As you have likely noticed, my online activities have been pretty sparse for quite some time. There are a number of reasons for this. Some are personal while some are business related. Since this is my work blog I will limit my discussions here to the business related reasons. I will post the personal reasons over at my Facebook site.
On the business side I really have no valid reason for not being as active as I have in the past. There has been plenty of activity in technology in the past year, particularly from Microsoft. But I just have not felt compelled to blog or be involved in social networks actively.
There have been countless times I have started to blog on something, taken a break to read the news, and then run across someone else’s blog post on the same subject matter. It has been particularly frustrating to me that I feel like I am just parroting off information that is already out there. I don’t want to be a Johnny come lately and just post about stuff that other people are talking about. Sure, there are lots of reason to re-tweet, or link to interesting content other people have spoken about. It helps spread the message (and he told two friends….. and they told two friends….. and so on….). But I much prefer the idea of original content or at the very least my own, much more personalized rendition of content that I feel could be presented in a more meaningful or easier to understand way.
Oh. And this has very little to with hit count or breaking a story. It has more to do with it a high profile social media maven is already talking it up, do they really need my help? Maybe. Maybe not. But I do have a an ego, and I would like to feel as if people are reading/listening to what I have to say because it is ME saying it and what I have to say is interesting. Not because I am telling you what someone else said and THEY are interesting.
Shallow? Maybe. Maybe not. If this were a face-to-face discussion (see below) on this topic I am sure I could communicate this better without coming across as shallow.
Regardless, what I want to talk about is 1) what I believe the audience wants to hear and 2) what I want to say. I prefer that to be as original as possible or, at the very least, to be information that is already out there but presented in a unique, interesting way.
My fix for this…the thing that *I* am going to do to get myself out of the rut *I* have been in…… is to create some original content based upon what customers have told me they want to hear about. I have heard many times over they years about some article, whitepaper or other info that just didn’t make sense to a customer. I want to clear those things up and I want to do so in an interesting way.
As a teaser, I am rebuilding my home networking this week. I am upgrading server to Windows 2008 R2 and clients are having the Windows 7 RC code bits removed and the RTM bits laid down. I started doing this over the weekend and I used my HD video camera to film some of what I was doing. I am also capturing some of what I am doing with Camtasia and I am rendering that down to shorts snippets so you can see how a Microsoft person runs their home network.
Disclaimer – by no means am I suggesting that the way I do it is the way every Microsoft person does it, that it is the way you should do it, or that it is even a recommended way to do it. But it is the way *I* do it and gives you some insight into the inner workings of home network a la Chris.
An aversion to technology….
My Technology Motto - “It should just !@#$%^&*’ing work”. I am a firm believer that technology should simplify our lives. It should remove stress. It should make things easier and faster to do. Technology frustrates me because I don’t believe (in general) that it simplifies things, makes things easier or removes stress. I think it does the exact opposite for most people. in the past few years I have seen a trend in a large variety of technologies where things don’t work reliably or simply not at all. Some of these technologies have been around for a long time while others are relatively new. For instance….
I have a car that sometimes starts and sometimes…..doesn’t. Yet my lawnmower starts every time. Cars have been around for a long time. We should have the kinks worked out by now.
If you have had the joy of hearing me vent in public about cell phone technology you would have heard me go off on how I hate cell phones. ALL cell phones. For the record - I have one, and would not give it up for anything but only because of this things I can do with it that have nothing to do with making/receiving calls. I try NOT to make calls on my cell phone because they simply do not work reliably enough. Cell phones used as browsers, for texting, storing data and contacts, listening to music/watching movies and for recording pictures and video are awesome.
Cell phones used as phones suck.
Compare that to a land phone that just simply works. I don’t think I have ever in my life had a land line call just drop for no apparent reason (well…..unless the other end was a cell phone in which case it is not that land lines fault). Even when the power goes out, a hardwired phone will usually still give you a dial-tone. But cell phones, a technology that public has come to rely on over the last decade and millions of people have invested billions of dollars in can’t maintain a 10 minute call without 1 (or more) drops.
But I have to say my biggest frustration come from within my own industry. I have a bunch of computers and I use a bunch of different software. My expectation is that the computers turn off and turn on when I want them to….not when they want to. My expectation is that my applications are easy to work with and do what they are advertised to do when I ask them to. No. Almost everyday I get bent out of shape by an application that doesn’t do what I have been told it will do. When printing and copying files become a chore I start to lose all the excitement I used to have about the industry I work in and that makes it very difficult for me to talk positively about it.
So I just haven’t said anything at all.
However – That are some great things coming from Microsoft (and other companies) that DO make things easier. They do simplify. They do remove stress. Windows 7 is one of those things. It just works. That is what I want to talk about and that is what you need to know about. I know there are others like me that have days where they don’t want to touch anything that has a computer ship in it. I want to help. I want to show you what we have that can help remove that pain.
Face to Face vs Online interaction….
The primary business reason I have not been active online is because I don’t think it has the same impact as face-to-face interaction. Blogging, social networking, and tools like Twitter and the like have been a rather unsatisfying experience for me over the past few years. I much prefer to speak to customer face to face. I strongly believe there is no substitute for shaking someone hand, looking in their eyes and listening to what they have to say and telling them what I have to say. The conversations that take place face-to-face cannot be matched in an online forum. Period. Live conversations get the benefit of body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. It is very easy to detect if someone is bored, excited, angry, happy etc in a live conversation whereas in the online world we have to resort to emoticons, our caps lock key and a host of acronyms and made up words (zomg!, lolz, roflmao) to convey emotive impact. Even then it can be difficult to tell if someone added a 🙁 because they are trying to express disappointment, or if they are sad or whatever.
Also, the direction conversation can take in a live setting is amazing. In a room where people are broken up into multiple groups and you over hear something that you integrate into the conversation you are involved in. That just doesn’t happen the same way online. When someone asks a question and that leads to another question and to another…..that doesn’t….it can’t happen the same way in an online forum.
What it boils down to for me is that I miss speaking face-to-face with customers. I also know that customers miss having Microsoft people speaking to them in a live forum. I came into the evangelism role I am in for that very reason – to speak face to face with customers. These days the routine is to logon to a social networking site, post a brief message (or reply to someone else's) and then wait for comments to roll in from people I have never seen, likely will never see, and with whom I will at best have only a shallow and perhaps fleeting engagement with.
All of that being said, there is obviously a home for social networking in the business environment. Any technology related business that isn’t listening to what customers have to say about them in Twitter or a Facebook should really just close up shop. The tools are great for keeping your finger on the pulse of what people think and feel about the industry and you (the business).
But they are tools.
Microsoft existed long before social networking and I could make a feeble argument that in the last 2 years where we have seen a tremendous explosion in social networking and a reduction in the live interaction that we do, that our stock price has suffered. Certainly there are other factors – global economic woes being the elephant in the room – to me it is an interesting coincidence though.
But! Maybe that is because I have been much less active? Perhaps if *I* blogged more, tweeted more, and actually did something with Facebook, I would have a more positive impact and that stock ticker would move up? I suppose we will see, because my goal is to ramp up my activities in these areas. Partly because there is an expectation from my leadership to team to do so, but mostly because you, the customers of Microsoft, need to know what is going on.
My Commitment to you….
Last year I started and failed at a project to make a blog post every day. I am renewing that effort with a caveat - I will blog once a day Mon-Friday. I may blog on the weekends but if I do, consider that to be gravy. I will keep the blog posts here as technical as possible or at least informational in nature. Over time you can expect to see a push more towards screencasts and videos posted here than wordy posts (like this one!). That is how I am going to bridge the gap between live events and online – record videos and screencasts so you can SEE things in action instead of just reading about them.
I will logon and stay logged on to Twitter. Twitter, by it’s very nature is more of a personal communications tool than a business communications tool (am I wrong?). So expect to see things of a more personal nature there along with technology related stuff.
Facebook – this will be the most difficult one for me. I think Facebook and sites like it are a terrible time suck. But I am dedicating myself to cleaning up my profile this week and actively participating there. I have reconnected with a great many people from my past through Facebook which is the main reason I am going to stick it out. Expect a mix of personal and technology related info there as well.
Finally – email – I have struggled with email responsiveness as well. I am cleaning up my rules and distribution lists this week to dramatically reduce the information overload that I have felt. That will result in more free time to read and respond to what you have to say as well as prevent things from getting buried in the shuffle.
I look forward to this renewal of efforts and look forward to hearing from you if you feel you are getting what you want from this resource!