Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Thursday, November 06, 2003

Derek Powazek has some cool photography on his blog. Course he's a design god. So I'd expect that.

The Guardian: Smash the Windows. To be truly free in the 21st century, we have to ignore the flashy graphics and really get inside our computers.

Interesting point of view. Unfortunately unrealistic. People want their computers to be like their cars. Turn them on, do a few things, turn them off. I wish more people would get into computers, though. A more educated populace makes for a stronger economy and a better experience for everyone.

Dave Shea talks about plugging the RSS usability hole. Yup, but you know what? Those little RSS buttons are a meme. I don't mind that mom and dad have no clue what they are. It's like a little secret society. Of people who ask "what the heck are those?"

Shelley POwers says that the IRS found her weblog. Wow. Makes one think about what you should put on your weblog. But, if you've been reading here for the past three years or so, you'll have gained a huge amount of knowledge about me. My sleep patterns. My sexual preference. My religious beliefs. My work history. My school history. Even what former employers of mine say about me (there are a couple who hang out in the comments here). There really is very little you all don't know about me.

Chris MacGregor posted a good thread on Flash and ROI of rich-client applications. He also claimed that I erased his comments. I never never have erased anyone's comments unless they are clearly spam. I haven't erased any comments in quite a while, though. Chris, before you make accusations like that, please check with me. OK?

One more note on Denman and Store of Floors. He had a lawyer represent him in court. The lawyer said he hasn't been paid yet either and the lawyer said he isn't cooperating with him either. So, this whole thing is a mess. Anyone from the local media want this story? It's front-page-news. He's ripped off up to 100 people in several bankruptcies so far. Amazing that one guy can play the system like this.

Just got back from bankruptcy court. Allen Denman never showed up (for those who don't remember, he ripped off a whole bunch of people, here's the KIRO-TV Report).

Today I met many of the people he ripped off. He didn't pay employees. He didn't pay contractors. Many people didn't get flooring, tile, carpets. Rumors are now that he's working at the Everett store of "Store of Floors."

The trustee who was running the courtroom said "expect to lose everything." He urged all of us to file a complaint with the Redmond Prosecutor and/or police to get a criminal complaint going. Some in the audience say they've done just that, but the Redmond police say it's a civil matter. That's bull. This guy took money from people just a couple of days before filing bankruptcy. He also never had a license to operate a store in Redmond, one ripped-off audience carpet customer told me.

He is clearly playing the system. And the system isn't setup for crooks like Denman. Instead of protecting innocent victims, the system is actually keeping victims from filing against him in small claims court (they say that you can't file if a case is in bankruptcy court).

This is a case straight out of the worst of CourtTV or something like that. This guy made off with more than $60,000 of 30 people's money (and that's just of the people who came to the court today).

Amazing. Anyone know the Redmond prosecutor? I know 30 people who want this guy in jail. Anyone reading this on Google: don't have any business with Store of Floors in Washington. Be careful. Don't pay cash or check (use a Visa card). Only deal with stores that have legitimate licenses.

ITWorld: Progress seen steady as Tablet turns one.

The Tablet is primed to take off. It's always during version 2.0 of something that the market really stands up and takes notice of something and it's version 3.0 when it really gets rocking.

This has been a pattern in place in the technology industry for a long time. It's very rare that a 1.0 product goes mainstream. Even the famed Apple II really didn't go mainstream until they started shipping floppy disk drives (my first Apple II had a cassette tape drive). That really was version 3.0.

So, now we get to see how real the Tablet PC revolution really is.

I should probably talk about this over on my Longhorn blog, but CNET has a lengthy report on Longhorn and Microsoft's business strategy.

Hmm, I just started getting hits from MSN's search engine. This is the first time in a while I remember getting traffic from there. By the way, Radio UserLand has a controversial feature: an open-to-the-public referers page. Here, you can look at where I'm getting traffic from. At the Blogger meeting last week at the PDC I learned that many people don't want their referer lists public. They are missing the point.

That page lets me build a community around my blog. If you're new to my blog today, you can visit that page and see who links to me, and how important those people are (at least in terms of traffic). That's a HUGE plus over the old days of "keep my stats private." Why? Because not having access to that information makes it much harder to join into that community.

By having the stats open a newbie can easily see what kind of community has built up around me. They can easily see how to start a conversation. I hate blog tools that don't let me make my referer logs public (trackbacks are another way to do this, although I prefer just seeing a master referer log).

Now, to knock Radio UserLand, I wish I had more data. What countries are my readers coming from? What browsers and operating systems are they using? How long are they staying on my site? I used to have that kind of information on other web sites I've run. I'd pay $5 a month just to have access to better information about my readers.

Mark Michaelis takes on the good, the bad, and the ugly about Longhorn.

The ugly is that he says he can't force his customers to upgrade. Well, we can't either. All we can do is make Longhorn so much more productive, and dare I say it, fun to use that everyone will get it. We've been through this before. I heard exactly the same complaints from DOS guys. Some, like Ethan Winer, were so unimpressed with Windows that they left the industry altogether (he now plays music on his cello, but used to head up one of the most important BASIC tools vendors in the late 1980s).

Everytime there's a new platform that comes along (whether it was the Apple II in 1977, the IBM PC in 1981. The Mac in 1984. Windows 95 in 1995). I always heard these arguments "looks nice, but I can't use it in my shop."

Well, in every single of these instances eventually there were enough machines out there. Longhorn is the next wave. We're spending billions of R&D on it. And billions yet to come in marketing and other things. In five years these arguments will be remembered like the "anti new platform" arguments of past waves.

If you're a surfer, you can either decide to get out in front of the wave, which increases the chance that you'll catch it, or you can catch it just in time, but some people don't start paddling soon enough, or fast enough, and end up missing the wave.

Our industry is littered with stories of people and companies who missed past technology waves. This time around will be no different.

Ian Hanschen is one of the most talented programmers I know in the community. He digs into Windows internals like few people south of Charles Petzold do. He and his team wrote Windows Blinds and other things for Stardock. Clearly pushing the boundaries and doing things we never really expected. So, now he's digging into Longhorn on his blog and finding and doing things I don't think we ever expected.

Just found another technical blogger who is worth subscribing to. Maxim Karpov writes about Delegates and Visual Basic.

You know, when I first invited Marc Canter to the PDC, I thought he'd be a good foil to the rest of us who will drink the Koolaid and get excited about Longhorn. I figured he'd be the one who'd resist the urges to praise Microsoft and would be the one who'd give us the toughest time. Unfortunately while I wasn't looking he must have been drinking the Koolaid too. "Indigo is the pen-ultimate. The cat's meow. The symbol that Microsoft knows it has won." One thing, though. Many people use penultimate wrongly. It means "next to last." Even Steve Ballmer got it wrong during a keynote I attended in 2000.

But, the point is, if we can get a skeptic like Marc to sing Longhorn's praises...

Slowly and surely all of the people who used to speak for Maryam and I at Fawcette's conferences are starting weblogs. Dave Bost is the latest.

I wished I had gotten out to see Concorde's final flight. Appropriately it set a new cross-country speed record. The museum here is really something. If you visit Seattle, set an extra day to see it and the Boeing 747 factory tour.

Andy Hopper wants Microsoft to get rid of file-name extensions once and for all and thinks he sees a way to do just that with Longhorn's new file storage system named WinFS.

Hey coders, there's a new font that's designed specificially for code editors who like to code in small-sized fonts. ProFont was created in the early 90s by Andrew Welch, a famous Macintosh shareware developer, and now its available on all platforms. It was designed to be a monospaced font for source code i.e. a 0 and a O are clearly distinguished, as are ; and :, 1 and l and I, etc.

In journalism school we learned:

1) Dog bites man is not news.

2) Man biting dog +is+ news.

So, what am I to think about the story from France where a dog shot a man? (gotta scroll down to see it)

I liked Rob Zelt's story of meeting Hillel Cooperman before Hillel got up on stage with Bill Gates. Didn't I tell you you'd bump into the stars?

Steve Gillmor has a new RSS feed from his new digs at eWeek magazine. Subscribed!

Oh, cool, Dave Winer is coming to Microsoft soon. That means we can do a blogger dinner.

One more, my favorite PDC blogs so far are from Tim Sneath. Start on Sunday and then click through the week (use the calendar).

That's enough for tonight. I notice that the PDCbloggers.net has been renamed to the "Professional Developers' Community" and that it remains quite active. Awesome.

Benjamin Mitchell notes that Adam Barr is back working at Microsoft. He's the guy who wrote the book "Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters." Good book, too. Can't wait to see version 2.0. He's working on the new Monad team (shell) -- they are already getting lots of kudos for their work, but you can read that over on Ben's site too

Aaron Swartz, who keeps a nice weblog about Google, notes that Google's spiders are now visiting IRC channels. That's interesting.

Greg Hurlman reminds PDC attendees to "not forget the newsgroups." I've been starting to lurk in the newsgroups opened at the PDC too and they are gathering steam. Lots of interesting questions about Longhorn, Yukon, and Whidbey.

Shawn Morrissey has been getting some interesting comments in response to his rant that weblogs at the PDC weren't good enough.

Eric Sink is now on MSDN talking about the business of software. Looking forward to more of this.

David McNamee wonders if PDC attendees liked Indigo because of its technical strengths, or because Don Box was the one on stage telling them about it?

Interesting question.

Of course, now Don's not on stage anymore and everyone who was there is now out of reach of Don's charismatic personality. So, now that we've had a week without hearing from Don or Chris or Hillel or Jim or Eric, we should expect the blogosphere should be giving us accurate feedback about what they like or didn't like about what they learned last week.

Hillel Cooperman had one of the more fascinating keynotes at the PDC last week (he showed off the new user interface of Longhorn). People have been asking me ever since "can we get that video?" Paul Thurrott actually put a version of it up on the Web but it was taken with a camcorder, so you really can't see some of the stuff that Hillel was showing off. In his blog, Hillel covers whether the video will be made available (no), why (too early), and if it ever will be made public (maybe).

Now Hillel has RSS feeds, thanks to Roy, but he needs permalinks now.

.NET Rocks is now hosted on MSDN. People have been IM'ing me for the past day or so saying "I just listened to you." That's really weird. Audio blogging brings things to a whole new level. So far no one has complained about what I said. I must not have been drunk enough (inside joke: Carl and Mark did one of their shows from a pub).

Scott Swigart and Sean Campbell, in an interesting reply to Ole's anti-Longhorn weblog: "the sooner we can start shooting at things debuted at the PDC, the sooner we can get to what's real."

Psychology Today: A Brand New You. Summary: They were once just casual acquaintances. Now they're our wanna-be best buds. So who calls the shots when it comes to you and your favorite brand? Apple and Microsoft discussed.

Yes, I do watch a bunch of Mac RSS feeds too. Here's one that has a bunch of Windows tips for Mac owners.

I was over at the Shifted Librarian and wished I was in Elizabeth Lane Lawley's session at the librarian conference they are both at.

A cool and interesting new blog is "Misbehaving.net." Done by female geeks.

Christopher comes up with another great idea. Why not have everyone mail me a postcard and put them up on a wall here at Microsoft? The blogger wall. That sounds cool.

Mail them to me at:

Robert Scoble

One Microsoft Way

Redmond, WA USA 98052

I'll post pictures after I get a few.

Nissan chose .NET for its new dealer network. Sounds like a sizeable deal.

Franklin Covey is getting great reviews on its upcoming new TabletPlanner (will be released at Comdex).

Serge van den Oever didn't take my advice to hate WinFS. Instead he posted a list of what makes WinFS cool.

Are you interested in the Tablet PC? Going to Comdex/cdXpo in Las Vegas? Well, meet up with Loren Heiny then. Details on on Loren's blog.

One neat thing about working for Microsoft is that you get to meet all sorts of cool geeks from all over the world. Today I was introduced to Hamed Banaei who writes his blog from Tehran, Iran. His friend Ali tells me that Hamed had the first .NET-oriented blog in Iran and that he loves Microsoft so much that he downloaded all the PDC videos on his modem. Now that's dedication! Not to mention, isn't looking at the PDC videos banned in Iran? My wife tells me that looking at Aero and Avalon is a crime in Iran. Or so she heard. Seriously, Hamed and Ali live under threat of having their web sites blocked by their government. Those are tough blogging conditions!

Anyone else reading me from outside the US? I'd love to hear from you! I wanna collect blogs from every country in the world.

E-Commerce Times: Security Insecurity -- Don't Blame Microsoft.

"According to data from the FBI and Carnegie Mellon University, more than 90 percent of all security breaches involve a software vulnerability for which a patch is available but uninstalled."

Cool little app: Browser Bumpers. From Stereopsis. Turns the edges of your screen into back/forward buttons and more.

Brad Abrams posted the Longhorn Architecture and the Longhorn Namespace graphics (PDF version here). These are fun to look at once in a while just to get a visual representation of what Windows looks like from an architecture and a programmatic viewpoint.

For those of you who don't own Office, but who are trying to view the PDC PowerPoint slide decks, we've just released the PowerPoint 2003 viewer.

Christopher Coulter asked me "Scoble, what's your dream job?" I answered: "next to being Bill Gates, I imagine there wouldn't be a job I'd love more than being Bill Gates ghost weblogger."

Course, if I +did+ get that job, I know that I'd never be able to tell anyone that I had it. But, imagine what it'd be like to have a conversation with Bill every day, find out what he's thinking about, write that up, get it approved, and click "publish" on something that you knew millions of people would read?

I imagine that if I were ever offered something like that (yes, Eric Rudder, I'll do yours too! ) it'd be very challenging because my style is to write very quickly as a stream of thought kind of thing. I'd need to completely change my style so that you couldn't easily pick up that it wasn't Bill writing it.

BlogActing. Hmmm. I still think that'd be an unbelieveable job. Well, one can dream.

Peter points to pictures of the latest Toshiba Tablet PC on his weblog. Nice.

Vectiva has a cool Tablet Paint program for kids. Course, how many kids have access to a $2000 Tablet PC?

Flash Components are awesome things for designers/developers who work with Macromedia's Flash. Can't wait to see what these guys think after they get a chance to explore Longhorn.

Ahh, for some expected pushback on Longhorn read the comments from DataRat on Joe User's blog.

Good user skepticism. I totally expect and want this. It tells me we're on the right track. When the Mac first came out. I heard very similar feedback. When Windows 3.11 first came out. Same thing. When Windows 95 first came out. Same thing.

DataRat: keep in touch. You'll eventually see why WinFS is so much more powerful than plain old hierarchical folders (plus, you can still store your files the "old" way).

Jeff Jarvis: 60-75% of the time the audience is looking at the audience's own content, not the pros. Stat comes from Jonathan Miller, head of AOL.

Stuart Cheshire, of Apple, just sent me this. Man he's fast: "Rendezvous for Pocket PC 2003 executable is now posted on the Apple web site. You'll need a Darwin APSL account, but the terms are not onerous. Basically it tells you that you can ship products using this code if you want to, and Apple promises it won't sue you if you do, and all we ask is that if you make improvements to the source code, you share them with us. I'm telling you this because the APSL scares some people, but if you read it you'll see that there's really nothing in it to be scared of. Mostly the APSL is Apple giving you rights to our code, not the other way around."

Anyone going to the UPnP Forum next week? I'm trying to learn about networking and trying to understand the different approaches. Apple is pushing Rendezvous. Microsoft is pushing UPnP. Which one is better and why?

Netscape has released a new DevEdge RSS News Ticker for Mozilla/Netscape browsers.

When Vic Gundotra first asked me "would you consider working at Microsoft?" I never thought that he'd give me access to the deepest, darkest, secrets of Microsoft's future business strategy.

I'm sure Tom Peters would love to have seen what I've seen for the past six months. The business schools will be talking about stuff I witnessed for the next decade.

Can you handle this? Are you really ready to know how Microsoft develops software for Longhorn?

It's simple: the graphic designers are now in charge.

"Oh, Scoble, give me a break!" I can hear all of you moaning together. OK, that's a little untrue, but gotta be flashy to get you hooked. I learned that little trick in journalism school. Heck, so did Tom Peters. Most of the companies he wrote about in his first book "In Search of Excellence" have not done so well since the early 1980s (obviously his best selling book didn't find much that was excellent). But, hear me out.

I've been very lucky to have been dropped into one of the most talented teams of software developers that exist in the world. Let's go back and look through all the literature about how Microsoft works.

There really are a few keys to Microsoft's continued success and there have been entire books written on most of them. Decentralized management style. Small, highly skilled teams. Access to great information internally and externally. Customer-centric planning. Cross-team communication. The Program Manager position especially has been written about extensively.

All of these remain very important to the culture inside Microsoft. I am thinking through how to write about the Program Manager position, for instance. I watched Jeff Sandquist guide and motivate his team of a handful of developers to ship a cool app in less than six months (the PDC 2003 Community Environment). He even sent me to Program Manager school for a day so I could learn more about the position. The term Program Manager comes from the task of "managing programmers," for instance. In school I learned some of the tricks of motivating programmers (pizza and Coke does help!)

Take away the program manager from a project (or have one that isn't so skilled at guiding and motivating) and the project would fall apart.

But, I already knew program managers are important. In this weblog, I'm focusing on things that have changed from the past. And there I keep coming back to graphic designers.

I've been interviewing people all around the company. Trying to figure out how Microsoft works and how it's changing its approach to software.

I keep coming back to graphic designers. Now, we don't call them that. On the team I'm a part of we call them "Program Designers." The title really hides what they do and how important they are.

The program designer I got to watch up close is David Shadle. He's a guy who'd make Alan Cooper proud. He does all sorts of things at Microsoft, from logos, to signs, to software interface designs.

I first met David in a meeting about the Community Environment app (back then we called it "Vibe!") right after I started at Microsoft. Since I was the blogger, I played the role of "customer" (er, PDC attendee). I told them the kinds of information I'd like to have access to.

I told them I wanted access to information so that I could write a better blog. I wanted access to people. Slides. Schedules. News. etc.

Then David would get up, write on the board a potential interface, and ask "you mean something that looks like this?"

And we'd have a conversation. The programmers were there too. The network architect. And we'd all start talking about the tradeoffs to be made with each design. "We can't program that using .NET" a programmer would answer after David put up one of his wilder ideas. The thing is, he knew his stuff and would push back "I know you can do this." He was right and that's why that app came out with an innovative design that didn't look like Excel.

Now, I know what some of you are gonna say: "but that app didn't work right on my Tablet and if you guys had stuck with a more traditional design it would have." That's true, but we were trying to push the boundaries and with a five-person team working under extreme deadlines and spending only a part of their time on this app. For those of you who haven't seen it yet, there's some screen shots here (Scroll down to see them). You can see that it looked quite different than a normal Windows app usually looked. I found it quite usable, as well as nice to look at.

Anyway, if we didn't have someone like David on our team, we would have ended up with an app that was far less usable and that didn't look half as nice as it turned out.

So, what's the lesson for the future of software design? I think we're in the middle of a radical shift in software design. No longer is it OK to develop apps that look ugly and gray. The Web and video games have raised the bar.

Soon we'll see a day where every app has a graphic designer in charge of the design process. Already we're seeing some people worried that Longhorn lets developers do "too much" on the screen. I heard the same worries in early days when people were first getting Macs. Graphic designers were writing articles about "overuse of fonts." I remember some people would design fliers with 15 different fonts on them.

But, we all knew those weren't the professionals. Now even the amateur desktop publishers know better than to use a couple of fonts on a document. We'll go through the same thing with software on Longhorn. Longhorn will make it very easy to develop interfaces that look wacky.

How do you make sure your software project exploits Longhorn, but doesn't look wacky? Get a graphic designer on your team and put them in charge!


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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 robertscoble@hotmail.com. Last updated: 1/3/2004; 3:17:46 AM.