Daily Archives: September 1, 2006

The most evil team at Microsoft: the WAVE team

Hey, the Channel 9 team found one of my old videos that didn’t get run and it’s a good one. I’m sure it took a while to get it past the PR team — when I shot it earlier this year I thought to myself “this will never make it to the public.”

Why?

Cause it’s the team that builds not only the audio and video functionality in Windows Vista, but it’s also the team that builds (play Jaws movie soundtrack here please) the DRM technologies.

Yes, it’s the most evil team at Microsoft. Damn, and they have a good conversation with me about DRM. We even talk about Cory Doctorow (who hates DRM). At about 19:00 into it the intersections of the interests are mapped out by Steve Ball. “They don’t always align.” That’s PM speak for “they hate each other.”

Oh and don’t miss the demo of Windows Vista’s audio features at 34:40. This is a MAJOR reason why I can’t wait to use Vista, particularly for making videos.

Note: I don’t really think this team is evil, but it shows you the business pressures that teams at Microsoft are under and shows you a little bit about how teams come up with things like DRM technologies.

I hope the Vista team has a bunch more demos like the one at 34:40, too. That was the first time I thought to myself that I had to have Vista. One demo. Now imagine if they have a ton of demos like that?

Listening to Shelley Powers about women in tech

Shelley Powers asks yet another conference organizer “where’s the women?” I’m looking at my plans for my own video show and realize I don’t have a diverse-enough set of subjects on my show yet.

I realize that I’ve gotten mostly male voices for my show so far. Partly cause that’s just who is running the tech industry. Head of Sun Microsystems? Male. Person who runs Google Calendar? Male. Person who runs Printing for Less? Male. Person who runs JotSpot? Male. Person who runs Flock? Male. Person who runs eBay’s new research arm? Male. There simply aren’t enough Mena Trotts to go around (speaking of which I’d be honored to have her on my show — her talk at TED was posted on her blog the other day). UPDATE: can you name a CEO of a recognizeable tech company that’s not male? It’s hard to do. Apple? Male. Cisco? Male. Intel. Male. HP? Male. Google? Male. Yahoo? Male. Oracle? Male. Microsoft? Male.

But this is my problem partly cause I just haven’t focused on making sure my show has diverse voices. Truth is that +I+ can do a better job here and haven’t, for whatever reason (UPDATE: we have a segment of the show called “Digital Divas”, by the way, but it still isn’t enough and there aren’t enough women who are hard-core geeks — most of the engineering departments I have walked through lately are mostly male).

Thanks to Shelley and others for reminding us all to think of that.

But, on the other hand, I don’t want to change my process, either, and I don’t want to devalue the accomplishments of women (I remember when men would get together and wonder if I hired Deborah Kurata simply cause she was a woman or because she deserved it — I kept having to pull out speaker ratings and demonstrating that she was always in the top tier of speakers, usually #1. I hated getting that question. I always put the best person on stage that I could and I tried not to care about their physical attributes).

I simply want the most interesting geeks out there to be on my show. For instance, are you an interesting geek like Heather Powazek Champ (who works on the Flickr team at Yahoo)? I wanna talk with you.

So, if you’re an interesting geek, or know of an interesting geek, who is doing something interesting, or running an interesting company (especially one that is using tech in an interesting way) please let me know. Male or female.

It’s helpful for the next few weeks if they are in the San Francisco area since I won’t be able to really start traveling for a few months yet.

Who would you like to see on a video show?

One thing I have feedback for Shelley on is that a few times I, and other people I know, got her invited to events and opportunities and she didn’t make it for some reason or another. When a door is opened that seemed to be closed before, it’d be nice for her to walk through it and take advantage of the opportunity. If only to set an example for others and to make sure the door stays open. But maybe that’s just me.

UPDATE: several days ago Maryam wrote “the women who inspire me.” She also let leak that she was working on a “Digital Divas” segment of our show.

From Google to Kaboodle

That’s Courtney Hohne, PR manager at Google (she’s pulling some of the hard-to-come-by Google stickers out of her bag to give to me, gotta love a PR person who hands out swag. I promptly stuck one on my tripod).

Her claim to fame? She was the one who did the PR for the Google Apps for Your Domain press coverage last week. She told me she didn’t have any ulterior motive other than she didn’t brief enough people and got heck for it (even Business Week’s Rob Hof says he wasn’t briefed). I told her don’t brief me, but start with the Z list — a blogger with four readers will get noticed almost as quickly as if Michael Arrington wrote it. She told me that she’ll try to make more use of the email mailing lists that Google is building over on the Google Press Center, so if you’re a blogger you might want to subscribe to their mailing lists if you want to get news from Courtney. Anyway, I respected Courtney a lot for coming out and meeting with me. That’s the sign of a good PR practitioner, they take the bad with the good.

Speaking of good and bad PR, did you see Frank Shaw’s blog? He runs the Microsoft account for Waggener Edstrom and he had to clean up a mess by another PR guy in the UK who said “I don’t get blogs.” If a PR person said that to me I’d say “I don’t get why you’re still employed.”

It seems to me that if you don’t understand something you should work hard to understand it.

Which, brings me to Google Calendar. I wrote last week that I don’t get why I should use Google Calendar instead of Exchange and Outlook. So, yesterday I met with the Google Calendar team to explain why I missed Outlook. Really I do.

Some things that bugged me, though, like how when I just accidentally click on the Google Calendar it wants to create an event for me, are actually features that they discovered in user testing. At least that’s what Carl Sjogreen, the guy who runs the Calendar team, told me. He said that before they added that users couldn’t figure out how to add a new event and after they added that they could.

He also showed me how they build the Web into everything they do, and don’t just make it an afterthought. For instance, I can share my calendar with you in a variety of ways. I could just share my calendar out with you as a Web page (I almost did that, but I realized there’s some stuff on there that people sent me in confidence, so can’t share that, sorry). Or, I can build a specialized calendar and share that with you in a box on my blog to the right. That kind of Web-thought is deep at Google and is going to be how they come at the Enterprise world.

You might not switch your Outlook/Exchange calendar to Google for many years to come, but they’ll come in the back door by getting you to start new calendars that you can share with your family, friends, and with the Internet at large. I’m going to do a new calendar just for my video show, for instance, and share that with you so you’ll be able to see both interviews that are upcoming as well as shows that I’ve both published and that are going to come up. I’ll try to have that calendar done by the end of the weekend.

Yeah, he admitted that they have a lot of work to do on mobile phone sync and the other stuff I asked for (offline, for instance and better email integration). When Google solves those problems they’ll have something very interesting that will see usage inside corporations.

Anyway, after talking with Google yesterday I headed off to meet Kaboodle’s CEO, Manish Chandra. He designed Kaboodle to make it easier to keep track of projects you’re doing on the Web. That sounds pretty cold compared to what it really does though. Let’s say you’re planning out a vacation and you’re visiting dozens of sites, keeping track of the places you want to visit, or the hotels you’re considering and you’re working with other family members. Kaboodle helps you store all those Web sites and pieces of things you’re tracking, and put them in one place, and also collaborate with other people on them. Pretty cool stuff.

Last night Daniel McVicar (who has been an actor on the popular soap opera “The Bold and The Beautiful” had dinner with me last night). I didn’t even realize just how big a star he was until I read his Wikipedia page this morning. He has a funny vlog. Last night he was wearing a Ze Frank t-shirt (I snapped a picture of that on my Flickr feed. Hey, he’s in the ORG! Watch out for those “little duckies.” He can’t get the damn song out of his head either. Heh, Rabbit Bites made fun of his vlog already.

Hope you’re having a good Friday. While I was out meeting the geeks and interviewing people more than 50 more emails came in that haven’t been answered yet (and that’s after cleaning out the ones that aren’t important or were spam). Yikes. I’m gonna take the weekend off and see if I can catch up on my email a bit. Have a great one (it’s Labor Day weekend here in the United States, thanks to everyone who does the work that keeps this world running).

It’s the small things at Google that impress

I visited the Googleplex for the third time yesterday. I’m still thinking through what I learned that was different from prior trips. More later (they didn’t have me sign an NDA, so I can share whatever I learned with you, although one conversation with a friend who works there started out with me asking what he was working on and he answered “that’s sorta confidential.” Heheh, Google still does like keeping quiet about what’s coming next). 

But I was even more impressed this visit than last because of the small things that they do on their campus. One is that the lobby in building 41 had these hanging slivers of frosted glass. You’re looking at one of them. On the glass were Google searches that constantly scrolled up (each word is displayed only for a few seconds as it scrolls up). I hear this is a randomly-selected set of searches with “naughty” searches pulled out.

It’s these small things that makes Google cool. Not to mention the organic food market in the courtyard. The snack bars that are every few yards. The cafeteria that has — by far — the best food of any large company I’ve been in, and it’s all free.

But beyond that, every interaction I had with Googlers this time was different than the last time I was on campus. They seemed more humble. More comfortable. More inquisitive. And, when I gave them chances to say “you’re an idiot” they didn’t take it (and I gave them many opportunities). This is a different Google than I was used to. And it’s the small things that I noticed.

One other small thing I noticed? A lot more blog listening behavior. Carl Sjogreen, who runs the Google Calendar team, told me that the first thing he does every morning is do this search on Google’s Blogsearch service: “Google Calendar.” He says he answers everyone’s questions, even if you’re a kid in another country with only four readers.

Bing. Small things. They are gonna prove to be dramatically important over time.