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by MJM on December 21, 2007 03:49pm
When I introduce myself around here, I usually lead with the caveat: I am not technical. It’s true, I played around with BASIC as a kid, and, in high school, I tore apart a series of Apples in the generally vain attempt to understand how they worked. I even went to university to study electrical engineering and robotics. But I only made it two years in that because, when all was said and done, I simply wasn’t very good at the technical bits and bytes.
I grew up thinking I wanted to study artificial intelligence. Turns out, I was more interested in the “intelligence” than the “artificial.” Much to my parents’ chagrin, that realization led first to the study of philosophy and then to academia. Ultimately, I ended up in the law, where I spent the last 8 years.
About 10 months ago, I left my practice and joined Microsoft. Now, here I am on the Community Platform team at Microsoft, blogging on Port 25. If you are asking yourself why, I don’t blame you. I’ve asked myself that question more than once since I’ve been on board. :)
Most see open source as a technical phenomenon, and indeed it is one of the more important movements in software development of the last decade or so. However, it’s also a legal, sociological and, in many ways, a philosophical phenomenon. These latter aspects make “open source” a fascinating subject for someone with my background.
Bryan has blogged several times about the concept of “participation.” Participation – and the related ideas of access, inclusion and collaboration – are vital concerns in a world of rapidly increasing information and expanding access. When you also consider Bill’s recent blog about networks and “six-degrees of separation,” you can tell that participation and the community it engenders are constantly on our minds around here.
These concepts are fundamental aspects of open source and the focus of my job. As the open source research and policy lead, I examine how Microsoft can better understand and participate in the open source community and how, through its participation, Microsoft can create more opportunity for software developers and users around the world.
Thus, I’m pleased to announce a couple of our activities in 2008 that I hope will advance knowledge and understanding of how IT-based communities come into being and best grow and function.
The first of these is a paper award we will be sponsoring with International Network of Social Network Analysts (INSNA). This award will go to papers that focus on empirical studies of collaboration and collective development of software projects, including the development of open-source software. Related collective products like documentation, support, and design and studies that highlight important group processes and practices associated with robust software will also be considered. More information about INSNA can be found at www.insna.org. The site is undergoing a migration and revision, and the details of the paper awards will be posted in January when the new site goes live. The second activity is Microsoft’s sponsorship of the Computer and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association’s (CITASA) pre-conference and graduate workshop on July 31, 2008 in Boston. This event combines a pre-conference on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and "Worlds of Works," building on the theme of the 103rd annual meeting of the ASA, and a workshop for 20 selected graduate students researching any aspect of the sociology of communications or information technologies.
The program will include a keynote address by the winner of the "Microsoft CITASA Port 25 Award," a series of presentations on ICTs and the sociology of work, especially in distributed and virtual environments, and a series of select student presentations of work-in-progress (on diverse themes within the sociological study of communications and IT) to both a general audience and to a mentor panel of well known and established researchers in the field. For more information, visit http://citasa.ist.psu.edu/pre-conference. These activities are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Microsoft’s open source involvement. From contributing code to developing concepts, Microsoft is actively engaged in open source, and is getting more involved daily. I am delighted to spend my time thinking about new ways we can learn about and participate in the open source community. Working with this team and many other people across Microsoft to change (as Bryan puts it) the company’s open source “DNA” is a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next. I anticipate and welcome your feedback as we continue to move forward, together.
by Sam Ramji on December 19, 2007 11:03pm
First, let me say thanks to Jeremy Allison and Andrew Tridgell for their decades of hard work and their optimism.
Back in March, Jeremy invited me to talk about Samba and Microsoft, and how we could work together. It turned out that our first opportunity to meet was actually at the annual Samba developers’ conference, SambaXP in Gottingen, Germany in late April. I spent three days there listening to the Samba Team's reports on work they were doing, their observations relating to Microsoft protocols, and at breakfast with Tridge, Jeremy, and other team members we established a potential roadmap for collaboration. Frankly, I think my commitments were viewed with disbelief by some but with cautious optimism by Tridge and Jeremy – as well as by Dan Shearer and by John Terpstra, a man of vision and entrepreneurial spirit.
I worked with legal and engineering teams at Microsoft once I returned from Germany, and over a few weeks in May I got consensus that we could help the Samba Team by delivering on the roadmap. This included donating software licenses (MSDN Premium subscriptions) to the core team, building a test bed and beginning to share testing tools, preserving the UNIX extensions in CIFS to ensure that the work Jeremy and Steve French were doing would continue to be compatible with Microsoft implementations, accepting Samba Team’s observed bugs in Microsoft’s CIFS implementation and vice versa, providing some technical support on CIFS questions, and sending Microsoft engineers to the CIFS Conference @ Google in September 2007.
About the same time, Tom Hanrahan of IBM’s Linux Technology Center and the OSDL joined my team at Microsoft. His experience in working with Linux – and with Tridge – made it clear that we could sustain the work required to support the roadmap. Apart from his three decades of software engineering and management, one of Tom’s greatest assets is his combination of patience and perseverance; we knew it would take time and progress would be slow, but worthwhile. We’re still early in the process of doing joint testing and engineering with the Samba Team, and have many milestones to achieve (for example, shared test suites & frameworks). Thanks to Tom’s work with key engineers and managers in the company, we have already made progress and are committed to the long term.
Based on the dialog we’d established with Tridge and Jeremy, when the European Commission published the terms that would satisfy them in regards to Microsoft protocols, I saw an opportunity to continue aligning our work with the Samba Team. The terms were good, but the Samba team wanted Microsoft to make some changes to fully conform with the existing practices of the Samba developer community. Jeremy and Tridge saw the opportunity as well, and thus began a 6+ week process of improving and correcting the agreement to arrive at terms that both dramatically expanded their access to protocol information and enabled the Team to continue developing Samba as they have in the past. Attorneys and technologists (always an odd combination) on both sides worked hard to refine the language and do so in a clear and cooperative way. The discussions were masterfully led by Microsoft’s GM of Protocol Programs, Craig Shank (ex-Lineo!) and Samba’s Andrew Tridgell.
Today the Samba Team announced that they’re satisfied with the agreement, and are taking a Work Group Server Protocol Program (WSPP) trade secret and copyright license. This will give them access to Microsoft specifications for the protocols in WSPP (such as file, print, and user and group administrative services) and allow the Samba Team to create, use, and distribute implementations. I expect that this will significantly improve the process of Samba development, and produce better quality interoperation between Windows and Linux/UNIX environments.
What this process has shown me is that if we focus on technology, and patient, diligent execution, we can make real progress together.
This is a historic moment, and one that I’m proud of. But it is only a moment, and now it’s time to get back to working on interoperability, one day at a time.
by jcannon on December 19, 2007 08:49am
I spend a significant amount of my time crisscrossing Microsoft, looking for (and advocating) interesting ways that our research and development teams are adopting open approaches in their work. It’s not terribly difficult - and, in fact, increasingly easy to find areas where sharing code, participating in community and collaborating with the commercial open source industry are part of what we do every day. As part of my role as an open source community & platforms lead, growing this list is core to my job. And in blogging more actively on Port 25, I'm excited about discussing and expanding this list out in the open.
That said, once in awhile something different comes along...and in my crisscrossing this weekend, something different popped for me. As a former web developer, I have a special place in my heart for the developer tools we offer to build web experiences. I can recall using FrontPage '97 to develop simple WYSIWYG websites (*WYSIWYG, admittedly, was on a journey then...still is) and patching together Imagemaps with hand-calc'd coordinates; the joy of Photoshop and installing Kai's Power Tools for the visual fun of it, or the pain of Paint Shop Pro and transparent GIFs circa 1996. Dreamweaver was doing some interesting things and Visual Studio was starting to get more and more web-centric. Ahhh, the days of Web 1.0.
Additionally, as a former IS major, I also have a special place in my heart for development on a budget. Those dispositions keep me acutely aware of what goes on with our Express products - and it caught my eye when I started skimming across the refreshed Express site.
A lot of folks aren't aware that Microsoft offers a free-as-in-beer line of development tools for application, game & web development. We call these 'Express' - and there are four editions: Visual Web Developer 2008, Visual C++ 2008 Express, Visual Basic 2008 Express and Visual C# 2008 Express. There is even a free version of SQL Server 2005 in Express which provides complimentary database services during development. They've been available for a few years, but they were recently rev'd with enhancements from Visual Studio 2008. With my job at Microsoft focused on open source so acutely, I figured I would take them for a test drive & see how easy it would be to get started. The real test, though? How easy would it be to start using this app if I was a Ruby, or PHP developer (Truth be told - I am not, nor was I during my development days) – but these are different times and those are popular choices. It’s a quick litmus test I’m thinking of using more often…because I do get asked frequently about Microsoft’s support of programming languages and frameworks beyond .NET.
Setup is straightforward - download, run the wizard & choose additional (free) documentation and development options like SQL Express. Click Next & you're set on your way. Note: you do need Windows XP or later to run an Express tool.
After VS Express is installed, the welcome center offers multiple ways to get started via community sample code, beginning programming resources, guided videos and relevant articles from a variety of online communities.
So I tried a quick test. In two-clicks, I went to "Help" and "Search" - and typed in 'PHP'. Here are the automatic & dynamically returned search results:
I immediately get source code samples to begin programming (from MSDN); SQL Server samples for data access and more from the Codezone Community and direct links into community forum posts. Right away, these are pretty useful tools to get started with.
Ruby is a very popular language - so let's try this one more time with 'Ruby':
Again, that’s not bad for a quick and dirty search. I get relevant programming articles, opinion pieces, sample code and more. It’s all hyperlinked out into the web, so I can easily jump-off and explore at my own discretion, or as I’m inclined to do…lose myself in a trail of links, only to recall my original point hours later. (Case in point )
The point I walked away with, in all seriousness, is that the spirit of Port25 is spreading at Microsoft & the proof is in the programming. It's exciting to see these offerings baked in from day one & I encourage you to take one of the Express offerings for a spin & post your feedback - what are your impressions?
On Port 25, I'll continue to highlight examples like this, and expand on my role at Microsoft and how we're working on growing the role of open source within Microsoft's DNA. For now, though, I have to dust off my copy of Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability and wax nostalgic with some old friends.
by Bryan Kirschner on December 14, 2007 10:11am
My participation in technology was transformed by the Commodore 64. That's why I--like others here at Port25 and over at Slashdot--still love it after 25 years. Natales posts: "I can't emphasize enough how "mind shaping" was learning assembly language on the 6502..." Neither can I. I was 10, and needed to learn assembly to make a game I was writing run faster. I still remember there was a free 4k block of memory up at register C000 (49152) you could use to stick your assembly code in. "Participation" is a theme you've probably picked up on here at Port25. That's not just because most of us here share some sort of experience that enabled us to participate in technology in new and rewarding ways. It's also because it's an important element in enabling Microsoft and open source to "grow together." I am confident about Microsoft and open source growing together. With that said, it's a fair point to make that the best of open source is not-- yet! --established as a universal part of "Microsoft DNA." But a tradition of growing opportunities to participate in the opportunities offered by technology is. It's easy to forget today that providing free SDK's for developers was at one time a significant departure from common industry practice -- a business model innovation. Business and technical approaches that enabled third parties to develop on top of a "platform" are a part of Microsoft's heritage. The importance of growing the number of people able to participate in that ecosystem as creators or entrepreneurs is widely understood as simply smart business. Following Tim O'Reilly's insight, we think broadly about the "architecture of participation" as "systems that are designed for user contribution." One thing we do is work day by day to learn how open source concepts and approaches offer new or enhanced ways to grow participation. And then we work to understand what's already being done across Microsoft--and what could be done that's new or different. After a talking with folks here (Bill Hilf is an-ex C64 hacker and Sam Ramji got started on a PET) I realized that understanding the people and projects and perspectives of our open source community inside Microsoft isn't possible without more transparency about this idea of "participation." So this blog is an introduction for further blogs--and some new bloggers--on the ways in which we're working on and thinking about growing participation now and in the future, whether by effecting change at Microsoft, sharing information more broadly about opportunities that already exist, or working with leaders in the technical and academic communities on new ideas. (And if the Commodore 64 changed your life too, by all means chime in--or share what other technology made a big difference for you!)
by billhilf on December 14, 2007 06:00pm
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to blog. It is usually on airplane time that I do any blogging, and since I haven’t flown in a while, I guess that will be my excuse. I’m on my way to Asia, currently over eastern Russian airspace, which means I’m hours from anywhere, so I’ve opened my ‘blog ideas’ folder and there is literally a books worth of stuff in here so I’m going to cherry pick a few ideas that I think are worth connecting.
Over the past year, I’ve had this ‘six degrees of separation’ phenomenon stuck in my head (I think this idea originated in Milgram’s ‘small world experiments’). You’ve all heard about the ‘Six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game, and it’s always fun to mind bend weird connections with movie trivia buffs. There’s a web site that does this now with IMDB data called the Oracle of Bacon. It’s been on my mind because of personal ‘degree connections’ in my personal and professional life – meeting a stranger at a wedding in California who sings in the choir with my cousin in a small town in Massachusetts; interviewing a guy for a job at Microsoft who, by random coincidence, had worked on some of my (horrid) code ten years ago and remembered my name from a joke I left in the comments above one particularly nasty function. The latter example only ‘clicked’ for this interview candidate after I told them *the same joke* in the interview: “I actually read that joke before in some old crap C code.” I told him that was my code. He blinked. We had about 30 seconds of weird vibe right after that.
We hear it again and again: ‘It’s a small world.’ – But when a series of these connections happen, you start to wonder and do some probability math*. I’ll save my own experiments for later, but it did get me thinking on how communities grow, shrink, expand, contract and (sometimes inexplicably) persist. It’s the latter part that I’ve been focusing on a lot: what keeps the degrees connected and why are some communities stickier than others?
I think a simple answer is enough ‘matter’ to create a gravity that keeps activity in some type of steady orbit. If there’s enough matter and gravity, not only does the community start to find critical mass to persist, it also creates the environment for further creation - in other words, hacking and incrementing the original theme. This is fundamental to the Architecture of Participation, as well.
If you can suspend disbelief just enough to agree that this ‘six degrees’ concept does happen on certain occasions, and that it can be intentionally fostered (ala MySpace, Facebook, etc.) - then I think that also suggests that one can create an environment designed for powerful connections and collaboration. It’s certainly not the only way to innovate ideas, but it is a proven method realized through online connectivity to other people.
Here’s an example. I play World of Warcraft (WoW), which is a massively multiplayer online role playing game; a sizeable community of about 8.5 million players. To say that it’s a popular video game is an understatement. In fact, ‘world of warcraft’ outpaces ‘open source’ in raw search volume if that’s any indicator ;) (see below)
world of warcraft
As it turns out, a bunch of other Microsoft employees play this game too. And we communicate about the game on an internal email alias. Some play on the same servers together, but most of the discussion is idea sharing, questions on items or skills, or general chat about the next patch. It’s a good list. Not surprisingly, a lot of these people are developers or testers or marketers or IT folks - so you get a range of experience outside of the game subjects, with a blending and morphing of ideas about the subject (the game) influenced and shaped by their domain of experience.
As you can imagine, I add little value here other than waxing about my mad skills as a warlock. But a few guys in the Visual Studio team wanted to use their product to make writing World of Warcraft Add-ons a lot easier (essentially, personally created UI extensions that can enhance the game experience). So they did and created a very cool Visual Studio shell for WoW. AddOn Studio for World of Warcraft is a free tool designed to bring a Visual Studio-like experience to building World of Warcraft Addons. The tool itself is based on the Visual Studio Shell, and it’s now an open source project hosted on CodePlex – licensed under the Microsoft Public License. It will make writing Add-ons for WoW significantly easier (and likely more enjoyable). Some key features include:
Here’s a bit on news about it and below is what it looks like
How is this related? It shows how ‘matter’ (in this case a game) created gravity (a gaming community) inside another community (Microsoft employees). As it turned out, there were some WoW players who develop Add-ons who were part of this community*. Some of these folks were in the Visual Studio group and wanted to use Visual Studio to enhance the add-on development experience. So they did. Then they shared this on the email list, for ideas and suggestions (the bug bash happened this last weekend). This ‘chain lightning’ effect will now continue through the broader OSS community. And this is for a video game -- think about the same framework for healthcare, where a community of machine learning experts working on anti-spam related algorithms saw the connection to HIV vaccine research and similarly are creating ‘matter’ with a community (codeplex) in an effort to continue the innovation. Hacking anti-spam algorithms for vaccine research and sowing it in a broader community.
Mark Granovetter's observed that it is "the strength of weak ties" that holds together a social network – and if this is true (which has been demonstrated in network modeling), then the combination of structured, formal communities with ad-hoc or weakly connected communities can be amazingly powerful. We often focus on one or the other (particularly in technical community discussions) and not the intersection, which is where I feel the magic can be created.
It’s particularly interesting to view this beyond the individual, to do this with a team, an organization, or an entire company. Not simply obvious ‘partnerships’ mind you, these are fairly formulaic (important, but well understood), but the intersection of non-obvious connections. In my experience, this is the real magic of community and open source, and I can think of many projects that evolved this way. However, it’s the right community that makes the difference – we often get locked up on other things and forget that the right people and the right forum make all the difference.
>>Picking up this blog again and I am returning from Asia, I sit down to settle in for a long haul flight, turn to my left and meet the stranger seated next to me – turns out he knows my wife’s cousin’s husband, they were childhood friends. I blink. Then (as a test) I tell him the joke I mentioned above – thankfully he’d never heard it before.
Until next time, game on.
* Kleinfield has an interesting paper that questions the ‘six degrees’/small world theories here. I love her term ‘intellectual furniture’
* Some of these folks have written more than 7 or 8 add-ons in their personal time, and there’s a load of other projects on Codeplex, from all sorts of people, which further mod, extend, and enhance playing WoW .
by jcannon on December 11, 2007 04:22pm
Abstract: This paper is written for a somewhat technical audience and covers how the identity management expectations differ between the Windows Server platform and Linux - and how Windows Server can be used to manage both. This paper assume that the reader is familiar with general Windows administration tasks, such as user management.
Note: This paper represents testing and documentation in a lab environment. User Account Control (UAC) is an essential security component to Windows and Microsoft does not recommend turning off UAC in production environments.
by Bryan Kirschner on December 04, 2007 08:10pm
There’s been a flurry of articles and blogs about Microsoft’s open source strategy lately, spurred in part by an interview with Bill Hilf (Zachary Rodriques Connolly …and a comment from davidmeyer on my previous post).
Collectively they make me think of a bunch of things to blog about—today I’m going to start with something that struck me about davidmeyer’s comment (--out of unabashed favoritism for Port25 ).
The nub of the matter is that by many measures, Microsoft and open source are both growing. But what is the nature of the relationship..is there a relationship? Are they growing: coincidentally, ships passing in the night in the same general direction? Complementarily, in a mutually reinforcing way? Or despite one another? My impression from reading davidmeyer’s comment (as well as others by other people I respect ) is that statements in the press loom a lot larger in the minds of other folks than in mine as indicators or causes—or both—of the nature of that relationship. What I mean is that once you believe open source and Microsoft are established parts of the IT landscape, talk really becomes the “tail wagging the dog.”
Let me use a little thought experiment to share where I’m coming from: consider the relationship between Microsoft and Oracle. Both companies are, I think, universally regarded as established parts of the IT landscape. As such, both companies devote a lot of effort to direct, head-to-head competition--we can take some type of sustained competitive activity, now and in the future, for granted.
At the same time, both companies devote substantial effort to complementary efforts (Here’s all kinds of stuff at the Oracle .NET developer center – community discussion, technical resources, marketing collateral…and this is one of three including Office and Windows sites). So there’s clearly more than one dimension to the relationship.
So if somebody asked me “what about the complementary relationship between Microsoft and Oracle?” --what would I think about as indicators? I’d look at the technology—like application availability, compatibility, interoperability, and performance.
I’d consider the people and the ecosystem—developers and ISVs.
And I’d want to understand the efforts underway to work together and find joint opportunities, tune and optimize, and innovate.
Probably one of the last things I’d consider as an indicator is what’s happening in the press. And the concept that (for example) whether Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer had anything nice to say about one another to journalists wouldn’t be something I’d spend much time thinking about at all. This is not to discount the impact of “talk”, and not to discount the reality that what folks read in the media can help make them more excited and confident—or suspicious and discouraged. And Oracle and Microsoft—two discreet companies--are not a directly applicable comparison to considering Microsoft and open source in general. But Port25 principle #3--No comment goes unread & every idea (common sense required) is openly discussed— really jumped out at me as I was reading the items linked above (no, I don’t have the principles memorized--they are printed out and hanging immediately to the left of my monitor…); thus, today’s post.
(And yes, I don’t think it’s even a close call that the indicators I consider important favor an excited and confident view of the relationship between Microsoft and open source—but that’s something I’ll pick up on another blog.)