A blogging friend stopped by my office this morning and one of the first questions was: Where have you been with your blogging as of late?
He is about the 6th person to ask -- so, it's probably about time to give you some explanation.
First, nearly the entire month of October 2007 was devoted to weighing an opportunity I had to join another fantastically great team here at Microsoft. Imagine being given the choice of two huge lollipops both of which are your favorite flavors -- the proverbial kid in a candy store analogy. One of the choices is the team which produces Windows Media Center (I'm a big fan). The other was a team and a hiring manager for whom I have a large amount of respect. In the end, I chose to stay here on the Windows Media Center team -- I didn't feel as though I was quite done with this product and the things I personally want it to do for customers. The move to the other team would have also created a new period of professional relationship building -- I felt I had put my family through that enough with our move to the Pacific Northwest back in mid-2004 (more about that later). It was an *incredible* experience and I'm very glad I took the time to explore a change in career direction. I am very grateful for the advice offered from close friends both internal and external to Microsoft (you know who you are). The only downside is it left me quite a bit frazzled from a career standpoint -- I simply didn't have the energy to post here on the blog during October or the month that followed.
Second, I basically took the month of December 2007 as vacation. I mean a real (almost) complete disconnect from work related things -- this is rare -- just ask my co-workers who find me replying to emails while on vacation. Postings by me on places like http://discuss.mediacentersandbox.com even dropped off quite sharply. Our family traveled back to the East coast to see family and friends and I made a concerted effort to stay offline. When we returned I picked up some sort of flu bug which had me out of work for a complete week, with another two weeks of recovery time during which I didn't have a whole lot of energy. I haven't been that sick in probably 15 years. So, that explains December 2007 and most of January 2008.
Third, it was an incredibly busy time during all of these months (October 2007 - December 2008) from a day job perspective (most blogging is done on nights / weekends). Yes, we are working on the next version of Windows -- no surprise there. The ebb and flow of program management happened to be really flowing instead of ebbing during this time (not that there is much of an ebb anytime here at Microsoft, but there times when it is less busy than normal). I'd like to think I did a pretty good job of managing things, especially given the career churn in October outlined above. But several things had to 'give way' -- and blogging was one of them. And... I can't just blog about what happens in the day job -- no matter how much Mary Jo really wishes I would.
Fourth, I really took a good, hard look during October - December to think about my community involvement, including posting here. There are so many good and great things about blogging -- but one of the few drawbacks is it's really a scattershot method of communication, and the conversations it fosters can amplify the noise. What starts off in one distinct direction can be randomized into multiple other directions far removed from the original. These conversations demonstrate this to be wholly true. I literally worked through each and every comment on those two posts and created a list of feature requests. The list was *incredibly* long and I came to the realization there was absolutely no way I could personally make all of those things happen -- I found this to be incredibly frustrating because I really do like to take action on your feedback. As a result, I decided the posts weren't that incredibly helpful or useful except to allow the community to vent their frustrations. They were way too broad to start, and only got broader as the conversation continued.
Add to that much of the posting here is done on my personal time and took away from family activities. Family is everything. (Some of you are probably thinking: 'Well, DUH! It's amazing how easy it is to lose sight of the obvious.). The sacrifice they made to allow me to take my 'dream job' in 2004 was incredible. My wife and daughters deserve for me to be home physically AND mentally. I've reached a point where a lot of the heavy lifting of establishing myself on a new team is done in many respects -- I can now restore work-life balance to, well, balance. I've made a commitment to them to really be home when I'm home, and I'm beginning to see those dividends return to me in lots of ways. As a result posting here, a majority of which took place when I was at home, will naturally be lessened. Case in point, I'm writing this while at work today instead of tonight at home as was the usual. That feels *really* good from a father and husband perspective.
So, where does that leave us...?
I've decided there will be less broad communication here on the blog and more engagement with individuals in the community on a personal level this year. I'm going to invest my time with a deliberate and constrained group of people, mostly around how our product can be better for all. Some of those direct one:one projects are already underway and you should see the reports on some of them out here in the blogosphere at some point. I'll link to those as folks decide to chat about them publicly, and that's where the majority of my postings for this year will originate. I'll also be making it a point to spend more time with our Community Dev Experts over on http://discuss.mediacentersandbox.com. Finally, any extra brain cycles I have outside of working hours will be spent making in-depth resources available for Windows Media Center customers for the next version.
In a nutshell: I'm hoping less here becomes more in a real, tangible sense for Windows Media Center customers.