Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Friday, June 13, 2003

Heh, a bunch of anonymous commenters are pissed that I posted a parody of webloggers done by someone who wanted to remain anonymous. I give my reasons for posting it in the thread. Maybe I should do my own parody of these anonymous detractors. Heh. Some of these anonymous folks think I'm mean spirited. Heh. If I was mean spirited, I woulda deleted their comments, or edited them to make fun of them. But, if you're in the public eye, you'll have people attacking you. So, attack away. Hope everyone else has a nice weekend.

Steven Vore gives us another reason why upgrading is so tough, and why Microsoft's reputation is so difficult to improve.

While I'm talking about Steve Broback, I better mention his wife, Vicky. She's a volunteer at Woodinville's Wilder Elementary Adopt-a-Watershed project. Spends hundreds of hours a year coordinating dozens of volunteers. They monitor a variety of streams and do a great job of educating kids about the environment. Wouldn't it be great if every school had a set of dedicated parents like this?

Congratulations Dave for a year without smoking. That's just freaking excellent. I'm very anti-smoking too. Wait until you go to a conference in Japan or Europe. You can't escape from the smoke. It's horrible. I can't wait until the rest of the world adopts California's stringent anti-smoking laws. They work and are the right thing to do (you can't smoke in bars in California).

What I like about blogging is it builds a feedback loop. Look at this, within five minutes, someone gave me some really good advice about my earlier post. Where else can you learn from a global audience of people like this?

Dan Shafer backs off a bit. Nice note from Dan. You know, I understand where the frustration with Microsoft comes from. I'm frustrated myself. I use Microsoft stuff 12 to 16 hours a day and that brings a unique connection to the company that I don't have with any other company. Name a company who's products are used so much and by so many people? Folks regularly spend $25,000 on their cars, but they only drive them a few minutes a day (a long commute might be an hour each way, so maybe two hours at the longest). I guess if I drove my car for 14 hours a day, every single day of my life, I'd become very frustrated with its problems, where right now I just tolerate them. For instance, car makes a few weird noises. Not a big deal, cause I'm only in my car a few minutes of the day, but if I lived in my car, that'd be a much bigger deal.

Using software for nearly every hour of your waking life makes you really frustrated when you keep hitting bugs. And when Microsoft (or other companies, for that matter) can't get a fix out to you after two or more years, it builds up a great deal of resentment. Yeah, I understand where Zeldman is coming from. I'm frustrated too.

In my talks with Microsofties, I've noticed that every one of them gets frustrated at the state of their software -- they are working hard on making it better, but engineers are perfectionists and when they can't deliver something perfect, they are disappointed. It's doubly frustrating working inside Microsoft, because you see how some of these problems might get solved. In fact, some of the problems have been solved, but the process keeps you from using the fixes, even internally -- and externally it's just hard to deliver huge increases in quality/features/functionality etc more than every few years. Adam Barr's book explains a lot about the software development process internally and why getting fixes and feature enhancements takes so frustratingly long time.

Then, there's the fact that even if we released a perfect version of all of our software today (not gonna happen) it would take years for the new version to be adopted by our customers. So, the perception of Microsoft is actually way behind the reality of Microsoft.

It gets to the core of the perception problem of Microsoft. You all assume we don't care. That we don't hear you. That we don't work to make things better. That because we have a monopoly we don't need to do anything. It comes back to the fight I'm having with my wife. Same thing. We do care. We do hear you. It just takes time and we're not very good about showing you that we hear you, and are working on fixing things. And the whole thing is frustrating. For both of us.

Well, yesterday was a fantasic one. And a sucky one.

First, the fantastic part. I had lunch with Adam Barr, the guy who wrote a book about Microsoft's corporate culture and how it builds products. It's an interesting read, and I'm finding it to be pretty accurate.

He joined Microsoft when it only had 3000 employees. Today there's 55,000.

We talked about the good old days when there were only 10 buildings on campus (there are many dozens now).

Then onto the evening where my wife and I had dinner with the gregarious Steve Broback and his wife. Steve is the guy who founded Thunder Lizard Productions, was my boss for a while, and now is co-founder of Avondale Media.

I wish I had Steve's social skills. He just makes you feel good when you're around him and he's an intense lover of life and has tons of great stories about the tech industry (he met Bill Gates in 1982, for instance, and asked him "what kind of computer should I buy?")

But, now onto the sucky part of the day. After we got back Maryam and I had a fight. About my blogging too much and my inability to "hear" her and pay attention to her and my singular focus on technology and my lack of social skills. It's a common fight in the tech industry. I've seen many marriages go through trouble because of this "one person is a geek, the other is not" relationship issue and even dissolve.

The truth is, I'm one-dimensional. And, very focused. I get a great deal of joy out of talking tech. I've tried getting interested in other things. Wine, art, nature, photography, skiing, food, and other things, and I'm pretty worldly (been to China, been to Germany, been to more than half of all the states in the US), but I keep focusing nearly all my intellectual time on the tech industry.

Add in the fact that I'm somewhat socially inept (when people talk, they fire my brain in weird directions and I just have to interrupt them and take the conversation into weird places) and I'm also self-absorbed and self-interested (two traits that make for great weblogging/media skills -- John Dvorak once told my son that the key to being a TV star is to make sure that the camera always stays focused on you, which has a lot of truth behind it) and it adds up to someone who isn't easy to have a relationship with.

I've seen this same problem/lack of social skills with tons of geeks and programmers. And, many non-programmers as well. Ever been around a world-class artist? They are driven to speak to the world through their art. It drives them. They get focused on their craft and their avocation.

If you are in my head you'd see a creative process underway all day long. I am driven to write. I am driven to play with technology. It's not something I can turn on or off when I come home. That leads to a great deal of frustration to Maryam, who just wants me to talk to her about normal, everyday stuff -- after having dinner and lunch with world-class people who've done big, interesting things with their lives, the first impulse I have is to share that with all of you.

It gets to the core of the creative process for me. Their ideas and enthusiasm make me excited about my industry, my writing, and they create new ideas that rattle in my head.

So, when I get home, the first impulse is to turn on the computer and to start writing down ideas, impressions, and so forth. It all makes for great blogging. When I get on the computer, I get into a "flow state." Most of the creative people I know understand what it means to be in a flow state. The entire world disappears. I focus in on the pixels of my writing. I type fast. I shread character after character onto the screen.

It really pisses me off to be interrupted when I'm in this state. Which is exactly what happened last night. Maryam wanted to talk. I was flowing. "Please leave me alone."

Four words. Very hurtful. In fact, I don't think I used "please." So, now neither of us are having fun. Instantly switched a good day to a bad one.

Will we pull it out? I don't know. Just a few hours earlier we were having such a wonderful time. But, I'm probably gonna take a few days off of the weblog. I love my wife very much. It's just that I'm driven internally to be a geek too. My weblog, and my interest in the tech industry, is what got me here. It's what got me lunch with Adam. Dinner with Steve. An interesting job at Microsoft. And my 18 readers. It's a feedback loop that's more powerful than cocaine.

So, why write about this? One: it's cheaper than marriage counseling (and more effective, since I bet I'll hear from tons of you who are going through the same thing). 2) I know several other bloggers going through the same thing, so maybe we can figure this out together. 3) I want my wife to see that she's important to me, but we need to find a way to work together so that I can have my creative time and she can have her needs met too. 4) This blog is about my life and if I'm gonna be transparent, and have credibility long term, I gotta admit here when I have personal failings as well -- otherwise it's just hype about how good and perfect I am. And, the truth hurts.

So, I've admitted I'm human. I have faults. I'm a jerk. Egotistical. Focused on my creative process to the exclusion of all others.

Hope your morning is going better. Self inspection/improvement isn't fun.

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 2:35:45 AM.