« Microsoft Charity Auction | Main | Wikipedia, Mini-Microsoft, Etc. »

October 13, 2006

Co-Opting Mini?

At the Microsoft Company Meeting last month, Lisa Brummel announced that she was going to start an internal blog (as I recall it will be called "Inside MS", but I could be wrong). It would be the blog that she would read and comment on, and it would allow anonymous comments. She explained that the goal was to take the discussion that currently takes place on Mini-Microsoft, and move it inside Microsoft so outsiders can't see it (she didn't explain it in quite those words, but that was the subtext of what she actually said).

This is interesting, but I'm not expecting to be too interested in this blog. This is not to knock Lisa for doing it; in fact part of the reason I'm not that curious about it is because Lisa is so open internally--doing interviews, town halls, answering email, etc.--that I already know a lot about her plans. Or at least, I know a lot about what she says on certain issues, and I don't expect she will be dramatically more open on her blog. For example, one question where I would be interested in her true feelings would be, "If tomorrow you found out the identify of Mini-Microsoft, would you want to fire him?" I'm sure she has a personal opinion, but the answer she would give would be something like, "Any termination of an employee has to be handled on a case-by-case basis, and in any case it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a specific individual ahead of time." Which is the answer she should be giving, but it doesn't mean I need to hear that answer.

But there are two main reasons why I don't think her blog will be that interesting as a discussion forum:

  1. Although executives may think of Mini-Microsoft as a place where Microsoft employees go to post their review scores, it is actually a serious discussion of the company. This discussion obviously includes current employees, but former and prospective employees also play a valuable part. And so do customers and other people with an opinion. Inside of Microsoft, you would only have the current employees, and the conversation would be much poorer for that fact (as a minor note, there would also be the question of whether people really trusted the anonymity, although I would).
  2. Mini-Microsoft has turned into a community. Meaning that every post gets at least 100 comments, and it's the first place many employees AND outsiders go to discuss happenings at Microsoft. Furthermore it's a well-performing community--look how quickly the "every employee at level X for time Y got review score Z" rumor got shot down. Would the internal Microsoft part of this community move over to a different blog? Probably not, just because...well, because it's hard to move communities. Robert Scoble discussed this Microsoft nearsightedness in a post about Google's acquisition of YouTube. He quotes Steve Ballmer asking if YouTube's technology is really worth $1.6 billion. As Scoble points out, this misses the point. He comments that you could probably reproduce YouTube's technology for one hundred million dollars. Heck, you could probably reproduce YouTube's technology for one hundred thousand dollars. But you couldn't reproduce the community for one hundred thousand dollars, or even possibly for one hundred million dollars. So Microsoft can certainly put up an internal blog for Lisa Brummel, and even guarantee anonymity. That doesn't mean that the Mini-Microsoft community will move over there.

Posted by AdamBa at October 13, 2006 11:00 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


How about the fact that the internal blog will not be anonymous? I honestly don't know how its been touted (sorry, I was already distracted by then at the company meeting so I missed that bit) but even if they say that its anonymous (which I doubt), your anonymity on an internal blog cannot be guaranteed. So how do you think thats going to affect the nature of postings?
I remember minimsft saying that he/she was going to take a break for a while from posting - only to return with even more frequent posts, that too not very relevant topics imo. And maybe its just me, but some of the comments are starting to sound like a broken record. At one time, where there used to be quite fascinating, thought-provoking insights that obviously came from someone on the "other" side...Maybe thats just me though. Your thoughts?

Posted by: anonymouse at October 15, 2006 06:22 PM

The internal blog might build a different community. I really don't like to comment at MiniMSFT because I don't want to be critical of the company in public. I really could care less about my comments being anonymous on an internal blog. In fact I would rather attach my name to my comments. Perhaps it's because by Microsoft standards I am old. I think that people with 20 years of experience are mostly kids with a lot to learn.
If I get fired for speaking my mind privately then to me I am being told that management is made up of idiots and I'll be better off someplace else.

Posted by: Alfred Thompson at October 15, 2006 06:45 PM

AM: I still think Mini is interesting. Sure there is trash but if you sift through the comments for that one new fact you didn't know, it gives you a better perspective on Microsoft (even allowing for the fact that comments may not be truthful, but I subscibe to the theory that very few people have the inclination and ability to make something up that sounds legitimate). As for the anonymity, I would be very surprised if Lisa promised anonymity and then went back on her word. It would destroy any trust she had with the audience she is courting. I would assume the site would violate anonymity only under the conditions that an HR generalist would break confidentiality (people reporting sexual harrassment, illegal behavior, etc).

Alfred: It MIGHT form a community, but it would be unlikely. There are only so many places that people will bother reading and commenting, and they have to feel they are getting something back for their contributions. Even Steven Sinofsky's blog, which is very interesting and I wish every employee would read, doesn't have a lot of comments on it. And I don't expect that such a community would be very interesting to me. I may be wrong, of course.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at October 15, 2006 09:31 PM