Larry O’Brien serves up three hardball questions

It is both sobering and gratifying to see folks asking the same questions about my upcoming gig that I’ve been asking myself. Larry O’Brien serves up three hardballs:

1. To what extent will the inherent imperative to advocate MS technologies stifle him?

Note that there is also a weird corollary: What about the MS technologies that I’m deeply fond of? In the past, nobody (well, hardly anybody) would question my motives if I got fired up about Monad or LINQ or IronPython. Now that’s bound to happen.

In any case, the only way this will work is if I explore and advocate things I believe in. So that’s what I plan to do. Some of those things will exist within the MS portfolio, some outside. Identifying value wherever it exists, and finding useful ways to extract and recombine it, is what I do. I hope I can continue to do that effectively as an MS employee but, of course, we’ll all just have to wait and see.

2. Will he be reduced to just a conduit of information (Microsoft’s new A-list blogger) or will he continue to contribute new creations?

Hand-on tinkering is critical to my method. I have in mind a long-running project that will enable me to try out lots of interesting things, while creating something useful in the process. I don’t want to say more until I’ve laid some foundations, but yes, I do plan to keep on contributing in the modest ways that I always have.

3. Will direct knowledge of unannounced initiatives keep him quiet on the very subjects on which he’s passionate?

Part of this career change goes beyond switching employers. The disconnect between the geek world and the civilian world has really been bugging me lately. Leading edge aside, there’s so much potential at the trailing edge that languishes because nobody helps people connect the dots. On the desktop, on the web, and everywhere else touched by computers and networks, people are running on 2 cylinders. And when we upgrade their computers and operating systems, that doesn’t tend to change.

I really, really want to show a lot of people how to use more of what they’ve got. Smarter methods of communication. More powerful data analysis and visualization. Surprisingly simple kinds of integration. These are my passions, and as Larry points out, they tend to involve fairly simple and accessible tools and techniques. In theory, to pursue this part of my mission, I don’t need to know about every secret project in the pipeline. Whether it’ll actually work out that way in practice, I dunno.

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6 thoughts on “Larry O’Brien serves up three hardball questions

  1. “I don’t want to say more until I’ve laid some foundations” Would that be WUF – the Windows Udell Foundation? ;)

  2. Having read this and your last four posts, I have to say there’s a striking theme. It almost hurts to read, but I wonder—by airing your and others’ concerns so quickly and publicly—if you’re actually processing how deep a concern people in technology have for Microsoft, the company—past, current, and future. Voluntarily choosing to work for Microsoft suggests an implicit endorsement of their history and tactics.

  3. “past, current, and future”

    The past is past. The current situation is evolving. The future I hope to influence in whatever ways I can.

  4. jon’s wonderings and curiosity are a treasure. i was somewhat surprised that he moved to microsoft, but i relish reading his ideas regardless of where he works. he’s a born explainer. i’m sure i could get continuing education credits somewhere just by reading his blog.

    and curiosity is one of those things that are contagious.

  5. It has pedagogical purpose to enable students to think critically about the issue of evaluation and rubrics, and therefore to think critically about their own submissions. ,

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