Eric Richards' place of techno (as in technology) happiness, rants, and corporate love.

Browsing Posts published in January, 2006

Gee, do I all do is bounce between Presentation Zen and Guy Kawasaki? Anyway, today’s post by Guy has a line that I’ve been given from a VP before:

“A player hire A players; B players hire C players”

Let the Good Times Roll–by Guy Kawasaki: The Art of Recruiting

Actually, I was initially offended by the ABC line because I had asked my boss at the time a question and then he rolled it up to the VP to answer. Taught me a lesson about asking hard questions! But it made me realize that if you ever drop your quality in hiring there are dire consequences, because one day those people will be hiring, too.

I want to hire someone smarter than me (okay, maybe not an especially high bar) and someone I could one day end up working for.

Hiring is hard, no doubts about it. But hiring the wrong people for your team and for your company brings in a whole new world of hard-hurt.

An interesting contrast to Guy Kawasaki’s recent measurable achievement post is Tom Peters on Steve Shapiro and Mr. Shapiro’s book “Goal-Free Living” (I read about initially thanks to my Sweetie when we were in the Arizona airport and she had snagged a copy of O).

It should make for an interesting book, especially the part that is anti-SMART.

I mentioned Presentation Zen last night – today is a classic I’m going to print out at home:

Presentation Zen: Contrasts in presentation style: Yoda vs. Darth Vader

(and hopefully, if I put it up at work, I don’t feel a strange constriction around my throat…)

Two blogs have caught my attention as of late:

I’ve been reading Guy Kawasaki way back to the Macintosh Way. That was back when I was a rabid Mac guy. Oh, how I loved that Macintosh and reading about Steve Jobs and the origins of the Mac. It was a perspective kind of thing.

Anyway, Guy’s perspective is wonderful: clean and common-sense and focused. No shitake to it. At the same time I picked up on Guy’s new blog, I picked up on Presentation Zen. I think it must have been during a Steve Jobs presentation and everyone was agog at how wonderful Jobs runs a presentation / demo.

I really do like how Jobs designs his slides (oops, I almost said PowerPoint deck). Microsoft’s presentations truly are death by bullets. Of course, what do a lot of the “type here” slides you add to your deck have: bullets.

Anyway, both of these blogs represent a secret goal I have: great communication skills. I know when I present I’m typically talking fast and pacing (well, stalking almost) up infront of the audience. I’m blessed by the fact that I’ve never had stage fright or presentation anxiety. But I’m usually up there to load everyone up with two shotgun barrels of information as quick as I can.

Something to work on. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy loading up on what Guy and Presentation Zen have to offer.

It is time to refocus the blogging mojo! Way back when, I purchased a copy of Radio from Dave Winer’s company just to figure out what in the world Mr. Winer kept on talking about – orange buttons with XML and such. I knew quite well how to write HTML and manage my own web pages. Why would I need software to help publish all of that?

Well, Radio had some interesting ideas to it. First of all, the very good idea (security aside) of everything being run via a local web server installed as part of the software. Nice. You just navigate to various pages in your browser to manage your posts and your incoming feeds.

Incoming feeds? Suddenly, I was like Jack Skellington, running around enthusiastically asking: “What’s this? What’s this?” You mean I can subscribe to an interesting site and get updates quickly? Rather than have to bookmark them all and go through a litany of visiting and finding out what’s new? Excellent.

Cool! I, like Jack, I came to my people and started to evangelize blogging and I touched base with Mr. Scoble and told him how wonderfully disruptive all this blogging could be for us at Microsoft.

But, like Jack, I didn’t do a very good job getting people understandable enthused about my new passion. I should have stepped back and explained:

  • The benefits to them in learning and using blogs, especially what RSS and blogreaders are all about.
  • I probably should have pointed them to Dare’s RSS Bandit as a starting point.
  • The benefits to our customers.

It was quite the flashback for me to when I was at Intel Supercomputers in 1994 and evangelizing the web and HTML. Some got it, others did see the need or benefit at the time.

In the meantime, after the Radio blog got going I continually got upset with it. I didn’t want the database on my computer. I at least wanted the ability to roam. What if I was at home and wanted to blog? I wanted some kind of replication up to a service and I wanted to be able to blog from any computer I happened to be on. When my work laptop had to be repaved due to a dead harddisk (I seem to have one of those die on my every eighteen months) and I lost my Radio data, I threw in the towel and started looking elsewhere.

That was about the same time Google bought blogger and then turned it into a free service that could publish to your own website (vs. just So I started my low-key blog there. What other blogs do I have? Well, this one (which is more recent, to be used for technical and non-family friendly topics). There was another one on a domain I set up for real geeky discussion that just plain didn’t go anywhere. There’s the blog over at MSN Spaces. And the blog that came along with the Bloglines account.

I am also tangentially involved in the InfoPath team blog, but that was more getting it up and going and getting some strategic posts on there.

Anything else? Well, at Microsoft I have an internal blog on the http://blogs/ server but I think that was more for testing out the wonderful blogging solution implemented in InfoPath.

So, I’m enthused to focus more energy here after spreading so many seeds to the wind.

C:\> whois ericri

Quick summary: C++ fanboy software engineer, XML technologist, early web adopter, artist, Epictetus follower, Army-brat, Pyr lover, blogger, manager, leader, and Microsoftie.

So let me describe who I am, from a work perspective. I am not my job, but it gives you one peek.

I work at Microsoft. I’ve been at Microsoft since November of 1997. And I absolutely love it. I can’t think of any other place I’d want to work at. Microsoft has changed a great deal since I joined but has managed to hold together pretty well, all things considered. Microsoft is really a collection of companies and the corporate cultural DNA varies from group to group.

My group? I work on Windows Live Photo Gallery in the Windows Live organization. Photo Gallery is awesome and since 2007 I’ve worked on the past three releases as a Principal Software Development Lead (an address book title typically only understood by Microsofties). My team has added features to Photo Gallery like Face Recognition & People Tagging, Photo Fuse, noise reduction, and the initial flickr publish feature.

Before Windows Live, I worked in Office, specifically on Microsoft InfoPath. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed my work? It was a great team and we had an exciting time making the world’s best XML form editor. Really.

At Microsoft, I was the first external hire of many to work on NetDocs. I was responsible for the XSL engine we used until we moved to the MSXML XSL engine. I later moved to managing the collection views team (inbox and calendaring and contacts) with a brief detour into the Exchange source code to prototype a thin version of the NetDocs client within the WebDAV front and back ends. NetDocs was a fun ride that I should write about one day. I learned an incredibly great deal. The XML editing ability of NetDocs went forward to turn into InfoPath.

What’s InfoPath? It is a snazzy new program in the Office family that is focused on editing electronic forms. We all deal with forms, some folks more than others. InfoPath allows very complex forms to be filled out quickly and easily, adding tools to assist the person filling the form out so that they can get it done fast and with high accuracy.

It’s also one heck of a snazzy form designer. The designer is the part of the product I worked on initially (every time you click that date picker, you execute a little bit o’ me). Then we did a special SP1 release with lots of new features and my team had some very rewarding work: adding features to make form design more accessible to people who don’t like to code or just plain can’t (like calculations, rules). Plus we added some nifty TabletPC features, like being able to just start inking ontop of the form and have that converted into text.

The last version of InfoPath that I worked on, 2007, included the following features:

  • Integrating InfoPath forms into Outlook (you’re able to promote fields from your form into your Outlook view, much like a SharePoint list),
  • Integrating InfoPath into Word / Excel / PowerPoint (your properties, plus any XML streams you add to the document, can be edited by an InfoPath solution),
  • Integrating Visual Studio Tools for Applications into InfoPath so that there’s an installed environment for anyone to write / compile managed code for their solution’s business logic.
  • Allowing InfoPath to be integrated as a WinForm control / ActiveX control into an application of your own making.

We’re, ah, known as the Integration team, incase you picked up a theme there. See the InfoPath team blog for more.

Before Microsoft I worked at Intel Supercomputers in Beaverton, Oregon. Great group and I absolutely love Portland. After the Cold War wrapped up, though, there wasn’t much economic demand for supercomputers and I bailed out. I was thinking of staying at Intel until about the third Microsoft recruiting call, where Brian MacDonald did such a good job of putting stars into my eyes that I agreed to interview at Microsoft. Oooh, I wasn’t looking forward to that interview. The last person I knew who interviewed at Microsoft refused to speak for a week. So, what the heck, I decided. It would be a learning experience at least.

Anyway, before I left Intel I grew out of being the graphical interface design and implementation guy (doing Motif/X11 interface work) for our parallel XIPD debugger and other developer tools into the C++ guru / Perl guy / HTML and web evangelizer. Without much in the way of permission, we put up an http daemon for our division and I got involved in the initial Intel web presence discussions. There were lots of silliness then, with attention-hungry people pushing to take it on because they recognized the potential. I had better things to do.

Before Intel I wrapped up getting my Masters degree at Auburn University. I worked up a thesis around designing and implementing a language for describing a user interface and then generating it for either X11 or Macintosh. Multi-platform user-interfaces, and user-interface design, used to be the big hot field, you see. I enjoyed it, but just like I learned that C++ exceptions are evil at Intel, my thesis taught me that multi-inheritance and over-intellectualized class design are evil bad stuff.

Before my masters, I worked for a small consulting called EPOS Corporation. That was a trial by fire. I think it was while drilling into the metal chassis of a huge plastics-injection machine in order to mount a transducer I realized, “This is not me. I need to go back to school.” Plus it was a… well, not exactly toxic environment, but a small company of great people can have some wild mood swings. It wasn’t healthy. But I learned a heck of a lot: lots of C code, the QNX message-passing way, how to piss off customers and win them back, how not to manage, how not to fire people, how seriously people take allegoric drawings, and how much doing what you want to do makes life absolutely rewarding.

I joined EPOS straight out of Auburn University where I got my Bachelors in Computer Engineering. I covered a wide range of computer power at Auburn: my first course was in FORTRAN and I actually used a punch-card system because it was, believe it or not, easier to me than the time-share terminals. From there it was to PL/I and Pascal and Prolog and even C. The IBM 360 was our main platform, though we also had a VAX and I had my little OS9 system at home.

And before all that I had planned to be an illustrator. You know, doing book covers and such. But then I used my lawn mowing money for a micro-computer and it was game over. That poor thing got Borg’ed up, having shadow-memory added, along with a replacement keyboard, and then floppy disk drives that allowed me to boot into OS9 and learn a real operating system. Illustrating? Well, if you’re ever in a meeting with me and I have pen and paper, you might notice my doodling.

And now, I’m at one of those crossroads. I’m still excited about technology (I’m playing with Python right now) but I’m also, strangely, excited about growing in the areas of leadership and innovation. I was exposed to the ideas of Robert Kegan recently and that really flipped a switch inside of my head regarding growth as a person and contributing at a greater level. I’m especially interested in growing within Microsoft and ensuring we have proper bridges to the influencers in the technical community.

This O’Reilly post covers what it takes to develop for WM5 with VS2005:

Special sauce: you have to have the WM5 SDK installed first.

I’ll post more about my not-ready-for-prime-time Dell Axim 51v. For now, I want to give back to the web some advice I needed to get my 51v to work with my Nokia 3650 on T-Mobile’s Internet plan, hooked up via BlueTooth modem.

I was able to pair the devices just fine. I was able to have the 51v dial *99# and momentarily have the “G” indicator pop-up on my Nokia 3650. But never stay connected. I would get the disconnected error. Finally, I trudged through the boards long enough to find this thread:

Here was the special sauce: extra dial string. The instructions:

Dialing number: *99#
User name: (leave blank)
Password: (leave blank)
Domain: (leave blank)
Extra dial-string modem commands: +CGDCONT=1, “IP”, “(see note)

note: (for generic) (for internet option users) (for VPN option users)

I put in the following dial-up string and I’m connected:

+CGDCONT=1, “IP”, “”

Not the fastest connection in the world but it works. Yeah!