April fools starting early at MSN?

Is April Fools starting a day early over on MSN? Check out this fun search for my name. Of course Chris Pirillo has been hit too. Chris, I didn't realize you'd been bitten by a radioactive shrew! Oh, Dave Winer, look what your searches say!

Update: I got some emails asking how to do this for other people. Oh, if you clicked through any of those search results you would have seen that you can do the same thing for your friends. Thanks to Sean Carver who did this and have a good April Fools!

Are bloggers authoritative sources at big companies?

I just saw this over on the BrandToBeDetermined blog — that Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson are talking about are bloggers an authoritative source at big companies? Turns out the answer, at least here at Microsoft, is "maybe." (They asked our PR department and I got involved in the conversation internally that happened).

  • Executives like Ray Ozzie who blog? Absolutely. Any executive is almost always on the record for the company.
  • Team blogs like the IE team blog or the Xbox team blog? Yes with an asterisk, because what goes on those blogs is usually vetted by other people on the team and they discuss it (which explains why those blogs are generally a bit more reserved than individual blogs. I put an asterisk there because some teams might not require pre-vetting, but up to today team blogs are generally good sources of information on those products).
  • Individual bloggers like me? Depends (the PR team says to always call and verify facts, just to be safe). For me, it depends what I'm writing about and the tone I'm taking in my writing. If it's about the team I'm on (which does On10.net and Channel 9) and I say something you can assume I'm pretty authoritative and the facts I'm giving you are pretty accurate. If I interview, say, the head of the Internet Explorer team or Bill Gates or someone else, you can be pretty sure that's an authoritative piece of content that reflects the company's opinion pretty well. But most of the other writings I do? I'm not vetted. I don't check with others before I write my opinions. So, you should "fact check my a**" as they say around the blogosphere. On the other hand, I am on the record and you can quote me in press and blogs and other stuff (and I often do). If I say something about Microsoft I work very hard to make sure it's accurate (and if it isn't, you see that within minutes as my readers jump on me in my comments which are open and unmoderated).

That said, if you're a journalist writing a story it's best to check in with our PR teams (if you don't know how to get ahold of them, see the "Press" link on the right side of my blog, or drop me a line and I'll get you with them). They will be happy to give you the "official" story as well as they know who the official spokespeople are from each team and can put you in touch with them.

I do expect blogs to be used to get both the official and unofficial story out about things, just as the Security Team is communicating about Internet Explorer fixes on its blog.

This came up a few times in speeches today. Many PR departments are really struggling with this. They don't like the fact that employees at the edge of a company can get quoted in news media. This is a grand experiment that still is playing out in corporate America today.

What do you think?

It’s an AJAX world: Hive 7

I just spent a few minutes talking with Max Skibinsky, founder and main developer behind Hive 7. Wow, he's a total JavaScript God or something. He's done stuff in the browser that I didn't expect. They just released a beta preview of Hive 7 today.

Anyway, Om Malik got the same tour a few hours earlier so I'll just link to him and go back to working on stuff here at Microsoft (yeah, working late again, damn email is just flowing faster and faster).

Om, this isn't real full 3D yet. Your camera position can't move and you can't spin things like you can in Second Life (objects are flat, but look 3D because of opacity). That isn't taking away from what Max did at all. It's awesome.

Also, it does both Second Life and Hive 7 a disservice to compare the two. Second Life is a downloadable application. That means it'll be far richer than a browser-based application. But Hive 7 will get more users quicker because most people aren't willing to download an app and install it, especially if they perceive there isn't much value there (and for most people there isn't much value in these things — yet).

In Hive7 I was brought into a room with lots of objects in it. Chairs. Tables. Curtains. Each thing was an object that I could drag around. Each was programmable via JavaScript. Max inserted a chess board in the middle of the room and we were playing chess. He inserted a picture of my son and put it on the wall. He inserted a video and started playing it. He inserted a Web browser and we browsed the Web together. Very cool stuff. All in a browser Window. All with no plugins or other installs.

Oh, and the backend? It's running on Windows Server 2003 64-bit. I'm noticing a trend lately — more and more cool stuff on the Web is running with Windows as a backend (MySpace announced last week that they were running on the same). Max says he can't yet afford to build out a huge datacenter so if too many people show up all at once they might not be able to get in.

If you get an opportunity to play with it, do, it's a lot of fun and even if you don't end up a long-term user you'll appreciate what a browser can do a whole lot more. Works on IE and Firefox.

Quick hits

Hugh Macleod: thanks for the troll cartoon, you made me laugh!

The NASA site has a photo of a total eclipse, as seen from space, yesterday. Of course Susan Kitchens has details. She always blogs cool space stuff since she knows a lot of people at the JPL. Don't miss the video (click here and visit the Webcast). The good stuff starts at about the 50 minute mark if you just want to see the good stuff.

The Wells Fargo blog is an interesting look back at earthquake history (they are preparing for the 100th anniversary of the earthquake and fire that destroyed much of San Francisco). You know, it's a bit safe and not very conversational (yet) but I like it. One post tells about banks running out of money after the 1989 earthquake (they couldn't get the armored cars out of the garage due to doors that needed electricity to work). What did they do? Put $15 million into a stretch Lincoln. What does that have to do with banking? Well, they want to remind you that they've been around that long and that they'll survive anything and make sure you get your cash. Great marketing.

Speaking of earthquakes, there's a Firefox plugin that'll shake your browser anytime there's an earthquake in the world.

A geek nurse? Yeah, Jason Ipock is a registered nurse and he's also a software engineer. Blogs too. Anything he can't do?

Zoli does a job search experiment. He is selling "Zoli 3.0." Management, sales, business development, and PM experience. Anyone need someone with those skills? Here's your chance.

Reuters is reporting that quite a few of you have naked conversations (real ones) when you're on the phone. Ooooookkkkkk. I'm not using the phone at your house anymore. 🙂

Are you going to the CITA show next week? Well, Waggener Edstrom is back with its Wynn hotel blogger lounge, April 4-6. They even let in non-blogger types if you're nice. It's a good place to get a snack, a rest, and recharge all your batteries while you're in Vegas. Tell them I sent you.

Studying the competitors…via my son

Ted Wallingford writes: "If I were Steve [Ballmer], I would allow my kids to use Google and the iPod, observe their activities, and find out just what the heck Google and Apple are doing right!  Will the Microsoft ever learn?  Come on, little Microsoft!! I'm pulling for you… I really am!"

I agree. Heck, just hang out with my son for a few hours. He loves his Apple stuff, including his iPod (Dave Winer got him an iBook for his birthday back in January).

My brother-in-law, who works for Apple on the Mac team, loves egging him on too. Bought him some Apple shirts, one of which you can see him wearing at brunch on Sunday on Tara's blog.

I tell Patrick he better do his homework before buying anything, whether it's from our side of the fence or somewhere else. I want him to explain to me why it's better and what he didn't like about the competition and he better have a better answer than "it's cooler." Although that pretty much was his answer for why he bought an iPod. Turns out peer pressure on the playground is driving a lot of technology choices. Teachers tell me that's how MySpace ripped through their schools too. Patrick told me "my school is an iPod school."

He broke his iPod, by the way (dropped it and broke the screen) so he's saving up for another device that plays media. Will it be an iPod or will there be something else to catch his fancy? Right now he thinks he's gonna buy another iPod.

I'm a bad parent and a bad evangelist, what can I say? But on the other hand, if he ever switches away from an iPod, you'll be likely to listen to him. I'd love to send him to SteveB's house and see if Steve can convince him to switch.

Personal note to Patrick: finish your homework, update your blog (it's been a while), and don't play Second Life too much.

Oh, and Steve Ballmer: you'll be happy to hear that he's bugging me to buy an Xbox 360 — I haven't yet cause I've been home something like a handful of weekends since the launch, but that should change soon (he holds an Xbox camp for all the kids in the neighborhood during the summer) and he wants me to get him a SmartPhone.

Cool Tablet PC school

On10.net there's a cool school that uses Tablet PCs and requires all the fifth graders to have one. Obviously a private school (and expensive) but cool nontheless.

Alfred Thompson, who works with schools as part of his job at Microsoft, blogs more about it.

John Phillips, director of education at the school, has a blog and talks about the project too.

By the way, we're looking for other educators who are using technology in interesting ways in their schools. Do you know someone?