Evangelism and credibility


I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but finding Rosyna’s post (thanks, Feedster!) finally provided the motivation I needed.  In reference to my WinFS post from last April, she writes “I can’t help by [sic] chortle demonically as I read this”.  There was another link too that caught my attention (from a comment on Scoble’s blog, can’t find it now) that basically said my credibility was shot because of that April post.

 

What I wrote back in April was:

“I, from my vantage as a Longhorn Evangelist, haven’t seen any changes that significantly impact anything we’ve said at PDC, or since, about the WinFX platform”

 

Clearly I was wrong about any changes coming 😉 Did that post destroy my credibility for all time?  I’d like to think it didn’t, and let me explain why.  When I wrote it, I was following rules 1, 2, 15 and 16 of Scoble’s Corporate Weblogger Manifesto.  Which is to say, I told the truth, I didn’t hide anything, and I did it fast.  At the time when I wrote that post, it was as accurate and honest as I knew how to make it.  Clearly the information has since become severely outdated, and reading it now, it looks like I was just blowing sunshine.  The truth is, though, I posted the most accurate information I had available to me at the time.

 

When the Longhorn and WinFS plan changed, I blogged about that, too.  Again I provided the best information I could in the shortest possible timeframe.  And I still feel good about what I wrote in that post.

 

What’s become clear to me, however, is that I didn’t follow Scoble’s rules 8 and 9

8) If you screw up, acknowledge it. Fast. And give us a plan for how you’ll unscrew things. Then deliver on your promises.

9) Underpromise and over deliver. If you’re going to ship on March 1, say you won’t ship until March 15. Folks will start to trust you if you behave this way.

 

I over promised, which was a screw up, and then I never acknowledged it.  This post is my belated acknowledgement.  And also recognition that I have since taken rule #9 to heart and been more careful about how and when I talk about what work we’re doing at Microsoft.

 

I’ve been a big fan of WinFS from the start.  The WinFS team set out to enable a series of scenarios that are near and dear to my heart, and I was incredibly excited to be working with them.  I wanted the world to know about WinFS, I wanted the world to share my excitement about WinFS, so I wrote about it with enthusiasm and passion.  And, I can see now, optimism 😉  I was lucky enough to work closely with the core product team, sitting in on their meetings, feature reviews, etc, and in some ways I drank the kool-aid.  I caught their excitement, and didn’t temper it with the healthy dose of skepticism that should be part of any realistic discussion of a new software project.  And there was plenty of skepticism around (even from other Microsofties) that could have, and should have, made me pause.

 

I’d think I learned from the experience.  When I see something new and promising now, I approach it with a more skeptical eye.  I ask myself whether I’m ready to suggest that our developer community invest time in learning about this new thing, or whether it makes sense to stay quiet until the technology (the features or the schedule) is more baked.

 

Given how little I’ve blogged lately, maybe I’ve erred too far on the side of caution now.  I’ll keep working on finding the right balance.

Comments (5)

  1. It is all good Jeremy… Keep up the blogging!

  2. Josh Koppang says:

    From a president of a Microsoft partner: Don’t worry, be still believe you. The people that make demeaning comments like the one you linked don’t seem to understand the software development process, especially one as big as Longhorn and WinFS, or ignore what they have learned to post something bordering on trolling.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Thanks guys. It did feel a bit like a troll, but it’s a legitimate point. And every time I see in my referral logs that someone hit that April post after searching for "winfs" (it shows as the 4th result on Google right now,) I cringe a little.

  4. Rob says:

    Hey, even as a die hard Mac user, I can’t find it in my heart to be critical over this. We all get our hopes up from time to time, and we occasionally get ahead of ourselves.

    WinFS is an admittedly cool technology. Now’s just not its time, but it’ll come eventually, even if by a different name or a different route.

  5. David says:

    I’d love to hear how winFS is coming along. its been such a long time and its still something that i’m excited about. the end user in me is really looking forward to versioning support (which i only noticed was part of winFS a short time ago)

    Hopefully you guys are making good progress. Maybe we can hope to see a technical preview of winFS for longhorn, like we have for avalon and (soon to come) indigo on XP .. that would be very useful