Dream Job #2


Over the last two or three years, my passion for designing and documenting collaborative development tools like Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team Foundation, and yes, even Visual SourceSafe has burgeoned into an irresistible interest in social software. Source control software tools provide structured software development teams with the ability to collaborate more effectively. Social software like blogs, wikis, forums, and newsgroups facilitate the formation and collaboration of ad hoc software development efforts and virtual teams.

I recently described Team Foundation as “a force magnifier, a whole-greater-than-sum-of-parts system for professional developers. Using Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server together is like having a fast, grown up, LAN-based version of GotDotNet (workspaces, bug tracking, …) built into Visual Studio.

When I wrote that sentence, I had no idea that I would soon have an opportunity to interview for a program management position on Community team of MSDN/TechNet, a team whose mission is to infuse our customer-facing Websites like MSDN with genuine, push and pull community features that allow people like you to connect with other developers and IT professionals, leverage their knowledge, and contribute your own if you want.

Microsoft interviews are legendary for their length and toughness and mine was no exception. However, this was the first interview loop I’ve been through that left me feeling more energetic at the end of the day than when it began. I felt like I was powering up my idea engine and firing on all cylinders for once.

I got the job! Hello dream job #2. Goodbye dream job #1. After just enough vacation and paternity leave, I officially joined my new team on December 27, 2004. I am a fish out of water but am absolutely thrilled to have an opportunity to marry my knowledge of the software development and documentation processes for developer tools to my passion for Web-based, ad hoc collaborative development efforts.

Initially, I will contribute to initiatives such as personalization features for MSDN, Ladybug, customer-generated content (we publish, you edit, we post it…maybe;-), and other projects. Stay tuned for TurboKorby in the next few weeks because my gyro-ideator is spinning like crazy and a great blogtharis is due.

Comments (98)

  1. Seb Paquet says:

    Hey, congratulations!

  2. Congradulations! Think maybe you could come up with some ideas for how to fix GotDotNet…

  3. Josh says:

    Congratulations on getting Dream Job #2!

  4. RichB says:

    First of all congratulations on your new job. I look forward to yet more informative posts about your new position.

    Secondly, I (like many others I assume) would like to point out a customer-visible problem in your new division which you may (I hope) be able to influence.

    In recent years, Microsoft has managed to engage in "community" initiatives which help to foster a relationship between customers and those people who develop the software at Microsoft. This is clearly partly in response to the level of community seen in the Open Source and specifically LAMP disciplines. In response, Microsoft have created forums for discussion and involvement. The earliest of these were the CIX forums, followed by USENET newsgroups, however, more recently that has been Channel9, GotDotNet and LadyBug. However, I worry about the longevity of these community systems. GotDotNet was a promising v1, and even gained a very basic SCM system – but it has stagnated for 2 years with projects leaving and setting up home elsewhere. The community is leaving. Once everyone leaves – will all the valuable information be lost? Based on past experience with MSDN and TechNet I can only assume yes and even as I write this things are not getting any better with SSCLI.net being dispanded despite having a thriving and enthusiastic community. When Whidbey ships, what will happen to all the fantastic information available on LadyBug? Should I screenscrape now so that in 2 years I can read why a feature was postponed to Orcas? When Scoble gets bored with evangelicalism, will Channel9 go the way of the dodo?

    I so hope not, but precedant says I should get out my perl and start wget’ing.

    A community site where all the participants are leaving is a failed community just like a failed product is one where all the users have moved to a competitor. Just because a PM changes jobs every 2 years doesn’t mean that a community will disband with a similar frequency – it needs longevity.

    I fear the worst. Please prove me wrong.

  5. Rich — The next time you’re in the job market, drop me your resume. 🙂

    Communities of interest come and go, form and reform, shrink and grow. On one level, it is a pity when a vibrant community is compelled to disband because nobody thought to invest in fire sprinklers, the community clubhouse burns down, and no alternative clubhouses exist.

    On another level, a really strong and vibrant community doesn’t need a clubhouse. A durable community is not defined or dependent upon physical infrastructure. It is defined by its members’ trust relationships, organizational structure(reputation/roles), tribal knowledge (documentation), personal expertise (roles, online support), rules/laws/social norms and conventions (authorization, authentication, moderation, user management), and group-specific linguistic peculiarities (security).

    Physical infrastructure can be the seed around which a community grows but it is the invisible human connections that really make a community durable.

    Many of us witnessed the successful transition of a strong community of interest between clubhouses when ASPFriends (R.I.P.) melted down. What happened to all of the content on Charles Carroll’s servers? The members of the community packed up their belongings, formed a temporary Yahoo Group, bickered about where to reform for a month or two, and reformed under the banner of ASPAlliance and a few smaller sites.

    Strong communities are portable.

    Nevertheless, I believe that physical community infrastructure like GotDotNet can have a profound influence on the structure and potential success of nascent communities of interest. I am a big fan of the mix of services that we provide on GDN, however flawed its implementation might be. I look at GDN and I see success, not failure. I see a blueprint for a community platform and living proof that 8 zealous corporate rogues can change the world, profoundly and overnight.

    I am not convinced that building another Channel9, ASP.NET, GotDotNet, or community-focused client application like Office10 or Visual Studio 2005 is the best way to ensure the persistence of your community of software developers. Instead, I think that the challenge before my team, and indeed the individual members of the communities to which we cater, is to build back end services that enable end user communities to form and prosper wherever and however they want.

    One example of this would be a service that allows members in one community to take their reputations with them from one community to another. To a limited extent, this is possible today. If you ask a question in the ASP.NET forums about how to implement a custom user control and receive two different answers, one from Joe (reputation unknown) and one from Mike S(ADO.NET MVP), you would probably trust Mike, even though he is not an ASP.NET MVP. But what if your two respondents are Mike (rep. unknown) and Joe (rep unknown). You have no trust relationship upon which to base the selection of an answer. But if you know that Mike is an experienced .NET developer and that Joe is a newbie SQL admin, you would be better able to disambiguate, right?

    If the MSDN Community team can provide site-independent services like a robust source control Web service and scalable database on the back end, folks like you can build your own front ends to suit your needs.

  6. Jeff Atwood says:

    >aving a fast, grown up, LAN-based version of GotDotNet

    EXCEPT HOPEFULLY WITHOUT ALL THE SUCKING

  7. RichB says:

    Korby. That was nicely articulated. I disagree with a couple of your points which I’ll try to discuss.

    I agree that strong communities are portable, but value also comes from transient communities who have long since disbanded. That value lies in the information that community produced whilst it was together. Google has a 20 year history of Usenet, of which many newsgroups had a "community feel" which lasted years but have now disbanded. If I want to find out what you said about ‘Changing Project Folders in VSS’ in 2002, the information is there despite you changing jobs and Microsoft putting emphasis on hatteras. This information is still valuable and will be probably stay valuable until the end of the decade. From that single post, you may ultimately help thousands of people over the course of 8 years. If, instead, you had placed that post onto a GDN discussion forum, can I be certain it will be around many years from now? Perhaps you’re in the planning stages for GDN.VNext – is there a migration strategy in place for the 64,000 posts on ASP.Net? I sincerely hope there is as I wouldn’t want to contribute to a community if I didn’t think the knowledge I was imparting would help others many years down the line. The same applies to any SCM web service MSDN created – I don’t care who created the front end if the back end falls out of favor 2,3,4 years hence.

    In terms of success of GDN, I see a start without much follow-through. Is it currently successful? Not if your measure of success is the number of communities migrating away from it (after all, # of tier1 customers is one of the best measures of success for any product). Could it be successful? Absolutely.

    Regarding reputations – I recommend you read "The perfect Store: Inside eBay" – a fascinating account of how the concept of reputation was used to build eBay. This was perhaps the first attempt by any company to run a formalized reputation system on the Internet.

  8. Kevin Harder says:

    Congrautlations Korby! I’m glad you are working in an area that you enjoy, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about your new position.

  9. Congrats Korby. BTW, I think you & Rich could split the focus between information & communities. Communities can generate information, and information can create communities. While together they provide value, they can also be considered distinct objects with their own intrinsic value.

    Rich’s gripe about loss of information is a good one. Heck, look at what what we lost when the Greeks & Romans went under. ;/ I often find myself searching usenet archives like groups.google.com for information, and I "rank" the results by number of replies, date, and how well they match my query.

    What about a spec like RSS that allows information, reputations, whatever, from communities to be archived, transported, shared, so that if/when GDN gets shut down we don’t lose the info? So that information can flow in a p2p fashion rather than so centralized, since the Next Big Thing the Next Internal Calamity has a habit of wiping those goodies away for good. And didn’t our mothers tell us to always back up our files?

    Of course, maybe Google already plans on doing something in their own proprietary way…maybe they’re going to hang onto long-dead pages and page ranks forever. "You want Korby’s post for 2000 on how to recover a corrupt VSS installation? Come to Google, baby."

    How can I ensure the things I write (or at least the useful ones) live long after the web server in my basement has hit the scrap heap?And yes it really is in my basement. 🙂

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