Internal blogs at Microsoft.

This is the first of two blog posts today. Sorry, for those of you who are regular readers looking for setup this isn't your day. There are just some things that I've wanted to write down for a while. So I've decided to ignore the pressing tasks at hand and just do something fun for a while. Write.

A lot of people don't know that I administer the internal blog server at Microsoft. I was actually surprised last Tuesday night that most of the guys that regularly work on the WiX toolset with me didn't realize that I maintained the internal blog server. To be fair, some didn't even know there was an internal blog server and that's mostly what this blog post is mostly about... how the internal blog servers came to be.

A few months ago Alex Barnett wrote about how many internal bloggers there are at IBM and compares that to usage in Microsoft. Interestingly there was a link to Scoble where he talked about how the internal blog servers were experimental and not used.

Most interesting (to me) in Scoble's post is that the title of is post is "Failure of Internal Blogs at Microsoft." It is interesting because that must have been the week where Chris Anderson was shutting down his internal blog server called http://blog (based on his BlogX software). At the same time, I was setting up the new server running .Text 0.95. To avoid internal DNS name collisions I called the machine http://blog2 with the full intent of renaming the machine http://blog after Chris pulled the plug on his server.

The story how we got into that situation is kinda' interesting as well. Chris sent mail to the bloggers mailing list saying he was going to shutdown his internal blog server and everyone on it (I think there were like 30 - 50 people) needed to find a new home. I thought it was unfortunate that we were going to lose a central place to blog inside Microsoft.

Then John Gossman (of Sparkle fame) offered up some old hardware and space in his test lab to house it. So I offered to configure the machine, maintain the software, and basically administrate the machine. At the time I was working on SDM and since we were modeling web applications and server configurations I figured some real world systems administration experience would be good. The two of us got together, worked with Chris, and a couple weeks later (after several DNS hiccups) the new internal blog server was running at http://blogs.

Almost two years later, I'm still running the servers. Along the way we outgrew the original hardware and someone donated a really nice 64-bit machine. Yep, the 900+ internal blogs all run on one machine. We still run .Text 0.95 although I'm keeping tabs on Subtext to see if they ever release a binary version of the server that is more stable than .Text 0.95. I tried upgrading to Community Server but I was really disappointed with the administration features of the software and decided to stay with .Text 0.95.

Since then there have been a few attempts to create an "official" internal blog server. You'll find Microsoft blogs scattered about that talk about it, like this one. However, everyone that has tried never came back. I assume this is just one of those things that is hard to get funded because no one really "owns" it.

There have also been lost of discussion about why internal blogs haven't taken off like the external blogs. Again, you can wander around on a bunch of blogs and get a bunch of theories. I think a lot of those theories capture the difference between internal and external blogging. However, I want to point out one thing. The internal blogs are picking up and I want to make two examples.

First, Chris Jones maintains an internal blog where he posts answers to general questions people ask him. For example, "Q: how come you never come to the shell dinners for people working late? it is usually at 6:45 each evening in cafe 9. a lot of testers are there, and some devs as well." (of course, I picked a boring question that doesn't violate any NDAs). His answer by the way, "I come about once a week -- some folks have seen me there. I'll be there tonight in fact :-). I am not there every night -- I generally go home and have dinner with my kids and family, then get back on mail around 8:30."

Second, there are these two crazy guys with a camera and their blog who install a build of regularly (each week or so it seems) and then talk about the new things they've found in the operating system. Personally, I thought the whole thing was pretty dumb when I first saw the blog because they were just goofing around in front of the camera. But last Tuesday (at the "WiX Working Group" meetings we have every Tuesday) Reid showed Derek and I some videos from their blog where these guys talked about some new features. Those videos were actually pretty interesting. It's amazing how much stuff there is in and this blog is an easy way for internal Microsoft employees to see it (without sacrificing a computer to the weekly builds).

In fact, it was Reid pointing out the video blog to Derek that caused Derek to say, "We have an internal blog server? And Rob runs it?!?" Yep, I do and sometimes I get to meet interesting people like Lilia Efimova because of it.

Comments (1)

  1. I was part of the team at IBM that setup our initial blogging infrastructure. Our team was always doing these one off pilot projects that later became major corporate tools. The funny thing about it is that often times we would end up running the production servers because our team knew how to do that kinda thing really well (we ran the first Olympics sites after all). At any rate its always interesting to see something you were involved with being talked about!!! That was such a cool group to work with. Long live Adtech!!!!

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