My Interview with Microsoft’s Media Center Bloggers, Part Three

Part Three: Blogging at Microsoft

In part two of our interview series with Charlie Owen, Sean Alexander and Matt Goyer of Microsoft we talked about the significance of Microsoft’s partnerships with their Media Center product.

Recently Microsoft though has received quite a bit of attention as a corporation that seems to be tolerating and in fact even encouraging personal blogging by it’s employees. I wanted to use this interview as an opportunity to further explore the Microsoft corporate relationship to their employee bloggers. We will return to more on upcoming Media Center features in part four.

Thomas Hawk (TH): In addition to working on the Media Center team all three of you guys are bloggers. Microsoft’s most famous blogger Robert Scoble has been credited by many as having provided a “human face” to Microsoft through his blogging. It has been suggested that blogging in general provides a richer more interactive experience between a customer and a corporation. Microsoft has quite a few bloggers and is seen as one of the more innovative companies when it comes to blogging and blogging policies these days. Are you encouraged to blog by Microsoft?

Charlie Owen (CO): Interesting question…I would say the culture at Microsoft is encouraging to those who wish to blog, but it’s a bottom up thing rather than a top down thing. My manager definitely encourages me to blog, and many co-workers blog as well, so it’s nice to get a peek into their daily lives / jobs without so many meetings.

Sean Alexander (SA): I wouldn’t say I’m encouraged to, though from time to time co-workers have noted they read my blog, or have an idea for something interesting to mention. Blogging for me is as much a way to share my personal passions about digital media and entertainment with family and friends as it is a larger community (hence the blog name, “Addicted to Digital Media”).

(TH): And Matt, what about you?

Matt Goyer (MG): I was blogging half-heartedly about Media Center before being formally asked to. Once I was asked to by our Content and Community lead I picked up the pace and started blogging more earnestly. The response from readers has been great so don’t expect me to stop or slow down any time soon.

I would say that most importantly my blog provides not only a human face for both Microsoft and Media Center but it also passes along a lot of knowledge that we have about our product that otherwise would not make it out to the public.

(TH): Well that’s great. Of course you guys are pretty responsible in what you blog about too which I think helps a company to see the positive sides of it all. Speaking of corporate blogging though is blogging actually part of your job or is it something that you do entirely on your own?:

(CO): It’s something that I do on my own.

(SA): Yes, absolutely.

(MG): I’m sure I’m supposed to say it is something I do on my own time, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to blogging while at work.

(TH): So, much has been written about blogs as conversations and the role that they can play in helping companies gain customer input in the product development cycle. Do you think your blogs impact and or add to the product development of Media Center or are they just an entirely personal pursuit?

(CO): Both. From a professional standpoint they definitely add to the product development by being a forcing function for me: I’m coding up samples using the platform I help to create (commonly called dogfooding, i.e. eating our own dogfood) and turn that into feedback for the next version.

These posts also help spur development work at third party companies since the information can be refreshed faster and be more topical compared to a full blown SDK.

(SA): I agree with Charlie. The most valued comments I get on my blog are the feature suggestions and constructive criticisms. For years I’ve tried to get that level of feedback in Usenet newsgroups from other users but it was unwieldy.

(CO): Also though from a personal perspective I love to talk about what I’m passionate about, and the blog helps me do that while transcending time and distance.

(MG): I do not see the interaction of my blog directly influencing product development… yet… but my readers can take this as a challenge to send more suggestions via email and the comments.

By reading my blog though you will get a fairly good idea of what influences me and I certainly influence product development.

(TH): Thanks guys.

Stay tuned for part four, our final interview piece with Charlie Owen, Sean Alexander and Matt Goyer. As a teaser, my first question is revolves around when will we see cable and satellite HDTV support for Media Center Edition.

Parts One and Two can be read here.