Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Friday, December 26, 2003

Ali Parvaresh just IM'd me from Tehran. He's OK (didn't feel the quake) but says that this has him and his friends freaked out. Turns out building conditions in Tehran aren't very good either.

Ali is covering the earthquake news on his blog and recommends checking out Newsnow for more info.

My brother-in-law was on the 6 p.m. KGO/7 TV news in San Francisco. They caught him in an Iranian grocery store here in Silicon Valley.

G. Andrew Duthie points to a conservative political blog,, and forums,, running on .NET technologies. I've been lurking, looks like a decent conversation. So far. Generally these kinds of sites degenerate into yelling and screaming.

Along these lines, Zane Thomas asks "when did 'politics' become a dirty word?"

Thanks to Wes Carr for optimizing my banner. He took it from 80K to 25K. Loads faster. Doesn't look any different. I'm asking Wes to tell us what he did to optimize it.

While walking around Palo Alto and eating at the Cheesecake Factory, Steve Sloan and I talked about what he's doing at SJSU. He's one of those evangelists that don't show up on any mailing lists. He's probably influenced millions of dollars of purchases in the past decade. Some of the things I remember from our chat:

1) Don't do wireless like SJSU is doing it. They are only putting wireless into the classrooms. Not into the cafeteria, the hallways, or the bar. Why is that bad? Because students are more likely to fire up their laptops and check email or IM folks in class. Instead, he wishes the university would have turned off wireless inside the classroom and enabled it in the hallways, cafeterias, etc.

2) They haven't switched to OSX yet. Why? Cost. They are still using QuarkXpress 4.1 (the current version is 6.0). Quark makes it very expensive to upgrade and the university system doesn't have site licenses for it (he says that Microsoft actually does a much better job of dealing with the university system than Apple vendors do, which gets more Microsoft adoption there).

3) ISV and OEM evangelism efforts suck. Why? Because they only talk to the management (translation: academic vice president). The management rarely is the ones who get faculty and staff to adopt new computing systems and rarely takes on an evangelistic role with hard-to-convince instructors. He suggests the OEMs talk to staff members and show them new computing devices (this was the first time he'd seen a Tablet PC, for instance, and thought it could revolutionize student life on campus).

4) The tenure system keeps technology adoption low. Why? Because once a professor gets tenure, what reason is there to keep up on the industry and adopt new ideas? He says more than 50% of professors barely know how to send and receive emails, and he knows no one seriously doing a weblog (not to mention know what RSS is).

5) Windows Server 2003 interactions with Macs aren't great. He notes that many users like to start file names with an asterisk, something that's allowed on a Mac, but not on Windows, so the Mac files have troubles when moved over to Windows Server 2003. He says they work well enough, though, that the University is slowly upgrading its servers to Windows.

6) He wants a decent Outlook for the Mac. Entourage isn't it, he says. Buggy, he says, things like copying contact information from an Exchange server doesn't work well. Would just like an Outlook-like UI and functionality for the Mac.

7) Career development at SJSU isn't very good. He pays his own way to O'Reilly's OSX and Emerging Technology conference every year. Note to O'Reilly from Steve: make your educational discount the same across the board (O'Reilly gives teachers a bigger discount than staff personnel). He says that's unfair for a couple of reasons. One: teachers (faculty) make more than staff do. Two: staff is usually the ones who evangelize conferences inside academic departments. Three: faculty usually has their conference fees covered by the university anyway, while staff do not.

8) Steve has never heard of a Microsoft academic program. Who wants to take that one on? (How about the guys who hang out on Academic Longhorn?) He says he'd love to see more Microsoft participation in campus user groups.

Anyway, a productive and fun day. Thanks Steve!

I spent nearly three hours with Steve Sloan today. He's one of those guys who helps run one of Silicon Valley's biggest educational enterprises (San Jose State University).

We visited the Apple store for a while (I saw two Macs sold, both of which were purchased with Microsoft's Virtual PC, and Microsoft's Office for the Mac. Reminds me of the time when I caught Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak loading Windows 2000 on his Mac.

One other thing: a couple had purchased an iPod and brought in their Dell computer to make sure it worked well with it. The Apple staff at the Genius bar efficiently helped them load their system up and get it running. That was awesome. Nary a negative word about Microsoft (although another employee did a good job of positioning the Mac against Windows when asked about what makes a Mac better than an IBM machine).

Other things I noticed about the store: the aesthetics. The design. Let's start with the floor. It was large slats of unvarnished wood. Why is that important? Because computers tend to be cold. I'm sure that Steve Jobs and his crew spent a bit of time thinking about the floor. Wood is easy to clean, if someone spills. It wears well. It doesn't feel as hard on your feet, as say, slate. Plus, most people spend a lot of time staring at the floor. Might as well make sure that experience feels good.

Up from the floor (plenty of room to walk around, by the way, even on a crowded day after Christmas) you'll notice black wood shelves. Neatly arranged with software (almost all with the fronts of their boxes showing). Each shelf looked like a picture frame. The software was in the middle of the store. That's a big deal. Apple, in effect, was telling its customers "the Mac is about software."

I'm getting ahead of myself, the Window outside had a very neat and clean display of PowerBooks and iBooks with a sign that said something like "someone you know would like a notebook."


I could go on.

Why is a Microsoft employee who's tasked with evangelizing Longhorn talking about an Apple store? Easy. Apple sold two copies of Windows while I was standing there in the store. I can just imagine that a lot of you will buy Longhorn in an Apple store in the future.

And, even if that never happens, Microsoft (and me) can learn a thing or two by going into an Apple store. Aesthetics matter. Enabling scenarios (music, photos, and video) matters. Design matters. Service matters. Presentation matters. Culture matters. Community matters.

What do you learn when you look at what your competitors are doing?Do you do anything about it?

One thing I like about Silicon Valley is folks around here have BHAGs. I met a few doctors last night working at the Stanford University's School of Medicine. Its BHAG? Oh, simply to cure cancer.

There's several hundred researchers working here on just that task in a building that's just a short walk from many of the valley's most famous venture capital firms. I'd never have given it a second thought, if my mother-in-law wasn't staying in the hospital there while she recovers from her brain surgery (it's going slowly, she just started moving her left hand, and her spirits are getting better).

The street that the research building is on? Oh, named "Pasteur." Don't know who Pasteur is? Do some reading. He changed a lot about how humans look at medicine. Not to mention that all of our milk has been "pasteurized."

Yet another reminder that one person CAN change the world.

At the end of every year, it's good to think of a new BHAG -- for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

What's your BHAG?

I'm staying with a bunch of Iranians and I showed them news of a killer quake in Iran. They quickly read the reports (Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine points to the best) and they said that where the quake happened is the poorest area -- many people there live in simple shacks.

I see President Bush has offered our assistance. You know, in the old days we wouldn't care about what happens around the world, but today I have many friends on IM in Iran. I wish them all well and hope they and their families are all doing OK.

Earthquakes are much more devastating to poor areas. The 1989 quake I lived through (a 6.9) killed 90 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. This quake, in Iran, is a 6.7 and the death toll could be more than 20,000. Sobering.

Good morning geeks!

Today we'll meet at the Apple store at noon in Palo Alto, California. Hey, Steve Jobs, you gonna drop by? I'm meeting Steve Sloan, who has been playing an integral part in San Jose State University's IT department for more than a decade now.

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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; 3:28:14 AM.