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by MichaelF on September 20, 2006 03:23pm
I’ve seen a lot of speculation on the rationale (some call it strategy) for why I invited the Mozilla developers up to Redmond. I thought I’d lay out my thinking so you can decide for yourself.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the press coverage of the invitation. The articles I read varied from hopeful to suspicious – as it typically is for the work I do (collaboration between open source and Microsoft continues to surprise people). Most misread my opening joke as paranoia rather than humor, which struck me as funny. On the other hand, bloggers seemed to mostly get it right and see that my invitation was authentic and represents a real shift to do the right thing for open source projects. And they got my joke ;)
Most importantly, Mike Schroepfer and Mike Beltzner got it, and accepted. I am grateful to both of them for being open to real collaboration. Mike & Mike – thank you.
As to the why of it
Part of my personal mission is advocacy for open source applications on Windows. I posted a long time ago that dividing the world into open source and closed source doesn't make much sense. Software is software.
Software companies (or ISVs, as they are known inside Microsoft) that run on Windows have a broad set of resources available to them - from technology enablement to special licensing programs to business development and sales assistance. Currently these programs are built to deal with software companies.
Open source projects - with some exceptions - are not run by companies, but by people (maintainers and committers), often without a legal entity and usually not interested in building a business. Microsoft partner programs simply have never been set up to handle this kind of organization. This is not surprising when you consider that as a commercial, for-profit company, Microsoft is already well designed to work with similar entities that have a shared goal of driving revenue.
All developers should be able to build applications that are able to run on Windows, regardless of licensing models. Different styles of development call for different kinds of support. As Port 25 readers are aware, Microsoft is working with JBoss and SugarCRM to help them deliver versions of their products on Windows, and these won't be the last commercial open source companies we work with. We’re also working with XenSource to enable excellent virtualization of Linux on Windows – again, independent of the licensing model, I want to see technology work well.
In a way, I'm trying something new by inviting the Mozilla folks (both Firefox and Thunderbird) to Redmond. I’ve gotten a number of emails from inside Microsoft – teams who want to meet up directly with Firefox developers to show them cool features and brainstorm together. I expect not only to help Mozilla, but to learn how we need to change to support this style of development team.
Mike Beltzner pointed out that we have an opportunity to provide better support to open source projects in general – a jump start on Vista that includes docs, sample code, testing tools, integration points and what is changing. In response, we pulled together the first cut at a site to bring this info together. This will evolve over time as we learn what’s needed by the community.
From here, the lab will be expanding our work in this area – both by creating new resources for open source developers, and by growing my team to support more direct work with Open Source Software projects.
It’s going to be long ride and I’m here to see it through.
by MichaelF on September 28, 2006 06:31pm
In my last blog I started talking about the power of analogy and metaphor, and dove into a discussion of the first analogy of my collection, asking what if the practice of law, rather than being like a domain suffering the consequences of a “failure of openness,” was more like an example of a domain with a great deal of openness. I promised to offer some ideas for analogies that helped make sense of the situation in my next blog.
I was subsequently intrigued by where some of the comments to the post (unexpectedly) led me; thus, I postpone those (original) ideas in order to share some of where those comments led me on the path toward new ones. In this post, I will address the first of two substantive issues: the analogy made by CDarklock between the legal profession and open source software development (--in his view, to the disadvantage of OSSD).
Comparing “do-it-yourself lawyering” with “do-it-yourself usability,” he implies a lack of sensitivity among developers to the risks of the latter relative to the legal profession’s diligence with respect to the former.
Surely enough, when pointed to Groklaw by stats for all, front and center is a warning of the risks of the former:
IANAL. I am a journalist with a paralegal background, so if you have a legal problem and want advice, please hire an attorney.
This prompted me to think about some quick phenomenological test to determine if similar evidence for this type of distinction made by journalists commenting on law (Groklaw) might in fact be recognized with equal alacrity by open source developers commenting on usability: in fact, in defense of OSS developers, there are indeed cases of IANAUE (“I Am Not A Usability Engineer”)—although AFAIK it has not made Wikipedia yet, in contrast to variants of the apparently fecund IANAL which has spawned IANYL, TINLA, and IAAL. (WTF?)
At this point you’re probably wondering why I was so engaged on this topic—the first reason is that, IMHO, challenges with consistent and effective usability practices are endemic and impactful. (I will never forget my introduction to the usability disipline: I was helping usability engineers build a stochastic model on top of their user observational testing of a web experience which (thankfully) has since been improved. The model was pretty cool as a quantification of how much customer time and effort things like ambiguous terms and redundant links actually wasted—but nothing seared the importance of usability into my brain like watching a test subject (a middle-aged, tech-savvy woman with, as I recall, a PhD—kind of hard to blame the user) actually start to cry in frustration as she tried to complete a task.)
The second reason is that I had never considered the possibility of an analogy between “ legal self-representation” and “developer self-usability” as conceptually similar problems to be solved. This analogy offers a different (and interesting) way to think about why it occurs and what to do about it in OSSD, in contrast to traditional corporate development where the origins of usability challenges nor their resolution seem to me to be fairly straightforward: does a company (or development group) recognize the value of good practices, resource for it, make it a priority, test against user interaction metrics etc.
In fact that there is a paper (Nichols & Twidale, online at First Monday) which provides a comprehensive assessment of usability in OSSD, with suggestions for remediation that come awfully close to echoing ideas for what folks in the legal profession would call increasing access to justice (--like academic volunteerism and corporate involvement).
It’s an interesting line of thinking both because it is just in time for CSCW 2006 (Computer Supported Cooperative Work—anybody going?) and because folks in the OSS community (just like in the legal community) are doing some “out of the box thinking.” I’ve been trading mails with a PhD candidate at Penn State who has outlined a very thoughtful research agenda on OSS and Usability—I’m pleased to say we’ll be bringing her to Port25 for an interview near the end of October.
With that said, the next point release on our path to part 2 will address an issue raised by ssjdrn who surfaces (in my words) a tension between two principles I have always taken for granted: efficient signaling and disciplinary control through normalization that is keeping me up at night (literally—when Spence and Foucault, respectively, aren’t jibing for me, I can’t sleep. You can ask my wife.)
And yes, it all does come back to an even richer –than-anticipated analogy between law and open around making successful software.
by MichaelF on September 29, 2006 07:01pm
Sam and Hank spend some time with Iain McDonald and Andrew Mason. In this interview they discuss Windows Server Core a command line controlled installation of Windows Server intended to simplify management and minimize the server installation for the four key server roles: AD, DHCP, DNS and File Server as well as others.. They discuss the architecture, why it was developed, comparisons with Linux and even show us the interface. They also spend some time drawing on windows while hanging out in a stairwell...