Thank You.

A short while back, John Porcaro wrote about a discussion he had at a Geek Dinner with a few other Seattle area bloggers about listening to customers. He said the following:

One of the tips Robert talked about made a lot of sense. He occasionally gets product suggestions sent by email. He mentioned that he encourages the customer to write about their ideas in their blog, then he’ll send a link to the blog entry to the product team. Having something “published on the web” has a few benefits: 1) It’s public, and carries some weight because the discussion is in the open, it can’t get shuffled away or lost in an Inbox; 2) it allows others to join the conversation either through linking or commenting; and 3) it allows everyone to follow the conversation, to “listen in.”

Sounds good but come on?does that sort of thing really work? I mean, do people that work at large companies like Microsoft really care about what some average joe that uses their products writes in their weblog? Surely not right?

Wrong!

Last week I posted about a frustration that my boss had regarding the Microsoft site and the organization of the webcast sections. Not a big deal?I mean we all get frustrated from time to time right?

However John read my post and decided to dig a little. After just a few hours, I find out that my post had been passed on to several people who took the time out of their busy schedules to review the items mentioned and come back with some actual useful information on some changes that are taking place that will actually solve the exact problem I had mentioned in my post. Wow!

So I feel pretty good now. Not because I got my way but because someone listened. Actually in the end, a few people did and that makes it all the nicer.

In my opinion, and obviously I am not the only one, the key to building relationships with customers centers around listening, communicating and spending a little time in their shoes to get to the bottom of what matters to them. Let?s face it, you can?t always solve every problem your customers have (although I wish I could). However showing someone that you are willing to go to bat for them once in a while or simply taking the time to ask them ?how can I help you with this?? ? That is where loyalty is built.

In the past year I have read many of John?s posts with great enthusiasm. He is without a doubt one of my favorite bloggers and a great inspiration to me as I build a career in business and marketing. Apparently lots of other people feel the same as well because he is often one of the first names I hear when great blogs are discussed. It?s not that he works for Microsoft, or in fact one of my favorite divisions. Although I admit that?s cool. It?s not just that he often posts on the topics that I care most about. And it?s not because he gives me a little referral action once in a while (woot). It?s that he writes about how things should be done?and then does them. I think that?s pretty darn cool. Kudos to you John and thanks!

XNA Unveiling

Today Microsoft’s Robbie Bach and J Allard announced a new game development platform, XNA. Very cool. Nice to see game development heading more towards a consistent platform that focuses on reducing costs, improving experiences and better use of developer resources. Oh yah and let’s not forget about bonuses such as mobility, connectivity and multimedia improvements.

Let’s face it, if you have spent any time working with the .Net Platform, the New Office System or the Windows Server Systems – you know that if anyone can make this happen it’s Microsoft. The real value of technology is seen when developers are freed from repetitive mind-numbing maintenance and coding tasks and let loose on the real problems we face. It’s when they get the chance to be creative and tackle new challenges that things get real fun.

I will post more later but in the meantime check out the press release and download the sample videos. Note it’s better to just download the videos if you are on a decent connection – the streaming took a while when I did it.

Maybe I should convince my bosses to turn our company into a game development shop. Oh yah baby…now that’s a business plan I wouldn’t mind writing.

Sorry for the “Yah Baby”, I feel asleep a couple of nights ago with Austin Powers on the tube. My mind has been a little warped ever since.

Music to Games Industry Ears

Gamespot has an interesting article on recent reports published by DFC Intelligence on the development of the game industry in comparison to other popular entertainment industries such as music and movies.

“Revenue for the video game industry could pass the music industry in the next five years. More adults are playing games, the industry is expanding on a worldwide basis and online distribution is becoming a reality,” said David Cole, lead author of The Business of Computer and Video Games 2004, and DFC president.

“The interactive entertainment industry is still nowhere near the size of the movie industry,” continues Cole. “However, production values are starting to compare with those in feature films. Increasing consumer expectations, along with other factors including the rising cost of talent, the need for large-scale marketing campaigns, adding online components and demand for high profile licensed properties are substantially increasing costs.”

Pretty cool stuff really. Shane and I always discuss how much the games industry is maturing, from an experience level. Games today are very much like movies. They have solid plots, soundtracks, and complex character development. Many game ads now rival those of movies. Likewise, whenever I watch an intense action movie, my next thought is “OK now why can’t they make that into a game” or “When is the game version coming out?” One advantage with respect to games is that the experience is more interactive and generally lasts longer.

So it’s only logical that games be looked at more seriously as a solid entertainment source. I thank the hardware vendors and game developers for that. In my opinion the game industry has matured and progressed in the past 5 years tremendously because of the progress made in technology and communications (Xbox Live). Likewise I feel that the music industry has suffered or under-capitalized due to its failure to embrace market environmental changes and technology. But that’s just my opinion…and we all know what that is worth.

A Newfoundland .Net User Group…Hopefully

Steve and I are meeting with a couple of reps from MSDN Canada tomorrow to get the ball rolling on starting an official Newfoundland .Net User Group. So far the guys have been very friendly and helpful so I am pretty siked!

I made a vow when this year began to give more time towards different “community” activities. I figured it was a good time to start building rather than just participating. This includes everything from my church to some of my tech interests / hobbies.

I will post more on this as we get things up and going. In the meantime, if you are in there area and interested in the .Net Platform, drop me a line. If you are not from Newfoundland but don’t have a similar group in your area, let me know and we might be able to help you out a bit.

Painful Sentences

I finished reading Difficult Conversations a while ago…now I think I am going to write a book called “Painful Sentences” and this one will be in the first chapter:

Additional information about this feature will be provided on the Web. For the latest information, see | Enter url that points to same darn outdated file |.

STOP THE MADNESS!!! So frustrating.

Note to Self: Post some warm fluffy stuff later…sounding too negative.

Information on Office 2004 for Mac

Some new features unveiled for the next Mac version of Office. Pretty cool stuff.

While I was very impressed with Office X when it first came out. I have to admit I avoid using it now compared to the Office 2003 system for PC. Who knows how Office 2004 might make me feel.

What I really want is info on the next version of Office for PC. Now that I have seen how beautifully all the 2003 apps play together to build an extremely dynamic and efficient collaborative work environment, I can’t help but wonder what’s around the corner. But I am guessing I won’t be finding anything out any time soon. :-(

Steve’s Suggestions for Webcasts

Today I had a meeting with my boss, Steve. I walk into the Boardroom and I see him there pounding enthusiastically at his keyboard (nothing unusual of course). Turns out he was on a ranting spree and posting to his blog about the sometimes frustrating organization of webcasts on the Microsoft site.

He lists a couple of suggestions:

  • Make them searchable! I can’t find any clean way to search through just the webcast archive. Am I missing something, or does this exist?

  • Categorize them better. Make it easier for me to drill down to just SharePoint, or just Developer webcasts for Level 300 content.

  • Don’t spread them among your Webcasts and Seminar sites. What’s the difference between them anyway? Why are some things under “Online Seminars Home” and others under “On-Demand Webcasts”? Under “Online Seminars” the organization is even more inane. You have to drill down to Server Products -> SharePoint Portal Server and then choose from Prepare, Plan, Build, Deploy, Operate. I just want the SharePoint stuff. Many webcasts cover the entire spectrum of these sub-categories. What’s the point? Then there’s the Certified Partner webcasts, MSDN TV, the .NET Show, and TechNet webcasts that aren’t aggregated either. My ideal scenario would be: I want to search for any “multimedia” information on SharePoint Single Sign-On and have results aggregated from every one of these properties.

  • Provide an RSS feed! I want to keep track of webcasts like I track downloads.

  • I have to agree. Not just because he’s my boss and I know he reads my blog (in fact he inspired me to start) but because I watch A LOT of webcasts and I have struggled with similar feelings of frustration in the past.

    I spend a great deal of time on the MS partner site collecting product information, doing training, and looking for events / announcements etc… The only reason I am able to get as much info as I do it because I’m really freakin dedicated to the cause. Things COULD be made a lot easier. I have noticed some improvements over the past year or so – either that or I am adapting to chaos a little better.

    One thing that I personally have found frustrating related to the webcasts is the lack of consistency on how they are conducted and organized. Some events allow me to add a reminder directly to my calendar. Others remind me via email just before they start. Others remind me via email about a week before they are scheduled. Some have great quality…others not so great.

    I am a big fan of Placeware/LiveMeeting as an online collaboration / meeting tool so I am hoping to see more and more of these appear as time goes on. We use this internally for client training and presentations. Works quite well and is very easy to use.

    Thanks Slouch!

    A very special thanks to our buddy Jamie for coming over to our place last night to finish off our Small Business Server Install / Config. Works great! So nice to be able to do Sharepoint testing and research directly over our LAN rather than through VPN. Plus it’s just really really cool.