I’ve been a bit busy of late and have gotten behind on my blog reading. I recently downloaded a little program for my iPAQ called pRSSreader by David Andrs ( http://pda.jasnapaka.com/ ). This handy little program downloads all my feeds into my PDA so I can read them when I’m away from my desk, which is really nice.
So I’m lying in bed last night reading by the backlight of my iPAQ and catching up on my reading, and ran across an interesting article by Jeff Barnes (http://shrinkster.com/pra or http://jeffbarnes.net/portal/blogs/jeff_barnes/archive/2007/05/21/no-passion-in-the-ms-community.aspx ). Jeff is talking about an blog entry by Mary Jo Foley (http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=429 ) in which she basically says Microsoft lacks an empassioned community, unlike the Sun or Linux communities.
Jeff, and others like Wally McClure (http://shrinkster.com/prb ) and Robert McLaws (http://shrinkster.com/prc ) have done a good job of answering Mary Jo, pointing out the many passionate, active user communities. If I may be so bold, though, I have a slightly different take.
With apologies to John C Dvorak ( http://dvorak.org/blog and http://www.crankygeeks.com/ , geez I’m spreading a lot of link love today) I’m going to put on my “cranky old geek” hat for a few minutes. I remember the early days of Microsoft, back in the mid 80’s when they were still a small, young company. In those days, IBM was the “evil empire”, the Goliath to Microsoft’s David.
There were a lot of vocal, passionate groups at the time, who thought Microsoft could do no wrong. ( No, really, there were. ) In those days MS was primarily known for it’s DOS (Disk Operating System) and development tools. So when a large percentage of your customers are developers, it’s easy to get the perception that your customer base is nothing but hard core devotees.
We were too. We flocked to MS events to see the neat tools they were putting in the hands of developers. I recall how cool we all thought Quick Basic 4 was. We came to Microsoft, because of the tools they offered.
Fast forward to today, 2007. Microsoft is now a huge corporation, with a large selection of products. In contrast, development is now a much smaller part of its base. By far, most of the current customers are using things like Office, or some of the Office Backend products like Exhange or Sharepoint. Now I have to be honest, as cool as I think the new office is, even a MS developer geek like me has a hard time getting excited over a word processor.
In addition, there are a lot of DBAs, Server Admins, and the like who didn’t come to Microsoft. Instead they were old time admins using DB2 or Unix, and as MS made in-roads into these markets, these admins had to pick up the new skills in order to keep up (but not, perhaps, with a great deal of passion). For many of these type people, I think Mary Jo was accurate with her comment about dealing with MS software being ‘just a job’.
In addition, there are many programmers I’ve met who made the transition from some other language (like COBOL) as the mainframe platform they were working on became obsolete. These are folks who learned a Microsoft language just to keep up, or because their company made a change, not because they truly thought the Microsoft tools were the best thing on the market and that’s the direction they wanted to take their career. Again, for these people Microsoft tools were brought to them, not they to MS.
As much as I hate to admit it, Mary Jo is right, but only to an extent. There are people for whom using MS Products is “just job”. Some are system admins, some are DBAs, some are even programmers.
But look around, and you’ll see that old fashioned core of developers. Those same types of people who were there back in the early days. We’re still here today, going to code camps, user groups, and yes even blogging. And baby, we are just as passionate as ever!