John Porcaro: mktg@msft 
I'm a Group Manager on the Home and Entertainment Division's PR team.
We create communications tools for Retail Partners, Retail Sales Associates, and our division's employees.
Even though I work for Microsoft, I'm not sure everything accurately reflects the views
of my employer, my management, my co-workers, or is even true. So, little I say here is "Microsoft policy".
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John/Male/36-40. Lives in United States/Washington/Carnation, speaks English and Spanish. Eye color is brown. I am also optimistic. My interests are mountaineering/my kids.
This is my blogchalk:
United States, Washington, Carnation, English, Spanish, John, Male, 36-40, mountaineering, my kids.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Aaaah. There he is!

 
There's Eric's voice. Nice to hear from you!

   9:24:00 PM 

I'm Here! Now What?

 
In a post titled inAudible, Frank Koehntopp tells how he tried to log into Audible to download a book. As you've seen below, I really am a big fan of Audible.com, but I sympathize with Frank.

Summary: this was one of the worst shopping experiences, and I ended up not buying anything at all.


It's interesting how often customer experiences end in someone not only walking away, but actively disengaging and vowing never to come back (you'd never do that because of bad experiences with Microsoft products, would you???). Companies spend most of their marketing budgets attracting customers, advertising, giving out samples, paying salespeople, often with results. In the best of cases, an engaged customer evangelist (me in this case) convinces someone to give the service or product a try.

All of it is wasted if the customer experience is bad. Whether a buzy signal (or endless phone trees), or a nasty (or absent) receptionist, a rude cashier, an inflexible customer returns rep, or bugs in software (ya, I know, I know), one bad experience--particularly if it's the first experience--can drive customers away.

Sorry the experience you had was bad, Frank. I hope Audible takes your feedback seriously.


   8:33:00 PM 

What Started Me Blogging?

 
Tosh Meston asks us "What Started You Blogging?"

For me, it was brought up in a conversation by Beth Goza in a meeting of Consumer Advocates internally. A group of us meet every few weeks to brainstorm, share best practices, and talk about what we're working on. She said blog. We said (pretty much collectively) "huh?" She said the only way to get it is to try it.

Two Months later, here we are.
   5:23:00 PM 

Solving Customer Needs or Creating Confusion?

 
In a story called Bluetooth: The truth gets worse, ZD Net writer David Berlind explores the perception that the Microsoft Bluetooth-based wireless mice and keyboards aren't compatible with built-in Bluetooth radios. In fact, "after buying Microsoft's Bluetooth peripherals, you will encounter a warning from Microsoft that you must disable that built-in Bluetooth (that you paid extra to have and thought to be interoperable) and use Microsoft's USB-based Bluetooth transceiver instead."

In a customer comment, Bruce, a (potentially lost) customer responds "I went out this week to buy one of Microsoft's BT keyboard and mouse packages and was disgusted to see a note on the side of the box indicating that I would have to disable the internal BT and use the Microsoft external USB BT adapter. Is this really true? And if so, is there another alternative out there?

Berlind researches the issue, and finds that it's due to early Bluetooth adapters being incompatible with HID. Microsoft wireless architect Mike Foley reports (in the article):

"The Microsoft keyboards and mice will most definitely connect with third party radios," says Foley.

Describing how those radios must support the Bluetooth's Human Interface Device (HID) profile (the Bluetooth standard profile for supporting interface devices like keyboards and mice), Foley continued: "When our mouse and keyboard first shipped, most if not all other Bluetooth stacks for the PC didn't have HID support. Thus, the mouse and keyboard wouldn't work with them. This has changed over the past year, and the packaging text is being reviewed."

I'm glad that Berlind did some more searching, and found (and published) the real answer. I'm personally (and in my own opinion) baffled that Microsoft wasn't more proactive (including updating the packaging and web site earlier) in getting the word out.

We're not building walls, in this case, we were trying to do the right thing (provide a complete solution that solved the problem with HID).

   7:51:00 AM 



Thursday, May 29, 2003

Ambient Orb

 
How cool is this?
   10:55:00 PM 

Did I Tell You Lately Sharepoint 2.0 and Office 2003 Rock?

 
My team runs our division's Intranet site, called Retailweb (internal link if you're a Microsoftee). Cesar, our able, willing, and quite personable Mktg. Mgr. does a great job keeping things fresh, updated, etc. Lately, he's been getting more and more into Knowledge Management, and he's impressing me with his level of passion and ability to understand the customer issues.

We met with the folks who run our company Intranet Portal, MSW (MicrosoftWeb). With web parts, and SharePoint 2.0, and the work they're doing, we're going to have a solution that will be fairly easily implemented, and will save everyone a ton of time finding information.

In Office 2003, I love the feature that allows you to send a doc to a SharePoint site when you're sending an attachment. That feature alone is going to change the way we do document management. I love this stuff.

   9:37:00 PM 

To my customer, "Business is Closed"

 
While I was away from work for four weeks, I didn't check email. Like most companies (and most ISPs for that matter), our IT group has a policy that gives email users a set limit of storage for email. At one point, you begin to get warnings. Later, you can no longer send email. Finally, they refuse incoming email. And with Unified Messaging (integrated voice mail), voice mails are included in this quota.

With loads of spam, a few mailing lists, daily newsletters with graphics from ClickZ, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0, etc., and with employees sending 3MB PowerPoint decks for review and cute videoclips, these mailboxes fill up pretty fast.

Imagine what happens when someone goes on leave for four weeks. Two weeks into my leave, Microsoft refused all my incoming email, voicemail, and faxes.

As far as those wanting to communicate with me, I didn't exist. I had clients/customers and family calling me on my cell phone asking if I still worked for the company.

I understand needing to work with finite resources, but to turn a deaf ear to a customer, co-worker, or client, simply to save a few dollars on disk space (or worst, to enforce an arbitrary policy)?

Bad Business, I think.

In a related story, our receptionist leaves for lunch, and for two 15-minute breaks during the day. Same issue. If a client happens to come at 12:05, we have no receptionist. What difference does it make to the client that she's there 7.5 hours a day, if she's not there when the client arrives? Might as well have no receptionist. The customer perception, N=1, is reality. At that moment, everything comes to a halt.

When we see things from the eyes of our customers, decisions become easy.

And don't forget, this posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. I speak for me. Good ole, frustrated sometimes me.

   9:28:00 PM 

Classic games from Nintendo, Namco, Capcom, Atari, and others

 
Just for fun: Shockwave Flash Games: Classic games from Nintendo, Namco, Capcom, Atari, and others

I worked in an arcade when I was 16 or so, right around 1979. This brought back many fun memories...
   9:19:00 PM 

Beware of Business Processes

 
From someting I read a few weeks ago, still rolling around in my head. Dave Weinberger links to an article in his Loosely Coupled weblog to an article on Patricia Seybold's site called "Beware of Business Process Management."

. "If you attempt to design business processes a priori, you're going to design in a set of assumptions and requirements that may not be adaptable enough" — especially in customer-facing environments. Instead, she recommends thinking of all the separate functions in a business process as independent services (such as inventory management, shipping, returns handling):

Quoting Patricia: "The advantage of taking a services approach to your former business processes is that the flexibility and adaptiveness is automatically built in at precisely the right level ... The basic difference between business process design and collections of services is the adaptive property of emergent behavior. Patterns of behavior among services emerge in response to customers' improvisations ... start thinking of choreography as a way of capturing the patterns of useful and pleasing improvisations that services do for us on our behalf."
.

Part of the group I'm in manages business processes, and for a few years I was part of Marketing Operations team that was responsible for researching and managing business processes for the Home and Retail Division. I enjoyed the discipline involved, the creative thinking, and seeing it improve our business.

Recently I took a Six Sigma green belt certification course, and learned quite a lot about connecting customer needs with processes. So often we jump from defining a problem loosely to coming up with a fix, all without asking any questions or doing any measurement. I know several groups that have saved millions already with better processes because of the discipline that Six Sigma provided.

Of course, business processes are a lot more than just a nice timeline on a "placemat" (our term for our laminated 11x17 Gantt chart). There are people involved (certainly part of the "system" as well): marketing folks who procrastinate, those that are overwhelmed, those that have different priorities than our "process", those that don't know the process, those with their own processes, some with egos, and the occasional marketing folks who don't play by the rules.
   8:59:00 PM 



Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Real Conversations

 
I was recommended FM Radio (and subsiquently Radio UserLand). As part of the signup process, I was asked for my email address. I was later personally contacted by the CEO of SocialDynamX, Stephen Dulaney, with personal comments about things I'd written in my weblog. He writes about it here.

I am learning that this is a great social way to meet new people. I ask for the email before they can start the evaluation. I have been trying to find their blog and read about their interest and then write them a personal note asking them to tell me what they like and don't like about our work. In this short very non scientific study I clearly see the corrilation between human and social capital.

I am finding great intrest in web logging from peoples who are in occupations where they meet and work with lots of people every day. Occupations like doctors, laywers, teachers, journalist, and youth ministers. Oh and the one Marketing guy from Microsoft.


As a customer, I really liked getting a personal email from him. I think there's no better way for a person, company, or CEO to get to know their customers than corresponding with them. And there's no better way for me as a customer to feel a personal connection with a company. Because of the peronal touch, I've installed the software, and I'm a lot more serious about switching now than I would have been.

And on top of that, I feel I've made another relationship with someone I could be friends with. I'm enjoying reading his blog, and I really believe he's onto something with his ongoing discussion about Social Capital. Fascinating stuff.

   9:41:00 PM 

Morale Events

 
Today we had an infamous "morale event" for our group. We spent the afternoon in the cool Seattle springtime having a barbecue and playing volleyball on the Microsoft courts, just off the main campus. There's a large sports field with a full-size baseball diamond, two full-sized soccer fields (normally used for Ultimate Frisbee), and a tournament-sized volleyball court. It turned out to be a perfect afternoon, all for the cost of a catered lunch.

One of the things I enjoy the most is hosting events like this (though our administer planned this one completely). I've been on the team responsible for three annual Road Rally events, with puzzles, picture clues, and activities at various stops. We've done everything from ropes courses to helicopter rides to spam carving to rock climbing.

All in all, as far as morale goes, I enjoyed the time with the team, the relaxed pace of the afternoon, and the chance to get some grub.
   9:28:00 PM 

Officially Humbled

 
Okay, now that I spend a bit of time browsing some Macromedia blogs, I'm sufficiently humbled. They're doing a great job with blogging! I like what I see. Especially this one: Kevin Lynch, Chief Software Architect. I wonder if we can get our Chief Software Architect to blog? His site's kindof like a blog (it has dates and content and stuff he says)...

And don't forget, this posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.
   1:51:00 AM 

Can Blogs Be Used for Marketing?

 
So after a day back, the thing that's on my mind the most is the amazing exchanges I've had with many of you over the past month. Several discussions I've had today have come back to blogging. And the most frequently asked question is about the marketing value, and if how they could ever be used to sell something.

Oh, by the way, this posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights...

Here are two responses I sent to Microsoft employees, the first to Joe:

Are blogs part of the answer? I think so, but only after they “cross the chasm” and ordinary people write (and of course read) them. I imagine our customers will read a daily update of what we’re thinking if it relates to them. For sales reps at retail, it might help if we could give them ideas for how to better sell our products, or how to answer tough customer questions, or offering glimpses into what we’re doing in the future, or linking to the latest download of a game or a patch.

Mostly, I think a blog could give them a sense that they’re being heard, and that they have an insider contact at Microsoft. The thing I love about blogs is that they scale, but they remain personal. You might have 100 people reading your blog, or 10,000, and they all feel like they know you personally. That’s really cool.


And another, to a Microsoft Sales Manager in Australia...

My job is to build community for our retail partner’s sales associates, and I’m beginning to think about how blogs can be used there. I think I’ve learned over the past two months of blogging (and reading others’ blogs) that it really is hard to put into words.

I think having (others at Microsoft) blog could bring about a bit of “social” change, showing that we have a “human face” and maybe begin to build some trust. I think that if a (potential) customer was reading a blog, and could read (and comment/contribute) to what we’re working on, they’d know that we're listening, and I think they’d be more prone to trust us. The nice thing about blogs is they have a very personal feel about them, but they scale infinitely (I feel like I know Doc Searles from his blog, even though he doesn’t know me).


I'm just happy to be engaging others in the discussion about something I care so much about: communicating with customers!

Did I mention that this post is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights?...


   1:14:00 AM 



Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Back to Work, Young Man!

 
At Microsoft, we have a long-standing tradition of battling with the issue of "work/life balance." As a management team, we're always looking for ways to make sure a decent balance exists. In our annual employee polls, and our management offsites, we talk about how to achieve a good mix for ourselves and our employees. It's one of the things I like about the group I'm in. In fact, in a conversation I had with a senior VP a few years back, he mentioned that it was one of his most important challenges, and that he saw it as a bad thing when individual employees worked late night after night.

What I've found in the past four weeks is that my work/life balance is off!

I had too much life, and not enough work.

I'm actually glad to be back. I missed the stimulating (and even challenging) discussions with co-workers. I missed the daily dose of my regular business newsletters. I missed the cafeteria food (beats Mac and Cheese and Top Ramen, perennial kids' favorites). Most of all, I miss the quiet. With my office door shut, it's such a peaceful (if not stressful sometimes) place.

By the way, our LCA Group (legal and corporate affairs) wants me to say this whenever I talk about work: This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.

   7:22:00 PM 



Sunday, May 25, 2003

Gonzo Marketing

 
I read for the second time Chris Locke's book Gonzo Marketing. It's funny that long, long before my blogging lifestyle (which only started two months ago when Beth Goza turned me onto it), I had read Gonzo Marketing and got only a little out of it. I believed the Internet was going to change everything, and I even subscribed to the thought of markets as conversations. But I didn't understand how a company could move to actually having them in a systematic, ROI-returning way.

Not to say that webloggin is it, since in many ways it hasn't crossed the chasm yet. But it (or something like it) will be the way we'll be able to have conversations with our customers. For now, I like that it allows us to show a "human" voice, rather than the "press-release-ese" of some marketing communications.

So after reading the book again, I realized that the concept behind Gonzo Marketing is about allowing employees to build (or participate in) communities (or sponsor already-built communities), and have real conversations with a human voice. Chris toys with the idea of having them work full-time (we do have a handful of folks who work with corporate-sponsored communities, like the Club Pocket PC that Beth helped start, the MVP Program Tony Russel manages, and the Mindshare User Groups, run by Alan Chitlik for example). I'm mulling over ideas of how to do that with my areas of responsibility, but I think I'm at a different level of understanding than I was a year or two ago.

   11:04:00 PM 

Another Microsoft Marketer!

 
Becky Dias has returned from vacation a new blogger. From what I can tell, she's posted more in the past four days than in the past month! Great!

I enjoyed what she had to say about putting the customer first. Sound like yet another who may be able to put the pieces together in helping those who use our software realize their potential in new and exciting ways.

I wonder how many of the 1,300 "officially classified" as Marketing folks at Microsoft have blogs. So far, I've found the four of us (Beth, Diane, Becky, and me).

   9:45:00 PM 



Friday, May 23, 2003

Playing the Customer

 
My team is in the process of picking a research company to do some detailed customer profiling to help us better understand what our customers are experiencing while shopping at retail. In the process of hiring a company to help, we put out an RFP to three companies. We're not talking about a quick phone-and-publish survey. We're talking several hundred thousand dollars over the next few months.

We had two of the three present their proposals to us today. (Remember I'm still on leave? I went in today to attend the meetings.) The two proposals we saw looked great, and both companies had the right experience to do the job. One company, however, very nearly got the job on the spot. And it all comes down to two things:

1) This company had done their homework, and really understood what we were looking for. In fact, when asked to reiterate back what we were looking for, they just nailed it. They knew what we wanted, and they had spent a lot of time preparing the proposal. Part of this came from them already having experience in the area we're looking for, but part of it came from their preparation.
2) They came across more professional in the (spoken) presentation. We felt more at ease, and better represented by these guys. They had the right answers. They were in "tune" with us during the presentation. The other team lacked the same communications skills, and came across unprepared and unprofessional.

Interesting. Our decision on whom to partner with comes down, again, to a personal touch. A personal voice. The proposal will be studied before a final decision is made, and we'll ask clarifying questions. But in the end, it's about who we're most comfortable with, not even so contracts and RFPs and proposals.
   9:09:00 PM 



Thursday, May 22, 2003

PhotoStory

 
Beth Goza does a pretty cool PhotoStory (part of the $20 Windows XP Digital Plus Pack).

I don't really like the audio blogs, but this has some potential. Seeing what she's talking about as she narrates really brings it to life. I've used PhotoStory (see my family web site for my semi-weak Christmas video). It was cool because it only took 15 minutes or so, and I've never really used this kind of software before. I should do more of these myself.
   11:10:00 PM 

What If You Built a Blog and No One Came?

 
ClickZ recently ran an article called What If You Built a Blog and No One Came?, written by new blogger Jared Blank. Scoble points out that this is "another example of the "corporate types" coming in and trying to make weblogging work for them." Not that I completely disagree, but effective communications "tools" will always be used to further free enterprise, as long as they work. I give Jared a lot of credit for making the posts, they're actually pretty good. As a marketing guy myself, the only reason I cracked open this universe is that I thought it would give my team and I a good way to understand our customers better (assuming they're reading us, or we're finding what they're writing--but that's another story).

I think three problems exist:

1) The right people don't know the content is there. Those who would be interested in the content need to know the content exists. Buying keywords on Google is one way. Emailing links to the blog (treating it like a newsletter almost) to clients is another. Putting the word out to prolific and widely-read bloggers is another (though probably the least effective for now).
2) The blogging community is largely tech writers and personal users (from my perspective). The blogging world is divided up into a lot of subsets, but the one he's stumbled into (Scoble, Doc, Winer) is largely a tech one. Marketing as a discipline, or executives, or sales people, are just getting wind of it. Be patient. For now, consider the "blog" as just another way to have a conversation with current or potential clients or customers. There's a lot of blogging about blogging (metablogging, I've heard it called) going on.
3) The conversations can't sound like corporate marketing. As Scoble points out, the blogging world today is a large conversation, with lots of dialog. In the comments section, Jared responds: "We can't link to other bloggers. My blog is part of the Jupiter corporate site and for whatever reason, we've chosen not to link to other blogs." This as much as anything speaks to the feeling that this is just a marketing tool, not a conversation. I highly recommend reading the Cluetrain Manifesto and Permission Marketing to those marketing and PR folks who still live in the world of "broadcast" marketing.


Personally, I think the content is interesting, and as a frequent flyer, I think I'd peruse the site every now and then. I'll add the link to my already-way-too-long Blogroll, and pull it off if I don't find myself on the site at least once a week. I might even pull in the RSS feed.

As someone who does market research, I'd be interested in hearing how these analysts think, and if one of them resonated with me, I would hire them. My team will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on market research this year, and finding a company or an individual analyst that I trusted would help me in finding partners to work with (the marketing angle).
   8:15:00 PM 

The Onion: 80% of Human Discourse in Web Product Reviews

 
A co-worker (Cesar) sent this to me. While there's always a bit of truth in everything The Onion posts (which is why it's so funny), I think my team might be mocking my blogging ways...

From the tens of millions of consumer reviews posted on retail giants like Amazon.com to the more specialized message boards of Motorcycle.com and Macaddict.com, Piersall estimated that 80 percent of all human discourse now takes the form of product reviews on the web.

While some online reviewers give little more than basic pros-and-cons of a product or a one- to five-star rating, many use the write-ups as a vital means of self-expression, providing in-depth anecdotes about their own experiences with a particular product, or even their autobiography. On Amazon.com, some reviewers create deeply personal Listmania! lists, such as "The Best Kung Fu Movies Ever" or "Things You Absolutely Need To Survive Working In A Cubicle." Full Story

   2:55:00 PM 

At the Crossroads

 
Very interesting discussion at the informal Seattle gathering of bloggers. I got to finally meet Robert Scoble and Dare Obasanjo and Joshua Allen and John Lambert and Joe Bork (not Joe Beda, sorry Joe!). We were joined by Simon Phipps, and Ted Leung. Ted has his notes, and a picture of Joshua and his daughter here.

I was totally impressed with the openness of the conversations, the calibre of the discussions, and the fact that these guys "have a clue."

I had a great conversation with Scoble and Phipps about how big companies become bad companies, and at what point they quit caring for their customers. He brought up the idea that at the point some companies become successful, they develop some kind of a "hitler youth" movement, where those working for the company believe the company can do no wrong, that the competition really is the enemy. It's interesting to have watched that happen, after I joined Microsoft in 1990. I think many of us began to love our products more than what our products were doing for our customers. I see a subtle, yet hopefully profound shift occuring, maybe from necessity, maybe from fear, or maybe from a movement by those that really believe our company vision, or by those (like Diane) that really love our cusomers. I hope to count myself among the latter.

We had an indepth discussion about how marketing is changing. It was refreshing to be among a bunch who believes how I do, that markets are conversations, and that broadcast doesn't work (see Searles, Weinberger and Godin). In fact, even PR has changed significantly. Rather than the old notion of "posting a press release" and getting people writing about your products, it's really more about face-to-face than it's ever been. Since it's so easy for anyone to post a press release to the news wires, they're being largely ignored (just like any other kind of interruption marketing). Journalists rely on personal relationships more than they ever have, not less.

I reiterated to Scoble that we hired the right person for his role, and he'll do great. He really cares quite a bit about Longhorn (good for him), but I really get the feeling he cares as much or more about the community he's a part of. And that really rocks.

In a side note, since we had Sun Microsystems folks in our midst, we spoke a bit about the Open Source "movement". In an interesting conversation, Dare explained how he built RSSBandit. He described that by using the got.dot.net community, he was able to put code for RSSBandit out there (on his own time), and that several developers contributed ideas and even bits of code. No money involved. No corporate edict. It sure sounds a lot like "open source" to me.

   2:28:00 PM 

View of Earth from Mars

 
Oh, how cool is this?! I love Google News.



   1:28:00 PM 



Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Google Ads

 
A while back, Doc Searles asked if the context-sensative ads were related to the blog, or the person who logged in. Today, I went to DianeR's blog, and found the following ads. Should answer that question...

Diane James Bouquets - www.peacockalleygifts.com
Stunning Silk Floral Arrangements Delicately Handcrafted
Hire Diane Loomans - www.bigspeak.com
We arrange keynotes for self-esteem expert, Diane Loomans!

   6:34:00 PM 



Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Supporting Community and Blogging

 
I sent a co-worker this email:

The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that there is a place for us, and whoever else is along for the ride, to really become the face of Microsoft to these Retail Sales Reps.

Using these blogs as a tool, what could we write about to help them with their jobs? Could we give them tips on great customer service, the cool new "slashdot" (http://slashdot.org/) or "Tom's Hardware" tip of the day? Could we link to our blogs right from microsoft.com/retail? Could we build a "wiki" (a multi-user, public blog) -- essentially what slashdot is?

I want these guys to feel like we're helping them, and that somebody is listening, even if it's the other RSPs who are the ones listening to them (and responding). We can deliver ot these guys everything they want, not just online training, and become their voice to the rest of the Microsoft. And we'll learn a lot about them, and the "mechanics of retail" while we're at it.

The think I like about Scoble's blog is that I really do feel that he's a friend, (ironic since we never met), because once--only once--he quoted me (linked to my blog), and responded to a comment I left on his blog. I feel more a part of "his" community (which is really the dev community) than I ever have in my career, even though I've worked for a software company for 13 years. It really is the power of "voice".

Or maybe I'm delusional, and nobody is going to read this stuff…


In response, he sent me this:



   2:39:00 PM 



Monday, May 19, 2003

Why I Love Mowing the Lawn

 
I have a pretty big lawn, and I've (so far) refused to buy a riding mower. I spend close to three hours once a week (from May-Oct in Seattle) mowing the lawn. Apart from the only appreciable form of exercise I get regularly, I love it because I can really get into an Audible book on my Pocket PC.

This week, I listened again to the first few hours of The Cluetrain Manifesto (in addition to the reading I'm doing of Small Pieces Loosely Joined hard copy). There are lots of gems there I've missed. As the team I'm on works to build better community among sales folks at stores that sell Microsoft software (including Best Buy, CompUSA, Office Max, etc.), I want to learn more about them. I'm encouraged that we're on the right track, and having a conversation rather than "marketing to" them is going to be the key.

Once I'm back to the office, I'll likely do more cross-referencing, but won't from home since most of the books I access in hard copy are at work.
   11:14:00 PM 



Saturday, May 17, 2003

Duvall Days 2003

 
The whole fam damily spent Saturday at Duvall Days, our neighboring town's annual celebration of "Country Living." The kids got to walk in the Children's Parade, and they had a great time! We missed the cow pie bingo, Fireman's Pancake Breakfast (postponed until the new firehouse is built in September), and the fireworks (cut due to budget constraints). It was sunny and nice, and it was a great day for everyone.



   7:18:00 PM 



Monday, May 12, 2003

Real Internet

 
Well, maybe not really really real, but better than Starband. We just got our cable installed (after six years), since our no-charge "beta" of MSN Satellite (after two years) is expiring, and we had to begin paying the $50 monthly bill. Millennium Digital Media came out and found the 1000-foot buried line to our house (with some pretty cool gadgets). Now I'm getting 1.5MB down (okay, on a good day), and much, much faster uploads than before.

With satellite, downloads were pretty zippy (up to about 1MB), but uploads were limited to about 14.4 bps, slower than slow (if I had to upload anything of any size, it was quicker via our phone line--of course, this basically eliminated the ability to VPN to work). On top of that, there was a good 5-6 second delay after every request, so nothing "real time" (Xbox Live, phone, etc.) would work.

So, we're linked. And even though MSN Satellite was free, I'm not sure why I put up with it for so long.

So with wireless rocking, you can tap in if you're in the neighborhood (maybe taking a walk up the Tolt Pipeline Trail). Be sure to bring along your PocketPC. You might need to bring your Pringles can...

   8:51:00 PM 

Day at the Beach

 
This blog is starting to look like our family web site, sheesh. We had a great day as the sun peaked out in Duvall. We spent a few hours at the McCormick Park Beach on the Snoqualmie River in Duvall. There's a great little (but steep) beach at McCormick Park, right near downtown Duvall.



   7:56:00 PM 

Internet from the Library Parking Lot

 
So I just dropped the kids off at preschool, and I have our one-year-old in the carseat in the back. Rather than drive home for the two hours the kids are in their class, I drove to the library in Duvall. It's closed, but since I have my Tablet PC with a wireless connection, I'm able to access the Internet from the King County Library parking lot. I love that a pervasive, free, always-on connection is becoming a reality! Our kids will laugh in ten years when we describe logging into an analog phone line a 1200 bps, linking into BBS's and CompuServe...
   1:48:00 PM 



Saturday, May 10, 2003

The Power of Full Engagement

 
Currently reading The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. Great book so far. The premise is that just like training athletes with periods of intense workout then rest, full engagement takes proper training and proper rest between periods of intense stress. There's a case study of "Roger B." that sounds a bit familiar in some ways.

After taking the free self-assessment at the LGE Performance Systems Website, I see that I'm Engaged to Fully Engaged on all counts, cool! I really do like what I do.



You'll notice I'm taking less time to reflect on work stuff since being out on leave from work. And I'm feeling more rejuvenated and ready to tackle work when I return in two weeks.
   9:30:00 AM 



Friday, May 09, 2003

Seattle Center with the Kids

 
Forgive me while I make more family posts than normal!

I had a pretty amazing day taking Alex, Alyssa and Emily to the Seattle Center. We had a great time playing on the grounds, checking out the hermit crabs, seeing the live butterfly exhibit, watching the Stomp IMAX movie, and running in the fountain near Key Arena (the kids got soaking wet, even though it was a cool day).

Jeri went to a special "Mother's Tea" at Steven's school, so she stayed behind. They had a great time.

As we were driving home, I got a quick glimpse of Alex sleeping, just as one of the kid's CDs played Colin Raye's "I Wish I Could"
"I wish I could take these moments, and put them in a jar.
I wish I could stop the world from turning, keep things just the way they are.
I wish I could shelter you from everything, not pure and sweet and good.
I know I can't, but I wish I could."




   9:26:00 PM 



Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I Have a Dream

 
I love this quote from Robert Scoble in his The Scobleizer Weblog. He starts next Monday!

"I have big dreams and I'm working for a big company with big products and big resources. I dream of a day when everyone likes Microsoft and loves using its products. If Microsoft gets there, I'd like to have played a part."



   12:09:00 AM 



Monday, May 05, 2003

Meeting with BillG

 
No, not me. Even though I've been at Microsoft 13 years, I think Bill knows me by sight, but probably doesn't know my name or what I do (nor would I expect him to). We have about 1,300 marketing folks in our company, and I'm just part of the crowd. I know Bill and Steve meet with product managers occasionally, and often with executives, but the "rank and file" (whatever that means) don't really have the opportunity (or rather need) to meet with them.

I've presented to Bill a few times, mostly early when I was a product manager (Musical Instruments, Dogs, Dinosaurs, etc.). When I first started, Steve Ballmer ran the division I worked in (Networking), so I met with him a few times to present plans for our marketing programs. I've been on stage with Bill, doing a demo of Encarta. Everyone has their stories about Bill, like this clip from Rob Howard's Blog

The first thing I notice as the meeting starts is that Bill is left-handed. He also didn't bring a computer in with him, but instead is taking notes on a yellow pad of paper. I had heard this before - Bill takes amazingly detailed notes during meetings. I image he has to, given all the information directed at him. The other thing I noticed during the course of the meeting is how he takes his notes. He doesn't take notes from top-to-bottom, but rather logically divides the page into quadrants, each reserved for a different thought. For example, it appeared that all his questions were placed at the bottom of the page.


When I first met Bill, I was working on a video we needed him to appear in. As my co-worker and I went into his office to "pitch" him on doing a short intro, we brushed aside his lunch (a bag from Taco Bell with wrappers and food strewn across his desk). He glanced at the script we had prepared, and said he'd be glad to do a quick video. About a week later, he went to the Microsoft Studio sound stage, sat in a chair on the prepared set, and told us he was ready. We asked if he wanted to see the script and he said it wouldn't be necessary. He then went on, in one take, to repeat almost word for word the script he had only seen once a week earlier.

On a different occasion, I was doing a presentation of Encarta with him as it was first being released. I would "drive" the demo while he walked the audience through. I was showing him the demo just before going on stage, and I mentioned that a button I would click would take us to the "topics" area. He interrupted, and said "don't you mean 'Areas of Interest'?" I imagine somewhere he had seen a specification, or read a development overview, and knew details of the product that I barely realized.

Finally, one time I got to present in a product review (like Rob mentions above) to both Steve and Bill, in a very small conference room in the "Office of the President" conference room (there were probably 10 of us). We spent hours preparing the smallest details of the presentation, and made sure that every possible question had a prepared answer. Probably due to that, I sailed right through, and they both agreed with everything I said.

Most of my "presentations" today are to either the director of our division, or the VP of our division, and it's usually more of a conversation than a presentation.
   11:01:00 PM 



Saturday, May 03, 2003

Happy Birthday, Emily!

 
Our youngest, Emily, turned one today!



I'm not sure where it got started, but we have a tradition of eating birthday cake with our hands, so even at the tender age of 365 days, Emily got a handful. Her system is likely in shock, since she's had little more than formula and ground up, saltless baby food.

We enjoyed the day, had breakfast at Denny's, and spent hours at the Outlet Malls in North Bend (the kids all got to pick a present for themselves).

By the way, I read the "Kid Version of Small Pieces Loosely Joined" to Steven last night. He wanted me to open up a Hotmail Account for him (I was glad to see they had me verify his account with my Passport information, allowing me to set up parental controls, like his "allow" email list for now). I like that it's natural for him to want relationships with his cousins outside of Washington, and for him to realize that it's easy to communicate with them instantly. Thanks again for the discussion-starter, Dave.

   9:22:00 PM 



Friday, May 02, 2003

Will the Real Hussein Please Stand Up?

 
Dave Barry's Blog is just awesome. I love the fact that his full-time job is keeping a pulse on the quirky side of Americana. Every few days, I enjoy five minutes wading through his posts. Every so often, something catches me as particularly hilarious. Check out this post:

IN CASE YOU HAVE NOT BEEN KEEPING UP WITH THE NEWS

This should clear everything up.

(Thanks to Ted Habte-Gabr)
posted by Dave 3:53 PM

   10:36:00 PM 

Small Pieces Loosely Joined

 
I just went online to order David Weinberger's "Small Pieces Loosely Joined."

While there, I found the Kid Version of Small Pieces Loosely Joined. I will be sitting Steven down and going through the kids version online. I'm convinced the Internet will be more integral to his life than any of us can imagine. Here are a few of my favorite lines:

"This is a most peculiar thing. The Web is a web because of hyperlinks that connect the pages. But every hyperlink expresses someone's interests and recommendations. If you were to make a map of the Web, showing all the sites and all the links, you would be making a map of things the 500 million people on the Web find interesting. ... The Web shows what we have chosen to care about. ... And that's exactly what's so special about the Web place. It is made not out of mountains, oceans, deserts and forests. It is made out of humans caring about things together."(7)

"We are human because we are connected to other humans. And why do we connect? Because as humans we care about each other and about our world. Statues don't care what happens to them. Robots don't care. Humans do. We care together." (13)

"In the real world, we meet people who happen to live nearby. On the Web, we meet people because they share an interest. ... You have instantly found a group of people who are interested in what you're interested in. You have connected based not on the fact that you happen to live in the same place but because you both care about the same thing." (15)

   4:04:00 AM 



Thursday, May 01, 2003

World's Worst Father

 
I think I'm officially the world's worst father. It's day four of my Infant Care Leave, and I am so ready to go back to work. Now before you think you agree with me, you get to hear me whine.

I've had a pretty nasty cold, so I've spent the last few days in and out of bed. I'm telling everyone I have MARS (m for mild). Don't you hate it when you have vacation time and you are actually sick? Should I count these vacation days as sick days, and take sick days when I'm healthy? Nah, probably not.

On top of that, my kids sense a "disturbance in the force" because Steven's in school, but I'm not at work. So they are gnashing their terrible teeth, and rolling their terrible eyes, and roaring their terrible roars. And saying no. And bickering. And whining. And making messes. AND NOT TAKING THEIR NAPS! Okay, I thought people I work with are hard to manage...

But there have been some good moments too. I really do have great kids. Steven came home from a tutoring class with a near-perfect report card. Alyssa is taking good care of me. Alex's preschool teacher said he's making great improvement too. And Emily is starting to walk (she turns one tomorrow!). And I'm feeling better today. So life is good.

And I'm catching up on my blogging (notice my blogroll is approaching the size of Doc Searls'?).

   6:00:00 PM 

Laundry Mountain

 
Did a little excavating today, and actually found a pair of socks in Mt. Laundry (untouched photo of clean laundry from our bedroom floor). I know there's an XML data metaphor in there, just not clever enough to find it...



Since I've been home, I've spent quite a lot of time doing laundry, mopping floors, mowing lawns, cleaning cars, and various other chores (Heide, you thought I was kidding about the laundry, eh?). Four kids are a lot of work. Glad to be catching up...


   12:34:00 PM 

Blogging on BillG's Radar Screen

 
From Microsoft Watch: Blogging's on BillG's Radar Screen By Mary Jo Foley

It was just a passing mention. But Chairman Bill noted at yesterday's Newspaper Association of America Annual Convention that Microsoft is very interested in making sure blogging tools are there to support folks doing "bottom-up publishing."

   2:00:00 AM