Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Sunday, May 02, 2004

Greg Robinson: I am cancelling all .NET technical publication subscriptions.

When I was associate editor of Visual Basic Programmer's Journal, I used to get these complaints all the time (I heard them everytime we talked about the new version of Visual Basic, since many readers couldn't use the new stuff for whatever reason). But, then I'd look at the sales of magazines when we talked about new stuff and the sales would be very high, particularly on news stand, which is extremely important to the long-term health of a magazine (more readers equals more advertising revenue).

Now, a couple of months' coverage are not something to judge a magazine over. I doubt that you'll read much more about Longhorn until next year sometime.

Everyone went a little crazy (me especially) but there's not much new in Longhorn until next year to discuss. And the magazines are not going to get a sales pop by continuing to write about Longhorn. Once, yes, not twice or three times.

MSDN, by the way, is like a PDC. It focuses on newer stuff and is produced by Microsoft. The other magazines are not tasked with covering the new stuff as much.

One way I look at it is: do I get a single tip out of my magazine in a year to save me an hour? If so, then it's worth subscribing. Translation: cut the Longhorn and other "new" stuff out of your issues and I'll bet there still is a lot of coverage in a magazine for current stuff if you look at it objectively over an entire year.

11:45:03 PM    comment 

Are you going to TechED? Are you going to blog it? Well, if you register your blog at TechEDBlogs, you could win an Xbox.

11:22:07 PM    comment 

Brian Duff tears into iTunes usability and comes up with some interesting observations.

11:16:33 PM    comment 

Tim Bray is also looking for ways to document how fast blogging is growing. Here's his analysis of blog readers.

11:14:07 PM    comment 

Ahh, Microsoft isn't the only one working on a "blogging best practices" document for its employees. Sun Microsystems posts one here, titled "Sun Policy on Public Discourse". And Tim Bray talks about its development here.

Looks good to me! Glad to see more people joining the blogging movement and more thought going into what makes a good corporate blog.

11:11:41 PM    comment 

Omar's been busy. Here he blogs about a new OneNote PowerToy. It turns OneNote into an RSS News Aggregator.

11:04:08 PM    comment 

Amanda Murphy, who keeps an Xbox weblog, talks about a New York Times article that talked about Doom 3 being done for the Xbox. Reasoning? "Faced with years of game development costing millions of dollars, Id concluded that Microsoft's big black console had critical technology that its rivals - Sony's PlayStation 2, by far the industry leader, and Nintendo's GameCube - did not."

11:02:17 PM    comment 

My brother Alex, the IT guy for a Silicon Valley law firm, continues his discussion of fire supression systems.

10:48:45 PM    comment 

My friend Francesco Balena and Fawcette Technical Publications have started:

I hope Francesco never tells the story of what we did in Frankfurt a few years back. But it involved a lot of wine.

10:43:00 PM    comment 

New Xbox game comes this week: Fable.

Update: Looks like I jumped the gun on this one. I thought I saw legitimate news reports, but my readers tell me I'm wrong and that it's not coming until later this year. See my comments on this message for more.

10:36:59 PM    comment 

There's a new release of Das Blog, too, a blogging tool built on .NET (Jeff Sandquist uses it).

10:23:51 PM    comment 

Lutz Reflector is getting great praise from a bunch of .NET'ers I trust. Here's a list:

Dan Crevier

Jamie Cansdale

Sam Gentile

10:08:29 PM    comment 

Lutz Roeder has released a new version of Reflector, a class browser for .NET components.

9:51:16 PM    comment 

Time Magazine writes an article about Microsoft and its future prospects: Is Microsoft a slowpoke? My weblog got quoted because I told Gates to split up Microsoft back before I was an employee. You write thousands of words in public every day, there's lots of stuff there to pick out and use. Yeah, I've written before about splitting up the company. I said that before I worked at Microsoft, and I'll stick to it here.

One thing I love about Microsoft is that diverse viewpoints are encouraged. Why is this an important principle? Because: how do you find good ideas? You have to consider all ideas and see which ones rise to the top. We're not afraid of making mistakes. Again, if you're an executive here, do you learn by only hearing people who agree with your viewpoint? No! I love that Microsoft advocates bringing all ideas to the table, even ones that seem to be wacky or, even, stupid.

But, "repeatedly?" Choice of word there is interesting. Over the past three years I think I've talked about my views about splitting up the company two times that I can remember. Two posts out of thousands. Just to keep that in perspective.

The recent articles are coming close to predicting doom and gloom for Microsoft. Yet I'm more excited than ever by what we're doing. Why is that? Why the disconnect? Because I've seen the product pipeline. I've seen inside Microsoft's Research group. And I've seen that we're getting customers involved in a way I've never seen Microsoft do (remember, I was an MVP for five years -- a few years back Microsoft tried to close the program down, now the program is growing by leaps and bounds).

The disconnect has always been there.

I remember back in the early 1990s when people said Microsoft didn't have a chance against the Macintosh. Or when people said that IBM would get the world to move to OS/2. Or when the kids who ran the computer lab at San Jose State told me "no one needs a mouse and menus." Yes, lots of people have bet against Microsoft in the past, and are doing so again.

Back to the Time article, it's also interesting that Chris didn't mention 1) The Tablet PC (major new version coming this year). 2) Windows Media Center (major new version coming this year -- so cool that I'm going to give away my Tivo when I get my hands on one). 3) Xbox Live! (in just a week I've gotten 33 buddies without looking). 4) OneNote (the coolest new app we've done, new version coming this year). 5) XPSP2 gets a minor mention on second page (major new version of XP, coming this year, with better wireless and security). 6) Anything from our Enterprise groups (Exchange, SQL Server, Speech Server, SBS, etc.). 7) Our collaboration platforms (we acquired Placewhere, remember?) 8) The new SmartPhones coming this summer are freaking awesome. Just ask Dale Coffing, he's carrying one around the country right now. 9) MSN is about to ship a bunch of stuff this year. 10) Should I keep going? Microsoft is big, even I can't do a good laundry list of what's coming out this year.

So, can we exceed expectations? Just stick around and see.

9:33:20 PM    comment 

More after I get off the plane tonight.

2:35:09 PM    comment 

Thumper is onto something. Most marketing people that I talk to just want to present the finished product and explain why it'll improve your life. So the Tablet PC marketing team, for instance, will show you how good the handwriting recoginition is. Or how good it works while standing up.

What they don't tell you is the work it took to get that product done. They don't explain how the digitizer works. They don't invite you into the guy's office who wrote the drivers for the digitizer. They don't really care to discuss the hours of negotiations with OEMs and how hard it is to convince, say, Motion, to come out with a new Tablet PC (and how hard it is to align shifting schedules on both sides).

That stuff doesn't matter to most customers, right? True. But it's exactly that kind of information that turns customers into authorities, er evangelists with credibility.

For instance, a common question Tablet MVPs get is "why doesn't my pen align with the cursor on screen?" Now, if you don't understand how the digitizer works, you wouldn't be able to credibly answer that kind of question.

The answer? The screen on a Tablet PC is a complex thing. First there's an LCD. Then the digitizer (really a grid of invisible wires that send radio signals to the pen). Then a piece of glass to protect the whole thing. Finally, the pen has a transmitter (electromagnetical system) that sits about half an inch off of the glass.

So, alignment errors can happen at any stage of the process. Hold the pen at a weird angle, and the system can go nuts. Look at the tablet at an angle and the glass actually introduces refraction error. Finally, in manufacturing all these pieces must be aligned and calibrated. If there's an error there the whole works won't align.

I was just watching the Channel9 interview I did with the Tablet PC team. The engineers explain all this, and more. For instance, on early prototypes drawing a straight line in the center of the screen was impossible. The hard drive's magnet was messing things up.

So, this all leads to tension between marketers and geeks. Marketers just want to talk about the product. Geeks and evangelists and authorities want to know more.

2:32:52 PM    comment 

Chris Frazier notices my picture is at the top of right now.

That is very weird. I remember the first time I realized the power of ping sites like Dave Winer had invited me over to watch him blog. He was refreshing this page and clicking on every link (back then there were only a hundred or so sites pinging every day).

That was why he had links to people's sites before anyone else did. It was his big secret. It also #2 on my list of why weblogs are hot. Discoverability. Google can find you. Dave, and other "connectors" can find you. Technorati can find you. I can find you. All thanks to

Is your weblog service or tool pinging it? Why not? If you are a weblog, you should ping this when you update.

2:21:06 PM    comment 

Thumper is worried that I'm manipulating him.

Interesting discussion of blogging and marketing.

2:10:49 PM    comment 

Moorific: Blogs are too permanent for execs.

I think that's hogwash. Every conference I've been to lately has been reported by both bloggers and professional journalists. Many even put up transcripts, or videos of their sessions.

2:02:40 PM    comment 

Michael Gartenberg: where DRM goes wrong.

I'll think about this in the plane ride home. DRM is something I have a love/hate relationship with too and I agree we haven't gotten in right yet.

12:26:58 PM    comment 

Design by Fire: "Robert Scoble has a web site. Use your voice. If everyone starts posting comments to his web site pointing out IE 6 errors with XHTML or CSS, and remind him day in and day out, maybe he’ll pass it up the food chain."

Yes, I pass along all feedback about Microsoft stuff.

With requests to fix something, be specific. It helps us decide among the thousands of feature requests we get. The more requests we get on something very specific, the better. If you just say 'support standards' that isn't good enough. Explain which three specific things you want us to do first. Believe it or not, but teams here can't do it all. So help us put things in a priority order. For instance, what's most important to you? Fixing a specific CSS problem, or fixing PNG image support. If you could only have one of those, which one would you want?

But, repeating yourself won't help. I read every comment. Many of the IE team reads me regularly too. But, post away, I'll forward.

12:25:05 PM    comment 

Dang, I'm gonna miss the KFOG Kaboom concert again this year. For those who'll be in San Francisco on May 22, this is a not-to-be-missed fireworks and free concert show.

12:16:47 PM    comment 

How did I find Phillip so fast? MSN Messenger, of course. I have all sorts of interesting people on there. Phillip is one of those guys who uses all sorts of different machines (he tells me he has several macs and several XP-based machines), so I knew he'd be able to talk us through the wireless problem.

Wasn't it Henry Ford who said something like "I don't need to know how to build a car, I just need to know where to find the people who know how." That's how I feel.

Weblogging is a great way to tap into this network of people who "know how."

But, I'm off to enjoy an hour in the sun with my son before hoping on the plane to come back home.

Enjoy your "Sun"day. Dang, can't believe it's already May.

12:14:57 PM    comment 

Phillip Torrone helped save the day. Sorta. Turns out my brother-in-law's 17-incher doesn't have an airport (WiFi) card built in. Heh. Engineering samples. The shoemaker's kids always have the worst shoes.

But you're still nuts if you think fonts look better on a Mac. :-)

12:04:36 PM    comment 

I'm sitting with my brother-in-law. I just setup a Linksys in his house. He's a senior technologist at Apple. My Tablet PC got right on the network without even doing any work. We can't figure out how to get his 17-inch Macintosh on the network. Who said Macs are easier?

Also, you are absolutely nuts if you think fonts look better on the Mac than they do on my Tablet PC. Even my brother-in-law can see that fonts are clearer on my Tablet.

So, what's the secret we're both missing to get his Mac on a new wireless network? I feel so frustrated. I imagine it's how a new user to computers feels. My Windows XP machine is like the back of my hand. I used to know Macs, but that was back in the OS7 days.

Maybe I'll call Lenn, my boss. I hear he knows a think or two about Macs. :-)

11:55:23 AM    comment 

Mike Sax admits getting into David Allen's "Getting Things Done" system. I've been OK at it in the past month. I was down to a clean inbox on Friday, but it keeps coming in.

My task list is way longer than it should be, though. Keeping up with life is tough. But David gives you a system to keep up with the flow.

11:45:13 AM    comment 

Joseph Jones wonders if doing a corporate weblog is a good thing: "There are pros and cons-- on one hand, there's the benefit of a closer relationship with customers and networking benefits, but on the other hand, you're tipping your hand to your competitors."

Something about this attitude really bugs me. Why? Because in almost every case it proves to be faulty thinking. The world has known what Google's been up to for five years, for instance. It's been out in public. Have we been able to react yet? No.

At some point you need to start communicating with the world about what you're doing so you can get adoption. Do you care that customers learn about you and your services? Then you should weblog. If you don't care about adoption, then keep it a secret.

By the way, in almost every case that you think you are keeping a secret from a competitor, they probably already know anyway. I used to know a lot about my camera store competition, for instance, because I built relationships with delivery people, customers who went into other stores, and even salespeople/employees who worked elsewhere (not to mention that we all did back-store deals with each other to trade cameras and other stuff).

By the way, if you think you really have something that your competitor could use against you, why in heck would you weblog that? Weblog all the rest of the stuff that customers could use to 1) Find you. 2) Build a relationship with you. 3) Buy from you. Etc.

Everyone has so many excuses about why they shouldn't blog. I think it's funny. Don't you?

11:42:10 AM    comment 

Last night we were in San Francisco to see Patrick Jean and his wife Sam, a friend of Maryam's (Patrick now works at Yahoo as a visual designer -- he's working on a team coming up with new email features). They've been wanting to take us to a new Chinese place for a while and last night we got our chance.

This is why San Francisco is just so much above Seattle on the culture scale. Here, read about Spices!, which is where we ended up with a table after a 30 minute wait. I've learned. Good food is worth waiting for, and this place didn't disappoint.

Most white Americans wouldn't go in, though. The signs didn't have any English on them. The patrons were mostly non-white. It's in a part of town that isn't exactly "tourist friendly" if you know what I mean.

Oh, Dave Winer, we found a new "Spicy Noodles." Man, this place cooks with a kick!

I love places like this.

11:31:13 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
Are you with the press?
Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:51:21 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). 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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