I had the good fortune of attending the launch party for Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's book 'Naked Conversations' (the venue was absolutely spectacular). What a blast -- I was able to meet many folks I either subscribe to in Newsgator or will starting tonight. I always find it refreshing to hang out with others from the blogosphere, and verbally converse with the people behind the keyboard and wifi.
My apologies in advance for the shameless name dropping here. I thought I would share some of the things I learned tonight (in the order I learned them).
Frank Shaw goes out of his way to use Microsoft beta software. Frank is Executive Vice President at Waggener Edstrom, the company which helps Microsoft handle public relations. My view of PR folks totally changed tonight after speaking with Frank. Before tonight I largely viewed our PR folks as spinmeisters. Frank showed me they can be just as bought in to the vision as me. Refreshing. Robert is right -- he should start a blog.
Stephen Toulouse (his personal blog is here) always has a tough crowd whenever he walks into a meeting at Microsoft. You see, he is part of the Microsoft Security Response Center. When he walks in, pretty much all the oxygen gets sucked out of the room because he might be delivering bad news on the security front (although, increasingly his news is good news). He also works for a team which seemingly gets tons of flaming arrows shot at them on a daily basis from all fronts. I could tell he was passionate about making sure consumers felt confident in our products on the security front.
Chris Pirillo reminded me again (in his usual low key, non-passionate, laissez-faire, introverted, quiet conversational style) our products simply have to work for customers. In my opinion, every product group should bring him in to spend just 15 minutes on an alpha quality product -- you will get more good nuggets of actionable feedback (and expletives) in that amount of time than in 4 weeks of usability studies. I also learned Media Center is already more complex than it needs to be, and many wonderful features are undiscoverable, even for bright geeks like Chris. We gotta work on that now and as our features grow.
My next TabletPC might very well be an OQO Model 01+ -- Moshen Chan from OQO was walking around with one and letting folks play. Hooked. I wish my Toshiba M200 Tablet PC wasn't so well made so I would have an excuse to get this puppy right now. If someone there knows the young man from OQO, please let me know so I can give him props. Want to get people to join the conversation? Have a cool piece of hardware in your hands and pass it around.
The mobile space is HOT. Vikram Dendi showed me his tricked out Windows Mobile 5.0 Smart Phone. I'm hoping he will take some time in the next couple of weeks to help me trick out my new i-Mate K-JAM (aka HTC Wizard / QTEK 9100). Actually, I've never seen so many Smart Phones in one place -- I think they erected a new cell tower outside while we were there to handle the volume. Robert and Chris had a ScoblePhone v2 (aka Cingular 2125 / HTC Faraday).
If there is another team at Microsoft as interesting to me as Media Center it has to be Jeff Sandquist's (I mean, seriously, Channel9 + Robert Scoble + Duncan Mackenzie for starters -- 'nuff said). We had the briefest of conversations this evening, but as usual, new things are brewing. It's always something new on Jeff's team -- those guys have way too much fun (if there is such a thing).
Buzz Bruggeman gave me perhaps the best elevator pitch I've heard in the past year. I've heard about ActiveWords for some time now, but have never gotten around to investigate what it is, what it does or how it can help me. So I asked Buzz. His response: "It's software which speaks your language. Install ActiveWords, type or write CNN and boom! you're at CNN." Sold. I've got to work on my elevator pitch for Media Center so it can be this compelling. One word of advice, Buzz -- get the ActiveWords installer digitally signed. Right now it states 'Unknown Publisher' which is typically a show stopper for me, but I'm installing anyway since you did such a good job of convincing me with only two sentences.
And finally, I've got a Robert Scoble autographed copy of Naked Conversations. What did he write...?
"Charlie, Keep the world blogging about Media Center? Thanks & Enjoy, Robert Scoble"
Classy. Thanks again, Robert, for inspiring me.
And by the way, the book has to be good. They weren't giving away copies to be signed as might be expected (Microsoft gives away free swag at these types of events all the time). We had to pay for our copies like anyone else -- that speaks volumes about the value of the content. I'm starting the first chapter tonight.