Scobleizer Weblog

Today's Stuff Saturday, October 04, 2003

By the way, Microsoft is already moving toward far more transparency in design process. When I was on the Windows 95 beta, the general public didn't see Windows until it was pretty close to being released. At the PDC this year we're taking the wraps off of Longhorn in a VERY EARLY state. Certainly it isn't completely done. Not ready to run on your mom's machines. About two years before it'll be released.

Why are we doing that? To make our product quality higher. To get better feedback into the product. To get people to build software on top of it and learn it before the release. The cynical view probably is that we're doing it to give bloggers something to talk about. Heh.

It's an excellent chance for you to get involved in our development processes and give us feedback about what you'd like to see us work more on (or less on).

Someone wrote me from within Microsoft who is working on a new product that Microsoft hasn't yet released (not a blog tool). He says he's planning to open a blog when he ships version 1.0. He says he isn't able to start a blog yet because the marketing folks want to make a "big splash" when they ship.

OK, I understand that. But, what would happen if we did all of our product planning out in public view?

I think Microsoft would be 10 times bigger than it is today and our products would be even better.

Hey, maybe there +is+ a way to get rich working at Microsoft! ;-)

Cameron Barrett says he has been wearing the same shirts over and over. He's the blogger on the Clark campaign. Hey, Cameron, send me your address and I'll send you a bunch of Microsoft wear. :-)

Maryam is trying to figure out how to get rid of all the shirts I get for various things at Microsoft.

Interesting discussion at BlogCon among the political types. One of the political bloggers said that policy doesn't matter. Cynical view. I've heard it before.

Back in 1992, when I was an editor at San Jose State University, Bill Clinton came to campus. I worked with the advance team (the people who plan and implement the event) to see how the campaign works from the inside. 10,000 people showed up.

At the end of the day, after my pages were designed, and after everything was done, and Clinton was on a plane to somewhere else, the advance team was sitting in the San Jose State bar relaxing and chatting with me. Then the TV news came on, with a story about the day's events. The team immediately turned around. The bartender saw this and asked "do you want me to turn up the sound?"

The advance team members answered back and said "nah, it doesn't matter what he said, it matters how he looks."

Back to the BloggerCon. I think an educated electorate will change this viewpoint. But, who knows? In California there's a movie actor up for governor who has no real experience in governance or in running a large organization. He's leading in the polls.

So, are the cynics right? Does policy matter?

I believe it does. But, then, I'm not a cynic.

You know, that was a big idea I just had. I think I'll tell the MSN team this:

Wanna build a great weblog service? Start a weblog first, put your plans up there, and then boot strap it. Explain your design choices to the world. Explain what your business goals are. Explain your assumptions.

Bootstrap the process! Don't play typical Microsoft and go off in a dark room, spend millions of dollars, come out with a "big product" like Microsoft Bob, and disappear into the black room again.

Start a weblog. Do the entire thing in public view. Help your customers design your software. Imagine that kind of world!

Then, when you launch, I bet you already will have hundreds of interesting, committed bloggers. Plus, you'll have a bug free product.

Could Microsoft design products like this in public view? I wonder.

Joe over at Microsoft Monitor weblogs talks about how Microsoft is missing the weblog product boat. Hey, I'm happy that we're missing that boat. I'd rather that Microsoft focus on making the best platform to build weblogging tools on top of!

Why does Microsoft need to do everything? I'd like to see Microsoft do less and let people build products on top of our platforms. It's healthy for Microsoft to see businesses build on top of our platforms. It's not healthy for our ecosystem to assume we need to do everything.

That said, if I was thinking of building a weblog product, I would not do what Six Apart or UserLand have already done. That won't help you build a business. Instead, come to the PDC and think about what weblogs will look like in three years. I can't wait to see a weblog tool that uses WinFS and Avalon and Aero and delivers a smart client that really rocks and that doesn't try to force all blogging functions into the Web client (Radio UserLand was FAR ahead of its time in this regard -- and the really cool stuff in Radio was never exposed. There's a neat outliner in there that would really be something wild to think about).

Plus, in three years lots of people will have Tablet PCs. Lots will have SmartPhones with cameras. Those are where the emerging businesses are. Those are the ones where the opportunities are. Just copying Six Apart or Radio UserLand or Blogger is just gonna be the wrong path to go down.

Here's how weblogs are changing the world. Jon Box breaks Tablet PC news on his weblog. Before the Internet, how would we have learned about what happened at a little user group in Silicon Valley? Not easily.

Congrats to Infragistics for getting a Tablet PC toolset out.

OK, back to house chores. As I clean, I'm listening to the BloggerCon. The audio is awesome now. Thanks for fixing that. I wish I was there.

On Thursday night Dave Luebbert, one of the first 700 people to work at Microsoft, came and told us all sorts of stories about working on Word for the Macintosh in the mid-80s. Wild.

I wish I recorded the stories. I should take Dave out for dinner and interview him. But, wanted to point you to what he's doing now: playing with music on a Mac.

Dave says he reads my blog to keep in touch with what's going on lately at Microsoft.

One story that he told me is that Bill Gates was not the one at Microsoft who came up with the idea for buying DOS from the Seattle Computer Works (most articles, like this one, give Gates at least the implicit credit). For computer trivia history, who did?

A friend (who I won't "out" -- and who owns his own business) berated me today on IM: "why do you weblog instead of doing something to get rich?"

He claimed I'd never get rich by weblogging. He said that Bill Gates didn't need a weblog.

I found that position to be quite interesting. I know I'll never be rich working for Microsoft. Even if Microsoft's stock quadrupled, there's absolutely no way I'd become a millionaire. At least not at my current salary and stock level.

I don't care because I don't judge my success over how many zeros are in my bank account.

I've met plenty of rich people who are not happy. Money doesn't buy you happiness.

On Thursday night, a bunch of geeks came out for dinner and we had a great time. It didn't matter if you were a millionaire (there was one there) or a guy with not all that much money. We all had a great time and heard some great stories and shared some ideas about technology that were invaluable.

Now, this rich guy's point is that he goes off and sits on a beach in Hawaii for a couple of months a year. That he gets to do whatever he wants. Well, I'd rather do something I love 12 months a year than only two.

So, why do this if not for money? Well, I started doing this mostly for myself. I am a news junkie. A community junkie. A computer junkie. I wanted a way to keep track of the sites I visited that I found interesting. I wanted a way to keep track of people I find interesting. I wanted a way for me to talk to the world about my point of view. I wanted a way to change the way corporations talk with their customers.

Weblogging is that. Now, imagine a world where each product team at Microsoft had a weblog. Imagine that MSN's designers would weblog and explain what they were thinking of doing. Imagine that customers would be able to tell them, in the comments, what they thought of their plans.

Think that'd change how software, how products, are done?

That's my goal now. Let's change the beast. Let's get it to weblog (er, have a conversation with customers)!

One guy at bloggercon this morning says he doesn't like the name "weblog" but rather likes thinking of this new world as "digital paper."

That's a huge breakthrough. The weblogging gesture should be used all over the place. Imagine when Windows crashes, or something goes wrong. Imagine that a dialog comes up and says "please write what happened here." Imagine that goes into a weblog for the employees here to read. Imagine on Monday morning coming in and having your customers tell you what to do.

Imagine working at Ford. Why pay money to go to the Detroit auto show? Why not just put the plans of your latest car up on your "Ford New Car Blog" and see what people think?

But, no, there's lots of people out there who think there just is no value in having a conversation with customers. Don't worry. There were people in the 1970s who thought the idea of a personal computer was wacky. I know that people asked Steve Wozniak "why don't you do something with your time that has a chance of making you rich?"

I think we all know the answer. I'd rather change the world, thank you very much.

On Thursday, USA Today interviewed me about corporate weblogging. It is bizarre to have USA Today's top reporters reading here. Welcome!

It also underlines how weblogs are changing the relationship corporations have with customers. In the old days, the only way USA Today learned anything about Microsoft was to talk to our PR department.

Now mainstream journalists can learn quite a bit from webloggers. It also explains why I'm a lot more careful about what I say now than I used to be. To many people my weblog +is+ a Microsoft news source.

Translation: I've gotta be just as careful as a vice president in what I say. Oh, one exec told me the other day I have to be even more careful than a VP. That's true.

Thanks Kevin for your live feed from the front row. I'm listening to Sean Gallagher now. I hear they fixed the audio problems during lunch. Awesome turnaround! Video streaming is cool.

By the way, I would have paid $50 to $100 for this.

Well, I'm frustrated and giving up. I'll just read the blog reports on Doc Searls and Dave Winer's blogs. Something about ASCII text: it has no horrible buzzing to interfere.

Bummer, I can't get to Kevin Marks' Quicktime feed from BloggerCon either.

A few people on Thursday were giving me feedback that Microsoft had an unpatched security hole in Internet Explorer. Last night Microsoft released a patch. Just shows that patches aren't released just on Wednesdays.

Oh, I see Robert McLaws' "Patch Day Review" site is up to date.

Weblogging will be light this weekend. Today gotta help Maryam. Tomorrow, gotta do work on the PDC.

It's going to be a light weekend of blogging. I'm listening to the webcast from the BloggerCon. It is very frustrating to listen to. There's a hum coming over, and whenever they switch to the handheld mike there's a horrible buzz. Conferences still have a long way to go to include remote participants. I'm not just banging on other conferences either. Oh, now the audio just went away altogether.