Stumax 2

Digital Boogaloo

Dean’s Hachamovitch from MS. Coupla good laughs early. Good work. Like the artist’s rendering of Microsoft’s campus (it’s the Death Start II). Funny ha-ha. Maybe Microsoft understands how they’re viewed in the world and have a healthy sense of humor about it. Maybe. Maybe it just kind of looks that way.

We’re the first public audience to see IE 7. First impressions: it looks a lot like Firefox. Of course, it’s not finished yet. Things will move around. Really, how original can you get with a browser?

So IE can automatically sniff RSS and view it in the browser. Their RSS view looks EXACTLY like Safari’s. Hmmmm…

Maybe I’m being a little unfair, but what these guys are talking isn’t that big a deal. I’m doing the same stuff on the Mac and I’m doing it now, not at the end of 2006.

So here’s the key insight from Microsoft. All applications should natively understand what a “subscription” means and know how to deal with it. I think this is right on. Downloading will be done at the platform level, meaning applications will make a call to the built-in downloading service to get feeds, enclosures, etc. Applications will dip into this pool, or stream, of data. To the user, it’s a seamless experience. Very cool.

There’s a little hostility towards the MS guys from the crowd, particularly from one Mac guy. I don’t think contention is the right tactic to engage the MS guy, but there is a little bit of an attitude that’s being presented by MS that they’re doing something really cool and forward-thinking, when it looks to many of us that they’re really just catching up. I think the hostility might be coming from the attitude that they’re telling us something new.

Here’s the problem: Microsoft looks like they’re not really aware of what state of the art technology looks like. They look like they’re behind the curve. They’d be better off, in my opinion, acknowledging what’s already available to bleeding edge techno-nerds, and start explaining how they’re going to make it bigger, better, and available to more folks.

MS will be making their RSS extension specs available under Creative Commons. Very, very cool.

Note to Dean, if, as you said, you’re interested in starting conversations, you’re going to have to participate in them, not shut down people who are poking at you. You look defensive. Not that I’d want to be up there in your place, but you have to recognize that the hostility is part of the conversation. You can’t just pretend it will go away. You have to listen deeply, figure out what people are hostile about, and respond to that. You’re shutting people down, but you need these folks, at the end of the day, to work with you.

Microsoft has a PR problem. In terms of how they’re presenting themselves to their public, they’re trotting out these scrubbed, clean-cut, Disney-esque, passive-agressive pretty boys to sell their products (and I think that this is kind of they way they act in the world — clean cut, coy, but they might just pull a fast one on you.) What they need is a fighter, a passionate advocate. Someone who thrives in the hostility, can see the other side, and can really engage.

They need to clone Scoble.

Steve Rubel says, “This is Embrace and Extend Lite ™.” In other words, it’s a good start, but we’re not convinced.

3 thoughts on “Gnomedex: Does Microsoft subscribe to RSS?

  1. Dean says:

    Just came across your site. I agree with much of what you’re saying. I get that you felt “an attitude … that they’re doing something really cool and forward-thinking, when it looks to many of us that they’re really just catching up.” I’d be annoyed too if someone showed me stuff I’d had for a while, and I thought they were claiming “Cool!”

    Some of what we showed has been done, and some hasn’t.

    I tried to be clear that the focus of the browser-discovery stuff was “make RSS part of the mainstream Windows experience,” not “stand and cheer because you’ve never seen this.” (grin) Clearly I didn’t do a good enough job there.

    If I were sitting with you 1:1, or even in a small crowd, without MSM coverage, I think the conversation about cutting edge v catch-up would be a lot clearer and a lot different.

    You wrote that I’d be better off explaining how we’re going to help make RSS available to more folks; I think that building RSS experiences into Longhorn (e.g. the browser one) should help here. In terms of making RSS better, it’s already pretty good; the list extensions let devs and pubs who use them deliver scenarios they can’t today.

    Last bit: I do want a conversation. I think a conversation “at scale” (so many bodies) is hard. Do you do a good job listening when people yell at you?

  2. Stumax says:

    Dean — Honestly, you seem like a guy I’d enjoy hanging out with and talking one-on-one about stuff. And I tried to say in my post that I thought the key insight from you guys was bang on. My point is that integrating RSS into the platform… THAT’s where you’re innovating, and the significance of that was lost in the presentation by the time you got to it.

    The secondary point to me is that you have an overall problem generating a real conversation when you walk into a room where half the folks are pissed off at you already and the other half aren’t really passionate defenders. That problem, in my view, is compounded if you don’t have a strategy for dealing with that anger.

    I was an actor in a theme park setting for 10 years, I was an improvisor for 7 years, I’ve taught teambuilding and improv in a corporate setting. I’ve been in just about any audience situation you can imagine. I have been in front of hostile audiences and have won them over and others I have failed to win over.

    I was once a company’s representative in a roomful of 150 people. I was supposed to be giving a teambuilding seminar, but they were pissed at the company. There was nothing to do but listen patiently, engage them in conversation, and eke out small wins where I could. I would not have gotten anywhere trying to shut them down.

    I know it’s hard to have a conversation with so many bodies, but it can be done. And when you’re Microsoft’s representative, you’re expected to set the highest standard. I want you guys to succeed. I’m a local. I have a lot of friends among your colleagues. So I hope you’ll take a hard look at how you’re being perceived in the world and put together a strategy for setting a better tone.

    I’m not the best blogger in the world, by far, so I don’t think writing captures the best of what I have to say on this subject. If you ever want to have a real sit-down, I’d be happy to share what I know about audience interaction, improv, and storytelling.

  3. Anonymous says:

    MS will be making their RSS extension specs available under Creative Commons.

    This is different from saying that it will be possible to write interoperable Free software. All they have to do is patent some aspect of the implementation, and the fact that the specs are free won’t make any difference.

    With a decent and honorable company, I wouldn’t worry about it. But Microsoft has pulled exactly this sort of trick before, and they will do it again.

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