Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Saturday, February 12, 2005

FTPOnline: What's next for Tablet PC?

Interview with head of the Tablet PC group, Peter Loforte.

The Tablet PC app I want the most? The new Active Words. Buzz was showing it off last week. You write an "n" and a gesture and it pulls up the New York Times Website. (You choose your own words and what it does).

This will radically change how I use my Tablet PC.

11:34:35 PM    comment 

I'm still a NewsGator guy (I love the Outlook integration) but more and more I'm impressed with Onfolio 2.0. They are announcing it at Demo (I'll be at Demo, by the way, there's a TON of blogging/RSS stuff coming).

If you're looking for a great RSS aggregator, Onfolio is hard to beat. Plugs into IE or Firefox.

11:31:26 PM    comment 

Wil Wheaton shows how to blog the first days on a job. What a job! (He's an actor on CSI).

My old Tablet PC was signed by Wil.

11:21:48 PM    comment 

Jeff Sandquist proves we both are losers who are answering email and geeking out on Saturday night.

Congratulations should go to Jeff too for getting in shape (read his blog for more details) and training for a marathon. I ran four marathons in high school. You'll not know pain until you try to run 26.2 miles.

My training partner back then? A 40-year-old woman who ran 100 milers.

Jeff is inspirational. I have a new exercise machine waiting to be unpacked at home.

11:15:50 PM    comment 

More advice for Mark Jen: copy Dave Cumps. He just got hired by Microsoft. Notice how he shares his passion and gives his readers valuable information?

That's how you get noticed by companies looking to hire software developers.

If you blogged like that for a couple of weeks I bet people would soon forget that you got fired and you'd soon have tons of great job offers.

11:11:12 PM    comment 

Todd Dailey found something new to do with the Channel 9 guy. (He works at Apple). Heh!

10:54:49 PM    comment 

When people are writing songs about your product (in this case Flickr) you know you're doing something interesting.

10:53:14 PM    comment 

Great advice for Mark Jen (the blogger looking for a job).

I told Mark pretty much the same thing. He has quite a bit of fame now and everyone is watching to see what he'll do. I'd translate that interest into a media thing.

If I were Mark I'd focus on a niche. And own it. Talk about it 15 times a day. Link to everyone in that niche. Demonstrate that he can be professional (hint: that means proper capitalization on sentences Mark! Seriously, that really is hurting your image. I'd fire you just for communicating that way). Demonstrate that he can be passionate. Positive. Helpful. Accurate. Informative. Friendly.

Think about the attribute you want in your coworkers. And live that. I want to hang around geeks. People who love building things. I've made my entire career about just that.

10:43:46 PM    comment 

My brother-in-law was showing off his new Apple iPod shuffle. A 1GB model. Actually, he gave it to his niece. Turns out that Apple gave every employee one!

That's one way to ensure they don't buy one of these.

9:51:19 PM    comment 

Steve Ballmer is talking up the next Xbox.

Hey, is Microsoft rotting because our CEO is playing games? Hmmm. On the other hand, maybe it's good that he takes Hugh Macleod's suggestion seriously?

Seriously: I'm jealous. Being CEO does have its advantages! I want a look.

9:41:21 PM    comment 

Russell notes that Nokia licenses Macromedia Flash. Macromedia is another company with a product engine that is firing well lately.

Remember what happened when a small company you never heard of licensed something to IBM? I wonder if this is such a moment?

9:22:10 PM    comment 

Russell Beattie: email day.

I too have turned into one of those people who don't answer email. Rude, rude, rude! But I'm overwhelmed.

Tonight is email night.

9:18:48 PM    comment 

Michael S. Malone, in Forbes, in October 2000: Apple R.I.P.

To be fair, after that article was published Apple's stock dropped from around $30 (it had already dropped from around $50) to around $12. So, he was right in sensing that trouble was ahead. Of course, he totally missed that two years out that Jobs would come up with the iPod and the stock would head up to its $80 level today.

Thanks to Jamesl for telling me that.

Two lessons there: 1) Michael Malone's nose is good. 2) He can't see inside the labs where cool stuff is brewing.

9:05:00 PM    comment 

Ed Draper: Five kick ass apps on the Smartphone.

Oh, cool, new things I need to get!

Any others?

8:36:09 PM    comment 

Carmine is out! Alright, another blogger is born. This one is the work of Charles Torre. He's my compadre on Channel 9. He's a lot more technical than I am. And a lot better looking to boot!

Charles has two personalities: Charles is the professional developer who works at Microsoft.

Now, Carmine? He's another animal altogether. Unpredictable, weird things happen when Carmine comes out. Sometimes Carmine calls me names on my cell phone when I don't call him back. Sometimes he sends me email with lots of interesting content ideas for Channel 9. Sometimes he grabs me and says "bring your camcorder" and we go for a fascinating ride through the back alleys of building 42.

Hey, Carmine, hope you come out and write more.

Charles Torre (er, Carmine): What happened to OS research?

8:18:31 PM    comment 

Jackie Huba asked me to get a better photo than the one the Economist used (it's the same photo that's on my banner above). She implies that I've been dressing better lately and that would put forth a more professional image.

That might be true, but I like that tree photo for a whole lot of reasons:

1) My wife took it. Heck, I had dreams once of being a nationally-published photographer and she's attained that dream without even having it. I hate it when that happens.

2) That was taken the day after my wedding and we were on our honeymoon. It was the happiest week of my life so far.

3) That tree is a metaphor for a whole lot of things. First, survival. It's at the top of Donner Pass and survives winters with snows up to 30 feet deep. Second, it's a witness to history. The original transcontinental railroad line runs a few yards away from that tree. Hundreds of Chinese labored there to build the Chinese Wall (the wall is about 100 yards from that tree) and tunnel #7, the opening of which is a few yards from this tree. And, if the Donner Party were able to reach this particular tree we would never have heard of the Donner Party (this tree looks down at the valley where they all were trapped for months by deep snows).

4) The photo fits with the article. I'm just sharing myself here every day and what I'm passionate about. This isn't cleaned up by some PR crew. It isn't made perfect by an artist with Photoshop. And, on most days I wear jeans and a t-shirt. I only get dressed up when I'm giving keynotes. In other words, the photo presents me as I am and doesn't try to over manufacture some other image.

5) It took some work to get up to the tree (it was probably 400 feet in elevation above the road where we parked). Maryam wasn't happy at all about being dragged up there. But I got three of my favorite photos of the past few years in 30 minutes, so it was worth it.

6) It fits in with Microsoft's love of blue. I don't know why, but it seems that every UI we do must have blue somewhere. And, our desktop photos that are shipped by default have lots of blue.

But, I'll look for an opportunity to get a better photo. I just want one with a good story behind it and those aren't easy to get.

6:23:59 PM    comment 

I wish we had a decent TV advertising campaign like what Joe Wilcox suggests.

When was the last time you saw an actual Microsoft product in a TV advertisement?

Even the latest MSN Search ads don't show the actual product.

Maybe it's time for me to write an email to Steve Ballmer? It'd have three words on it: hire Joe Wilcox.

Oh, heck, why stop there? Hire Joe Wilcox and Hugh Macleod. Imagine if we did TV ads AND got on the Hughtrain all at the same time? Maybe that'd be enough to get Malone to stop saying we're rotting.

6:03:29 PM    comment 

You know, it's just a wacky weekend when the co-inventor of the spreadsheet, Bob Frankston, shows up in your comments. I'm honored. Hey, Bob, how's your Tablet PC working out? (I talked with him about it at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conference last year).

I'm bummed that I'm not going to ETC this year, but SXSW invited me to be on a panel and I hear that's a really awesome conference too.

12:28:28 PM    comment 

My former boss, Steve Sloan, disagrees with some comments I made about corporate blogging.

I should have been clearer. When you are identified as part of a corporation you've gotta be more careful in your writing than when you are talking with close personal friends over beer on Friday night. Some bloggers have told me they take great care to remain anonymous or, at least, don't mention who they are working for.

That said, I do think it's important to share who you are. If you look at my blog you'll see I talk about my divorce. My car wreck. My religious beliefs (or lack thereof). My beliefs on gay marriage. My politics.

But I know that when I do those things I'm doing so at great risk that someone in power over me might not like that and might use those things to my detriment.

That's where I differ from Mark Jen. He took risks without really knowing the consequences (and without having a social network to absorb the shock when he tried to do something different). When I take them I go into them knowing full well the risks and I know what my boss is willing to defend.

See the difference?

Every blogger has a knob to turn when he/she writes. One direction is "more interesting" and the other direction is "safer." You gotta decide where to turn that knob.

For instance, I couldn't do what Dawn and Drew are doing. No way, no how. I'd be fired in a minute if I did that.

The thing is, I've been living in Microsoft culture for about a decade. Attending conferences. Building friendships with employees and vendors and developers and others who are in its ecosystem. I pushed the lines many times in the past and knew before I joined Microsoft where they were. Here's a little secret. If you want to change something in society you need to know where the lines are. Then when you jump over the lines you do so very explicitly and knowing you are in dangerous territory.

I agree that the best blogging (or podcasting or writing or speaking) is that which puts you out there in the danger zone. Anyone can play it safe. But how many Jackie Robinsons are there? And don't think he didn't understand the risks he was taking when trying to change the world. Also, don't underestimate the relationships he had with people who wanted him to change the world and were willing to protect his back.

I'm just saying that if you aren't willing to take the risks (or don't have the relationship network to fall back on), those are the areas in society that will get you into the trouble area.

I also disagree with Steve. You've gotta think about the various constituencies when you write. I think about my readers. What will they think? If I write something that pisses half of them off that's probably 2,500 pissed off people today. What if they all decided to write Steve Ballmer? His email is by the way.

What about if my words showed up tomorrow in Newsweek? How many readers do they have? Millions. What if I said something that Microsoft's board of directors didn't agree with?

What if I said something on my blog that my wife didn't agree with? I'll be sleeping on the couch. Hint: the Red Couch is a cold and uncomfortable place to sleep.

What if I said something on my blog that my coworkers didn't agree with? What would happen if even 10% of them wrote Steve Ballmer and said "Scoble's gotta go."?

What if I said something on my blog that my boss didn't agree with? I might not get fired, but I might not get the opportunity to work on a hot new project that's really fun and interesting.

What if I said something on my blog that Steve Ballmer didn't agree with? You ever get an email from one of the most-respected executives in the world that said you're nuts? Thank God I haven't yet either and I certainly don't want one of those.

What if I said something on my blog that Dave Winer didn't agree with? Everytime he links to me with a sensational link I get 3,000 people coming over here.

What if I said something to piss you off? You might not have a blog. But you might influence a group at work. What if you decided to switch your group's computers from Windows to Linux just because of something I said? Or, worse, what if you decided to sue Microsoft because I lied to you? Where would that get me in the world?

Anyway, Steve, I'd recommend you not write that your boss is a bozo on your blog. Even if he is. It's just common sense. There are other ways to get your point across in far more interesting and subtle ways. If your boss really is a bozo he won't notice. :-)

But Steve is right in one thing: this is a new and interesting communication form and those who try to write rules for it are bound to be frustrated.

That said, I'm off for the rest of the day. Have a great weekend!

11:25:17 AM    comment 

Wow, Håkon Wium Lie wrote me this morning. He's the inventor of CSS (the technology I use on my blog to separate my content from my design -- or lack thereof! Heh.) I'm very honored. Lie has done so much to improve the Web experience for developers and users.

But, then he told me a cautionary tale. Similar to what Michael Malone is telling me. That we're not paying attention to the small stuff.

Yup, agreed. I wish I could force all Microsoft employees to make sure that their HTML code validates. That's not nice when it doesn't (although, even my blog -- that isn't done with Microsoft technologies -- doesn't validate completely because I rely on code from other places that often doesn't validate so I understand just how difficult this problem is to solve).

Anyway, he wrote a letter to Bill Gates asking Microsoft to get real about interoperability, Web style.

I invite Håkon to watch Channel 9 too. In about a week we have an interview with Scott Guthrie, who heads up the IIS and ASP.NET teams. I gave Scott crap about just this problem in that interview and he says that they are working hard to fix it in IIS 7.0 and the next version of ASP.NET. Not exactly the answer that Lie will want to hear, but demonstrates that we are working to fix this problem company-wide (the Web teams here rely heavily on ASP.NET and IIS to generate their HTML and CSS).

10:08:17 AM    comment 

Michael S. Malone (Silicon Insider on ABC News): R.I.P. Microsoft?

He says he smells rot inside Microsoft.

I take this very seriously. Why? Because if you know Michael he's good at smelling out the rot in companies (his article gives several examples).

I'm not going to disagree with him. Why? Because that would prove his thesis correct.

Instead, I invite Michael to come over to Channel 9. See the kinds of things we're doing, or come up to campus. I'd be happy to give him a tour to see the inside of Microsoft and show him why Longhorn went back to the drawing board.

I also challenge my coworkers to read this article. And others like it (John Dvorak has one coming this month that says Microsoft's marketing sucks, for instance). And question whether we're all heading in the right direction.

You'll notice that I'm not leaving Microsoft and I've had a better view at the inards of Microsoft than anyone except for maybe some vice presidents' here.

I'm very good at smelling rot too. At three previous companies (Fawcette, Winnov, and NEC) I left six months before layoffs came.

Yes, Microsoft faces difficult challenges over the next few years. Apple is firing on all cylinders. Linux continues to come on strong on a variety of fronts. Google is firing on all cylinders. Silicon Valley is rocking again (Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, Cisco, and tons of little companies are hiring). Firefox is getting downloaded in the tens of millions.

But, as I look around at the various companies and business models and movements I don't see anyplace I'd rather work.

Yesterday, for instance, I met with Gordon Bell and Jim Gammell (later with Jim Gray). These guys have done so much for our industry I can't believe I got to meet with them for a while (Gordon started the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, for instance, which has become the world's best computer museum). Jim Gray has done so much bleeding edge work with databases it would take about 200 weblog posts just to enumerate them all.

Yesterday they showed me what they are working on. Really interesting stuff that in 10 years will probably be used by almost everyone.

Oh, heck, I do have some things I'd like to refute:

First, that college kids don't want to come to Microsoft. This does not reflect my experiences at all. College kids know you can get hired out of college, write a Thinkweek paper to Bill Gates, get noticed inside the company, and change the world. They also know that ideas are celebrated inside the company and that working conditions are way over the top when compared with other startups or even big companies (you should have seen the cube farm that I worked in at NEC -- in fact, most of my friends in Silicon Valley work in cube farms).

Also, this company is doing something unique: they are letting us talk to customers using all the technologies out here. We're encouraged to visit newsgroups, mailing lists, chat rooms, forums, and, yes, even blogs. We're encouraged to put our ideas out in public in the forms of videos and podcasts and blogs. About 1,500 of us blog. How many at other companies? College kids care about that.

What does that tell a college kid? You'll have the freedom to discuss ideas with customers. Or potential customers. Now, compare that freedom to other companies. Most other tech companies have decided not to encourage blogging in any big way. Certainly not open and honest blogging where you get to discuss the challenges your company faces. Or, where you get to discuss ideas and come up with new solutions.

It says volumes that I have written several letters to Bill Gates on my blog telling him how to change his company and I'm still here. Compare to other companies around us. That really is pretty unique. We all know several other billion-dollar companies that don't allow that kind of bottom-up kind of feedback. (If you're a Microsoft employee, and you're thinking of doing that, though, do it smartly. Remember, your words will get into the New York Times or Wired Magazine).

See, I'm convinced that the next big idea in our industry is going to be a small idea. Something that we all ignore. For a while at least. Blogging was sorta that, wasn't it? Heck, even I didn't think it was important enough to put on the CNET Live conference schedule back in 2000. There were only a few hundred people doing it back then. Who knew that just five years later we'd be seeing 40,000 new blogs per day? I'm not even sure that Dave Winer thought we'd get to where we are today.

Apple started as a small idea. Woz's bosses at HP and Atari thought it was so small that they told him to go away. Google? Small idea. AltaVista thought they had a monopoly in search all sewn up. eBay? Small idea. On the first day in business eBay's idea was so small that their servers didn't get a single visit!

Which brings me back to Michael's article. The crux of his argument is that we're not doing the small things well anymore. We're not seeing small things. We're not investing in small things. We're not executing on the small things.

On that count, Michael is at least partly correct and it's a cautionary tale for all of us. It's something I bring up in strategy meetings all the time. It's the small things that will kill you. It's the small memory-leaking bug that'll lose you customers in droves, for instance. It's the lack of investing in small ideas and small companies that'll kill your product pipeline. Today's tiny idea is tomorrow's Google.

One last thing: there's a few people at Microsoft who understand just how fast it can turn too. Gordon Bell's new computer history museum? It's in a former SGI building.

9:39:31 AM    comment 

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Robert Scoble
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Last updated:
5/11/2005; 1:02:59 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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