In response to a recent post by Joel Spolsky, Robert Scoble asks if Does Joel believe that blogging is a waste of time?. I found Joel's response in the comments to Robert's post interesting. Joel writes

For every brilliant, useful post by Raymond Chen, there are ten "So, I think I'll try this blogging thing" posts.

What's unusual is for a small company to manage to force a large company to react, and that's what Dave effectively did. It took a lot of work to get the train rolling but now Microsoft is devoting enormous resources to blogging. Even if there are only 400 bloggers, and lets say that each blogger only spends 10% of their time blogging, that's the equivalent of 40 full time employees soaked up... about 10 times the staff of UserLand. If Microsoft gets to the point of 100% blogging which I'm sure is a reasonable goal, we're talking about the equivalent of 5000 employees getting paid to post about what they had for breakfast. That's how many employees Microsoft had TOTAL when I worked there. Dave Winer's idea could conceivably do more to soak up employee resources at Microsoft than Linus Torvald's idea, and that's why it's brilliant. In fact it could even surpass Wes Cherry's idea in sheer time-soaking-up ability. That would be something.

I find Joel's perspective interesting. First of all, I seriously doubt that Microsoft could ever get to the point where 100% of its employees were blogging. Secondly, he makes it seem that blogging doesn't provide value to Microsoft and it is a mere waste of time. This is very, very far from the truth. Besides the abstract benefits such as the fact that it “humanizes” Microsoft to developers there are many practical benefits which we provide to our customers.

Up until blogging, the only channels for getting technical information to our customers were press releases, articles on MSDN or Knowledge Base articles. That is a fairly high barrier to getting information that people working with Microsoft software need to get their jobs done. It isn't like this information doesn't exist. Daily there are hundreds of emails full of information about the inner workings of some component, the roadmap for some technology or the work around flying around the internal aliases at Microsoft that our customers never get to see but would be amazingly useful to them. Take Raymond Chen's blog as an example of this. About 3 years ago when I interned at Microsoft I stumbled on his internal web page that contained all sorts of interesting, useful and technical anecdotes about the history of Windows programming. Up until blogging, useful information such as What order do programs in the startup group execute?, Why are HANDLE return values so inconsistent? , or Why can't the system hibernate just one process? simply languished as information that was only privy to the folks who happened to be on the right email distribution lists at Microsoft or stumbled on the right internal website. Raymond's blog isn't the only one like this, just today I've seen Don Box post about the roadmap for .NET Remoting, Omar Shahine has a post on the issues with building .NET Framework components as addins to Outlook and Philo Janus on implementing context sensitive Help in InfoPath.

Would our customers have access to this wealth of information if we restricted ourselves to traditional channels of communication (press releases, white papers, KB articles, etc)? I don't think so. I do agree that like most things there are high quality blogs from Microsoft employees and others that aren't as useful. But that's life, 99% of everything is crap.


Monday, April 26, 2004 6:07:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"99% of everything is crap. "

Yes I think it's fair approximation in many cases, which just makes me ask what is the way to find the 1% from all these blogs,forums,news,wikis, not to mention chats,videos/audio.

And the mandatory rant: There should be a fully free/open project into creating "ultimate" indexing/search engine, that could be incorporated into everything regardless of platform. It could be sort of a service. A "search aggregator" subscribes itself to that particular engine, which then pushes the updated information to the main aggregator, which would be then used by the users searching something. So instead of Google crawling itself, web sites would push their updates to Google.

But first we need a proper engine put into the sources of information, with fuzzy sets and all.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004 10:21:11 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"Up until blogging, the only channels for getting technical information to our customers were press releases, articles on MSDN or Knowledge Base articles."

And with blogging you have achieved what - an assumption that Google can find everything that we want. The trouble is it doesn't. Even worse, staff blog stuff telling us they have done this and that wizzy thing and we innocently ask how - there is a comment facility. And no answer is forth coming.

My pet subject, where is the SDK for the IE included with XP SP2? Loads of blogs about how you can do this, that and the other with the interfaces included in XP SP2 - oh no we can't because we don't have the header files and lib files. You have all this information internally and there is now an assumption that it is making it out the door via blogs. It isn't. Some of that 40 full time employee time could be usefully diverted to those boring 'formal' methods of communication. Perhaps some of their time could be spent trawling all the internal MS information and externallising it so it can benefit us all rather than it randomly leaking out at odd points?
Wednesday, April 28, 2004 6:10:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Well there is another benefit for MS blogs, is that we can give feedback to the very source where these technologies come from. Granted, our input may not translate into changes every time but before blogs as this, I wouldn't have known where to file my complaints or feature requests, findings, anecdotes, etc. With blogs like this, there is a *chance* of being heard however remote that may be. As for me, blogs, especially developer blogs, MS or not, have improved my learning experience quite significantly. As for finding these blogs, I never use Google or don't think I will intentionally. I find them on or I personally don't want to go back to pre-blog days.
Jiho Han
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