Tuesday, November 1, 2005

It's A-Live!

First of all, I'm not writing to slam Windows Live and Office Live - I don't spend 100% of my time here channeling H. L. Mencken for the modern age. I have hope and interest in the new live offerings, and I hope time will help bring focus on to what new markets (and money!) these offerings will produce.

That gentle introduction aside... holy freakin' crap on a keyboard, what does it take for this company to actually do a demo right the first time!?! I guess the next funny BillG video can use our constant demo blunders as a backstory ("Quick, Bill! Stall! Improvise!"). That or just have a bulk neuralizer always on standby. In the meantime: I'm sure we had talented, well meaning, earnest people working really hard to get the presentation together and all, but... I'd be much happier for you to be employed elsewhere. If you can't put a demo together in front of such an important crowd, you don't need to be working at Microsoft.

Mr. Dave Winer has a couple of choice demo comments:

  • The net went down in the middle of the demo. It was the worst public demo ever.
  • [T]he net went down halfway through the presentation, just as they were getting to the demo, which was a total wipeout, biggest failure I've seen in almost 30 years in the biz. I think there's a pretty good chance they cut off our net access so we couldn't write about it real-time, if so, it was a brilliant move, but an act of desperation.

Whew. Some other interesting blog posts here:

So then this afternoon we had a virtual company meeting with SteveB and team. I enjoyed it (Steve even acknowledged the demo flame-out). I really appreciated the description comparing msn.com users to start.com (aka live.com) users. That resonated with me and filled in a gap: msn.com users are very different than start.com users and start.com is not stealing away msn.com users but rather filling a void we didn't have before, a void for users who have Google as their home page.

To me, we're filling the Alpha Geek void for Microsoft technology. We're providing an alpha-geek portal and set of services for them to build new, interesting results on-top of our services and gadgets and all that other cool stuff. Even my palms get itchy to start trying this stuff out. I'm sure Tim O'Reilly is a little crestfallen because I can't imagine him being too thrilled to be publishing Web 2.0 books for Microsoft Service technologies or to think Alpha Geeks would abandon Mac OS X for Windows. I think getting these early geek adopters is important because they are the mavens that will help tip an important balance to supporting our new services.

(In the meantime, I hope every enthused Microsoftie with free time can try developing interesting, instructive, shared tools and examples for developing against these new services. Unleash your inner Alpha Geek!)

So I liked what was covered at the meeting. We even have a tool called Mojo! Microsoft's got the Mojo! Kevin made a lot of good noises about agility when it comes to shipping and supporting these services. ChrisJo and (I believe) Christopher Paine are going to be looked upon as Windows leaders. Rajesh Jha is already leading the Office effort (and can probably use a lot of that past "software as a service" knowledge effectively regarding what-not-to-do).

As for agility and shipping software sooner and more often: just as Microsoft had a security epiphany, it needs to hit the brakes and have an agility epiphany. And I'm not talking about new processes and different ways to doing the same thing and calling some people chickens and other people pigs... I'm talking about effective, agile groups that have shipped software or services sharing what they have done. How have they tweaked or revamped the existing process? We need to have an agility week at the beginning of the year to focus on common sense techniques for producing high quality software more quickly and with less people, process, and overhead. Just like we have the wonderful Michael Howard for security, we need another firecracker for agility.

You can't just wave a rhetoric wand about and say we're suddenly shipping more often and it be so. People are going to try to do the same busted process and we'll wind up more screwed up more often. Those that have something that works for Microsoft need to share and be our beacons out of the pipeline.

My main two doubts about services at the end of the day:

  1. Ads are really going to pay for all of this? That's all well and good until someone figures out TiVo for services.
  2. How are we going to ensure we don't transition from DLL Hell / Versioned Hell to Services Hell? Anyone using our services need to be able to adapt to updates and bug-fixes in a timely fashion so that we don't have to keep around n-versions of the service and ensure they keep working.

My hope is that services can let some teams transition into smaller, more effective teams and the left-over people that are no longer needed can find splendid opportunities elsewhere in the business world.

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