Every so often, a question comes up for us that are running this blog: how do you do it? What is the process that you follow for your blog posts? Where do you get ideas from?
Recently - as part of the INTERACT2008 conference, I had a chance to present on this subject to Exchange/UC bloggers. I then made a mental note that we should talk about this on the blog too. After all - there is nothing top secret here and I believe you (our readers) might enjoy it. So let's get started:
Where do we get ideas from?
Ideas for blog posts fall into several categories (listed below). The subjects that we post about are also quite influenced by our release cycles. For example - just before we have a major release (like Exchange 2007 or SP1) you can fully expect that we'll be talking about that major release a lot. We do this because we are trying to make you comfortable with the technology and also to provide the information you need so that when the product is released, you have extra resources that are easy to find.
I have tried to put the overall idea sources categories in the order of "how many" we get from which source. As explained above, that can vary heavily:
- Blog audience - this is stuff you submit to us using this page. We love those. Keep it up!
- Support organization - we work closely with support folks to get clarifications, alerts, solutions of current issues etc.
- Individual employees - those are "one-off posts" where any internal Exchange-related individual can write something up and submit it for posting on the blog. A lot of "pre-release" posts fall into this category, where various Devs, PMs or Beta engineers might want to write about their components.
- Product group announcements.
- Browsing internal discussion groups and following up with authors that are specialists and are answering technical questions that we find interesting.
What process do the posts go through?
I am proud to introduce you to our Simplified Blogging Process v 11.7 Rev. IV:
Simple, huh? OK so that was a joke... now seriously, this is what we actually do:
To go a little more into those steps:
- Idea - we get the ideas as described above.
- Finding the author - Once we have identified the suggestion as a good blog post, we figure who would be the best person to write about it. Depending on what it is - this might fall anywhere from Dev to Support or Marketing. Or anywhere else in between. I don't think there is a group in our internal Exchange world that we did not tap into for content.
- Getting it written - Here's the tricky part - this consists of work on the part of the writer and sometimes the work on the part of the Blog team, as there are times when people might need a reminder or three <g>.
- Technical review - Since the Exchange team blog is a technical blog - this is super important. Every blog post gets a technical review (some get a few). Depending on the subject who the writer is as well as the release state of the product - reviewers come from specialists anywhere from Dev, PM, Support Services or - anyone else within Microsoft that is really good in the component being talked about.
- Marketing review - this is something that we usually do when we are talking about pre-release products only. For example, when we RTMed Exchange 2007, our SP1 posts went through Marketing review. But once SP1 RTMed, they did not have to anymore. The idea here is that we have to try strike the balance between what we as technical geeks want to write about and what we as a company are ready to announce or discuss at pre-release time (the decision around this usually depends on "is this feature set in stone already?"). This has been a very painless process for everyone involved.
- Posting - self explanatory... once the post is ready, it gets put into a posting queue and then it goes out when it's time comes. Rarely do we have posts that we want to hold until specific date/time but it has happened. Oh yeah, we use Windows Live Writer to post.
- Follow-up, Updates - this is what happens to the post once it has been posted. We get notifications if there are comments, and someone reads them all. Writers are engaged if clarifications or answers are needed. We might update the post at the later time based on feedback or some later change that impacts the post subject.
Note that some of the arrows in this chart go both directions. That is because posts can go both ways - if for example technical review sends the post back with a lot of changes - it goes back to the writer who makes the corrections and then it is off to technical review again.
How long does all this take? It might take anywhere from 45 minutes to few months.
That's it? Where is the red tape?
Seriously - that is it. We do not do any other stuff with posts really. There is no mandate around post subjects and we are really trying to let our readers (you!) drive that as much as possible by listening what you are asking for. There is also no editing by professional editors of everything that we post - although a couple of us that have been doing this for a while do read through all posts before posting and do go after obvious language issues or typos of course.
Hopefully this answers some of your questions you might have had on how we run this place. It has been a great ride for us and hopefully for you too. Thanks for coming! Now send us a blog post suggestion!
- Nino Bilic