Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Saturday, November 22, 2003

Simmone Paddock: Today a miracle happened...Microsoft talked to me. I must have missed that post. I try to help everyone out who emails me.

Speaking of which, what are all the bloggers doing on the front page of Fast Dang, they turned it into a blog.

Last night in the airport I was reading a copy of Fast Company magazine. It's really weird to see quotes from webloggers in the pages of magazines. Joi Ito had a quote featured there.

In Wired, the smiling faces of Ben and Mena Trott stared out of the pages at me.

It's a strange world we've all entered. Three years ago I barely knew what a blog was.

Ryan Lowe: "Why do I talk about Eclipse in one post and then Microsoft in another? Well I'm trying my best to be objective and most of all, learn something."

Sounds like a good plan! Hey, I'm sitting in an Apple employee's house right now. Why? He's my brother-in-law. You think I get into interesting conversations on the blog? You should hear the ones I get into here! Heh.

Arnaub Nandi: "Microsoft seems to be flaunting a new attitude, one that says "Yes we're evil. Now let us try to become good."

He then goes on to talk about how FrontPage is becoming better. Did you know that in 1996 I was named one of the top five FrontPage users in the world by Microsoft? I won a contest back then. So, FrontPage has a warm place in my heart. But, personally, FrontPage is still missing five things:

1) Ease of publishing. Publishing a Web site in FrontPage is still not as easy as using a blog tool.

2) Discoverability. Here's a test. Put up a FrontPage site and don't do anything and see if anyone has discovered it. Has Google spidered it? Even after a month? No! That means it doesn't have discoverability built in as part of the tool. Weblogs ping and/or Our Longhornblog had 7000 visits a day the first week it was up. That's discoverability. FrontPage doesn't have it.

3) Community features. Here, quick, visit a site that was done in FrontPage. Now, quick, tell me who has linked to this site. Tell me who has the most important site in that community. FrontPage doesn't share referer logs publicly (like most weblogging tools do -- we call them Trackbacks).

4) Does FrontPage have automatic permalinking? Hey, check underneath this post. See the little "#" symbol? If you click it, your address bar will show a specific URL that'll take you right to this post. That's a permalink. Now, go over to that a FrontPage site again. Can you send a link in email to a specific piece of content? No. FrontPage is missing permalinking.

5) Syndication. When you publish a FrontPage site does it build an XML feed for you automatically that news aggregator users can subscribe to? I didn't think so. My weblog tool does that for me. FrontPage doesn't.

I all these the "five pillars of conversational software." FrontPage doesn't have them. Sharepoint doesn't have them. What will be the first Microsoft product to have them? Still waiting. :-)

Jeremy McFarlane, in my comments, says that I sound like I've been captured by the enemy and brainwashed.

It's not brainwashing at all. But, he wants me to give him answers on things that I can't give him answers on yet.

Let's look at why. Let's go back in history. Let's go back to 1995. Back then Windows crashed all the time. I, and other customers, was beating Microsoft up on quality "solve the crashing issues" we'd plea.

Now, if I were a Microsoft executive, what could I say at that moment in time other than "we'll get better?" Come on. Think a bit about this.

It took until Windows XP to solve 80% of the crashing issues, and we still have tons of work to do to ensure that crashes don't happen. In fact, Longhorn's driver model is being rewritten as we speak to try to get rid of crashes. That's a 10+ year wait for real solutions to the problem.

So, here you're asking me to solve some real, significant business issues, that our top executives are working hard on and you expect me to give you an answer in a weblog.

Listen, I'm not at UserLand anymore. Microsoft has thousands of employees and millions of investors (ever meet an investor? I have. On the plane last night I met a social worker who owned Microsoft stock. Lady is retired. 75 years old. What happens if I say something that gets us hit with a billion dollar fine? It comes out of her pocket. The $50 billion dollars in our investment accounts doesn't belong to Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer or me. It belongs to her. Think about that. Everytime I talk on my blog I've gotta think about investors and customers and managers and coworkers and even, yes, my wife.

It's not an easy job. Try it sometime.

If I don't give an answer, it's cause I don't know the answer. I also have a goal of keeping my integrity. Every answer I give I strive to base it on real facts that I know. If I don't know all the facts, I won't give an answer.

I also am not going to give answers that'll cause me to get fired. Let's be honest here. I have my own career to think about. Yes, you are free to read between the lines.

I'm also not at liberty to really discuss things that are still in open court cases.

Am I brainwashed? That's a funny question. I am excited to be working at Microsoft. This company is doing amazing work. I'm proud to work here. Is that brainwashed? Well, yes. Deal with it. ;-)

John's wife at inluminent says she hates Outlook 2003. Chris Pirillo also recently similarly complained. Can you email me a screen shot? I'd like to see what you're talking about. For me, there are things that frustrate me about Outlook 2003, but the good things far outweigh the bad.

And, yes, we do care. Actually, most of the things in Outlook came directly out of customer testing. Even the frustrating stuff. The Office team does a TON of testing to understand how people work and how to make a tool more efficient for most people.

Mitch Ratcliffe and I had lunch Thursday (he has a good report on his blog). We talked about a bunch of things. I laid out some things that I'd like to see RSS become. I'm gonna talk to Dave about that.

For instance, I have a vision of a day when every single Microsoft employee will have a weblog. Now, what happens when you have 55,000 people weblogging inside of a corporation? Well, for one, I want to see weblogs in different ways? Why shouldn't it be possible to see results from a search engine in order of where you are on the org chart, for instance? So, how can you match RSS data up with your domain data that's stored in Exchange and/or other corporate data stores?

How about seeing data from corporate webloggers based on revenues? Or other metrics?

Also, one thing I miss is being able to tell readers what I think are my most important items. Look at the function of a newspaper designer. That guy plays a huge amount of value. Look at your average newspaper. You know that the biggest and top-most headline is what the newspaper has decided is the most important story. But, in weblogging we don't have that ability. You get my 60 posts and you have no idea which ones of those 60 that I think are most important.

In fact, you not only don't have any idea which ones I find are most important, but you have no idea which ones my readers think are most important. The only clue you have is how many comments, or how many links a certain article has (and discovering how many links a certain article has is very tough unless I enable trackback which I haven't done cause it slowed down my page loads and had other problems).

Anyway, we joked around at lunch about calling it RSS 3.0 cause we just wanted to cause some crap (we had a feeling it'd get Dave to get mad and for the Atom folks to get mad and we enjoyed that little bit of evilness). But, it was an effective way to think about "what's next for RSS?"

So, what would you like to see in RSS?

Mike Rhodes: "many people perceive (including myself) that MS prefers internal, hidden, proprietary solutions than using open standards that already exist."

Why is that the case? Well, most of us at Microsoft have Windows-based computers. If I build a little utility, or write a little Excel script, or interact with the world, I do it from a Windows computer. Are some people here trying to do things that won't work on other OS's? Probably, but I haven't met them yet (and I'm looking for them, because I've always believed that Microsoft is malicious and I wanted to understand that maliciousness. So far, though, I haven't found those guys. Even the execs that I've talked to, who you might expect to be the most malicious in the group (if you read books like "Breaking Windows" turn out to not be like what they are portrayed in the books. Conflict and evil make for great story lines. The truth is usually far more complex than that).

Most of the cases I've found of when Windows XP is the only OS supported are examples of folks with limited resources (Microsoft doesn't hand teams thousands of programmers -- most projects here are lucky to get a handful of programmers). When you aren't given unlimited resources, you need to decide what OS's you can support. When everyone around you as far as you can see is using Windows XP, you can guess what kind of choices will be made.

I'll admit it. The team I was a part of decided to support only Windows XP. I supported that decision. I am evil. Heh. Why did I do that? Cause we had a deadline (the PDC) that was immovable and we needed to make tradeoffs to meet that dealine. If we had decided to ship in 2007, maybe we could have supported Palms, and Macs (a few PDC attendees actually had Macs so there was some customer demand!)

So, now you know, Scoble has become part of the problem. :-) The problem is, that was the right decision to make.

The other problem is that journalists have learned that sensationalism sells. What is sensationalism? It's building up conflict even when none exists (or, if a minor one exists, make it sound like the end of the world). I've had people tell me they are frustrated because they'll give an hour-long-talk at a conference and a journalist will pull one quote out of their talk and turn that into an article that makes that exec look bad.

I'm sounding like I'm whining. Poor old Microsoft. Feel pity for us.

Nah, the reality is that most companies would LOVE for the press to pay attention to them. When I was an evangelist at Winnov, or an editor at Fawcette, or a director of marketing at UserLand, I DREAMED about what would happen if I could get the resources and press attention that Microsoft gets. I always was envious of the press that Microsoft got. Now that I'm on the inside, I see that there's a downside of that press and market attention. Anyone who gets in front of the public and starts saying pro-Microsoft things starts looking like we've sold our souls and have turned into evil monsters. And our ISVs don't get the attention they deserve either, which just takes away press oxygen from folks who don't work at Microsoft. Look at Picasa, for instance. Very cool photo tool. Look at ActiveWords. Yeah, Buzz Bruggeman (the CEO) has gotten some good articles, but if that were a Microsoft-developed product he'd have gotten 100 articles instead of the 10 that I've seen (and Buzz is by far the most persistent, most networked, most able evangelist I've ever met -- if that's all he can get, imagine what someone who is just an average Joe can get).

Here's a PR hint for small companies: start a weblog. The press is reading me and other Microsoft bloggers. Why? Cause they are looking for that conflict. That "leak" that'll make them famous and get them promoted. Well, I'm looking too. And, I'll link to you.

See, instead of being afraid of Microsoft's economic and market power, let's use it for good! I go to work every day knowing that I can change things and make them better. I keep meeting great execs here who believe that too. I rode to the airport yesterday with Dan'l Lewin who is working on ways to help ISVs succeed in Silicon Valley. He's a former Apple guy. I'm darn impressed. If you're afraid of Microsoft, have dinner with Dan'l or me sometime. Let's figure out how to make this a different industry that isn't run through fear and mistrust.

Microsoft is what it is. Our history is what it is. Our market power is what it is. But, it also is undergoing rapid and deep changes. This weblog is one example of how it is.

Diego Dovall asks "what happened to WinFS's ancestors?" (among other things). I've heard that this is the fifth time that we've tried something like WinFS, but previous tries never got out of the lab. Why not?

Simple: customer testing. Whenever we come up with an idea, we have real customers go into a lab here and try out the product. If the performance, or the UI, or something else keeps it from being useful it doesn't get released.

Bill Gates even joked about this on stage during his keynote at the PDC. What we're trying to do to make it easier to find files is pretty difficult stuff. Even in the PDC builds we're a long way off. And that's after spending billions on it, and trying different approaches.

Sometimes in software you know where you want to go, but you keep going down the wrong path. Sometimes it isn't until you're 3/4s of the way down the path before you realize it's the wrong one.

This is one of the reasons we wanted to get thousands of hands on the bits at this early stage. Are we going down the right path?

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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; 3:20:40 AM.