Jon Udell’s value to Microsoft

Today Jon Udell is showing you how to blog from Word 2007.

Yes, my Google Reader is working again (it was a munged up Firefox cache or something).

But, anyway, this is something I’ve noticed since leaving Microsoft. When you’re up at Microsoft all you think about is how to work with Microsoft stuff. Conversations like the one Jon is participating in seem normal and commonplace.

Then you get out of Redmond and the conversations are very different. I’ve never had someone ask me how to blog from Word outside of Redmond.

Their heart is in the right place, though. There are hundreds of millions of Word users (I saw some in a Starbucks in Geneva, Switzerland, and I see them everytime I travel on planes). So, how do you get those people to see that they can post stuff right from Word into blog tools like WordPress?

Jon Udell will be there if they show up.

The problem is that Jon uses a language that most normal people don’t. He is writing for us, the geeks, the developers, the passionate computer users who know more than how to turn the thing on.

And if he’s talking to us, the geeks, I don’t think his message will fall on listening ears.

What do you think?

68 thoughts on “Jon Udell’s value to Microsoft

  1. Jon,

    Unsure.

    To some extent I think this issue may actually resolve itself in time. Given the fact that, historially speaking, blogging, the web, and even computers are still in thier infancy.

    We might be cave-men asking ourselves, “How do we get rid of all these freaking dinosaurs?” (Yes, I know, but stick with me for the sake of the analogy…)Maybe we just wait, and let the natural evolution of things move foward to more and more tech-savvy generations.

    Not a terribly helpful solution for the here and now, but there may not be a “best of both worlds” answer here.

    As far as sci-fi goes, we will always fill the future with “cool stuff” like that interactive computer “personality” but the reality is that each generation will build what it needs (or thinks it needs) and the next will build upon that.

    Thanks,

    -Perry

  2. Jon,

    Unsure.

    To some extent I think this issue may actually resolve itself in time. Given the fact that, historially speaking, blogging, the web, and even computers are still in thier infancy.

    We might be cave-men asking ourselves, “How do we get rid of all these freaking dinosaurs?” (Yes, I know, but stick with me for the sake of the analogy…)Maybe we just wait, and let the natural evolution of things move foward to more and more tech-savvy generations.

    Not a terribly helpful solution for the here and now, but there may not be a “best of both worlds” answer here.

    As far as sci-fi goes, we will always fill the future with “cool stuff” like that interactive computer “personality” but the reality is that each generation will build what it needs (or thinks it needs) and the next will build upon that.

    Thanks,

    -Perry

  3. “You’re right. But if you listen carefully you can hear all kinds of questions that people /are/ asking:”

    And lately Microsoft has apparently been incapable of of listening to them, or answering them. Their answers seem to be a rehash of the 1990′s

    (At this point, Scoble chimes in with “XBOX, XBOX, XBOX,” “Tablet, Tablet, Tablet”. MediaCenter, MediaCenter, MediaCenter)

  4. “You’re right. But if you listen carefully you can hear all kinds of questions that people /are/ asking:”

    And lately Microsoft has apparently been incapable of of listening to them, or answering them. Their answers seem to be a rehash of the 1990′s

    (At this point, Scoble chimes in with “XBOX, XBOX, XBOX,” “Tablet, Tablet, Tablet”. MediaCenter, MediaCenter, MediaCenter)

  5. Scoble: “But, anyway, this is something I’ve noticed since leaving Microsoft. When you’re up at Microsoft all you think about is how to work with Microsoft stuff. Conversations like the one Jon is participating in seem normal and commonplace.

    Then you get out of Redmond and the conversations are very different. I’ve never had someone ask me how to blog from Word outside of Redmond.”

    Robert, you are oh so right, but it extends way beyond Redmond. Anyone immersed in Microsoft technologies is like that too; Microsoft-centric consulting companies, people attending .NET conferences and .NET user groups, third parties supporting Microsoft technologies, and even my prior company Xtras.

    It wasn’t until I left Xtras and looked around that I realized how many excellent solutions are available that are not from Microsoft. What’s more it appears that many of the Microsoft solutions are no longer the best solution anymore not the least because of their monolithic architecture mindset. And this is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to web technologies.

    BTW, I think Microsoft still was at the top of its game 10 years ago when you were still at Fawcette and I was coming to VBITS. I mean, I think at that time Microsoft’s solutions were some of the best. But with over 10 years since the widespread adoption of Internet open-source has matured as an option and is now starting to surpass many of Microsoft’s offerings, and I think the trend will only accelerate.

  6. Scoble: “But, anyway, this is something I’ve noticed since leaving Microsoft. When you’re up at Microsoft all you think about is how to work with Microsoft stuff. Conversations like the one Jon is participating in seem normal and commonplace.

    Then you get out of Redmond and the conversations are very different. I’ve never had someone ask me how to blog from Word outside of Redmond.”

    Robert, you are oh so right, but it extends way beyond Redmond. Anyone immersed in Microsoft technologies is like that too; Microsoft-centric consulting companies, people attending .NET conferences and .NET user groups, third parties supporting Microsoft technologies, and even my prior company Xtras.

    It wasn’t until I left Xtras and looked around that I realized how many excellent solutions are available that are not from Microsoft. What’s more it appears that many of the Microsoft solutions are no longer the best solution anymore not the least because of their monolithic architecture mindset. And this is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to web technologies.

    BTW, I think Microsoft still was at the top of its game 10 years ago when you were still at Fawcette and I was coming to VBITS. I mean, I think at that time Microsoft’s solutions were some of the best. But with over 10 years since the widespread adoption of Internet open-source has matured as an option and is now starting to surpass many of Microsoft’s offerings, and I think the trend will only accelerate.

  7. Perry: “Just curious, what do YOU think the best ways to resolve this issue are?”

    To finally deliver what science fiction and the Knowledge Navigator video promised.

    Shawn: “Once they don’t see a menu option about blogging they are off to do a search and probably at least half will type “blogging Office Word”, thus leading them to Jon’s article.”

    Ouch. You got me there. I /really/ need to find an alternate venue for that (vast) group of folks.

  8. Perry: “Just curious, what do YOU think the best ways to resolve this issue are?”

    To finally deliver what science fiction and the Knowledge Navigator video promised.

    Shawn: “Once they don’t see a menu option about blogging they are off to do a search and probably at least half will type “blogging Office Word”, thus leading them to Jon’s article.”

    Ouch. You got me there. I /really/ need to find an alternate venue for that (vast) group of folks.

  9. For the record Jon I was actually trying to support your post :) Let me round it out:

    There is also a silent majority out there that will never comment, never post and you can probably chat with them all night at a cocktail party and you’ll never find out that they actually have been wondering how to blog from inside of Word, *YET* these are the exact type of people that will one day decide to see what all the buzz is about and fire up the only application they use on a daily basis to work with words, namely Word. Once they don’t see a menu option about blogging they are off to do a search and probably at least half will type “blogging Office Word”, thus leading them to Jon’s article.

    There, that makes a bit more sense :)

  10. For the record Jon I was actually trying to support your post :) Let me round it out:

    There is also a silent majority out there that will never comment, never post and you can probably chat with them all night at a cocktail party and you’ll never find out that they actually have been wondering how to blog from inside of Word, *YET* these are the exact type of people that will one day decide to see what all the buzz is about and fire up the only application they use on a daily basis to work with words, namely Word. Once they don’t see a menu option about blogging they are off to do a search and probably at least half will type “blogging Office Word”, thus leading them to Jon’s article.

    There, that makes a bit more sense :)

  11. Jon,

    I think this is a fascinating idea, and I’m willing to give it a try.

    Would you mind posting this reponse (yours) to my blog site? I’ll round out some folks I know who are “Civilians” and run with this…

    Just curious, what do YOU think the best ways to resolve this issue are?

    Thanks,

    -Perry

  12. Jon,

    I think this is a fascinating idea, and I’m willing to give it a try.

    Would you mind posting this reponse (yours) to my blog site? I’ll round out some folks I know who are “Civilians” and run with this…

    Just curious, what do YOU think the best ways to resolve this issue are?

    Thanks,

    -Perry

  13. “I was really disappointed to see that Jon took a complicated subject – blogging and the semantic web – and made it more complicated by delving into the processing of WordML docs and CSS tagging without giving us the context for why all this matters in the first place.”

    Sorry ’bout that. The “why it matters” explanation is something that I’ve been working out for years. But you’re right. In addition to the version of that explanation that’s needed for a general audience, I should have provided one here. So: http://www.infoworld.com/article/05/02/25/09OPstrategic_1.html

    “There is also a silent majority out there that will never comment, never post and you can probably chat with them all night at a cocktail party and you’ll never find out that they actually have been wondering how to blog from inside of Word.”

    Of course not. Because when we step outside our circle, most people have never wondered how to blog in any form. Or, more importantly, why to do so.

    I’m trying to tell two stories, to two audiences, about the same thing.

    I want civilians to understand that they can regard blogging not merely as armchair punditry that produces throwaway material, but as a tool for lifelong projection of personal and professional identity.

    I want geeks to understand that in order for civilians to regard blogging in that way, the tools need to deliver a level of precision, professionalism, stability, interoperability, and reliability that we have not yet seen.

    “They just want it to work and do the job they hired it to do. It seems a lot of stuff coming out is answers to questions normal people aren’t asking.”

    You’re right. But if you listen carefully you can hear all kinds of questions that people /are/ asking:

    “Why can’t I keep track of our family calendar and my work calendar in the same place?”

    “Why can’t I easily collect all the emails related to my kid’s problems in school, and bundle them up to prepare for the meeting with the guidance counselor?”

    “Will our grandkids be able to see these digital photos we’re taking?”

    As an industry, with our current focus on services and metadata, we’re kind of on the right track. But we are so not connecting the dots for people.

    “I admit I got a little off-topic with the “elitism” rabbit-trail, but can you clarify how your response related to my statement? (Not being sarcastic, I seriously want to know.)”

    Sure. My response to you was:

    “How about making the technology actually deliver on its promises? For most people, in most ways, it hasn’t.”

    My thesis is as follows. People who are old enough to have seen PCs and the Internet evolve brought a set of expectations about what that stuff would be, and would do for them. Those expectations came from science fiction, which told us that computers and networks and software would add up to the kind of intelligent assistance that was beautifully captured in Apple’s Knowledge Navigator concept video (http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/10/23.html).

    Then they actually got their hands on the technology and, as exciting as it was, it was also in many ways a crushing disappointment. Things mostly did not Just Work. When they did, you had to struggle to get them to work. You had to learn about all kinds of crap you never wanted to learn. And the benefits, while very real — especially now in the Internet era — still fell far short of the hype.

    This would be an interesting experiment for everyone reading this thread. Find a civilian (non-geek) friend, and watch the Knowledge Navigator video with that person. How does he or she react? Hopeful and inspired? Or jaded and cynical? I fear the latter reaction, but I’d like to be proven wrong about that.

  14. “I was really disappointed to see that Jon took a complicated subject – blogging and the semantic web – and made it more complicated by delving into the processing of WordML docs and CSS tagging without giving us the context for why all this matters in the first place.”

    Sorry ’bout that. The “why it matters” explanation is something that I’ve been working out for years. But you’re right. In addition to the version of that explanation that’s needed for a general audience, I should have provided one here. So: http://www.infoworld.com/article/05/02/25/09OPstrategic_1.html

    “There is also a silent majority out there that will never comment, never post and you can probably chat with them all night at a cocktail party and you’ll never find out that they actually have been wondering how to blog from inside of Word.”

    Of course not. Because when we step outside our circle, most people have never wondered how to blog in any form. Or, more importantly, why to do so.

    I’m trying to tell two stories, to two audiences, about the same thing.

    I want civilians to understand that they can regard blogging not merely as armchair punditry that produces throwaway material, but as a tool for lifelong projection of personal and professional identity.

    I want geeks to understand that in order for civilians to regard blogging in that way, the tools need to deliver a level of precision, professionalism, stability, interoperability, and reliability that we have not yet seen.

    “They just want it to work and do the job they hired it to do. It seems a lot of stuff coming out is answers to questions normal people aren’t asking.”

    You’re right. But if you listen carefully you can hear all kinds of questions that people /are/ asking:

    “Why can’t I keep track of our family calendar and my work calendar in the same place?”

    “Why can’t I easily collect all the emails related to my kid’s problems in school, and bundle them up to prepare for the meeting with the guidance counselor?”

    “Will our grandkids be able to see these digital photos we’re taking?”

    As an industry, with our current focus on services and metadata, we’re kind of on the right track. But we are so not connecting the dots for people.

    “I admit I got a little off-topic with the “elitism” rabbit-trail, but can you clarify how your response related to my statement? (Not being sarcastic, I seriously want to know.)”

    Sure. My response to you was:

    “How about making the technology actually deliver on its promises? For most people, in most ways, it hasn’t.”

    My thesis is as follows. People who are old enough to have seen PCs and the Internet evolve brought a set of expectations about what that stuff would be, and would do for them. Those expectations came from science fiction, which told us that computers and networks and software would add up to the kind of intelligent assistance that was beautifully captured in Apple’s Knowledge Navigator concept video (http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/10/23.html).

    Then they actually got their hands on the technology and, as exciting as it was, it was also in many ways a crushing disappointment. Things mostly did not Just Work. When they did, you had to struggle to get them to work. You had to learn about all kinds of crap you never wanted to learn. And the benefits, while very real — especially now in the Internet era — still fell far short of the hype.

    This would be an interesting experiment for everyone reading this thread. Find a civilian (non-geek) friend, and watch the Knowledge Navigator video with that person. How does he or she react? Hopeful and inspired? Or jaded and cynical? I fear the latter reaction, but I’d like to be proven wrong about that.

  15. David: I know Alan Cooper’s work. It’s excellent (I was in a small group to test out many of his ideas when he was writing that book — those were among my most favorite, and remembered, experiences of the 1990s).

    Totally agreed. On the other hand, there are lots of people who use weird non-Microsoft stuff too. Wait until you find a Lotus Notes shop, for instance.

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