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June 16, 2006


As I discussed in one of my first posts, Microsoft uses personas to help with product design decisions. Personas are pretend customers with names, bios, backgrounds, etc. that we invent so we can think about a real person using our software.

Personas also come with a picture, which I assume have been from stock images. I assume this because I saw an article (in The New Yorker or The Atlantic Monthly or some other blue-blood magazine I read) talking about some questionnaire given to people, and one of the questions was four pictures with the question "Which of these people has a genuine smile", and lo and behold one of the pictures was the one we use for our sad-sack IT Generalist persona.

On an unrelated note, Microsoft maintains an official list of Fictitious People Names that we can use in our products. For example, you want to write documentation for SQL Server and you need a list of names for a sample database; you take the names from the official list. The list is actually Microsoft employees who have given permission to use their name this way. I'm on the list, which is why I one day got off an airplane at Sea-Tac and discovered my name on a giant Windows Mobile billboard, much to the amusement of my children.

Meanwhile, on yet another heretofore unrelated note (unrelated, that is, until I artfully stitch them all together in the next paragraph), years ago during my first tenure at Microsoft I had an official picture taken at MS Studios. These are the ones that they take for official VP biographies and such. I'd like to say that the occasion was my impending ascension to the executive ranks, but actually I was playing hockey on the Microsoft Windows team, back when the team was bad enough that I could play on it, and Brian Valentine (or someone who worked for him) arranged to have everyone get official pictures taken for the programme.

So this picture is lurking around in the MS Studios database, and yesterday I received email saying that a team working on personas for a particular group at Microsoft wanted to use my picture for one of their personas. I won't reveal which team or which persona, but I have to say it was actually a pretty good match for me, or at least me a while ago. This is unrelated to my name being in the official Fictitious list, but it's another strange perk of working here. I will now go into the Persona Protection Program and get a new name and PII data, but it will still be my smiling mug up there when people are saying "So how does Joe Schmoladoo want to use our product?"

Posted by AdamBa at June 16, 2006 02:02 PM

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Actually for Toby and Abby (two of the Windows personas), it's my understanding that they're actually a mom and son who live in Kirkland.

Posted by: Larry Osterman at June 16, 2006 07:56 PM

All your faces are belong to us.

Posted by: Ivan at June 17, 2006 02:20 PM

Would you, from time to time, clean the spam from your forum. I had avoided posting replies on some obsolate blog entries after they've been spam infested. There must be some way to see all recent comment, no matter where they are.
(please, delete this comment)

Posted by: Ivan at June 17, 2006 03:11 PM

I do try to keep the comment spam down, but occasionally I'll get blasted with a bunch before I can kill them. I wind up closing off post to new comments fairly soon after I put them up, so it's possible you wouldn't have been able to comment on an old entry anyway.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at June 18, 2006 09:21 PM

So how about a picture? I know what Larry, Raymond, and of couse what Scoble looks like, but I've never seen a picture of you. I read your first book, and I donated it to the local library, but alas, it never showed up in the card catalog.

Posted by: Brian at June 19, 2006 08:18 PM

Brian, if you search for "Adam Barr" Redmond on Google you'll see a picture of me. Not a great picture, but it is me.

No, MSN Search doesn't find it.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at June 20, 2006 02:02 PM