Channel 9 From Redmond Space

Microsoft has turned on a new marketing … er … communications blog called “Channel 9” whose stated goal is to create transparency into Microsoft’s internal development processes. There’s a Channel 9 doctrine which is basically a restatement of the Cluetrain Manifesto. There’s lots of video snippets. Personally, I never download video snippets: even with broadband, they take seconds to load, which seems antithetical to the whole efficient point of blogging. There’s a control for Windows Media Player that allows you to speed up audio playback while controlling the pitch, allowing you to listen to spoken word recordings at rates approaching reading; perhaps when someone creates a similar plugin for video, I’ll change my tune.

You know, one of the funny aspects of blogging is that people are sniping at Microsoft about “not getting RSS.” If you were to compare how marketing techniques have changed in the past year or so at any two large companies in the world, Microsoft’s embrace of their developers’ voices would have to rank as among the more dramatic changes.

Here’s another observation, though: Microsoft bloggers seem to occasionally have coordinated talking points. This week, for instance, there’s been a sudden surge in the message “Windows Forms is not threatened by Longhorn.” This might be just the “echo chamber” quality of the blogosphere, but Waggener Edstrom is also promoting that message in the traditional PR channels. Coincidence? WaggEd “echoing” the blogosphere? Talking points memos? Not that it really matters, except to point out what should be obvious: the majority of employee blogs from any organization will be more self-censored, more pro-“My Company,” more distorted than most professional PR.

The human voice promoted by blogs is absolutely appealing. Specific insights offered by blogs are wonderful. But blogs are not magic truth-telling oracles.


Just The Other Day I Was So Damned Sick Of Not Having A Persistent Object Image That I Downloaded A Hrefhttps

Just the other day, I was so damned sick of not having a persistent object image that I downloaded Cincom Smalltalk. Ah, Smalltalk! It’s been years, my old friend… Where were we when last me met? Hmmm… where the heck’s the object for a network query?

Anyway, Sean Malloy of Cincom serendipitously visited my blog and pointed out that RentACoder might seem like a great thing if you’re a decent programmer who values your time at around $4 an hour. And indeed, there are people filling RentACoder bids and presumably, many of them are living in countries where $4 is a good wage. Maybe I’ll have to micro-outsource for real.

Oh, and if you’ve never used Smalltalk (or you have and it’s been awhile) download Cincom — it’s free for non-commercial use! Smalltalk is universally lauded as the language that best facilitates an object-oriented mindset. C++, Java, C#: all are compromises of the pure object “vision.” (Good compromises, but compromises.)

Human aggregators: Editors vs. Clipping Services

Microsoft’s Robert Scoble calls himself “a human aggregator”: he reads 1400+ Weblogs per day relating to his position as a Microsoft evangelist. (Perhaps everyone reading this blog knows of Scoble, but just in case…)

People who filter hundreds of blogs can provide tremendous value: they relieve readers of a reading burden that few can afford and, by their choice of posts and comments, they foster a worldview. Because they read so much, they can find aspects of that worldview supported and criticized and, in a virtuous cycle, they help establish, grow, and promote that worldview. They can, in short, act as editors.

Or, they can simply post without comment, acting as a clipping service. Clipping services are fine; they still relieve a tremendous reading burden for those who have a need or inclination to monitor a topic. But a clipping service, while filtering for content, should not filter on worldview. Clipping services should not be editorially biased.

Scoble is experimenting with a product that blogposts anything dragged to an Outlook folder and publishing the result as “Interesting stuff found in 1400 feeds.” To me, that feed is noticeably less interesting that Scoble’s primary feed. With Google, Technorati, and Feedster the day has arrived where we do not need humans to function as clipping services. Even if a feed interjects 1 editorial for every 10 “raw data” posts, that feed has an editorial context for the raw data.

What about Reader’s Digest, you say? There’s a magazine that speaks entirely via surrogates and yet promotes a worldview. But RD‘s editorial is hardly an even-handed reflection of the world of publishing: one does not find many articles from The Nation in RD, even as counterpoints to the more conservative articles that promote that editorial worldview. Similarly, with 1400 blogs, it would be possible to create a “Microsoft Digest” blog or an “Open Source Advocacy” blog; such blogs would not contain raw data, but the best-articulated advocacy of the day. I think blogs of that sort would be quite compelling, but that’s not the tactic that our prototype “human aggregator” / “blogosphere editor” has chosen.

Clearly, I advocate the editorial function. Personally, I try not to “Post Selected Item” without some sort of commentary. When I can’t do that, I notice that it’s usually because the item is some technical snippet that I personally anticipate retrieving some other time. I look forward to trying Kunal’s “magic folder” but I don’t anticipate making that blog publicly visible.