James O'Neill's Blog

March 29, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 5:52 pm

Yesterday was my second day in the new job and I joined a group of Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) at Microsoft research in Cambridge MSR is a feels like a University and they look at things that fall outside the normal set of products, and those can get applied in fascinating ways – for example the Machine Learning and Perception group came up with “trueskill” for Xbox live to do a better job matching players against someone of similar skill.

Yesterday I blogged about people who don’t articulate ideas clearly. By co-incidence I got advance notice of an announcement, I’ve hidden the key words because I can’t blog about the content until next week but it said:

“we’ll leverage {this opportunity} to continue to clarify Microsoft’s xxxx commitment and demonstrate how the company has begun to deliver on that commitment. The xxxx commitment is a new concept to the market, requiring Microsoft to continue to proactively message it with products news and demonstrate deliverables against this commitment. From a technology perspective, we’ll announce the general availability of yyyy< along with partners distributing/supporting the product.”

Which is more than twice as long as
“We will announce that yyyy is now available. yyyy is part of our commitment to xxxx, which is new to the market, so we will use {this opportunity} explain it, and our commitment to it”,
but doesn’t say any more.

Here is the first sentence from the question and answer document on this announcement.
xxxx is Microsoft’s commitment to mainstreaming high-end zzzz functionality and delivering zzzz solutions that are built on industry-standard [parts] offered via a multitude of partners and lower total cost of ownership.
The poor reader is left wondering if is the solutions or the industry standard parts which are offered by the “multitude of partners”. Who do this multitude partner with ? The bit about TCO at the end has ring of “We must get TCO in the first paragraph”. Is it Microsoft’s commitment to mainstreaiming xxxx and to lower TCO, or is it Delivering zzzz solutions and lower TCO, or is something like “which offers” missing after the and?

I think it means
“Microsoft and it’s partners are working to deliver cost effective zzzz solutions using industry standard [parts]. The name of this initiative is xxxx, and though it we hope move today’s high-end zzzz functions into the mainstream.

Sean O’Driscoll spoke about communities at the end of the MVP day. One of the MVPs asked if we needed communities simply to explain the stuff that comes out of Microsoft. Ouch. But I know what he means.
I chose to stay and listen to Sean instead of getting home before my children went to bed; his subject was interesting, he knew it well, and he talked about it with clarity. But some of his comments on communities were helpful for me to focus on something. He talked about the benefit of consulting a community before making an important purchase – there was a time when if you went to buy a camera, shop assistants knew more than you: now, thanks to the internet, the chances are you know more than them.
Sean’s a keen barbequer and he went on to explain how an on-line community has helped him to a lot more out of his barbeque. I’ve experienced the same thing through an on-line photographic community I use, the Pentax forum on DP review it gives members inspiration, tips, and ideas of accessories to buy. About 1% of all posts to this forum concern a Russian lens called the Zenitar, which sells for a shade over $100 US. The are a few dozen users who have discovered this lens and get more out of their photography thanks to the community – I used this lens quite a lot on my recent business trip to India 

That’s the essence of the work I’m going to be doing with communities. It’s not about fixing problems as such, or being a PR person for Microsoft. Its about helping people to get more from their stuff – which means happy customers.

Of course there is still work to do explaining the stuff that comes out of Microsoft 🙂

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 28, 2006

Civilisation will come to an end because no one will understand what anybody else is saying

Filed under: Desktop Productivity,General musings — jamesone111 @ 1:22 pm

In yesterday’s post I said “I’ve got an interest in how we communicate – and how sometimes we say a lot without getting a message across”. Recently I was asked to review someone else’s document: it was full of jargon, which I didn’t think the target audience would understand: but worse than that I couldn’t find the idea the author wanted to convey in among the long stream of buzzwords he wanted to use.

It reminded me of something I had read in Sir Ernest Gowers book “Plain Words” some years ago, and I wrote my own version. Having circulated it to the amusement of others I’ll share it here.

It is alright to use long words where they are needed. But it is inconsiderate to use language which is inappropriate to the reader, and doing so may mean the message isn’t read or is misunderstood.

Or should I say:

There is no imperative to condemn the utilization of polysyllabic constructions where their necessity demands it. However: one should be cognizant of the fact that if, in the course of authorship, language is selected which repeatedly falls outside the experience of the reader – albeit within the context of constructions which in and of themselves constitute a valid syntactic framework – this has the potential to render communications sub optimal in a number of dimensions. The reader may feel that the author lacks empathy with their situation, or that unreasonable demands are being made of their ability to remain in sync with the sequence of ideas being expressed. Either of as a result of the feelings this engenders, or independently, the reader may determine that the investment of time required to discern the author’s true meaning shows sufficiently little return that such time would better deployed in the pursuit of alternative activities. Furthermore, the use of language and grammatical constructions of undue complexity means that, even with due diligence on the part of the reader, the possibility is created that what has been said, despite having a clear meaning in the mind of the author, has the ability to deliver more than a single semantic outcome, and in such a situation many possibilities exist for unforeseen repercussions resulting from the reader’s making an erroneous selection from the divergent interpretations available to them at the point of reading.”

The thing is – how often are we expected to read things like the latter, which say no more than the former ? Too often !

It’s a fair guess that I’ll come back to Gowers again.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 27, 2006

A new blog: who am I, and what am doing here?

Filed under: About me,General musings — jamesone111 @ 1:44 pm

If you want demographic information: I’m English, male, married (2 small children), born in the 1960s and university educated. I prefer cricket to football and Formula one to either of them (27 years a Williams fan). My main interests outside work and home are Scuba diving and photography. I hope to cover some things to do with digital photography here, I might even talk about things IT can learn from accident-prevention in Scuba.

Career history: I’ve spent my working life in the computer industry; today is my first day as an IT pro evangelist in Microsoft, after 6 years for Microsoft Consulting Services. Before that I ran a Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centre, and prior to that I worked for a computer manufacturer. So I’ve had a number of views of Microsoft, and seen its positives and negatives. I hope to talk about both, we can be reticent about some of the good we do; and if you spend long enough in a big company you see stuff that looks like it came from Dilbert. There are limits to what one can say in a company sponsored blog, but I hope to shed the occasional ray of light on what Microsoft is like from the inside.

I’ve worked mainly round Networking, Operating Systems and different kinds of Messaging. In my new job I’m concentrating on the Windows Platform, Virtualization and Real Time Collaboration, so all of those will get covered here in the future. I’m sure I will stray into some other areas, like Office, RSS and Mobility even some coding.

I’ve got an interest in how we communicate – and how sometimes we say a lot without getting a message across, so I might ridicule the occasional bit of gobbledegook here. I hope to be readable and worth reading. To adapt something Hilare Belloc said: When I am dead, I hope it may be said: “His sins were scarlet, but his blog was read”

Comments are turned on so please feel free use them.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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