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".


March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003




Last post to my Moblog






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.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Happy Fiscal New Year!

For all my Microsoftee Readers!

   11:37:00 PM 

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Never Say Never...

Congratulations to James Martin on his first blog post! He writes:
"I told John P. (my previous manager and a serious blog-aholic) that I wouldn't start a blog, but alas, the day has come to start my very own! After reading blogs from people I work with, I really get the sense that people are more open in their blogs than with each other outside the hallways at work. I plan to do the same with my blog, too."
James has worked for me for years, and starting next week (part of the reorg I talked about below), he will work for a new manager (and close-to-becoming-blogoholic-herself). I'll continue to work nearby, so I hope we'll continue to learn from each other. I've had long talks with James, and he's inspired me with his insight, challenged me with his intellect, and made me look good with his excellent work. I look forward to hearing what he has to say going forward. He's got a lot worth sharing.

   3:45:00 PM 

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Conspiracy Theory

You're all gonna love this twist of fate, regarding corporate blogs and the role of PR.

I started blogging because of my role in communications and my personal interest in building community. For years, I've worked as part of a sales and marketing organization focusing on the retail sales channel. I wrote recently about a reorg.

July 1 (Tuesday), my team begins to report into the our division's PR group. I will be reporting to the Director of PR (and yes, she's seen my blog). I don't make it a secret (in fact, I put the URL in the footer of every email I send).

If I fall off the face of the earth, and you cease to hear from me, you'll know the black helicopters are circling. :)

   11:36:00 PM 

This Ain't a Corporate Blog... case you haven't noticed.

Dina Mehta has been writing about how the discussion about corporate blogging is evolving. It got me thinking again about how what I write relates to my company.

Let me point out that my blog isn't much about Microsoft as it is about my job as a marketer. I see it as a way to build/extend my own community of practice. I'm learning more from you all, and in turn I hope I bring up something interesting to you every now and then.

I also see it as a way to teach some co-workers about some of the stuff I find important to the future of Microsoft. I have folks who work on my team who read what I write, and I think it's making a small difference there (at least gets some conversations started).

I imagine at some point I'll find an audience of "customers" who might be interested in what I have to say because they are customers, but my current blog ain't it. Funny how all this works, huh?

   11:23:00 PM 

Putting the Humanity Back into Marketing

Maybe I'm naive, but if marketing's not about human connection, what's it about? We heard you. We're meeting your need. You give us your support because what we made adds value to your life.

Ton Zijlstra got to meet with a group writing an upcoming book, Beyond Branding.
Beyond Branding is the title of a book due to appear in the fall of this year.

In it, a group of very interesting people describe their vision of how branding can move beyond its current limitations. In the words of one of them, John Moore, it's about putting humanity (back?) in marketing.

I've had the pleasure and privilege to join them for a day of inspiring conversations last January, and it is extremely refreshing to hear marketers speak about trust, authenticity, self knowledge, and transparency and be completely sincere about it.

   11:11:00 PM 

It's a Matter of Trust

Paul Goodison tells of his experiences at a big telcom company in the UK. It's interesting how many companies have a mixture of good and bad managers, and has examples of great customer service, and poor.
"One key area I see as missing is trust. Managers don't trust Associates. Associates don't trust themselves. Associates don't love customers (as per Nordstrom's view) and definitely don't trust them.

On a course last week even the trainer was pointing out the 'Cover your arse' culture. Perhaps this is why we don't get things right as a company?Although individuals do."

Why don't folks trust each other? People are fundamentally good, and only a small minority actually aren't trustworthy. When people are trusted, they do better work. They're more engaged. When their opinions are valued, they are more accountable. When the environment is open, they communicate more. And when teams cooperate, and when purposes are aligned, arses don't need to be covered...
   10:54:00 PM 

Discover Your Sales Strengths

I had the chance to get some sun, and mow my lawn today. Which means I got three hours to listen to another Audible book on my Pocket PC. Today, it was "Discover Your Sales Strengths" by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano. Few books have had such practical, yet inspiring advice as the "Discover Your Strengths" series from the guys at Gallup Poll.

Key to this book, like the others, is that talent is the key to building your career, or as a manager, engaging your employees. Everyone has a core set of talents, and either finding a job that matches those talents, or changing your job around to take advantage of them is the key to doing great in your job. The title of the first book "First Break All The Rules" refers to the general management practice of expecting good behavior, and "fixing" areas for improvement. At no time is that more evident than review time (mine is due tomorrow).

One key quote for managers (from memory since I don't have a copy of the printed book): Take a look at your business card. Managers aren't expected to be makeover artists. There's a difference between what you can teach new people, and managing the talents employees bring to the table.

   10:08:00 PM 

Who Says Computers Aren't Making Your Life Easier?

...He hasn't tried IntelliToast!

From the makers of the amazing Linux Switcher ads. (I gotta send this one to the guys on the Nexus team!)

Disclaimer: "Warning. Computers will not make your life easier. And putting toast inside your toaster is a stupid idea."

   9:25:00 PM 

Cranium Presentation Video

If you missed it, we have a (home-video quality) clip of the presentation online. Thanks to a developer partner we work with, Pacific Northwest Software for hosting the file.

We're working on a better version (from a different camera, with integrated PowerPoint slides), so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the video. Very inspiring.

   12:09:00 AM 

Friday, June 27, 2003

In Our Own Image

Lara writes an impassioned post where she wonders what prejudices her children will come upon in their lives. Lara is a friend who has adopted her children from China, and is just the most incredible mother. Every now and then, we share adoption stories, and talk a bit about what we're reading, and share computer tips.

I have learned so much from her about service and tolerance and giving. But reading her post tonight gave me some newfound respect for her--something I probably wouldn't have seen if she hadn't written what she did.

I'm not sure why I'm so tuned into this wavelength. And I promise to get back to the regularly scheduled program soon.

I don't know if it's a case of the teacher appearing when the student is ready, or that I'm opening my social circles with what I write here, or that the tide is really changing, here at work, with my friends, and with my family. Probably a combination of everything.

   11:23:00 PM 

The Secret is You

If you read no other blogs today, read this.

Diane is a co-worker who joined us several months ago from Nordstrom. She recently gave a speech to one of our OEM partners, giving away the Nordstrom's secret to the group who managed their sales associates. I spoke with her today about the unbelievable reaction she got from the team she presented to. And after reading the post, I think I understand why.
"I told them to stop wasting associates' time with talking about how great they as a company are and instead, spend a little bit of time knowing the associate's name and getting excited about how great *they* are. To make the moment about them...not about you. Because in the end, its the associate who is in front of the customer - not a big vendor flag. No one really cares about you - they don't care about Microsoft - and they shouldn't. They should care about why the products work in a person's life and how they work in a customer's life.


   11:03:00 PM 

I mentioned that I've been reading Smart Mobs. I was particularly impressed with the chapter about socialogy theory, and the discussions with Microsoft Research employee Marc Smith. Then today I see that Beth got to hang out with Smart Mobs author Howard Rheingold recently. Oh, oh, oh, that would be so cool. I think I'm a sociologist at heart.

I've especially been thinking about it with regard to annual reviews since we're all doing ours this week and next (competition vs. cooperation), blogging (I blog because I'm helping other marketers learn, and I'm learning from them), and leading change (more below)

I had a long discussion with a very smart manager in Dublin about Microsoft's push to be more customer-centric, team-oriented, and "human." We both commented about how good it felt to know that many of us (some at even the ground level) are leading social change internally. Then I read this paragraph on page 45 of Smart Mobs.
"Within a pool of entirely uncooperative strategies, cooperative strategies evolve from small clusters of individuals who reciprocate cooperation, even if the cooperative strategies have only a small proportion of their interactions with each other. Clusters of cooperators amass points for themselves faster than defectors can."

This stuff is so interesting!

   10:49:00 PM 

There's a Truck Out on the Four Lane...

...hey, it's good to be back home again.

Ain't it like a Microsoftee to fly all day, work on the plane, get home in the evening, and still make it in the office by 7AM the next morning? Folks back in the office asked me what I learned in my trip to visit the folks in Dublin.

I think the main thing is that I have a lot to learn about what's going on with our partners in retail, and we could be doing so much more to make it easier for them.

I learned that in some accounts (think Wal-Mart or CareFour in France), the banana buyer has more pull than the software buyer. I learned that I wouldn't mind moving my family to Europe for a year or two. I learned that SAS has a fairly comfortable economy section (though I'm still not sure what that meat patty was made of...). I learned that every day I'm away from my kids, I miss a day of magic and wonder of watching them grow, and it's passing far too fast.

   7:16:00 AM 

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

1:35 AM in the Irish Capital

So off to bed I go, plane to catch early tomorrow.

   5:38:00 PM 


Denise Klarquist writes about recent innovative uses of cell phones, and the link to moblogging and photoblogging. I read about half of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution on the plane (maybe I can finish it tomorrow). The book made me think way, way outside of the current use of cell phones. The authors also have a great blog. There's something dramatic that's taking shape. Denise says "...this is probably something to keep an eye on..."

   5:37:00 PM 

Is Microsoft Interesting?

Stewart Alsop laments in Fortune Magazine, Alas, Poor Microsoft ... You Used to Be So Interesting. He states that he thinks "Microsoft's greatest hope for growth is the next version of Windows, called Longhorn, which the company sees as its competitive response to Linux." He also says that he thinks Microsoft software is "good enough."

Does Stewart really think that all we're working on is the next operating system for Personal Computers? Longhorn will be cool. Huge? Yes. Revolutionary? Yes. A big bet? Yes. Rock the World? I personally think it might.

But, don't rule out the minions that are working on other stuff... There are additional ways to rock the world, and we're looking at the role software will play in all kinds of devices. My kids will see the box under my desk as an antique in the not-too-distant future.

   4:57:00 PM 

Why you shouldn't work your employees to the bone

When my employees send me links to articles like this: Why you shouldn't work your employees to the bone", am I dilusional to think it's because we have such an open, active, trusting relationship so they feel they can share anything? Or is it only because Frank can be quite a comic? Or is there truth behind the smile? Probably all three...

   4:36:00 PM 

Excellent Company...

I don't know if it's the charming people, the endearing accent, the sunshiny, cool breeze, the excellent food, or the stimulating conversation, but I had a lovely dinner with some brilliant folks tonight. We met some of our colleagues (Angela, Paula, and Ciara). We talked a lot about our corporate culture, and had a good discussion about how understanding our customer and doing the right thing will almost always yield good fruit. And negativity and bureaucracy and micromanaging and distrust will almost always not.

I commented that after so long at one company, I'm fascinated at the changes that are taking place. There are pockets of "doing things the way they've always been done," (and to be sure, some of them are best practices), but there's a groundswell of people who are seeing things anew, and driving real change by being passionate and engaged and determined to listen, to make changes, to do the right thing (or do more of the right thing, or continue to do the right thing).

I love this company. I feel in many ways that I've helped build it (for better or worst). I love the team I'm on. I love the potential I see in those around me. And I love the hope that's springing--especially since there were times not long ago I had little hope.

After meeting with the folks I met with tonight, and seeing the programs we're working on take shape, I'm happy to be doing what I'm doing today.

And it helps that I'm working with brilliant, lovely, charming people (with endearing accents), and visiting in a time of sunshiny, cool breezes... Ah, the luck of the Irish.

   4:10:00 PM 

Blogging in the Corporate World

Interesting article in the New York Times, reflecting a few of my own thoughts about why I blog.

"Christopher Ireland, the chief executive of Cheskin, a marketing consulting firm in Redwood Shores, Calif., vetoed a proposed newsletter this year as "too tired and overused" and instead created a space on the company Web site for employees' blogs. On hers,, she chats about a gadget-oriented scavenger hunt in which she participated and frets about how fast time seems to be going these days.

"It's very personal, almost like writing a journal," Ms. Ireland said. But you have to hit just the right tone or you will turn off customers, she said, by making it seem "like you're trying to market the company."

Blogs have drawbacks. Ms. Ireland has already been unsettled by a query from a reader for more personal information. And because blogs are supposed to contain spontaneous, sometimes provocative musings, they may have trouble gaining favor at companies that want to control what is being disclosed.

Another point worth making:
"Once you get to the point where lawyers review everything in a blog, it ain't a blog anymore," said John G. Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School, who keeps a blog himself, at"

By the way, I really like this response to the article by Tom at Commonplaces, called the 12-step whiff of whuffie: So are we at step 8, 9, or 10? (I think most of my team still snickers when I use the word: Step 4.)

   3:37:00 PM 

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The Marketing of No Marketing (or taking PBR to the tipping point)

A co-worker and great writer himself, Ed, posts an interesting story about customer evangelist marketing in its purest form. New York Times Magazine tells of a local sales rep who got to know his customers, and worked to move his brand to the "tipping point."
"So Stewart went to Portland, visiting bars like the Lutz Tavern near Reed College and the Ash Street Saloon, a bike-messenger hangout downtown. He learned that the kind of people who had ''embraced the brand'' were also the kind of people who detest marketing. But this was not necessarily bad news. He would walk in -- wearing street clothes, never a Pabst logo -- tell the bartender who he was and ''really just sit there,'' he said. ''The word would leak out -- 'Hey, the Pabst guy is here.''' He carried a bag of P.B.R. keychains and T-shirts. Stewart had once been a cog in the gigantic Anheuser-Busch marketing machine in St. Louis and had firsthand experience with barging up to drinkers and foisting trinkets on them. For the Pabst Guy in Portland, that wasn't necessary. ''I was mobbed,'' he says."

   4:51:00 PM 

Retail University

It's been great to hear from collegues and experts from Accenture that are briefing us on the intracasies of retail. As I mentioned earlier, there's a lot to learn about what our partners go through. It's great to see a roomful of folks from around Europe who are spending significant time understanding what issues are important to Dixons, Carefour, MediaMarkt, and others. There's certainly more complexity than I imagined, and ultimitely there's lots we may be able to do to make it easier for our partners. I'm especially excited about what RFID can do.

   5:13:00 AM 

Ireland Photoblogs

Bernie Goldbach posts a link to several Irish photoblogs from around Ireland. Perhaps we'll meetup. I'm here through tomorrow. My pics don't warrant further publicity, but the country is beautiful. Today is especially nice, in the 20's/70s.

   5:00:00 AM 

What Do You Think of Plus Digital Media Edition?

I like that Sean is genuinely interested in collecting feedback. Plus Digital Media Edition is a great product. I especially like the dancers, and I've sent a movie or two to family using Photo Story. In fact, a few months prior to getting Plus DME I downloaded a shareware version of a dancers product and paid $29 because I thought it was so cool--and that was just for one part of what DME provides. $20 seems like a little bit to pay for some pretty innovative features. Sorry to sound like a marketing guy... I promise not to forcefeed you marketing drivel too often... :)

Send your feedback to Sean! I love that he's open about it. I hope every product manager at Microsoft does the same thing.

   3:26:00 AM 

Monday, June 23, 2003

Fun with Digital Image Pro!

I had some free time on the plane, and came up with this, with a little help from Microsoft Digital Image Pro. Jeri and I love this picture, and have it hanging in our kitchen. With our pasta eating kids, this was a natural...

   4:25:00 PM 

Great Irish Day

Spent the day at our Microsoft offices in Dublin. I was with about 25 folks from our European subsidiaries doing a pilot of some internal training. I'm amazed at the similarities to our US business, but I'm also equally amazed at how different the business is (especially in Germany and France). I'm learning a ton, and I'm coming away with some good ideas for our US training. And I'm (once again) pleasantly surprised at how brilliant my European co-workers are. That's me on the stairs, with a couple of pix of some co-workers.

   3:51:00 PM 

Jeri Catches the Blogging Bug...

...I'm gone for a day or two, and it seems that my wife's done a great job posting one of her first blog entries. She's such a great writer, and so emotionally connected that I'm sure she'll do a great job. I know she did what I did, which was spending most of her time reading what y'all have written before jumping in fully. I know she like Rebecca's Pocket, and Dooce, and a few other blogs.

Have a look! If you like what you see, you'd make her day if you dropped her an email. When I get a chance, I'll update the blog to Blogger Pro, add an RSS URL, etc.

   3:36:00 PM 

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Flight Sim the Right Way!

Scoble points to "the coolest way to run Flight Simulator I've seen. When I die and go to geek heaven, I think this just might be how it looks."

   2:32:00 PM 

Dublin, Temple Bar

What a great city! This place has good music, lots of food, and friendly folks.

   2:21:00 PM 

Sunday in Dublin

Made it! Doc's right. No wireless in Boston for the layover, so arriving in Dublin, I have a clean Inbox, and about 80 messages in my Outbox when I connected here at the hotel! More later. Off to see the sights!

   8:41:00 AM 

Saturday, June 21, 2003

On The Road

I'm sitting in the Seattle airport, logging in from a T-Mobile Hot Spot. 10 cents a minute. I'm in planes, trains, and automobiles today and tomorrow. I'm off to Dublin to meet with the team piloting a two-day "Retail Training" course. We're going to be doing a similar program here in the U.S., and the Europe subsidiary graciously invited me to sit in. I've never been to Ireland, and I'm looking forward to it.

One of our IT contacts, Hillary, is from Dublin. She and I met yesterday, and she told me about some interesting places to visit (funny, though, that all of them included pubs and clubs--since I'm married, and don't drink, and traveling alone, I'm not sure if that's what I'd consider fun...).

Going from 60 degree F Seattle to 60 degree F Dublin. I should feel right at home!

   7:23:00 AM 

Friday, June 20, 2003

Make The Connection

I won't pretend that CRM is the end-all, be-all, and that it's going to "artificially" replace legitimate contact. But there are ways to connect with people using CMC (Computer Mediated Communications) in a human way. All of you reading this understand what blogs are about, and most of you are "Cluetrain" disciples (or at least are familiar with the concepts).

Thomas Warfield was Thinking Like a Customer in a recent post. He sends email confirmations after each purchase, and he wonders how to make it more effective. "I don't know what you can do to get people to read it. If you try to emphasize the content and say it's really important, then people will think it is spam because spam does that. What could I say that would make people read that email?"

I like what Stephen Dulaney (FM Radio) does. He sends a personal note. A bit different in blogdom, but the idea is solid. Use a human voice. The idea behind shareware is different than the idea of buying a corporate product off a corporate website. The user feels a sense of "sharing" the code, and they probably feel a sense of community among other gamers in the arena. I'd make it really personal, add a tip they might not know, something like that. If they felt a "connection" with you as the developer, they'd also be more likely to pay the fee.

   9:42:00 PM 

Don't Neglect the B Performers

Harvard Business Review has an interesting article this month called Let's Hear It for B Players.
It's true that A players can make enormous contributions to performance. Yet, as the authors have found, companies' long-term performance--even survival--depends far more on the unsung commitment and contributions of their B players. These capable, steady performers are the best supporting actors of the corporate world. They counterbalance the ambitions of the company's high-performing visionaries. Unfortunately, organizations rarely learn to value their B players in ways that are gratifying for either the company or these employees.

   8:41:00 PM 

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Stretchy Pants

A bunch of folks from the Xbox marketing group were given tickets to the premier of "The Hulk" to celebrate the launch of the Xbox game. I took Steven and Alex. You get to hear it from them:

Alex: "Daddy, can I have some more paah-corn?" He then fell asleep about 1.5 hours into the movie. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from a four-year-old.

Steven: "I liked it, but it was kind of boring."

Dad: "Yep. 2.5 hours for a "comic book" movie, a bit long. The effects were great. The animation was impressive. The transitions were pretty cool, though I think they got in the way a bit after the first hour. Okay movie, but the kids (and I) liked "Finding Nemo" quite a bit better."

Interesting article about the Keeping the Pants on the Hulk: "Some might think the more pressing question is what anyone past wearing Grranimals is doing wearing purple trousers, but Josh Lucas, who plays the Hulk's rival, thinks it's more a matter of function rather than style. 'Those pants he's wearing is that elastic one-size-fits-all stuff that comes from Walmart. It stretches real good.'". I was wondering about that... :)

Also a bit eery, since Banner looks a lot like a friend and co-worker, Steve Munk.

   11:20:00 PM 

XML as a Data Model

Dare's convinced me to try RSSBandit. I'm especially intrigued with his idea of an aggrigator being more than just a way to read blogs. Dare patiently helped me understand that XML is a (how did he put it?) data model, not just a way to tag text. Very interesting.I think because of his passion about the topic, and his skill in making it understandable, I'm beginning to understand the "vision" of .NET, and the possiblities it holds. Then again, Dare probably is just shaking his head and mumbling something about those guys in marketing who'll never get it... :)
   12:55:00 AM 

MSN Messenger 6

I like it!

   12:12:00 AM 

Cranium, Inc. - Creativity and Innovation in Business

Tonight I attended a very inspiring speech by Richard Tait, "Grand Poo Bah" of Cranium, Inc. For a really cool online version of the game, check this out!

Richard is a former Microsoft Business Unit Manager I worked with about six years ago. He left Microsoft after ten years to strike out on his own, and co-developed a line of fascinating board games. His talk was inspiring, touching at times (especially since the company was founded around the idea of creating moments), insightful, and interesting.

Cranium is deeply tied to their purpose and their principles. The purpose: To Lighten and Enlighten peoples lives. The Promise: Fun moments and memories that igve everyone a chance to shine. Their Princples: CHIFF: Clever, High quality, Innovative, Friendly and Fun

I'm going to try to post the video if I can find a place to host it. In the meantime, he gave a handout with what he calls the "secret sauce" of Cranium, their operating model for success. Here's the PDF.

1. Have a Clear Sense of Mission
2. Create a cuture and celebrate it every day
3. Don't be afraid to change the rules. In fact encourage it and celebrate it.
4. Hire for smarts and rent experience
5. Focus on your core competencies
6. Your customers are your sales force.
7. Beware of the giant hairballs.
8. Be a company with a heart, and give back when your company does well.
9. Lead by example.

   12:05:00 AM 

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Microsoft Blogs

Tosh is right. It was odd (but fun) being in a room and seeing some of the faces of those whose blogs I read every day. I feel like these guys are my friends, and it seemed a bit surreal to hear them speak with words. Nothing prescriptive. Just a discussion. The only time the representative on the panel from legal said anything was to answer a question, and she freely admitted she was there to be part of the discussion, and not to bring down any pronouncement from "corporate".

Benjamin J J Voigt says it best (and he's from Switzerland, so that should count for something!):
"In the last 2 years Microsoft Corp. got the message, and I believe is now ready to communicate, things are getting increasingly interesting. In the beginning several people have been sceptical whether Microsoft would pick up the basics of the "market communication" philosophy, but here we are..."

After the meeting, I had lunch with Scoble and Dare, and I'm really impressed with their passion, their intelligence, their openness, and their sincerity. You couldn't have had lunch with a more diverse Microsoft bunch. Me on the marketing, non-technical end, Dare on the brilliant programmer end, and Scoble easily transversing somewhere in the broad middle between the two.

   11:47:00 PM 

Blog Policy

I was at the meeting. Just for the record:

The only policy that exists for blogs is the same one that exists for any communication to goes out externally (including email). Bottom line is that we were hired because we were responsible adults who are being paid to support the business health of our company. Microsoft's culture reinforces strong individual accountability, autonomy, and mutual trust. My manager trusts that I'll do what's best for Microsoft, our division, our team, him, and mostly our partners and customers. Anything I write can't betray that trust. Seems pretty simple.

And the issue of disclaimers? A good idea, but still not a "policy". So in that light, be aware that I'm not a lawyer (in fact, as a marketer I'm on the other end of that spectrum), and I'm not on the team that sets policy, and I wouldn't know if there were a policy, so "this post is submitted 'as is,' and makes no warranties, expressed or implied. Not valid in all 50 states."

   11:07:00 PM 

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Write It One Hundred Times...

(in my best Bart Simpson scrawl):

"I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. 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I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers. I will not write anything in my blog to embarrass my company, my family, or my customers."
   5:56:00 PM 

Kevin Gets the Feeling He's Being Watched

Kevin Dente, a customer, makes a great point about the "power of listening to customers." I just read through his weblog, and subscribed. Kevin, it's intelligent, witty, honest, and human folks like you that can teach us the most. Thanks for speaking so we can listen!

   12:13:00 AM 

Monday, June 16, 2003

Be a Bullfigher!

Great site by a (ghasp!) consulting firm, Deloitte, Touche & Tohmatsu. Check out the amazing website, then download the software and make your documents bull-free (works with Word and Powerpoint 2000 and XP)!

   11:54:00 PM 

Morris Sims Bringing the World to You

Morris is doing quite a job recruiting bloggers, and some of 'em marketers! Cool! Here's a new blog by Tyson Dowd that I'm anxious to read!
What is important is what kind of blog will this be? Will it be full of political rants railing against the government, smiting their short-sightedness while hurling venom at their veracity? Will it complain about mass media and television programs, howling at the programmers and admonishing the editors? Will it brag and blather about the gizmos and gadgets that I am currently playing with, only to be immediately distracted by the next shiny toy to saunter into my path? Will it link to everything rather than generating my own content? Will it boggle and bore you with breakfasts, breakdowns, bludges, blunders, banking and other banalities of my everyday life? Will it link obsequiously to the blogerati in the hope pandering to their ego will make them link back to me when they check their logs? Will it detail the debaucherous life of a debonair single guy in Sin City? Will it lambast the industry pundits and tease out the foibles of analysts and tech writers? Will it revel in the geeky delights of technical articles, asbestos lined programming language discussions, hard-core tool comparisons and heavy technical development war-stories? Or perhaps it will just wither and die as I become bored of the whole venture within mere days, taking up kayaking, decoupage or cross-country skiing instead of blogging.

All of the above!

   11:39:00 PM 

MBA. Blog. Microsoft. International.

All in one sentence! Ash Jhaveri begins his blog.

   11:34:00 PM 

Knowing What Your Employees Know

One of my interests (and frankly business objectives) of mine is keeping abreast of knowledge management principles. I've had discussions with my director a few times about corporate memory, and what we can do to better keep track of what employees know (if that's possible!).

David Weinberger points to an article in the Boston Times, where they comment about last week's Weblogs Business Strategy conference. He quotes the article:
Consider: Every business needs to know what its employees know. Companies are crammed with experts on various topics whose knowledge goes to waste — because nobody knows what they know. Now give these workers an internal corporate blog, and encourage them to use it. Let them natter away on every topic that intrigues them. Harvest and index the results. You've mapped your workers' brains. With a few keystrokes, a manager can find out who's been blogging about skiing or bowling or restoring classic cars — just the thing when you're trying to sell something to an avid collector of '64 Mustangs. The company's hidden experts will cheerfully reveal themselves, and the firm's institutional memory gets an upgrade."
Another great reason for employees to blog (where else could you get a stunning, blow-by-blow account of my fascinating day!).
   11:27:00 PM 

The Mystery Unfolds...

Joe Bork begins to peel back the onion, in a post describing how he got to where he is now...
"...My father is by degree a mechanical engineer, although he spent many years in the petrochemical industry where (I assume) he learned a thing or two about blowing things up. I'm not sure if my father is the original computer geek in my family either, but he is probably the only one to compose a love letter entirely on punch cards. Once I found the stack of cards in a collection of my father's old textbooks and notes -- I think it was made up of FORTRAN comments. (He wrote it during his college years, and the letter was to his then-girlfriend. I guess the letter was effective; I call her Mom now.)

I've never heard the complete story, but when I was about six years old, he brought home a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A computer, complete with manuals and a variety of cartridge-based games. A computer! Wow, now we could do all sorts of things, like... well, we weren't quite sure." ...

Great story! I remember my big sister's boyfriend bringing home punch cards from his job as a computer programmer at a local bank!

   11:14:00 PM 

What Does a Marketing Manager Do?

Not that you're the slight bit interested, but today was kind of a typical day:

7:15AM: Begin commute on a sunny, cool morning. Drove mostly down country two-lane roads, past many cows, pine trees, and school children waiting for busses.

8:00: Arrive at Campus, pick of the parking lot (typical day for most begins at about 9AM). Catch up on email (Down to 250 messages!)

8:30: Call with a vendor we're working with on some employee training, covering the basics of our retail business (GMROI, Inventory Turns, etc.)

9:00: RMT Meeting: Retail Management Team meets bi-weekly to discuss divisional issues for retail sales and marketing management. Majority of time today spent on planning for the Office 2003 launch, and Holiday plans

10:45: Drive to building across campus. I went with Diane, and we had a good discussion about a meeting she had with one of our retail partners last week, who is excited about the idea of building community among sales associates. Cool!

11:00: Consumer Outreach Team meeting. I blogged about this a while back. We talked about some new consumer research we got in today, were briefed on plans for supporting user groups for the Office 2003 launch, and saw some plans for beefing up some of the consumer sites on We talked for a few minutes about blogging (of course, with Beth and me in the room, how could we not?)

12:30PM: Drove back to our building. Picked up tickets to Hulk for my son and me on the way back.

1:00 Lunch in our building cafeteria, outside! 75 degrees F, and very pleasant!

1:30: One on one with one of my direct reports, James. Large part of the discussion was about a new job he's moving to, and the important role he'll play in--guess what--supporting communities (see, at least somebody is forced to listen to me!). Look for a blog from him soon (if I can talk him into it!).

3:00: A chance to catch up on email, and approve a couple of purchase orders before our fiscal year ends (June 30).

3:30: Conference call with a company we're considering hiring for some customer research. After the meeting, one of the people in the meeting asked me what a blog was. I got to show her mine, and describe why it's opened my eyes to the possibilities of sharing our voice with customers.

4:30: Talked with a co-worker who started his own blog. Soon as he has something in it, I'll link! While we were at it, talked a bit about our marketing efforts around our response to Lindows and StarOffice.

5:00: An employee had some questions about our upcoming reviews. I gave some advice (after 13 years, I've now done 27 reviews. Another story for another day).

5:30: A co-worker asked for some help setting up a new laptop. I don't know how I've become "tech support" for our team, but I have to get my sense of self-worth somewhere... :)

6:00: Back to email, finally a minute to check out my RSS feeds, see if anything interesting's going on. A reminder about tomorrow's blogging meeting from Scoble.

6:30. Email's now up to 325. But it's time to head home to see the kids before bed.

7:00: Out the door, 25 minutes from Redmond to Carnation.

Fairly typical day where I have meetings, but two days a week I keep pretty light if I can. I tend to catch up on email in the evening, or in power bursts every few days. I like to keep my inbox at around 25 or less (using David Allen's technique when I'm being disciplined about it, lots of Microsoft folks do).

I'm reminded almost every day how incredibly lucky I am to be doing exactly what I want to do, what I love, and what I think is helping our company fulfill its mission of helping our customers realize their potential.

   10:39:00 PM 

Worried About Barbie

Brian Keller is worried about Barbie.
"She hasn't blogged in over two weeks. Her last entry says she was feeling stressed and that she had a "mini meltdown" (which, for plastic figurines, is a serious cause for concern!). If anybody sees her, please let me know.”

(Editor's Note: Even marketing people miss their deadlines sometimes... Bet their annual reviews aren't coming due in June...)

   10:19:00 PM 

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Influencing, or Being Influenced Part II

Sean Morrissey sent me a comment about my post Influencing, or Being Influenced. He makes a great point that "we need to go further than being influenced by the community. Microsoft should [lead] the community. Every community has thought leaders, who may or nay not be approachable. We’ve got to become more approachable…"

I think in the dev case, he's 100% right. As long as we're already a member of the community, it’s possible to emerge as thought leaders, and lead that community. The company can provide resources, but it’s still members of the community that lead the community, not a company (of course), and not someone who is not a member of the community.

In my role, I’m thinking more specifically of customers of consumer products (Xbox games, Pocket PCs, Encarta users, etc.). I’m also thinking about retail sales professionals, 21-year-olds who work at CompUSA or Best Buy. I hear product managers get excited when I talk about community because they want to instantly increase sales by cramming a marketing “campaign” or “message” down their throats. Problem is, in some cases, they don’t really know the customer, what they need, what they like, what language they use, etc.

Since we’re just getting started, we need to dip our toe in, check the temperature, and slowly become part of the conversation. Then allow that conversation to influence us. Once we’re trusted, and once we’re accepted, we can begin to influence the conversation.

Many Microsoft developers are already members of the community, some of the most vocal and passionate, and are already influential. And Sean's right, we all need to be more approachable.

   1:53:00 PM 

20 Questions

Tommy Williams, Dare, and JP Stewart point to a fun site where it'll guess what you're thinking in 20 questions or less. Took it a bit longer, but it guessed toenail clippings in 26 questions. Weird!

   1:28:00 PM 

Dramatic Rescue, or Dramatized Story?

Last weekend, I got a link sent from Factiva about a dramatic boating rescue in Utah Lake. I have a search folder set with my last name (so I can see if relatives are doing anything stupid or great), and I was surprised to see a story set in the lake near my hometown. I was more surprised to see my 22-year-old brother's name as a "survivor". Our family grapevine is usually pretty good.

More interesting, though, is how different the account is coming from my brother. Compare the two. Salt Lake Tribune:
Pair safe after boat overturns on Utah Lake Utah County authorities said life jackets likely saved the lives of David Porcaro, 22, of Provo, and Andres Gianfelice, 32, of Payson, who spent more than an hour in Utah Lake on Thursday after high winds overturned their sailboat. They were tired and hypothermic after they were pulled from the lake by a search and rescue team and a citizen volunteer, said Sgt. Dennis Harris of the Utah County Sheriff's Office. Both were treated and released. A pilot flying his plane over the lake at about 6:45 p.m. noticed what he thought was a boat in distress and reported it.

My brother's account:
This report heavily dramitized the tale. Our boat flipped (it happens all the time with these size boats, and we were pretty trained on what to do). However, the lake being so shallow, the mast got stuck in the mud. After signaling to some boats for a while we decided to swim back to shore because no one was coming. We were almost there when two jet skiers picked us up and took us back. When we got there the Search and Rescue was all over the place. "What's this for?" I asked. "It's for you" they told me. I wasn't expecting this commotion, it was not serious at all. But a plane flying overhead saw us and called 911. Yes I was a little cold, but they gave us blankets and within a few minutes we were fine. Yes, I was praying that someone would see us, but only because I was getting a little tired, not because I thought I was going to DIE or anything. So, I have learned that not only our family grapevine, but the news as well are great sources for exaggeration. :) I am fine.

Is this how things started at the New York Times?!
   1:17:00 PM 

Creativity in Business

Speaking of Maxwell's book, in Thinking for a Change he mentioned fellow-blogger Charlie Park's company Play, as an example of a company that has incorporated creativity into all aspects of their business. Charlie's company has a tag line of "Look at more stuff. Think about it harder". I love that!

Play publishes a white paper called Business Unorthodox: Creativity and the Bottom Line, definitely worth looking at.

   12:41:00 PM 

Thinking for a Change

I just finished listening to John C. Maxwell's book called Thinking For a Change. Maxwell has some pretty good ideas about being more prescriptive about taking time to think strategically and creatively, including taking time out to learn, ponder, and share ideas. The book talks about 11 kinds of thinking, including reflective, shared, creative, unselfish and big-picture. There are lots of examples, and some useful tips, like how to discover your gifts through focused thinking, ways to break down complex issues with strategic thinking, and how to understand the value of examining the worst-case scenario through realistic thinking.

One of the things I like about blogging is that it gives me time to reflect, and put into words things I'd probably just let evaporate. I also enjoy the time I spend browsing other blogs, and I find myself learning, and being influenced by what you write.

I once was speaking with a co-worker about a book I had read. I mentioned that I should give it to someone on our team who could learn from it. He mentioned that it was a waste of time, and that he didn't think the person would read it, or if he did, he wouldn't change anything. I remember being shocked a bit by that comment, since it seems so foreign to me. I can't help changing something about the way I think after spending hours in someone's (virtual) presence, especially after reading a well-thought-out argument. At the very least, I remain convinced that the author is wrong.

   12:33:00 PM 

25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming

Gamespy presents the 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming. Quite a fascinating read. Funny how all failures look so clear in retrospect. Seems like the recurring themes are rushing development for a promised launch, abusing the trust of partners, and not being close to the market/customer.

   11:13:00 AM 

Worth a Thousand Words

JP links to Worth1000, an image manipulation contest site with 38,000 submissions. There are some simply amazing creations, including this sea cow, and a gallery of Martha Stewart redecorating ideas for her new place. I'll honor the copyrights by linking and not posting. Check it out!

   6:29:00 AM 

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Magazines (Snacking)

The other day, a new friend Lori asked me what I read (at least 50% of the articles). She's co-hosting a Fast Company Company of Friends meeting with Cranium co-founder Rich Tait, here in Redmond June 18 (you're all invited!).

Anyway, here's the list:

Fast Company
Business 2.0
Harvard Business Review
National Geographic Adventure
Rock & Ice

   11:45:00 PM 

Heath Row Types Really, Really Fast

Secret Revealed! Heath talked about "conferenceblogging" the recent Weblog Business Strategies Conference, and mentioned that he catches almost every word verbatum. Wow!

Even more exciting, he confblogged (like we need another new word) a recent Fast Company Real Time event. Must read!

   11:28:00 PM 

Influencing, or Being Influenced?

Based on an earlier exchange with Dina, I later had two great conversations with co-workers, Lance and Frank. We were discussing some of our team's efforts around building community, and I put into words something I've been trying hard to convince everyone I work with. Hearing about Dina's brilliant approaches to learning more about the youth market (we dabble in that with Xbox!), I had this thought:

We shouldn't try to influence the community. We should allow ourselves to be influenced by the community.

Subtle difference, but perhaps profound. Marketing is about knowing the customer, understanding their needs, and meeting those needs in a way that's efficient.

If we want to use community to understand our customers, we're not "building" that community: it either exists or it doesn't. I think the best we can do is (unobtrusively) monitor what's happening. If we're really lucky (or happen to have $40 billion in the bank), we can facilitate communication in the community with some good tools. That's where my team comes in.

How can we make tools to make it easier for us to hear our customers? How can we help them have more open conversations with each other? How do we keep the finger on the pulse of our important markets? How can we add value? Most important (at least to me), how can we really help our customers reach their potential? In their jobs? In their play time? In their volunteer work? With their families?

   11:01:00 PM 

Blah Blah Blah

So JP thinks I have too much to say (okay, I should quote him accurately, he says it can be hard to keep up"). Okay, I type pretty fast and I have lots of random thoughts... :) I hope I make the titles clear enough, and the entries short enough (or at least scannable) so it's easy to quickly scan. And I appreciate the nod, JP.

JP also pointed me to a longer shot of a Space Shuttle launch here. I watched it straight for about 20 minutes. Just fascinating. I don't know why I was so enamored.

   10:45:00 PM 

Stunning video footage of Rocket Launch

Wow. This is great. I love talking to my 6-year-old son, Steven about space, and he's convinced he wants to be the first person on Mars. With his love of math, curiosity, and physical skills, he just might do it.

MSNBC covered the launch of the robotic rovers heading for Mars. Click on the picture of the rocket to see a video clip of the launch from the ship's perspective. Very cool!

   7:58:00 AM 

How to Work With a Designer

Charlie also points to a great article on How to (and not to) work with designers written by Daniel Will-Harris, and summarizes it on PureContent.
1) Choose your designer carefully.
2) Leave your preconceived notions at the door.
3) Tell your designer what you want to say rather than how you want it to look.
4) Be clear about specific features you need.
5) Do your research and be specific about your needs.
6) Make sure your message and content are clear.
7) Design for your customer ...
8) Have good reasons for your preferences.
9) Don’t design by committee.
10) Don’t tell your designer how to design.
11) You can’t please all the people all the time.
12) Trust your designer.

   7:01:00 AM 

So Tell Us What You Really Think

Not sure why anyone would ever want to search for a "bag of plagues," but Charlie Park at PureContent did on PriceGrabber, and found this.
Your search for "bag of plagues" was unsuccessful, try a more specific search term. Did you mean Office 2000 Pro (Full Product)?

   6:54:00 AM 

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Writing More About Customers Than TO Customers

Chuq mentions that he's encouraged other marketing folks where he works to take a look at my blog. I really like the idea of community among other marketers, and I’ve learned some from reading others’ blogs, but there’s still not a lot out there yet about marketing that I've run into (see my blogroll for as many as I've found so far).

It got me thinking, though, that I find myself “meta-blogging” too much—writing too much about our customers, and not writing much to our customers. I know many of you reading my blog are MS customers (or at least potential customers) at some level, but I haven’t found my voice yet (or even a clear mechanism yet) to share what I’m thinking to more day-to-day partners, co-workers, or customers. I need to do that. I expect that at some point soon, I'll branch out into a second or third blog, or find a good way to categorize my posts, and publish relevant content.

We're close to rolling out a more interactive B2B platform (using SharePoint Portal Server instead of pure ASP pages) for our channel partners and channel sales reps.

In the meantime, I like that I’m connecting with other like-minded bloggers, and I'm learning a lot about community by becoming more a part of this one.

   6:34:00 PM 

Sun Microsystems Memory Lane

Chuq Von Rospach and I worked together at Sun Microsystems back in 1989 or so. It was fun remembering Sun as a small but growing company, intent on launching the SPARCstation. I worked in a small division selling TOPS networking software, connecting Macs and DOS PCs and Unix workstations, all using "Flashtalk", a version of Appletalk. Chuq reminisces:
The time I spent at Sun was a fascinating time, not just a small company growing and going public, but it was a time where the industry was really starting to change the larger world around it.

   2:23:00 AM 

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Excellent Transcription of Weblogging Conference

Wow. I don't know how he did it, but Heath Row got almost every word down. Worth a read.
   9:16:00 PM 


Some pix from the weekend!

   8:40:00 PM 

Blogging Do's and Don'ts

Clarke posts a summary of Blogging Do's and Don'ts by Catherine E. Reuben, a labour and employment lawyer at Robinson & Cole.


- Don’t do personal blogging on company time or company equipment.
- Don’t talk about your employer on your personal blog.
- Don’t fire off stuff on your blog without being prepared for your employer or your potential employer to see it.
- Don’t sign form “confidentiality” or “intellectual property” agreements without reading them very carefully and consulting with counsel. Many such agreements are way over-broad, and you may have more bargaining power than you think.

-Hmmm. Okay

   6:09:00 PM 

Charming and Incandescently Bright

Michael O'Connor Clarke was on a panel with Beth. He says it all:
When I sat down, I thought: "well, there's two flacks and a Microsoftie up here - I guess the other two guys should be pretty safe ;-)" (yes - I think in emoticons). Strangely it kind of went the other way. Beth Goza, who I'm sitting right next to, is just so charming and incandescently bright that she instantly had about 90% of the room on her side (or at least that's how it felt from up at the front).

That's what I'm talking about. We're all more similar than we are different.
   6:05:00 PM 

Make It Emotional

Learning Lab Denmark: Neuroscience Speaks for Practice-Oriented Learning (quoted on elearningpost)
"The fact is that we are not even masters of our own conscious memory. What we remember and what we do not is subject to an emotional control, which follows a simple principle. If a given impression has emotional meaning we learn it. If it does not trigger emotional response it is not learned. In this case amygdala works as a kind of ‘emotiometer’, which regulates hippocampus and conscious learning. This serves a purpose: to economise the resources with regard to what to learn. So, if you want someone to remember what you say, make sure that it has emotional meaning for the person who has to remember it."

Great learning for the online training my teammate Lori is responsible for. We've recently moved from a "read and test" system to an interactive system (Microsoft Retail Training).
   5:57:00 PM 

Weblogs in Corporate Marketing

Alan Karl writes and article called It's Time For Marketing To Embrace Weblog Concepts & Technologies

I'm already hearing rumblings of RSS feeds showing up on SharePoint team sites. And I'm encouraging our team to think about daily posts on our B2B sites to update everyone on what we're doing, and to make them human.

   5:39:00 PM 

Customer Partner Experience

Had a great meeting today with a Marketing Manager from our CPE Team (Customer Partner Experience). Yep, it's a serious initiative, and as a company, we're making plans to change our culture in dramatic ways, one manager, one employee at a time. I get to work with other managers in our division (Home and Entertainment) to roll out this initiative more formally. Not that an "initiative" can change people by itself, but it's a start. And as a marketer, I know the power (and limitations!) of a "program" to influence change.

I get so motivated and passionate when I get to work with others that share the same vision I have of a more responsive, more open, and more "human" Microsoft. It might take some time, because our culture is a powerful thing (it served us well for many years). Changing the focus is going to be slow, but the power that comes from really stepping back and remembering why we're here is an amazing thing, and when you do it, you can't help but be changed.

   5:20:00 PM 

Empathy for Customers

In Themes in User Experience, Part II, Peter Merholz writes about the struggle between engineers and marketing. Thanks to a great little blog, elearningpost.
Through our empathy, we inevitably become advocates for our users. When people in the organization try to get end-users to do things they would have no reasonable interest in doing, we pipe up, saying, "You can't expect people to do that! They have no motivation for it, there's no value in it for them!" When people in the organization dismiss those who can't use a product as "stupid users", we shout, "They're not stupid! They're just being people! They're being themselves. You haven't bothered to understand the context in which they're using it, their capabilities, their desires. Don't call them 'stupid'!"

And then we often turn around, and complain about those "stupid engineers" or "stupid marketers" or "stupid management." They don't understand anything. They're just making our jobs harder.

   5:07:00 PM 

Beth Called "Outside Person at Microsoft"

I love that title. Highest compliment a fellow blogger could pay, especially if it's coming from Dan Bricklin!
Here's another picture of Beth Goza. Meeting her was kind of exciting: Not only is she a Microsoft employee who has a personal weblog (dumped on by the Register), but she and her husband have his-and-her Segways. He maintains the cool "Book-of-Seg" website. (My regular readers know I write about the Segway once in a while.) She's an "outside" person at Microsoft who works on community around Windows.

   5:01:00 PM 

Creativity and Innovation in Business

Wednesday, June 18
RedWest E, Emerald Room

Richard Tait, Founder and "Grand Poo-bah" of Cranium

Here's a great opportunity for marketers, sales folks, or brainy game players and their friends to spend an evening with Cranium co-founder Richard Tait. In this free workshop, you'll learn from Richard and other Fast Company readers about Innovation, Strategy, and Leadership.

Ex-Microsoftee and Cranium "Grand Poo-bah" Richard Tait speak about creativity, innovation, and business, and we'll break into functional groups for an interactive activity. Ought to be a great evening!

Invite your friends! No solicitation or donations will be requested, it's just a chance for business folks in the Seattle Area to get together and learn from each other.

(I'm part of a group of Fast Company readers who get together to learn from each other, and marketing professionals in the Seattle Area. I've helped arrange this "user group" meeting for Microsoft employees and the business community.)

Let me know if you have questions, or any kind of special needs. Please RSVP so I can make sure we have enough room for everyone. And please forward as appropriate.
Background on Cranium, Inc.:

Cranium was recognized at the end of last year by Fast Company Magazine as a "Fast 50" Company. For background on Fast Company Magazine's definition of a "Fast Company" go to:

When Richard Tait and Whit Alexander set out to start a company in 1998, they had a distinct mission: create a lifestyle brand fueled by products and services that would lighten and enlighten people's lives. Their goal was to create special moments, memories, and emotional touchstones that people could celebrate at home, at work, and with friends and family-all the while laughing and learning. Tait and Alexander's vision was to create the brand for the brain, and Cranium, Inc. was born.
With more than 15 years of combined experience creating award-winning software products, the two former Microsoft executives applied the innovative product development methods they learned at the software giant to build great products that would delight customers and deliver incredibly fun and rewarding moments. Using the "iterative design" process honed during their days in the software development business, Cranium, Inc.'s founders blended intense consumer feedback gathered during prototype play tests with original game concepts.


No Cost to Attend. Bring a friend!

Non-MS employees can SIGN UP: Forward an email to as your RSVP (Please do not reply, but forward). If you are driving, and are not a MS employee, see below.

Seattle CoF coordinator: Lisa Boerner
Venue/Speaker coordinator: Lori Richardson (206) 972-0265

   7:40:00 AM 

Monday, June 09, 2003

My Wife's Calling...

...gotta get home.

Not to diss my laptop or tablet, but...

...It's SO MUCH EASIER to blog on my work PC with a full keyboard and mouse!

   11:48:00 PM 

Focused Performance

Interesting post quoted by Focused Performance called "You Know a Project is Failing If You Can't Stop It," originally posted by Third Wave.

Great concept. I know that when we get projects too far along, or too late, or too over budget, everyone forgets the bigger picture. I often have to remind myself of the business school 101 concept of sunk costs. If the money's gone, don't count it. Make any decisions based on looking forward, how much you'll have to spend, how much time it's still going to take, and what the alternatives are. Often, doing nothing is a better alternative to finishing a project.

   11:29:00 PM 

Marketing is Not a Post-Processing Step

Great article by Eric Sink about how marketing positioning is vital to the success of a product, and how it has to be built in from the ground up.
Marketing is not just telling the world about your product. Marketing is also deciding what product to build. You have to design and build your product to fit the market position you want it to have.

   11:17:00 PM 

Speaking of Flow

I'm about halfway through "Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning," by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Lots of great suggestions for creating an environment where flow can happen. It focuses a lot (so far) on how managers can create a condusive environment for employees.

A co-worker Madeleine (the marketing manager behind "Microsoft Insider") introduced me to the concept a year or two ago, and the thought's stuck with me. I think I'm in flow with these blog posts tonight.

   11:12:00 PM 

Action or Motivation?

Dina asks "which comes first, action or motivation?" Wow, great question. For me, usually the first. If I can get just enough motivation to get started, I'll keep it going.

Whenever I start a long document, I spend the first hour messing with the format. I get all the style sheets just right, I put the pages in order, I write the TOC. By then, I'm in "flow" and can just get going.

BTW, Dina's got a great, great blog.

   11:06:00 PM 

My Wife's Mom Bought Another Mac

Yep. I talked her into her first Mac when I worked at Sun Microsystems in 1988. Most marketing folks back then used Macs exclusively. I asked for one when I joined Microsoft, just prior to Windows 3.0 launching. I was told to deal with it.

She wants a copy of Office 10. I owe her (and Joy!) a copy.

   10:54:00 PM 

GreatAuntKate Thinks I Need to Say More

My friend Lara thinks I need to say more about my adopted kids!

Four kids (actually three adopted, one foster child). Oldest from foster care. 3 year old twins from a private adoption, and one year old foster child we plan to adopt this year. We've had 24 foster kids in our home in the last six years. Some for a weekend, some for 2 years, some (Steven) for forever. We first had him placed when he was about 18 months old--he's almost 7.

If you have any questions about adoption, let me know! I'll talk your head off!
   10:48:00 PM 

Thanks Chris

Maybe it was because Scoble was there, but I wanted to thank Chris Pirillo for sending me an email and telling me that my RSS feed is actually 1.0, not .91 (I changed the link). I told him in an email I need to read others blogs less and write more. He responded by pointing me to his OPML file. Holy smokes!

I'm catching up on my blogging with SharpReader. I installed NewsGator, and there are things I like about it (being able to easily forward a post in an email, for instance).

   10:45:00 PM 

If You Can Say Anything Nice

Speaking of Scoble, he points to a comment made by Dare about the "Microsoft Blogmania" going around. I've done my part to recruit co-workers, friends and family...

His comment is great, though, and made me wonder about the energy I put into my blog, and how much more (or better or different) it would be if I did the same writing emails to co-workers and executives. Or made content for Or wrote more marketing plans. (Of course, I do that too).

   10:44:00 PM 

Blogging the Bloggers

In case you haven't seen it, Beth does a great job blogging the Jupiter Weblogs Business Strategies Conference. Doc is there, and David Weinberger (Beth's notes from his session here), and a host of others. Who is not there? Scoble. And me. :(

I like this quote from Dr. Weinberger:
At the back of the conference are some round tables at which people are sitting, laptops sprawling. They're doing what the rest of us are doing: listening but also IM'ing, checking email from time to time, looking up links. Somehow it reminds me being at a drive-in: there's a movie playing at the front, but attending to it is a social event....

   10:35:00 PM 

Fotolog Revolt

It's not the revolt at Fotolog that is interesting to me. It's that Scott Heiferman is writing about it himself, and using this interesting photo in his photolog as an illustration. I'm not sure what the right answer is, but I like that the company is listening.

   10:28:00 PM 

Dear Reader...

Chris Hollander writes an especially inspiring blog entry.
Most importantly, though, I've spent alot of time thinking. Thinking about you, reader. At the end of the day, there's a pretty simple reason for all of this; The reason that I wrote this blog engine in the first place... the reason that I write the way I do... the reason why I've invited friends of mine to share this software... the reason is You. I want you to know what its like to be in your mid twenties, in New York City, during the turn of the millenium. These really are interesting times. Your still reading this, so you must think that I'm somewhat interesting.

Everyday, I'm finding more and more folks here who share my perspective, my need for better connection. There are folks here who are here because they really do want to help you (dear reader) to realize your potential. As the ads say, it's why we do what we do.

   10:14:00 PM 

Reorg Day

Today we announced a pretty substantial reorg. In my time here at Microsoft, I've been though at least one a year. I've had many, many jobs, more managers than I can count, and lots of different responsibilities.

My team is being split into two groups: Internal Communications (worldwide Knowledge Management, Intranets, B2B sites, internal training, etc.) and Channel Training (retail store sales associate training).

We have a month before it takes place, and I'm sure I'll write more about it.

I'm really proud of how everyone's reacted, but mostly I think I'm proud of our VP, Steve. He's exhibited remarkable leadership, has been sensative and professional, and set a great tone for our division. A year ago he and I discussed some of the principles in "Primal Leadership," and since that time I've learned a lot from him by watching him lead our division through some rough times (as you know, the retail market ain't the best right now...).

I'll be reporting to a different team a bit higher in the organization, and I'll really miss this group I've come to see as my family here at work. Good news is, though, many will be coming with me to the new team, and we'll all be working together no matter where we sit. "We are all retail."

   5:46:00 PM 

Sunday, June 08, 2003

A New Marketer

The other day I was doing a Google search for a marketing manager, and I found this post on Chelsea Harms' website. She tells about becoming a new Marketing Manager at a mall in Alaska. I remember my first days doing marketing. How exciting, and overwhelming, and interesting, and boring, and full of potential. I started out volunteering to stuff envelopes, just so I could hang out with Mari Baker and Scott Walchek at a company called Migent Software. I worked my way into a job as their group assistant, then went from there.

Welcome to the world of Marketing, Chelsea! You'll do great!

Also reminded me that most of the other 500,000 folks blogging aren't in high tech!

   11:35:00 PM 

Why Does Barbie Blog?

Great post on The Digital Tavern, another fascinating marketing blog (at least fascinating to marketers...). Why Does Barbie Blog?
Ok. So you blog or you don't blog. But this plastic figurine that represents the best and worst of American marketing, Barbie, has been blogging for some time. What? She's not in your blogroll? I mean no holds barred here. This is fictional blogging. Not some bloggers fantasy or twisted reality. Barbie is - well, she's Barbie. And Mattel has her blogging.

Don't be looking for a blog from Clippy anytime soon... Oh, wait, this sounds almost like a blog!
   11:22:00 PM 

Unshrink Part III

Looking at the comments, I see that unless you're running a "popular browser" the link might not work. Kind of ironic. Anyway, thanks to the folks at the CS Dept at BYU, by deleting the actual page from the link, you can see the raw files. Here is the WMV File. Sorry... :)

   4:38:00 PM 

Unshrink Your Organization

A while back I did a post called "Microsoft, Ever Think Some of Your Customer's Hate You?" Max McEwean spoke at Microsoft, and made quite an impression. I was wandering around his site, and found a link to a similar presentation he gave at BYU a while back. Here's the link.

   2:03:00 PM 

Friday, June 06, 2003

Tales from a Retail Computer Tech

One of the customer segments I work with is retail sales professionals. A few weeks back, Frank and I got a backstage tour at a Micro Center in Ohio. We met the tech guy there, and he told us about a few stories of repairs brought in by customers. This site cracked me up, as I was amazed at the stuff they get to deal with! (I've seen 3-4 of these on my own computers, since I have four kids under 6!). Thanks to Joy (G33K)

   8:38:00 PM 

Thursday, June 05, 2003

We Must Take the Microsoft Story to the Next Level

Steve Ballmer sent a long email (coming soon here) to every Microsoft employee yesterday, as reported in most business publications. Most focus on the fact that we're facing a large battle with Linux.

They got it right that we'll be increasing our advertising budget (I wonder how much that's going to do for us in the age of inattention). The part of the story they missed is Steve's commitment to changing the culture internally, to one of more external facing.

My favorite quotes that affect my team directly (and the reason I started blogging) (emphasis added):

"To generate enthusiasm for our company and innovations, we must also communicate more broadly and in a more human and compelling voice. Â… We will explain our mission to help people realize their potential and discuss the amazing work we and our partners are doing."

"...people would appreciate our innovations more and the value we deliver if they knew the company and its people better. This not only helps customers feel good but also helps them understand more of what we do and how to take advantage of what we do. We are putting effort into this by encouraging our developers to participate more in the communities around their products and by communicating broadly to the industry regarding important and often emotionally charged issues and trends such as security, privacy and rights management."

"We must take telling the Microsoft story to the next level. We need to significantly step-up participation in community and on-line forums. We should look at communicating about new product design to customers earlier through on-line design discussion. For some products it makes sense to publish regular builds of new products on-line, for community feedback. More of our headquarters people should spend time talking to customers – not just CIO’s but users, school kids, large groups of IT users and developers. All of this work should let people know us better and help them understand more about what we are doing and how to take advantage of it. ...">/blockquote>

I'm proud to be here during this (potentially) transformational time, and I'm proud to have people like Robert and Chris and Beth and Diane (and Frank and Lori and Cesar and James) leading the charge.

   5:07:00 PM 

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Altoids? Slurpee? Advanced Technology Watch with Subscription?

Now here's an idea for distributing Microsoft's new SPOT watches (I'm on the channel marketing team, and I never thought of that...):
"(In the future) the watches will be shrink-wrapped in 7-Eleven next to the Altoids, and people will get them for $20 with service,"

   9:13:00 PM 

It's the Little Things

Beth blogs that she loves US Airways because there's power in the seats. Because American Airlines has power in a good number of their planes, I've switched my preferred airline to American. I'm not a huge, power-flyer, but I fly enough that United is going to miss my reimbursements from my employer. And I'm going to get more work done while I fly.

It's not the clever ads. It's not that the airline is employee-owned. It's not the on-time departures. It's not the number of hubs. It's not even the frequent-flyer program. It's that there's power in the seats, and I have lots of email to catch up on.

Jet Blue did research with customers, and asked them "what do you want?" New planes. A business class feel. And they found that for less than the cost of a hot meal, they could put TVs in every seat. It not only saved them money, but it dramatically increased the loyalty of customers (who can get excited about a rubbery chicken meal?).

It's the little things. What do our customers (partners/clients/users/employees) consider to be the most important feature of our products (services/relationships)?

   7:23:00 PM 

Hey Southwest Airlines, Do You Know Kristen?

Kristen wants to introduce herself:

now, i would imagine that you're the kind of multibillion dollar corporation who really wants to know your customers, so let me tell you a little about myself. i'm 5'8, i'm a college junior, I CANNOT SURVIVE FOR ONE WEEK WITH ONLY ONE PAIR OF SHOES.

But all is not lost, Southwest. Because of the blogging community leaving comments, Kristen later states:
keep the vacation horror stories coming. southwest is starting to look not-quite-so bad.

In fact, a few of the comments were left by those defending Southwest. Who says Blogging isn't used for marketing?

   10:16:00 AM 

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

How Many Blogs Are There?


   11:17:00 PM 

The Games Industry Crisis

Interesting post from Greg Costikyan about how dev costs are rising exponentially (due to Moore's Law demanding better graphics/art/interactivity), but that the market is growing only linearly. Something's gotta change...

   11:12:00 PM 

Microsoft Home Titles

The aforementioned article (Dvorak) mentions that Microsoft Home Titles drove the CD-ROM market. I was around for that, and was a Product Manager in the "Consumer Division" (later the Interactive Media Division, then the Interactive Media Group, then the Home and Retail Division, now the Home and Entertainment Division).

I was the Product Manager of our first "educational/entertaining" CD-ROM "Musical Instruments". By then, we also had out Bookshelf (first multimedia CD-ROM from Microsoft) and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Here's a review I Googled.

Over the years, i was the Product Manager of Dangerous Creatures, Ancient Lands, Dinosaurs, Art Gallery, Isaac Asimov's Ultimate Robot, the Ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright, Dogs, World of Flight, and several other titles. Fun!

And I do think we helped pioneer publishing multimedia apps. We spent millions on the first titles, building our own "hyperlink" system, anti-aliased fonts, graphics palates (remember, we only had 256 colors to work with), our own audio codecs, our own animation engine for the videos, our own sprites for anything that moved, our own index and search function--all written by hand). We paid a bunch to license content (Dorling Kindersley, Byron Preiss, National Gallery, Scholastic, others). Our dev teams were pretty large by today's standards.

Interesting that you guys could build a title like Dinosaurs in a weekend using HTML: 200 pages, 100-200 words per page, 6-8 illustrations per page, one or two audio clips per page, and 6 30-90 second animations.

   9:00:00 PM