MSN.GR Meetup

I have to say, if I got to name what I like to do most in my job at Microsoft then it is stuff like this. Yesterday we had a meetup at the Microsoft office in Athens to with Greek bloggers to talk about the upcoming release of MSN.GR. Typically we will talk a bit about what it is that we have been working on over the last few weeks and months to then open it up the a discussion about what people think about it, what they like, what they don’t like or what might be missing in their opinion etc.

MSN.GR

And I can hear you say ‘portals are dead’ and ‘why do we need another portal’ but I genuinely believe there is a place and an audience for sites like this, and I also believe that with this concept of the more ‘social portal’ that we try to build (where there is a deep integration between the MSN content and the Windows Live sharing and communication services) we have a product that differentiates from the competition as well.

Valia, Giorgos & Thodoris

Obviously the part that interests me most of all is the discussion piece after showing the product. I quite enjoyed the discussion and I think some valid points were raised, all making for a pretty engaging conversation.

If there’s one thing that I didn’t like about this then it is the fact that I took quite a bit more photos than I uploaded to the Flickr set, but let’s just say my already poor photographic skills seemed to have let me down a bit yesterday ;) Oh and yeah, both Stefanos and myself tried to arrange for a Tweetup later that night but we didn’t get to eventually. Nevertheless, great time in Athens, hope I can be back soon. Thanks all for joining us – to be continued.

The history of the internet

The team behind IE8 released this video last week to go with the launch of Internet Explorer 8, worth a look.

Bonus link – Lifehacker posted about the “surprising” search tools in IE8, making the web searching/surfing experience quite a bit easier.

Microsoft Advertising

Although most of my work is related to some of Microsoft’s biggest consumer brands such as Windows Live, MSN, etc I also do (more and more actually) work for Microsoft Advertising. What does Microsoft have to offer to advertisers? Many of you might remember “Bring The Love Back”, today we have created another little 90 seconds video that explains a bit more what it is we do at Microsoft Advertising, check it out:

I’ve also set up a Twitter account for Microsoft Advertising Europe, offering another way to get in touch with us so follow us in case you are interested in advertising and curious about what we have to offer.

Future vision

Microsoft’s Business Division president Stephen Elop unveiled the latest production from Microsoft Office Labs called “2019″ at the Wharton Business Technology Conference last week. Here’s a video of what our researchers think the future of business might look like:

futurevision

Full story and 5-minute long version of this video ‘i started something’.

TechFest ‘09

Microsoft Research is currently having it’s annual gathering in Redmond, showing the world some of the latest projects they’ve been working on – TechFest 2009.

“TechFest is an annual event that brings researchers from Microsoft Research’s labs around the world to Redmond to share their latest work with Microsoft product teams. Attendees experience some of the freshest, most innovative technologies emerging from Microsoft’s research efforts. The event provides a forum in which product teams and researchers can discuss the novel work occurring in the labs, thereby encouraging effective technology transfer into Microsoft products.”

Basically a lot of geekery, but worth watching. One of the projects that was shown yesterday which I found rather cool is panoramic video stitching software – Qik meets Photosynth as TechCrunch calls it (although it’s probably more Qik meets ICE* but anyway). Check out their video:

*ICE is short for Image Composite Editor, an advanced panoramic image stitcher which is also coming from Microsoft Research and worth a look on its own (free download).

The point cloud

This is so cool, it’s not the first time I’ve written about Photosynth but while I was playing with this new Silverlight viewer for Photosynth I got a little into this ‘point cloud’ views and again, must say that this really is awesome.

So I’m looking at this Photosynth (196 photos and 98% synthy – so a good one) and look at one of the photos in the collection:

synth1

We’ve all seen that right? ;) Then if we press ‘P’ we switch the viewer to this point cloud mode resulting in:

synth

And that – and this is the really cool part – will enable you to look at these objects from an angle that you actually don’t have photos of like this:

synth3

Yes Photosynth remains one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Go check it out for yourself.

Business card v.2

I still have to order new business cards after I changed jobs early October. I didn’t just want the corporate default though so instead I waited until this week to add some gapingvoid magic to it. The front of the card will still be the classic Microsoft design but on the back I will have this (see below) from now on. It sort of says the same as on the front but just in another language :) Can’t wait to get these printed.

hughcard_small

And in case you wonder where the ‘geek marketer’ comes from, read this.

It’s TIME to change

Yesterday at the SIME conference in Stockholm I was part of a keynote session around the topic: “It’s TIME to change”. The whole theme of SIME is based around change and the DNA of change and in case of our session they had someone from the Telecom, Internet (me), Media and Entertainment sector to talk about this (hence the ‘TIME’). I’ve uploaded my presentation to Slideshare but because it doesn’t really say much on the slides, I’ll outline my talk a bit.

We each had about 15 minutes to talk so I decided not to show videos or anything, but added a slide with a whole bunch of links at the end of the presentation for more info (and credits of course).

There were 2 big elements I wanted to talk about at SIME. I know not everyone thinks about Microsoft right away when thinking about change and innovation so first I wanted to talk a little bit about how I do believe we have changed what we do and how we do that over the last years. Second I wanted to talk about the elements that I think are part of this DNA of change, specifically for digital/online.

I had to start with the Blue Monster on this one (given the topic of change) as an introduction to a few examples of how we are trying to innovate in several areas: WorldWide Telescope, Live Maps 3D, Surface computing, Boku, Photosynth, Deepzoom as used for Hard Rock Memorabilia, SenseWeb, HIV vaccination research, … For Photosynth for instance, looking at Blaise’s talk at TED, it became clear this isn’t just a new way to stitch photo’s but that there are some ideas being researched on how this might change surfing the web in general. Pretty cool stuff, you have to see that video from TED if you haven’t done so already, seriously!

But just like JP replied to Hugh, the world wants Microsoft to change as well (slide 10) and also there I think there are fundamental changes going on the last few years. The latest Silverlight toolkit is open source. I don’t remember exactly where I read this but Microsoft submitted two licenses to the Open Source Initiative in 2004. Now there are 500 and there are at least 80,000 Open Source apps that run on Windows. Another change (slide 12) is a new focus on experience and not just features – or not just about what’s in the box, but also how you take it out of it and use it ;) Think about the Zune, Live Mesh, the new Windows Live, new Xbox Live Dashboard, Office 2007, Windows7, etc.

I often use the analogy of Microsoft being this huge ship on which a whole bunch of people are working hard to make it turn, but as happens with boats of that size it takes time before you see it happen. Therefore Robert Scoble’s quote after the Azure launch was even more interesting to see for me (slide 14).

sime
Photo by http://flickr.com/photos/mathys/

So okay, talk about change in general now. First of all I think it’s important to be aware of what is going on, referring to Patrick McDevitt’s (TeleAtlas) superb talk at Web2.0 in Berlin where he talked about ‘”Detecting change in a changing world” using both research as community input to do so. Check out his talk. This is not only true for maps though. As a business you need to find ways to understand which changes are relevant to you and which aren’t. Using both research and the wisdom of the crowd is valuable for all of us. Trust (slide 16) your consumers. In an age when consumers started to trust strangers, it’s all to bad seeing some companies don’t even trust their own customers.

Another element of change, which I find very important is hackability. Make things hackable (slide 18), give people pieces to copy, to re-create, … and they might change your product, service, marketing campaign, … into something you might not have imagined. In a way the initial IBM PC is a very good example of that. You could by a white label PC, change the parts of it, build your own – and make it look like pretty much anything if you want. Same for advertising – It’s not what advertising does to the consumer, it’s what the consumer does to advertising (sorry for not remembering who said this first).

But while you change, don’t forget to keep focus on the outcome, your end goal (slide 19). Dopplr for instance is extremely good at that, pretty much everything they add to the service, adds value to the service. Not sure if could say the same for Technorati or Bloglines. Focus more on the experience (slide 20), something we might have learned the hard way but it is more important than ever. Why would people care about unboxing if it wasn’t important.

Digital also enables much easier to engage and interact in realtime (slide 21) – thanks Ag8! Take advantage of that, find out in realtime what people think, how they use things, where they are, … whatever adds value for you and your customers. Change the way you talk to your customers, or better talk with your customers. Too bad I couldn’t show the Bring The Love Back video (slide 22), SIME was after all in a movie theatre.

Think about context (slide 23)! And how you have to change the content based on the channel you’re using (rather than for the medium that is used to deliver it). Tom and David at Ag8 are bringing a strong message that is linked to this around metamedia instead of crossmedia. Be sure to check that out as well.

Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine ;) (slide 25). Which aspects about the DNA of change in this digital world do you think I forgot, I’m interested to get your opinion about that. I tried to put in as much as possible within the 15 minutes I got but would love to discuss further.

A friend’s birthday

It seems to be quite appropriate that the 2nd anniversary of the Blue Monster coincides with Steve Clayton’s birthday as Steve has been crucial  in getting the Blue Monster where it is today. Hugh Macleod has a nice little write-up about the Blue Monster history, well worth reading. For me this story started at a similar time that I got to know both Hugh (we met for the first time at LeWeb 2 years ago) and Steve and that’s how I got affected by our little blue friend. It was good getting to know all three of them.

In his post Hugh refers to what David Armano had to say about the Blue Monster, something he wrote after he and I met at MIX08 in Vegas:

“What’s to be learned? Blue Monster shows us that no matter how big or small the company that the world is a bigger place. And external influences can become internal influences. And it teaches us that if we are interested in the evolution of corporate culture, that symbols are important. If we don’t find our own—someone will find them for us.”

bluemonster Even more, the Blue Monster became an example of how companies can embrace social media. It has become an example of how a company (or anybody for that matter) can benefit from letting go of control. Just read through Rohit Bhargava’s “Personality Not Included” for instance, or the more recent “Crowd Surfing” from David Brain.

Hell no, the Blue Monster is not dead – it’s alive and kicking, not only within the spirit of many Microsoft employees but also outsiders are starting to see change. And did you read Hugh’s 7th point? Well the Blue Monster is going to Paris… but more on that soon ;) For now, it’s just happy birthday.