I recently stumbled on Mike Padula's website. Mike is a Cornell student who's analyzing blogging at Microsoft as part of his course work. We've exchanged some email, and I've offered to answer some questions he raised and clarify some points in my blog. Below are links to Mike's writings thus far

  • Expanding on Interesting Developments
  • Interesting Developments
  • Typical Features of a Blog and their Use
  • Blog What? That's What.
  • Blog What? Part 2
  • Blog What? Part 1
  • Let's start things off: A little intro
  • Proposal
  • One of Mike's main questions is whether blogging at Microsoft is a concerted effort or not. To answer this I'll give a brief history lesson. A couple of years ago, there was one visible Microsoft blogger, Joshua Allen. Back in 2001, Joshua was blogging about life at Microsoft, XML and current affairs way before blogging was a hip buzzword that every new age marketing department is trying to adopt. Joshua took a lot of the early heat for being a Microsoft blogger from arguments with Open Source advocates such as Eric Raymond to having coworkers try to get him fired for revealing too much about working at Microsoft in his blog to having to deal with PR and HR folks concerned about blogging. Through all this Joshua stuck it through and was an example to other Microsoft folks who later showed up with an interest in blogging who wondered if it was kosher to do so. I was one of them. The catalyst for much of the growth of blogging at Microsoft today are twofold, the first being Chris Anderson starting to blog. Chris was gung ho about blogging and not only wrote his own software but created an internal server for hosting blogs which became moderately popular. Many Microsoft folks who blog today started with internal blogs hosted on Chris's machine. The other catalyst is the changing climate internally towards interacting with customers and being 'community' focused. I believe this was directly pushed by execs like Eric Rudder and Steve Balmer. Once Microsoft people saw highly internally and externally visible people like Don Box and Robert Scoble blogging, the rest was inevitable and now we have the current situation today where there are almost six hundred Microsoft folks blogging at http://blogs.msdn.com.

    Mike assumes that there is a concerted effort at Microsoft to blog. This isn't the case as far as I've seen. I know that many product teams now require that people engage in some form of customer interaction and blogs are one way of doing so but there's never been a formal edict. In many cases, some coworkers see a colleague's blog think blogging is a neat idea then start blogging themselves.

    Since we're going down memory lane I should point out that http://blogs.msdn.com kinda happened by accident. About a year ago most Microsoft bloggers were hosted on disparate locations until blogs.gotdotnet.com was launched with Betsy Aoki being in charge. Around the same time Scott Watermasysk had launched .NET Weblogs which was aimed at being a community for developers interested in the .NET Framework. After a while, the bandwidth costs for .NET Weblogs got too high and Scott needed help. The Microsoft ASP.NET came to the rescue and Weblogs@ASP.NET was born. Eventually, Blogs@GotDotNet.com also couldn't take the traffic and Betsy was getting overloaded with feature requests and bug reports since Blogs@GotDotNet was running Chris Anderson's BlogX software which he'd stopped maintaining and I'd offered to take over but never actually did. Again the ASP.NET team came to the rescue and the plan was to migrate the Blogs@GotDotNet to Weblogs@ASP.NET. The original plan was simply to have all Microsoft blogs just merge with those on the Weblogs@ASP.NET site without demarcating who worked for Microsoft and who didn't. This was met with some resistance by the existing users of Weblogs@ASP.NET as well as criticism from folks like myself and Josh Ledgard on internal mailing lists. Eventually the folks at MSDN recanted and decided to go with a plan where the Microsoft bloggers were merged with Weblogs@ASP.NET but one could filter for Microsoft employees by going to http://blogs.msdn.com. Folks like Sara Williams, Betsy, Scott and the ASP.NET folks deserve the praise for getting this done. This solution seemed to satisfy everyone involved. Now http://blogs.msdn.com is basically where most Microsoft people (not just employees of MSDN) who want to blog in the context of their jobs have their blogs hosted.

    This should answer a bunch of Mike's open questions about blogging at Microsoft. There are two questions specific to my blog I should answer as well. Mike wonders what kind of traffic I get. Based on tracking unique IPs, I'd say I have about a thousand or so regular readers of my personal weblog. Since my work weblog is syndicated on the MSDN XML Developer Center its readership is in the tens of thousands. Mike also wondered how I noticed his project. Three words, Technorati Link Cosmos.