search champs meeting thoughts

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So, I already mentioned my main problem with this meeting over on misbehaving. And David Weinberger's posted some good observations about the meeting today. But there are some other things that I'm noticing today.

One is that there are a couple of people here who are dominating this discussion, and being heard over them is a challenge. That's discouraging. Free-for-alls aren't necessarily the most effective way to get a variety of opinions, particularl when some of the voices are convinced that they have the only right answers in the room.

Another is that I hate sitting at a table watching people talk for hours and hours at a time. Why aren't they doing some breakout groups, so that they can isolate some of the voices, get people to talk about things that they care about and/or are knowledgable about? I'm not the right person to ask about things that are Windows-specific--but I know a lot about information-seeking behavior. Put me in a small group with the people developing the web interface aspects I'm interested in, and let the windows geeks talk about platform-specific issues.

It's also quite clear that a room full of blogger geeks is not a good cross-section of the web-using world. Things that power users care about--from tabbed browsing to ubiquitous RSS feeds--aren't necessarily important to the rest of the world. My kids need a good search engine...they don't care (yet) about RSS feeds, and probably won't for quite some time. My freshmen students (in IT and CS) don't use aggregators. Maybe it's true that the rest of the world will follow the geeks, but maybe it's not.

3 TrackBacks

There are about 35 white folks here, half from the US and half from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and one from S. Africa. We're here to provide "feedback" to Microsoft's search development efforts. We are also obviously here to help us feel good abo... Read More

Microsoft's "Search Champs" Team has 30 members - only one of which is female. More at: i feel very alone, mamamusings: search champs meeting thoughts, Joho the Blog: Microsoft Search Champs - morning, Danny Ayers, Raw Blog, Microsoft'... Read More

Microsoft's new Search Champs team has met, and now their blogs are reflecting comments. Microsoft Search Champs - morning from David Weinberger gives some names and some self-characterized breakdowns, like that there are three "search manipulator... Read More


I firmly believe that:

(a) most bloggers aren't geeks,

(b) bloggers are the vanguard of web users.


Liz, have you visited Microsoft before? I'm truly not trying to condescend here; I'm curious.

Because back in the day when Microsoft was courting me (yeah, yeah, five years ago, hush), it was made *crystal, crystal clear* that the Microsoft mode of interaction was loud personal challenge. "In your face." Things just weren't done any other way, and if you were going to get anywhere at Microsoft, that was how you had to be too.

The one time I visited the place, those expectations were borne out in spectacular style. Not that anyone was rude to a guest speaker -- but they didn't softpedal anything, either.

So welcome to Microsoft, I guess. Or something.

No, I haven't been to Redmond before--although I was at the MS-sponsored social software gathering in the spring (it was at the Columbia winery, not on campus).

I don't think the style at today's meeting was a MS culture thing, though. They let the participants set the tone, and mostly watched. The informal feedback I got after the fact was that while they valued the input that came from the most vocal among us, they also wanted to find a way to get other voices heard...tomorrow's format will be a little different from today's.

Overall, my impression of the MS folks has been overwhelmingly positive. I find myself wondering how people who seem so bright and interesting and well-intentioned keep coming up with products that don't reflect their apparent core values. :/

Isn't that weird? I used to wonder that too. I have a theory or two, but they don't belong in your comments, so...

>dominating this discussion

Tell Boser I said shut up and listen for a change, hhh!

[1] I've been to several development events in Redmond over the years, and I have not seen the atmosphere Ms. Salo describes. (At least no more so than any other large gathering of techies usually has.)

[2] Alex Halavais wrote:
> most bloggers aren't geeks

In general, I would agree with that assessment.
Most of the geeks I respect are far too busy to spend time caring and feeding for blogs. With all due respect to Liz and no slight intended to those hanging / writing here, my personal feeling is the vast majority of bloggers are egotistic windbags who don't have nearly as much to say as they have an abundance of verbage with which to say it.

[2] Alex Halavais also wrote:
> bloggers are the vanguard of web users

Maybe I'm just showing my age, but I can remember when the Linux / open source people wanted to make this claim. Before them it was the people working on the World Wide Web (apologies Sir Tim). Before them it was folks who were sure Gopher was going to change our world. Thirty years ago it was people who were working on a brand new language, PL/1. At some point, all technologies lose their glamour and they either become mundane parts of our lives we take for granted... or forgotten relics of our past.

What I have found annoying about all these people (and their "chosen" technologies) is the complete disregard for the criticisms others may have of the technology in question. (Well, I don't really care about the fact 90% of my organization's users can't do anything productive with their computer if we put Linux on it. The point is... we won't have to license Microsoft Windows anymore. Don't you get it?)

I believe the correct application of technology involves a) determining what problem you want to solve, b) surveying available technologies and their implementation and management costs, and then c) designing a system with those pieces of technology will solve the stated problem with the least amount of time and money being expended. I know... I know... that's hopelessly outdated thinking. We should really all buy new stuff right now, sight unseen. Even if it is obsolete next week, it is good for the economy now... and the importance of solving problems is really overstated.

Craig: Just a couple notes.

The claim I am making is that blogs represent a model for what the web may look like in a year or two: continually updated, driven by lightweight CMS systems, providing (relatively) rich metadata and semantic data. My suggestion was badly phrased: blogs represent an early look at what will be widely accepted on the web at large.

As for bloggers, it's really hard to generalize: they are all people who think that their ideas have value (viz windbags), but they now come from a fairly wide range of backgrounds. A large number of them actually are geeks; my argument was that they make up a small percentage of the 3 million blogs out there.

Among those geeky bloggers are those of us who thought Gopher was going to change the world, as would open source and the web. And we were right. (PL/1 maybe not so much.) You would have to be pretty chronocentric not to recognize the impact these technologies have had on the development of ICT.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 4, 2004 6:07 PM.

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