Friday, 09 July 2004

Microsoft embraced blogging and open discussion some time ago. Now not only do they allow/encourage their employees to blog about their work and express their own opinions, they've moved all the greatness that is Microsoft-employee-blogging right onto their corporate web site. And they've completely embraced RSS as a delivery mechanism. Practically all their community content is available in RSS feeds. Nice.

From Microsoft's Community site:

We just launched the Microsoft Community Blogs Portal, a searchable listing of blogs by Microsoft employees, categorized by product or technology topic. The project also makes it easier for pages across Microsoft.com to publish lists of relevant blogs and posts from those blogs.

This project was intended to answer one of the key pieces of feedback we get from customers about our blogging efforts to date. As people posted in response to Scoble's question about Microsoft blogs, it’s sometimes hard to find blogs about a particular technology or product that we make, even on a site like blogs.msdn.com which only has full time Microsoft employees blogging. Our answer to that is to ask our bloggers to categorize their RSS feeds (and to indicate whether they’re writing for a technical audience or a more general readership). The blog portal then makes those blogs available for consumption.

The project also provides ways for blog content to be automatically incorporated into pages on Microsoft.com. We’ve already been doing this, in a proof of concept way, on MSDN in the developer centers, but the process has been very manual. This should make it much easier for all our site managers to incorporate blogs.

A nice side effect of the project is the ability to search across all of the registered RSS feeds. So if you aren’t able to find something using regular Microsoft.com search but you think one of our bloggers might have written about it, you can search across all the registered posts from the portal.

Oh yeah, about RSS. A second project which launched yesterday, called Smart Components 2.0, also allows these contextually relevant lists of posts and blogs to be re-published via RSS. What’s that mean? In a nutshell, every one of the blog recent posts components contains a white on orange RSS badge linking to an RSS feed that is scoped to the same content set as the component. The one on the blog portal has an RSS feed of the fifty most recent posts from all registered Microsoft blogs. If I’m on the Exchange community site, there will now be an RSS feed that aggregates posts from registered bloggers who write about Exchange. And we aren’t just RSS-enabling blog content. With the new code that we deployed yesterday, all sorts of smart components on our sites, including lists of newsgroup content, upcoming chats and webcasts, knowledge base articles, and security bulletins now emit RSS.

Finally, what we shipped yesterday was a portal and a toolbox for our site managers to incorporate these features into their sites. We’ll point to uses of the new components as they go live and spread Microsoft blogs and RSS across Microsoft.com. We’ll also write specifics about some of the other new features in the Smart Components 2.0 release.

(Bonus: there are some interesting hidden features in the blog portal.)

ADDED 7/11/04: It's definitely worth noting that despite the “revolutionary” apearance (to some) of Microsoft suddenly being “open,” that's not really the case. I have always been able to talk in depth with many people at Microsoft about the things that I do in my line of work, and they have always been quite open and helpful - both in terms of providing me information I need, and in terms of collecting information from me in order to make sure they're building relevant products.

Josh Allen has a similar opinion:

People at Microsoft blog because they tend to be open, independent, and communicative; not the other way 'round.  Blogs do provide evidence that Microsoft is just a bunch of normal people like any other company; but the blogging isn't the cause of this normalcy -- it's just a new way to communicate that reality.



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Friday, 09 July 2004 19:29:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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