Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Saturday, July 31, 2004

Jeffrey Veen: User experience is more than design.

Jeffrey nailed where product planners/marketers go wrong. Having a great list of features doesn't matter if you don't nail the one "killer feature." In the iPod's case it's getting music onto the iPod in the first place, since it ships with an empty hard drive.

Great insights from Jeffrey.

At Winnov we used to ask "what's the OOBE like?" The "Out of Box Experience." The first hour of a product's life will determine whether or not you're fantastically in love with it or not.

Interestingly enough, this same thing holds true for conferences. Reading through the reports from the recent Blogon Conference there were quite a few reports that it was boring. I found that the conference was better in the afternoon, but that the first talk just wasn't "open the conference with a bang" quality.

This is why I always tried to get a fantastic speaker to open our conferences. Someone like Alan Cooper. Don Box. Steve Ballmer. etc.

Or, remember the church down in the Dallas area? Same thing. They work very hard to make sure you have a great experience from the time you see their building coming off of the freeway.

My coworker, Jeff Sandquist, even quantified it further. He only gives a piece of software a week. If he is still using it after seven days, he'll keep it, but if it frustrates the heck out of him he uninstalls. Getting adoption requires paying a huge amount of attention to the first few hours of experience.

7:40:02 PM    comment 

It's a bit daunting to go to a Microsoft employee picnic. Bill Gates sure knows how to throw a geek party (although I didn't see him there). Picture several thousand employees and their families all hanging around drinking Diet Coke or beer and eating a variety of things from hamburgers to salads. Tons of things for the kids to jump on or play. A huge chess set. A fake tatoo booth. Volleyball competitions. Lumberjack demonstrations. Rock bands. And more. Of course it was free food and stuff (I wish I could invite everyone along, but I was only allowed to bring in family).

It's daunting because it's easy to forget sometimes the economic impact that Microsoft has. It's one thing to talk about 57,000 employees. It's a totally different thing to see a sizeable portion of them together in a park having fun.

Maryam, Patrick and I decided to take the bus up there. So we met over at building 9 at noon. In line I met Matt Scott.

It was weird. He looked me over a couple of times. Saw my Channel 9 t-shirt and quickly his eyes got big and he asked "are you Robert Scoble?"

Turns out he has been reading me and Channel 9 for a while and is one of Microsoft's newest employees (he just joined the Word team as a tester).

I hope he starts blogging. The Office team needs some blogs.

While at the party I met someone from MSN -- he told me all about something new they are working on that hasn't been discussed in public.

Met a financial analyst who works in the group that manages Microsoft's money. And a bunch of others.

On the way back I met someone who works on as a developer (he told me he uses C#). But, he gave me the news scoop of the day. Turns out that Windows XP Service Pack 2 is coming soon and the teams there are expecting unprecidented download demand. So, they are gearing up with extra servers, extra bandwidth. Even with the planning they expect extreme stress on the system.

I got some details about how Windows Update works. Turns out if our European datacenter is getting too many demands, Windows update will switch to another datacenter somewhere else in the world.

He gave me a trick too. He said they are putting most of their resources on Windows Update, but that if traffic gets overwhelming there that often you can get through by visiting

Turns out that most users will get their upgrades through the Windows Update site, so often traffic will be lower on the downloads site.

Anyway, sorry I didn't get the developer's name, I was there without a pen so didn't write it down.

Fun picnic. Microsoft holds a picnic for its employees every year.

5:27:48 PM    comment 

Oh, cool, MSDN's Webcasts now have an RSS feed (er, several feeds). This is great news, cause the Webcasts are free and are very informative. My wife, Maryam, helps run them (she's one of the voices that'll introduce you to LiveMeeting's features). I've watched over her shoulder a few times already and I've learned a lot.

11:09:55 AM    comment 

Speaking of quiet, Sriram Krishnan noticed a quiet little Channel 9 project underway. More on that soon.

Update: Sriram's blog went down. He was pointing at this site on Channel 9.

9:49:10 AM    comment 

Some of my friends and readers have been asking "why are you so quiet on Longhorn lately?"

Well, because my readers asked me to, for one.

For another: I'm not sure what is OK to reveal. There are so many people working on Longhorn that I meet every day that I could easily reveal something here that'd get someone mad at me. Especially since the press is quoting me freely now (imagine being the program manager on a feature and having Scoble reveal it to the world, wouldn't that make you mad?)

For another, it's the largest software project I've ever heard of. Thousands of people working on it. Tens of millions of lines of code. Heck, it takes a bank of computers several hours to compile it (and the code size will probably grow quite a bit between now and release).

Eweek has been doing some interesting reporting on the latest about Longhorn.

Am I still excited about Longhorn?


Did I overhype it going into the PDC?

Yes, and no.


I should have tempered my remarks more with just how massive this project is. Remember Windows 2000? The beta for that took, what, three years? Clearly Longhorn won't be out in a short timeframe. I know the schedule for Longhorn, but I'm not going to talk about it because 1) It isn't my job (that's Jim Allchin, or Brian Valentine, or Bill Gates job) 2) I don't have the visibility into all the pieces of the puzzle that those three guys have. 3) Even if I did, things shift and change (remember when Bill Gates promised me VB4 would ship on the Macintosh and it didn't?)

InfoWorld, for instance, is reporting that Longhorn is slipping.

Software projects' roadmaps often change and shift as organizations learn more. Heck, I remember Dave Winer doing that at UserLand and we only had a handful of developers.

The market today is a different one than when I started at Microsoft just a year ago. For one, security/trustworthy computing (getting rid of spyware, spam, viruses, phishing) is even more important today than it was a year ago (and it was already the #1 feature on everyone's lists that I talked to when I interviewed here).

Plus, the organization learned a lot by doing Windows XP Service Pack 2. Every developer I've talked to on XPSP2 tells me things that he or she learned in the development of XPSP2 (I'm getting the feeling that we should really have renamed XPSP2, by the way -- it's so important for Windows customers to install that when it comes out in a few weeks). Those things, whether minor or major, need to now be rolled into Longhorn. That doesn't happen overnight.

Anyway, hope you don't mind me being a bit quiet on Longhorn lately. There's so much to talk about that's shipping this year or next (new SQL Server and new Visual Studio and new Halo and new Media Center and new Internet Security and Accelerator, among others).

So, what can I say about Longhorn? We're still interested in working with companies and developers on Longhorn timeframe projects. We're still staying the course in giving .NET programmers more and more productivity (and it sure is getting noticed, not a day goes by when we don't hear of another company betting the farm on .NET). It's certainly time to learn about .NET -- get a book or two and play with the latest Express Editions if you haven't checked out .NET lately.

And keep watching MSDN's Longhorn Developer Center (it was recently redesigned and will be the place where we release new stuff about Longhorn).

9:46:22 AM    comment 

My definition of a disruptive technology? (Thanks to Alex Barnett and John Dvorak who is talking about such).

A technology that no one in business wants but that goes on to be a trillion-dollar industry.

Steve Wozniak told me how he offered his Apple I to HP and Atari and they both turned him down. One guy, if I remember the quote right, told him something like "who wants to buy a personal computer?"

Whenever I see a new technology I ask myself "will I be the next guy to turn down the next Wozniak?"

8:57:55 AM    comment 

My son is in town and that explains my low posting frequency lately. He's really a great kid and our relationship is starting to improve. Part of that is due to the Xbox. It's one thing that he can totally kick my behind on. We were playing that until midnight last night.

We're going to the Microsoft Company Picnic today (my first one).

Other news? Just bought an Epson printer. Funny, the ink for the thing costs almost as much as the printer does.

Other news? The other day I met an inspiring young man who is interning at Microsoft for the summer. He writes code in Visual Studio and is a tester on one of the Office teams. Sounds normal, right? Except for one thing: he's totally blind.

Kenneth Spector is his name and we'll have him on Channel 9 soon showing how he interacts with Visual Studio (he has a cool braille device that lets him feel his code and a screen reader, Jaws, reads to him what's on the screen). I can't even imagine using a computer without being able to see the screen.

If that doesn't inspire you, nothing will.

8:49:35 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
Are you with the press?
Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:55:59 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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