in line with Bill Gates vision. That really isn't true at all. So, finding out the true story really isn't that easy at all anyway. Accurately explaining what's going on here on my own, especially with something as big a deal as a browser just isn't going to be possible without getting a meeting with two or three execs.

Translation: I don't have anything to say. I'd love to sit down with Jim Allchin, Steve Ballmer, and Bill Gates and interview them on this topic, but until I do, I'm gonna let other people take this one on. At least until we have something to show publicly. See ya in late October.

Jake Savin: "the exponential growth of weblogs." For those who don't know, Jake is one of the guys who wrote Radio Userland.

While over at Carter's blog, I learned that O'Reilly's "Google Hacks" book is on the New York Times best seller list. That's amazing. I thought tech books weren't selling.

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 2:34:29 AM.