How to move the herd--one open source project at a time

Folks have been asking me, how can we believe that Microsoft is changing to see open source in a positive light.

Microsoft has been hiring a lot of people over the last several years--Since YE2002 we've went from ~50,000 employees to ~78,000 employees. That means the over 1/3 of the company has been with the company less than 5 years. Not only does that bring in new perspectives, but it also helps shape the company by changing the way people think. A lot of people who have been with Microsoft over 5 years have a different perspective, and have a lot of learning to do. The new blood however, has grown up with the world of Open Source, and has a different perspective. I'm interested in helping them the whole company see that, and cascade these changes through the enterprise. I'm sure that by focusing on the positives that we can do better.

All I ever ask, is two things:

  1. Judge the company by its actions, and not by its words (Hmm. this sounded better when I was thinking it--these are words too... I guess you watch for actions--I'll try to point them out). My pappy always used to say "Don't judge people by their relatives." -- good advice at the best of times.
  2. Help change Microsoft, by showing the company how it can work better by accepting Open Source, not as a threat, but an opportunity to engage customers of all kinds.

Over the last year, Microsoft product groups have started over 150 open-source projects, all hosted on CodePlex. My pappy also used to say "Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction."  Well, pardner, lawyers are just as tricky to deal with. You can only imagine the wrangling that has gone on with the legal department to get projects started--it's still a tricky process, but it's evolving. We must aim to encourage more of that, and see more participation in the real world.

We have two extensions for Firefox that we've been involved with. (I'm still shocked at that!) The first, is a Windows Media Player plug-in.  The second is the CardSpace Identity Selector extension that Kevin Miller and I wrote--and I aim to get some code added to the main Firefox build this year to help support Information Cards on all platforms that Firefox supports. Pat Felsted and the stalwart band of Identity gurus at the Bandit Project have been working hard towards this.

I'm resisting the temptation to do a whole-lot of one-offs, as I'm trying to find ways to scale the benefits I can provide to the community. I have a limited budget, but I have contacts and friends with deeper pockets. When my goals and theirs align, we can milk that for a lot.