Read Dirty Laundry and Join the Mobile Revolution Anyway

Scoble is taking some heat for this post and his letter to Bill about creating an interesting music player that a fellow "softy" described as the "Most Insulting Blog Entry of The Year". Judging from the comments and the trackbacks, Ed is not the only one that feels Scoble did a bit more harm than good on that one.  Like Ed, I don't agree with everything Scoble said, but I think only net positives will come out of this. Maybe it's only what Betsy recently described as the "Ledgard Zen". :-)

I guess I didn't see his post as "telling on" a team.  I didn't read anything Scoble said that anyone working on those teams (or Billg) probably hasn't already heard or previously been stated by customers that included other Microsoft employees.  What I found amusing was that Scoble would say "Even I want an iPod" when it was only a little while ago he was touting the benefits of the Windows Media devices.  When he made that statement I remember stating that he was crazy and only an iPod would fit the bill. It's not like the iPod came out of nowhere, years past since the iPod launch and there hadn't been a WMA player in the same league.  As a stockholder it just made me sad, but my opinion has changed since then.

I recently had a chance to play with JP's Rio Carbon. I also compared it in Best Buy to the iPod Mini.  This thing kicks the Mini's butt right now with higher battery life, almost a gig more usable storage, a slimmer design that's easier to fit into your pocket, and better looks IMO. I personally think we could do more to help our partners market the best of our devices. 

I also just joined the "mobile revolution" and got one of those "Super Phones" from Audiovox.  Just so you understand the gravity of that commitment... this is the first cell phone I've owned in over 4 years (long story)!  I was convinced by Scoble and other employees freely sharing their "laundry" on the phone.  If you were looking for a (less than) 5gb media player and need a new cell phone I don't know why you wouldn't get one of these things with the 512/1Gb miniSD cards. My favorite part (until my memory card arrives) has been reading product reviews and comparisons on Epinions and Amazon while I'm actually in the store!

Hell, they sold two of the phones while I was in the store by just demoing the sweet web browsing, pictures, and Video playing on the device.  Owning this phone makes me wonder why we don't push it harder and offer customers a sweet deal on the memory add-on that lets you fully exploit this iPod Photo killer. Even my wife, Gretchen, walked into the store convinced all she wanted was a standard phone, spent a few minutes with the Audiovox and they will be selling us another one.  I fear we aren't doing enough to exploit this win and agree with James when he says we should put more focus on the Smartphone market.  We've already beat Apple+Motorola to the punch, lets hit a homerun by putting some marketing muscle behind it and get more phones like it out ASAP so more people can join the revolution.

Unfortunately, I still don't think our partners have anything to compete at the high end ( > 20 gigs) to the iPod for a music player and I'll be sticking with the Apple offering for the bulk of my music collection for a while. 

Now to get back on topic. Information sharing and open debates can include dirty laundry and still be a total net positive.  I'm know I'm not the only one that feels that way, but I've personally been reminded several times not to "air dirty laundry" on the C9 Devdiv site. Want my dirty laundry?  This makes sharing honest project status especially difficult. I can't think of a project I've been involved with ANYWHERE that didn't have it's share of dirty laundry on the way to release.

I've actually become convinced that we might not have any good status to share because no one knows how to truly convey the status of our progress against a project the size of Visual Studio. It's not bugs counts, but we do rely heavily on them internally right now.  It's not code flux, but we do track that as well. It's not test automation passing percentage because a feature could work great and have a non-100% automation passing status (negative test cases that will be punted, a test automation bug, unannounced UI changes, etc). Ultimately the true measure of our progress is currently a human determination made by people that try to take into account all the potential indicators and have a lot of tough calls to make.  Maybe every CTP should come out with a statement by the release team? 

Better to air the dirty laundry early so it doesn't smell so bad when your product releases. Your supporters can offer your customers some extra air fresheners when you release because they will understand the trade-offs you made and why.  Hell, your influencers might even be able to help you out before you release.

I guess my point is that honesty and dirty laundry isn't what makes products do poorly in the market. If you have a great product your honest transparency will be more clean than dirty laundry anyway.  If you don't have a great product then opacity isn't going to make your product do any better in the market after you fool your early adopters and they tell everyone the truth.