Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Rob Fahrni answered back and said "Scoble's on one of the best teams inside Microsoft." I've landed on a good one, yes, but I totally disagree that it's the best. I've seen tons of teams that are doing interesting things. By the way, he says Visio is a failure? Well, does the Visio team have any webloggers? Does it have an RSS feed? How are you supposed to sell software if you don't have a relationship with your customers?

Vishal Joshi reports on the "ten commandments of .NET."

Wow, the Chennai .NET Users' group in India now has passed 1500 members (after just being around a little over a year). Amazing growth. It took our Silicon Valley VB group years to achieve that number.

John Porcaro, a guy who's working in Microsoft's marketing department, reinforces why customer relationships are important on his blog today. John: do your sites have RSS feeds yet?

Someone, who isn't a Microsoft employee, just wrote me and said "my boss and his webmaster only care about traffic and with RSS you're trying to show a way that will reduce traffic to our web site."

Whoa, that's getting to the point. But, you should get out of that company as soon as possible if traffic is all they care about. Why? Cause if that's really how they run their business they are focusing on the wrong thing and that is a sign of impending business troubles.

What's the only things that really matter in business? Hint: it's not traffic.

It's sales and happy customers.

How do you build sales? You build systems that make it possible for potential customers to learn about your products. Yesterday that looked like a web site. Today that's RSS AND a Web site.

How do you make happy customers? You build systems that make it possible to have a relationship with your customers. Today that's conversational marketing (read weblogs and RSS feeds and programs to link individual employees to individual customers). Look at the Adopt an ISV post I made yesterday. That was no accident. Employees here noticed that their friends who worked at ISVs were constantly asking for help in building their businesses. I've noticed it myself on my weblog. (Aside to Microsoft employees: you too can adopt an ISV by visiting the http://AdoptAnISV site (only works if you're a Microsoft employee). Today I have nine ISV "buddies." I'm gonna help them get the information they need to build great businesses (and they get some cool swag too).

Plus, you're missing the point about the RSS revolution. If I'm watching the SPOT watch team in my RSS aggregator, I will be much more likely to visit their site in the future when they have something to say. Heck, they could just put in their feed something like "new watches shipping here for more info." I'd then click there and visit the site again. That means more traffic. A better relationship with the customer. Plus, a higher chance you'll actually make a sale. Plus, a guy like me will email that RSS item around and tell everyone in the world about it on my weblog.

Is this really that difficult to figure out? This just seems like marketing 101. Give the customers what they want when they want it damnit.

And get out of the mindset that all that matters is traffic to your Web server. Geesh.

Mary Jo Foley: you need permalinks. I wanted to point to your post about Microsoft not going after Google and couldn't.

I believe Gates. Why? Think about it. There's no way such an aquisition would get approved by our government. So, why even waste cycles trying to make something happen that wouldn't get approved anyway? Look at what happened when Microsoft tried to buy Quicken.

Update: Mary Jo responded in my comments and gave me this permalink.

Oh, cool. Here's one that I'll have to put over on my Longhorn blog. Tim Hitchings just wrote me and told me that Infragistics has a technology demo of an Avalon grid component they've written. Oh, and they are giving us the source? Cool.

Eric Meyer: Tantek == spanking? Yes, we do have fun at geek meals. It just doesn't translate very well to ASCII text.

Lots of you have written me about MyWallop. Today I met with Lili Cheng, the researcher who demonstrated it on stage during her PDC keynote. Awesome stuff. Very fun. But, it's a research project. They have been very slowly adding folks to it. Only a few on there so far. They haven't added me yet to it. I'll report it on my blog as soon as they are ready for taking more users

But, Lili did let me announce that they are building RSS 2.0 exporting support into the tool. So, Microsoft Research is getting the RSS thing. Cool, one team down. At least 60 more to go.

By the way, Lili was very suprised at the reaction she got to MyWallop. She wasn't expecting it. She said she showed it off for maybe a minute or two as part of a suite of things that Microsoft Research is doing. Everyone forgot about all the other cool projects Research is doing and focused solely on MyWallop. Why? Because everyone is wondering when Microsoft will really get involved in the social software world.

One thing to remember is that this is a research project. It has not yet been thought of internally as a product. Even though the world is perceiving it that way and wants to use it. Translation: they haven't thought through all the issues that come with having an exponential growth curve (imagine having to architect a backend that will deal with having the numbers of users doubling every 10 days or so -- look at Technorati, they are seeing 8000 or so new blogs a day now). Not easy.

I don't like putting titles on posts. It reminds me a lot of writing headlines in college. I didn't do well at that and I'm not good at the title thing.

Ross Mayfield, who is trying to get a business started around social software, talks about the latest VC-funding of social software.

Personally the whole market is missing the boat -- Microsoft included.

The money is in corporate knowledge management systems. Microsoft's is Sharepoint. But, let's look at social software. Weblogging has succeeded for five very specific reasons:

1) It's easy to publish a weblog. OK, Sharepoint has that.

2) Weblogs are discoverable. Just visit and discover some that were published minutes ago. Sharepoint doesn't have that.

3) Weblogs are social. Most weblog software has a public referer log (here's mine). That's important for two reasons. a) Cause I can see who is talking about me and b) a newcomer to my sphere of influence can instantly see who is talking about me and how much traffic they are sending me (ie they can see who the "big fish" are in my neighborhood). Sharepoint doesn't do this.

4) Weblogs let me point to specific microcontent. Translation: permalinks. Sharepoint doesn't do that.

5) Good Weblog tools build syndication, er RSS, feeds automatically. Sharepoint doesn't do that (although someone built an add-on tool to do that).

One tool nailed all this stuff: UserLand's Manila. But, let's be honest. How many companies are gonna convert all their intranet data over to a system from a company with a couple of employees? I was director of marketing and tried fighting that fight.

But, I am totally convinced of the need for a new kind of knowledge management system (er, corporate weblogging tool) for corporations. Yet the VCs and Microsoft's own execs aren't funding major research into this stuff. Sharepoint is the evidence.

Keep in mind: I'm a hard-core Sharepoint user now. It's a good product. Its team just doesn't know that it's only missing three things before it's a great one.

Todd Bishop from Comdex reports "No Longhorn here."

I was gonna post a response to the "Wronghorn" rant that ZDNet published, but Mike Kolitz wrote a better one than I could.

Isn't this a weird world? I read a weblog, written by an Indian (Rajesh Jain) in a land far away, to find something cool that Glenn Fleishman wrote in the Seattle Times. Has weblogging changed the world? You decide.

Reading that article I am reminded that most people at Microsoft miss the most obvious use of RSS: making it easier to stay in touch with products you're interested in.

For instance, let's say you're at Comdex this week, or reading all the hype. Let's say you want one of those new Spot Watches that Gates said are coming next year.

OK, let's say you have your $200 saved, and want to get the latest information on the watches. But, they don't come out until next year. So, what do you do? Add the SPOT Watch site to your favorites and try to remember to visit in January to see if there's any information added to the site? Do you then come back in January and try to figure out what is new?

Let me spell it out for the teams who are reading this. You're pissing off your customers by not having RSS feeds. Why? Because I'm a customer. I am interested in dozens of Microsoft products. I don't have time to keep in touch with you (and it's my job, imagine if you weren't someone who watched 636 sites a day). You're wasting my time if you don't have an RSS feed. Why? Because: 1) You force me to visit your site. How rude. 2) You force me to struggle to figure out if anything is changed (quick, tell me what has changed on the Spot Watch site since the last time I visited a month ago -- I've been looking at it for five minutes and I can't figure it out). 3) You have almost guaranteed that I will never visit again.

Instead, imagine a team that produces an RSS feed. I subscribe to the feed. I never need to visit the site again. If the team has something new to say (say next year when the watches start to ship) then my folder turns bold. I know instantly there's something new. I don't need to visit every week. I don't need to get mad that the site doesn't tell me if something has changed from last week.

I know the execs are looking for things to improve about customer service. This is one big one. Get every single team to publish an RSS feed. Now. You do that and your customer satisfaction scores will go up. Translation: bonuses.

OK, Scoble, but what about the Longhorn team. Do they have an RSS feed? Well, good point, but sorta. Longhornblogs certainly has a feed and if anything important happens, we'll certainly make sure that community knows about it. But, until the Windows site over at has an RSS feed I won't rest.

The personal computer industry started at a user group meeting. Don't believe me? Just visit the Smithsonian (picture, memoir), where they have a display about the Homebrew Computer Society and the role that Wozniak and Jobs played in it to start Apple Computer.

So, in celebration of that, tonight I went to two vibrant user groups (open to the public) that are held on Microsoft's campus. The first is the .NET Developer's Association that Carl Prothman helps to run. The second is the Visual FoxPro User Group.

At the FoxPro group I got a sneak peak at "Europa" which has bunch of new stuff. Ken Levy and I had a nice chat and they showed me around some of the new features, particularly in the reporting engine. The FoxPro community is one of the best Microsoft has. Some people in the audience have been using FoxPro since the mid-80s. Now that's a loyal user base!

Over at the .NET group they had two speakers: one on Office 2003. This was the beginner meeting, so didn't really cover anything groundbreaking for me, but it reminded me to do more with OneNote. I skipped on the second speaker, who was talking about managing risk in projects.

Afterward I was talking to a few of the members (most of whom didn't work at Microsoft) and I realized that the spirit of user groups is alive and well. Sharing. Fun. Discovery. Building.

I understand why Ineta (an association designed to help .NET user groups around the world) is so popular and growing so fast.

Anyway, I have some questions: why don't you attend a user group on a regular basis? If you do, what could Microsoft do to make the experience a better one?

Rob Fahrni (who used to work on the Visio team): "I think Microsoft has gotten so caught up in maintaining a certain level of profit they've lost touch with the customer and they've forgotten about innovation."

Ouch, that's totally not my experience at all. But, the Visio team isn't something I interact with. At all. In fact, today I've had meetings with Jim Allchin's technical assistant, Lili Cheng from MS Research, my boss, and then hung out with a bunch of guys from FoxPro and Visual Studio. All of them are innovating like crazy and having a blast.

And that's just the meetings I've had today. But, maybe it's just me. Microsoft is a big place. If half of our employees are doing the right thing, that still leaves 27,500 who aren't.

He also decries that Microsoft didn't let him work offsite. That doesn't mesh with my experience either: my boss's boss, Vic Gundotra, and a close coworker, Lenn Pryor, both work thousands of miles away from Microsoft's headquarters (they both help manage projects I'm involved in). I don't know if that's the sign of a company that doesn't let anyone work offsite. Did you hear that we purchased a conferencing company and now make tools like LiveMeeting? Weird

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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; 3:19:47 AM.