Does anyone have a new System Center sticker for me?

Does anyone have a new System Center sticker?

I got this sticker last APRIL at MMS2010 in JUST ONE COPY, and I waited till I got a NEW laptop in SEPTEMBER to actually use that…
It also took a while to stick it on properly (other than to re-install the PC as I wanted…),  but this week they told me that, for an error, I got given the wrong machine (they did it all themselves, tho – I did not ask for any specific one) and this one needs to be replaced!!!!

This is WORSE than any hardware FAILure, as the machine just works very well and I was expecting to keep it for the next two years 🙁

Can anyone be so nice to send me one of those awesome stickers again? 🙂

Inversely Proportional

Inversely Proportional

Some time ago I was reading www.caffeinatedcoder.com/book-review-the-c-programming-la…

[…] Since a good portion of the C# books are between the 500 and 1000 page range, it was refreshing to read a book that was less than 200 pages. Partly this is because when the book was published the surface area of the reusable API was a small fraction of what it is now. However, I also wonder if there was an expectation of disciplined conciseness in technical writing back in the late 80’s that simply no longer exists today. […]

I think this is a very important point. But then, again, it was no secret – this was written in the Preface to the first edition of that book:

[…] is not a “very high level” language, nor a “big” one, and is not specialized to any particular area of application. But its absence of resrictions and its generality make it more convenient and effective for many tasks than supposedly more powerful languages. […]

I think it all boils down to simplicity, as Glenn Scott says in glennsc.com/start-a-revolution-with-confident-simplicity

[…] To master this technique you need to adopt this mindset that your product is, say, simple and clean, and you just know this, and you are confident and assured of this. There is no urgent need to “prove” anything. […]

Another similar book on a (different) programming language, is “Programming Ruby, the pragmatic programmer’s guide” which starts with

[…] This book is a tutorial and reference for the Ruby programming language. Use Ruby, and you’ll write better code, be more productive, and enjoy programming more. […] As Pragmatic Programmers we’ve tried many, many languages in our search for tools to make our lives easier, for tools to help us do our jobs better. Until now, though, we’d always been frustrated by the languages we were using. […]

Of course that language is simple and sweet, very expressive, and programmers are seen as having to be “pragmatic”. No nonsensical, incredibly complex cathedrals (in the language itself and in the documentation) – but quick and dirty things that just WORK.

But way too often, the size of a book is considered a measure for its quality and depth.
I recently read on Twitter about an upcoming “Programming Windows Phone 7” book that would be more than a thousand pages in size: twitter.com/#!/MicrosoftPress/status/27374650771

I mean: I do understand that there are many API’s to take a look at and the book wants to be comprehensive…but…. do they really think that the sheer *size* of a book (>1000 pages) is an advantage in itself? it might actually scare people away, for how I see things. But it must be me.

In the meantime the book has been released and can be dowloaded from here blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft_press/archive/2010/10/28/free-…

I have not looked at it yet – when I will have time to take a look at it I’ll be able to judge better…

for now I only incidentally noticed that a quick search for books about programming the iPhone/iPad returns books that are between 250 and 500 pages maximum…

And yet simplicity CAN be known to us, and some teams really “Get it”: take Powershell, for example – it is a refreshing example of this: the official powershell blog has a subtitle of “changing the world, one line at the time” – that’s a strong statement… but in line with the empowerment that simplicity enables. In fact, Bruce Payette’s book “Powershell in Action” is also not huge.
I suppose it must be a coincidence. Or maybe not.

SCX Evolutions

During the beta of the Cross-Platform extensions and of System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, the product team had promised to eventually release the SCX Providers’source code.

Now that this promise has been mantained, and the SCX providers have been released on Codeplex at http://xplatproviders.codeplex.com/ it should be finally possible to entirely build your own unsupported agent package, starting from source code, without having to modify the original package as I have shown earlier on this blog.
Of course this will still be unsupported by Microsoft Product support, but will eventually work just fine!
This is an extraordinary event in my opinion, as it is not a common event that Microsoft releases code as open source, especially when this is part of one of the product it sells. I suspect we will see more of this as we going forward.

Also, at R2 release time, some official documentation about buildilng Cross-Plaform Management Packs has been published on Technet.

Anyway, I have in the past posted a number of posts on my blog under this tag http://www.muscetta.com/tag/xplat/ (I will continue to use that tag going forward) which show/describe how I hacked/modified both the existing MPs AND the SCX agent package to let it run on unsupported distributions (and I think they are still useful as they show a number of techniques about how to test, understand and troubleshoot the Xplat agent a bit. In fact, I have first learned how to understand and modify the RedHat MPs to monitor CentOS and eventually even modified the RPM package to run on Ubuntu (which also works on Debian 5/Lenny), eventually, as you can see because I am now using it to monitor – from home, across the Internet – the machine running this blog:

www.muscetta.com Performance in OpsMgr

Or even, with or without OpsMgr 2007 R2, you could write your own scripts to interact with those providers, by using your favourite Scripting Language.

After all, those experimentations with Xplat got me a fame of being a “Unix expert at Microsoft” (this expression still makes me laugh), as I was tweeting here:
Unix expert at Microsoft

But really, I have never hidden my interest for interoperability and the fact that I have been using Linux quite a bit in the past, and still do.

Also, one more related information is that the fine people at Xandros have released their Bridgeways Management Packs and at the same time also started their own blog at http://blog.xplatxperts.com/ where they discuss some troubleshooting techniques for the Xplat agent, both similar to what I have been writing about here and also – of course – specific to their own providers, that are in their XSM namespace.

Disclaimer

The information in this weblog is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights. This weblog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer. It is solely my own personal opinion. All code samples are provided “AS IS” without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose.
THIS WORK IS NOT ENDORSED AND NOT EVEN CHECKED, AUTHORIZED, SCRUTINIZED NOR APPROVED BY MY EMPLOYER, AND IT ONLY REPRESENT SOMETHING WHICH I’VE DONE IN MY FREE TIME. NO GUARANTEE WHATSOEVER IS GIVEN ON THIS. THE AUTHOR SHALL NOT BE MADE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE YOU MIGHT INCUR WHEN USING THIS INFORMATION. The solution presented here IS NOT SUPPORTED by Microsoft.

Early Adoptions, Health Checks and New Year Rants.

Generations

Two days ago I read the following Tweet by Hugh MacLeod:

“[…] Early Adopter Problem: How to differentiate from the bandwagon, once the bandwagon starts moving faster than you are […]”

That makes me think of early adoption of a few technologies I have been working with, and how the community around those evolved. For example:

Operations Manager… early adoption meant that I have been working with it since the beta, had posted one of the earliest posts about how to use a script in a Unit Monitor back in may 2007 (the product was released in April 2007 and there was NO documentation back then, so we had to really try to figure out everything…), but someone seems to think it is worth repeating the very same lesson in November 2008, with not a lot of changes, as I wrote here. I don’t mean being rude to Anders… repeating things will surely help the late adopters finding the information they need, of course.

Also, I started playing early with Powershell. I posted my first (and only) cmdlet back in 2006. It was not a lot more than a test for myself to learn how to write one, but that’s just to say that I started playing early with it. I have been using it to automate tasks for example.

Going back to the quote above, everyone gets on the bandwagon posting examples and articles. I had been asked a few times about writing articles on OpsMgr and Powershell usage (for example by www.powershell.it) but I declined, as I was too busy using this knowledge to do stuff for work (where “work” is defined as in “work that pays your mortgage”), rather than seeking personal prestige through articles and blogs. Anyway, that kind of articles are appearing now all over the Internet and the blogosphere now. The above examples made me think of early adoption, and the bandwagon that follows later on… but even as an early adopter, I was never very noisy or visible.

Now, going back to what I do for work, (which I mentioned here and here in the past), I work in the Premier Field Engineering organization of Microsoft Services, which provides Premier services to customers. Microsoft Premier customer have a wide range of Premier agreement features and components that they can use to support their people, improve their processes, and improve the productive use of the Microsoft technology they have purchased. Some of these services we provide are known to the world as “Health Checks”, some as “Risk Assessment Programs” (or, shortly, RAPs). These are basically services where one of our technology experts goes on the customer site and there he uses a custom, private Microsoft tool to gather a huge amount of data from the product we mean to look at (be it SQL, Exchange, AD or anything else….). The Health Check or RAP tool collects the data and outputs a draft of the report that will be delivered to the customer later on, with all the right sections and chapters. This is done so that every report of the same kind will look consistent, even if the engagement is performed by a different engineer in a different part of the world. The engineer will of course analyze the collected data and write recommendations about what is configured properly and/or about what could or should be changed and/or improved in the implementation to make it adhere to Best Practices. To make sure only the right people actually go onsite to do this job we have a strict internal accreditation process that must be followed; only accredited resources that know the product well enough and know exactly how to interpret the data that the tool collects are allowed to use it and to deliver the engagement, and present/write the findings to the customer.

So why am I telling you this here, and how have I been using my early knowledge of OpsMgr and Powershell for ?

I have used that to write the Operations Manager Health Check, of course!

We had a MOM 2005 Health Check already, but since the technology has changed so much, from MOM to OpsMgr, we had to write a completely new tool. Jeff  (the original MOM2005 author, who does not have a blog that I can link to) and me are the main coders of this tool… and the tool itself is A POWERSHELL script. A longish one, of course (7000 lines, more or less), but nothing more than a Powershell script, at the end of the day. There are a few more colleagues that helped shape the features and tested the tool, including Kevin Holman. Some of the database queries on Kevin’s blog are in fact what we use to extract some of the data (beware that some of those queries have recently been updated, in case you saved them and using your local copy!), while some other information are using internal and/or custom queries. Some other times we use OpsMgr cmdlets or go to the SDK service, but a lot of times we query the database directly (we really should use the SDK all the times, but for certain stuff direct database access is way faster). It took most of the past year to write it, test it, troubleshoot it, fix it, and deliver the first engagements as “beta” to some customers to help iron out the process… and now the delivery is available! If a year seems like a long time, you have to consider this is all work that gets done next to what we all have to normally do with customers, not replacing it (i.e. I am not free to sit on my butt all day and just write the tool… I still have to deliver services to customers day in day out, in the meantime).

Occasionally, during this past calendar year, that is approaching its end, I have been willing and have found some extra time to disclose some bits and pieces, techniques and prototypes of how to use Powershell and OpsMgr together, such as innovative ways to use Powershell in OpsMgr against beta features, but in general most of my early adopter’s investment went into the private tool for this engagement, and that is one of the reasons I couldn’t blog or write much about it, being it Microsoft Intellectual Property.

But it is also true that I did not care to write other stuff when I considered it too easy or it could be found in the documentation. I like writing of ideas, thoughts, rants OR things that I discover and that are not well documented at the time I study them… so when I figure out things I might like leaving a trail for some to follow. But I am not here to spoon feed people like some in the bandwagon are doing. Now the bandwagon is busy blogging and writing continuously about some aspect of OpsMgr (known or unknown, documented or not), and the answer to the original question of Hugh is, in my opinion, that it does not really matter what the bandwagon is doing right now. I was never here to do the same thing. I think that is my differentiator. I am not saying that what a bunch of colleagues and enthusiasts is doing is not useful: blogging and writing about various things they experiment with is interesting and it will be useful to people. But blogs are useful until a certain limit. I think that blogs are best suited for conversations and thoughts (rather than for “howto’s”), and what I would love to see instead is: less marketing hype when new versions are announced and more real, official documentation.

But I think I should stop caring about what the bandwagon is doing, because that’s just another ego trip at the end of the day. What I should more sensibly do, would be listening to my horoscope instead:

[…] “How do you slay the dragon?” journalist Bill Moyers asked mythologist Joseph Campbell in an interview. By “dragon,” he was referring to the dangerous beast that symbolizes the most unripe and uncontrollable part of each of our lives. In reply to Moyers, Campbell didn’t suggest that you become a master warrior, nor did he recommend that you cultivate high levels of sleek, savage anger. “Follow your bliss,” he said simply. Personally, I don’t know if that’s enough to slay the dragon — I’m inclined to believe that you also have to take some defensive measures — but it’s definitely worth an extended experiment. Would you consider trying that in 2009? […]

Social Centres

Yesterday one of the “Social Centres” in Rome has been attacked by the police, and people have been sent out of it. I have struggled to find any mention of it in english, therefore I’ll link a couple of italian articles and blog posts (try an automatic translation system – but at the same time I invite people who only write in italian to try and open out to the world, to let everybody know, by writing in english):
http://www.openpolis.it/dichiarazione/355693
http://www.ilmessaggero.it/articolo.php?id=33301
http://current.com/items/89435235_centri_sociali_alemanno_va_alla_guerra_sgomberato_l_horus_tensione_a_roma
http://davanti.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/la-zanzara-pensante/

Basically hat is happening is that Rome’s major announced today that this is the first episode of a battle against the “Social Centres” and the he means to close/clear many of them. With the excuse that they are illegal places, filled with dangerous people. They even invented the presence of rudimentary “molotov” bombs that really turned out to be bottles of wine in it, to justify the action.
Once again, the old ghost of “security” is being used to repress spontaneous aggregation of people and use of spaces that were otherwise left to rot.
Should “Social Centres” be considered scary or dangerous? Just consider that last sunday I posted the photo below on Flickr and commented:

[…] The alternative people in Rome are growing. A lot of us have kids now, therefore you start seeing refurbished playgrounds and spaces for them inside of the various “Social Centres” […]

Can you read? Playgrounds. Not bombs.

Playground | Forte Prenestino

But what is a “Social Centre” anyway, for those reading this who don’t know it? Here I found an interesting discussion about the translation of the term “Centro Sociale” from italian to english. An excerpt of that discussion follows:

[…] “centro sociale” is a place, usually occupied without police or government permission (the people staying there don’t pay rent or anything basically) where militants, or politically aware groups, gather to discuss about issues and in some case prepare demonstration and revolt acts…For those of you knowing Milan like “Leoncavallo” once. Would you say “squat” or something similar?
[…]
I don’t believe there is a one-on-one equivalent in English for this culturally-embedded term. […] I’d like to underline that also in italian we use the term “squat” but it is slightly different from “centro sociale”; maybe we are poaching in the political nuances…but with “squat” in italian we refer mainly to an illegally occupied place where people live (they sleep,they cook…etc etc), while “centro sociale”, especially way back in the Seventies, was mainly the center of great political awareness, of political activists, at least in the Far-left activists’ intentions and point of view.
[…]
Despite there being a tradition of social spaces in occupied buildings (also known as squatting), the recent upsurge in (legal) social centres has come about in the last five years. List of current UK social centres, either squatted or legal […]

In the meantime, the Wikipedia page for “Social Centre” has also become pretty complete in its description. It says:

[…] Social Centers are community spaces. They are buildings which are used for a range of disparate activities, which can be linked only by virtue of being not-for-profit. They might be organizing centers for local activities or they might provide support networks for minority groups such as prisoners and refugees. Often they provide a base for initiatives such as cafes, free shops, public computer labs, graffiti murals, legal collectives and free housing for travellers. The services are determined by both the needs of the community in which the social center is based and the skills which the participants have to offer. Social centres tend to be in large buildings and thus can host activist meetings, concerts, bookshops, dance performances and art exhibitions. Social centres are common in many European cities, sometimes in squats, sometimes in rented buildings.
[…]
“Social centres are abandoned buildings – warehouses, factories, military forts, schools – that have been occupied by squatters and transformed into cultural and political hubs, explicitly free from both the market, and from state control… Though it may be hard to tell at first, the social centres aren’t ghettos, they are windows — not only into another way to live, disengaged from the state, but also into a new politics of engagement. And yes, it’s something maybe beautiful.” (Klein, 2001).
[…]
The social centre concept has taken root most successfully in Italy, beginning in the 1970s. Large factories and even abandoned military barracks have been “appropriated” for use as social centers. There are today dozens of social centers in Italy, often denoted by the initials CSOA (Centro Sociale Occupato Autogestito). Examples include, Pedro in Padova, Spartaco in Ravenna, Officina 99 in Naples and Forte Prenestino, Corto Circuito and Villaggio Globale in Rome and Leoncavallo in Milan. The historic relationship between the Italian social centers and the Autonomia movement (specifically Lotta Continua) has been described briefly in Storming Heaven, Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomous Marxism, by Steve Wright. Social centres in Italy continue to be centres of political / social dissent. Notably the Tute Bianche and Ya Basta Association developed directly out of the social center movement, and many social forums take place in social centers. They are also used for hacklabs, activist copyleft centers (for example, LOA Hacklab in Milan). […]

So well, what Wright has written is certainly true, and historically the Social Centres might have been tied to the extreme political dissent of the seventies. I don’t say that that old model was right; but over time they grew to be very different and beautiful aggregation places where a lot of different activities take place. People have grown up, they calmed down, and are now building spaces for everybody who wants to join in and enjoy and share. There are places for concerts, and theatre, and kids play.

Playground | Forte Prenestino

In certain occasions beautiful stories are told, and the audience listens, open-mouthed and enchanted:

Che meraviglia che meraviglia!

There are happenings where a lot of creativity takes place, such as the yearly juggler meet-up, that is filled with so much joy and fun:

5° Festival Romano di Giocoleria

There is sharing of ideas, knowledge, and interests, such as the Hacklabs / Hackmeetings:

HackMeeting 0x0A

Someone commented ironically on the above, stating they found it strange to see a Microsoft employee joining that crew of the Hackmeeting.
I say that there is nothing wrong in passing by a computer geeks convention. Because that’s what it is, after all.
Only difference from commercial conferences is that, well – it isn’t commercial or sponsored by any company. Nobody will try to sell you anything, but nonetheless you might be able to learn something.

Talking about non-commercial, non-profit sharing, another example is the terraTERRA market that started in Rome at “Forte Prenestino” a couple of years ago:

[…] terraTERRA is the experimentation of an economic model where producers and consumers are committed to each other in order to subvert distribution chains, shorten food distance, value social relations, pleasure and taste. […]

terraTERRA | Forte Prenestino

With all this amount of activities, even tourist resource recognize their importance and you start find reference of them on the net when searching for “what to do in Rome”. From the previous link:

[…] If a visit to a squat doesn’t rank high on your list of holiday priorities, think again. As any local musician will tell you, the best place to feel the pulse of Rome’s music scene is in the Centri Sociali – semi-legal social centres organising concerts, film screenings, theatre and dance events, evening classes, language courses and a host of other activities. Some bands such as Rage Against the Machine play only in the Centri […]

So why would you go and fight and declare war against these places and people?

Because they offer socialization and fun and aggregation, but they do it FOR FREE, and outside of lobbies and commercial interests. Because they undermine the logic of having to buy and own something in order to feel well.

It really boils down to what seems to be the only accepted way of socializing today, in some circles: free sharing and respect are labeled as dangerous, and the only accepted form of a social place is what turns around money: shopping centres, cinemas, restaurants, and any other place where you can be part of society by spending. If you can’t spend you have no place. Anything that does not involve money but sincere expression and sharing is not allowed, when not even actively banned.  Talking about the squatted building that has ben emptied yesterday, it had been left to degrade for decades. Now that is was used for something useful, the owners decided they want to build a supermarket in it. So the occupants had to move out. No bombs, no dangerous people. Just money talks.

I am the Empire

I am the Empire

I have been talking to Ariel last month, asking for a Microspotting T-Shirt since I had mentioned her earlier on my blog.

I have been on holiday in the meantime… but the T-Shirt had arrived and was waiting for me in my letterbox in the office !! How cool is that???

So today I am walking around the Rome office in it… and I am looking at people’s faces: you need to understand that Italian dress code is more or less the opposite of how people usually dress in Redmond… Italy is historically more formal, and it would be the norm to dress fancy… one would definitely look BAD here if he would show up in sandals in the office… and VERY bad going on sandals to a customer… 🙂

A Rant about Openness

It is interesting to see that a bunch of open source projects written on and for the Microsoft platform grows and grows, and also nice to see that a lot of Microsoft employees are very active and aware of the open source ecosystem, rather than being stuck with only what the company makes. Phil Haack, in a post about an interview to Brad Wilson,  wisely writes:

"[…] What I particularly liked about this post was the insight Brad provides on the diverse views of open source outside and inside of Microsoft as well as his own personal experience contributing to many OSS projects. It’s hard for some to believe, but there are developers internal to Microsoft who like and contribute to various open source projects. […]"

In fact, being made by Microsoft people or not, the list of open source software on CodePlex keeps growing too. Mentioning CodePlex and interviews, another interesting one is that of Sara Ford, Program Manager for CodePlex posted on Microspotting. But Microspotting is awesome in general. My favorite quote by her:

"[…] Hey. My name is Ariel and I’m the person you thought would never work at MSFT […]".

In fact, just as I do, she is running that blog on WordPress, posting her photos on Flickr, using a RSS feed on Feedburner and in general using a bunch of things that are out there that might be seen as "competing" with what Microsoft makes. In fact, this attitude towards other products and vendors on the market is what I am mainly interested in. Should we only use flagship products? Sure, when they help us, but not necessarily. Who cares? People’s blogs are not, as someone would like them to be, a coordinated marketing effort. This is about real people, real geeks, who just want to share and communicate personal ideas and thoughts. I had a blog before being at Microsoft, after all. Obviously I had exposure to competing products. My server was running LAMP on Novell Netware in 2002 – after which I moved it to Linux. It is not a big deal. And if I try to put things in perspective, in fact, this is turning out to be an advantage. I am saying this, as the latest news about interoperability comes from MMS (Microsoft Management Summit): and that is the announcement that System Center Operations Manager will monitor Linux natively. I find this to be extremely exciting, and a step in the right direction… to say it all I am LOVING this!!! But at the same time I see some other colleagues in technical support that are worrying and being scared by this – "if we do monitor Linux and Unix, we are supposed to have at least some knowledge on those systems", they are asking. Right. We probably do. At the moment there are probably only a limited number of people that actually can do that, at least in my division. But this is because in the past they must have sacrificed their own curiosity to become "experts" in some very narrow and "specialized" thing. Here we go. On the opposite, I kept using Linux – even when other "old school" employees would call me names. All of a sudden, someone else realizes my advantage.  …but a lot of geeks already understood the power of exploration, and won’t stop defining people by easy labels. Another cool quote I read the other day is what Jimmy Schementi has written in his Flickr profile:

"[…] I try to do everything, and sometimes I get lucky and get good at something […]".

Reading on his blog it looks like he also gave up on trying to write a Twitter plugin for MSNLive Messenger (or maybe he never tried, but at least I wanted to do that, instead) and wrote it for Pidgin instead.  Why did he do that ? I don’t know, I suppose because it was quicker/easier – and there were API’s and code samples to start from.

The bottom line, for me, is that geeks are interested in figuring out cool things (no matter what language or technology they use) and eventually communicating them. They tend to be pioneers of technologies. They try out new stuff. Open Source development is a lot about agility and "trying out" new things. Another passage of Brad’s interview says:

"[…] That’s true–the open source projects I contribute to tend to be the “by developer, for developer” kind, although I also consume things that are less about development […] Like one tool that I’ve used forever is the GIMP graphics editor, which I love a lot".

That holds true, when you consider that a lot of these things are not really mainstream. Tools made "by developer, for developer" are usually a sort of experimental ground. Like Twitter. Every geek is talking about Twitter these days, but you can’t really say that it is mainstream. Twitter has quite a bunch of interesting aspects, though, and that’s why geeks are on it. Twitter lets me keep up-to-date quicker and better (and with a personal, conversational touch) even better than RSS feeds and blogs do. Also, there are a lot of Microsofties on Twitter. And the cool thing is that yo can really talk to everybody, at any level. Not just everybody "gets" blogs, social networks, and microblogging. Of course you cannot expect everybody to be on top of the tech news, or use experimental technologies. So in a way stuff like Twitter is "by geeks, for geeks" (not really just for developers – there’s a lot of "media" people on Twitter). Pretty much in the same way, a lot of people I work with (at direct contact, everyday) only found out about LinkedIN during this year (2008!). I joined Orkut and LinkedIN in 2004. Orkut was in private beta, back then. A lot of this stuff never becomes mainstream, some does. But it is cool to discover it when it gets born. How long did it take for Social Networking to become mainstream? So long that when it is mainstream for others, I have seen it for so long that I am even getting tired of it.

For some reason, geeks love to be pioneers. This is well expressed in a digression by Chris Pratley:

"[…] some of them we will be putting out on officelabs.com for the general public (you folks!) to try so we can understand how "normal" people would use these tools. Now of course, as we bloggers and blog-readers know, we’re not actually normal – you could even debate whether the blogosphere is more warped than the set of Microsoft employees, who comprise an interesting cross-section of job types, experiences, and cultures. But I digress. […]"

But I have been digressing, too, all along. As usual.

reportr – Show your Flickrness!

reportr - Show your Flickrness!

How many times you have gone somewhere (public demonstration, event, concert, etc) where yo saw other people shooting photos and you though “some of them MUST be flickr’ers”…. but you never had the guts to go and introduce yourself?

Now it’s time to show off that you are a Flickr’er, and let other people figure it out.

Polo:

www.cafepress.com/cp/customize/product.aspx?clear=true&am…

Cap:

www.cafepress.com/cp/customize/product.aspx?clear=true&am…
NOTE:

This is just an idea and it is NOT endorsed by Flickr itself.

Also, I do not get any money for it – those are just the prices imposed by the online shop used to create them. I just thought it was a funny idea and I wanted to share it.

Conversation about Blogs with a customer

I usually don’t like mentioning specific facts that happened to me at work. But work is part of life, so even if this is mostly a personal blog, I cannot help myself but write about certain things that make me think when they happen.

When I end up having conversations such as this, I get really sad: I thought we had finally passed the arrogant period where we had to spoon-feed customers, and I thought we were now mature enough to consider them smart people and providing cool, empowering technologies for them to use. I also thought that pretty much everybody liked Microsoft finally opening up and actually talking TO people… not only talking them INTO buying something, something – but having real conversations.

I get sad when I find that people still don’t seem to be accepting that, and wanting back the old model, instead. Kinda weird.

 

The conversation goes as follows (words are not exactly those – we were speaking Italian and I sort of reconstructed the conversation – you should get the sense of it anyway):

 

[…]

Me: “The SDK service allows you to do quite a lot of cool stuff. Unfortunately not all of that functionality is completely or always easily exposed in the GUI. That is, for example: it is very EASY to define overrides, but it can get very tricky to find them back once set. That’s why you can use this little useful tool that the developer of that SDK service has posted on his blog…”

Cust: “…but we can’t just read blogs here and there!”

Me: “Well, I mean, then you may have to wait for the normal release cycle. It might be that those improvements will make it in to the product. That might happen in months, if you are lucky, or maybe never. What’s wrong if he publishes that on his blog, bypassing the bureaucracy crap, and makes your life easier with it RIGHT NOW?”

Cust: “It is not official, I want it in the product!”

Me: “I see, and even understand that. But right now that feature just isn’t there. But you can use this tool to have it. Don’t worry: it is not made by some random guy who wants to trojan your server! It is made by the very same developer who wrote the product itself…”

Cust: “It is not supported, what if it breaks something?”

Me: “So are all resource kit tools, in general. written by some dev guy in his free five minutes, and usually unsupported. Still very useful, though. Most of them. And they usually do work, you know that much, don’t you?”

Cust: “But why on a blog?”

Me: “What’s wrong with this? People are just trying to make customer’s life easier by being transparent and open and direct in their communication, just talking RIGHT to the customers. People talking to people, bypassing the prehistoric bureaucracy structure of companies… the same happens on many other sites, just think isatools.org for example… those are just tools that a support guy like me has written and wants to share because they might be useful…”

Cust: “But I can’t follow/read all the blogs out there! I don’t have time for it”

Me: “Why not? I have thousands of feeds in my aggregator and…”

Cust: “I don’t have time and I don’t want to read them, because I pay for support, so I don’t expect this stuff to be in blogs”

Me: “Well, I see, since you pay for support, you are paying ME – in fact I am working with you on this product precisely as part of that paid support. That’s why I am here to tell you that this tool exists, in case you had not heard of it, so you actually know about it without having to read that yourself on any blog… does that sound like a deal? Where’s the issue?”

Cust: “Sgrunt. I want something official, I don’t like this blog stuff”

[…]

 

I thought this was particularly interesting, not because I want to make fun of this person. I do respect him and I think he just has a different point of view. But in my opinion this conversation shows (and made me think about) an aspect of that “generation gap” inside Microsoft that Hugh talks about here:

“[…]4.30 Hugh talks about a conversation he had with a few people inside Microsoft- how there’s a generation gap growing within the company, between the Old Guard, and the new generation of Microsofties, who see their company in much more open, organic terms.[…]”

Basically this tells me that the generation gap is not happening only INSIDE Microsoft: it invests our customers too. Which makes it even more difficult to talk to some of them, as we change. Traditions are hard to change.

Of different digital expressions and Blogs

Pool

“I have not posted in a while” …well you certainly will have read tons of posts beginning this way, right?
But that’s the truth. One of the reasons is that you can follow very well a lot of what I do and write elsewhere on the Internet by using my lifestream RSS feed, which includes much more than just what I post on this blog. Our minds are not stuck on one subject matter only, but our thoughs just go around in many different directions. I mentioned the integrated feed/lifestream in a previous post, but I found that the concept gets explained very well by Yongfook in this post:

“[…] We interact with various websites and create content on them – why should I then have to come to my own website and reconstruct, repost or repackage the same content? It already exists out there on the internet, and it’s grabbable and usable. This is not to say I think conventional blogging is dead. I do however think it is evolving. The pace at which we consume and create content – photos, videos, links etc – is getting faster, more frequent. If we wanted to republish everything manually on our blogs, we’d just run out of time. […]”

So at least even if this SITE does not get updated often you can see I have quite a busy digital public life on the web.

Very interesting to also read this post by Scott Hanselman on the subject. He rather just focuses on twitter/microblogging as an evolved form of blogging which was getting boring and time-consuming to people:

“[…] The rise of blogs brought conversations on the ‘net more out in the open. Blogging enabled conversation via essay, but as blogs have matured, posts have gotten longer and longer and threads more difficult to follow. Now, most posts are jumping off points for the more interesting conversations that inevitably move to the comments. […]”

He then goes into more detailed/structured analysis of what you can or could do with Twitter. While his analysis is pretty good about the many ways you could use Twitter as a broadcasting tool (and in fact loads of companies do already), I rather use it as public instant messaging. Or maybe not just. I don’t actually know and to be honest I am not too much into classifying things, really. For example, if classifying what this blog is… I really am not sure I know myself what this blog is. It has been very funny when other people have tried to classify it… one said it was about “programming” (that would be nice, if I really was a better developer!), other people said it was “personal”, other thought it was just about “IT” in general… Heck, there is no classification possible I am afraid. Therefore, not knowing what this blog is, I at least think that I know what this blog is NOT:

  • it isn’t a marketing blog
  • I am not here trying to sell anything
  • I am not promoting anything, anyone, or any brand
  • It isn’t just focused on one subject, on one area of interest

…and so are all my other “expressions” on the Net. Just me. Sprinkles of me all around. No special industrial plan for it. Just be myself. You might like me sometimes. You might hate me. You might not care at all. It’s all good, anyway. Sorry for wasting your time.