This is Not Your Father’s Microsoft

Most people reporting about Build missed the big story from Microsoft. It was a classic example of not seeing the forest because of concentrating on the trees. There has been a gigantic change at Microsoft. And one that I think will work very well for them. Steve Ballmer could well prove all his nay-sayers wrong.

  1. In every talk where any browser could be used, the browser usually shown was Chrome. Even two years ago that could have gotten an employee fired and now it was purposely used in talk after talk. In one talk they were showing how the VS 2013 debugger worked with three browsers simultaneously – IE, Chrome, and an iPhone emulator.
  2. In several talks showing how VS 2013 and/or Azure could be set to automatically sync with source code the repository was GitHub. Not TFS but Git. (Occasionally the speaker would state that TFS could also be used.) A complete inversion of what Microsoft would do in the past where it would demonstrate using just the Microsoft stack and maybe mention that other services are supported.
  3. Anders Hejlsberg gave a talk on what he and has team have been working on for the past year – TypeScript. Anders heads up the best language team in the world by far (so good that when he walked on stage he received a standing ovation). Microsoft clearly views JavaScript as more important than anything else in the dev tools arena.

This is not a case of Microsoft working with other systems. They started doing that several years ago. This is Microsoft embracing being a part of a larger ecosystem. A part. And focused on doing their best to integrate well into the other systems.

A secondary, but still important part is Microsoft is listening to feedback and reverting their software where the changes were not well received. Vista was probably the ultimate product where Microsoft tried to impose its vision on the market. But this imposition has occurred across products to a lesser extent throughout their products. This has also flipped where in talk after talk we would be shown changes which were reverting back to earlier versions.

For example VisualStudio now has a color scheme that matches VS 2010 as the VS 2013 colors scheme was so washed out it was hard to use. Microsoft, like Apple, was famous for deciding what was best and that’s what you got. Responding to user feedback is a gigantic change for the company.

The Forrest, not the Trees

So why was the above missed in most of the news articles about Build? I think it’s because most of the reporters went to the keynotes and reported on those. Lots of cool products. Upcoming software. The start button returning in Windows 8.1. The fundamental cultural change was not clear there. And was I think purposely obfuscated because they wanted the keynotes to be about Microsoft. And in fact, the top levels at Microsoft may not be fully aware of the cultural changes that have occurred there.

It was in the sessions, seeing presentation after presentation, that this shift became clear. Reporting on it required both attending a lot of sessions as well as clueing into the difference. This is the big story out of Build. Not any product. Not any new version. The big story is that Microsoft, a company with 100,000 employees, has radically transformed its culture. And the change will make them much more competitive.

Wait, There’s More

  1. Azure, mobile, IE F12, VS2013, blah, blah, blah. Ok, lots of cool stuff about each covered in the sessions. Lots of neat new software coming. Watch the sessions – well worth it. My favorite quote from any session was in one of the Azure ones “the only way to fully test your application is in production.” True but rarely admitted.
  2. Really nice that they gave us so much cool stuff – 2 tablets, Adobe Creative Suite, Office 365, and more. And the inclusion of Adobe Creative Suite showed again Microsoft embracing a market leader over their own software.
  3. Microsoft is all in on HTML5/JavaScript. It’s not just ActiveScript (use it – it’s a gigantic win), but across the board. The go to software for showing any example was JavaScript. XAML and ASP.NET will continue to be supported but they’re dead ends now.
  4. Microsoft is moving to the rapid release cycle big time. Windows and Office look to be moving to yearly. But for every other product it looks to be about every 3 months as they get more features added. There will no longer be distinct versions, it will be what updates you’ve added. When something is completed and tested, it will be pushed out.

The official “announcements” out of Build – nothing noteworthy or exciting. The change in Microsoft visible at Build is you were paying attention – transformative!

Ireland may have bombed, but draw position is gigantic

I sat down to run the numbers expecting them to validate what I had found in previous years – that the draw had no impact on the final placement of an act. But when I graphed the numbers I found – draw position has a gigantic impact.

In all of the below graphs, a horizontal trend line would indicate the draw having no impact. A line from upper left to lower right shows that later is advantageous. And boy does it show advantage.

Here’s the vote vs. draw for the final vote.

Drop Ireland and you’ve got a clear grouping that unambiguously shows the impact of the draw.

Diving into it, I ranked the draw vs jury vote. EBU is not clear what the number for the split votes means, but clearly lower is better. So here we have the experts, the people who should not be impacted by the draw.

The impact is less, but it still clearly exists. Even for the experts, at the completion of the show, the most recently watched acts had an advantage. One of about 3 points where the final scores were in the range of 6 – 20 points. 3 points in a range of 14 is about 20% (for first vs. last place in the draw). If Aliona was say 20th instead of 3rd, she likely would have placed 2nd in the jury vote.

Now let’s look at the tele-vote.

For the tele-vote the draw has a gigantic impact. Malta & Russia were the only acts able to make enough of an impression early in the show to break the curse of an early draw. The vote score range is 20 (4 – 24) and the draw advantage is 10. That’s 50% of the vote range.

Draw is everything (see Malta, Russia, Georgia, & Ireland). But it matters a lot. Azerbaijan may or may not have bought votes. But they definitely gained significant votes by their draw number of 20. If Russia and Azerbaijan had switched running order, they well could have switched their final place in the contest too.

What Does This Mean?

This year for the first time EBU set the draw order for each act. And doing so they appear to have increased the impact of the draw order. Regardless of the intention of the EBU, regardless of the how they made their decision in the order, the end result is that the decision by the EBU in selecting the order heavily influenced the final results.

In fairness to the acts, to the participating countries, to the viewers who watch – the EBU needs to return to a random drawing for the order. The EBU’s calculated ordering has made draw order a gigantic influence on the final result. Previously the order had minimal to no impact. First do no harm – go back to what worked better.

Second, if the order does matter, it is much better for that advantage to be random than to be selected by the EBU. If people see the order confering great advantage, they will accept a random ordering. They will not accept a small number of people selecting who will gain the advantage.

It was a reasonable thing to try. It’s now time to evaluate and reset back to what worked better.

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Win $2πK

I had this awesome idea for a marketing event at a conference. Brilliant. Would get a gigantic response. Except… the cost was not worth the return for us.

So here is the idea for anyone else to use.

You pass out cards like the one on the right (substitute in your URL for ours). Each card has a unique number and the numbers are not consecutive. On the back of the card you print the contest details. You need to print the details on the back because many people won’t go to a URL blindly.

Then you hand out these cards at a conference. You want a small number of cards compared to total conference attendees. At most 5% of the total number of attendees.

And here’s the contest.

Individuals need to go to the website and enter both the number and their email address. (You may want to restrict emails to business domains only, or only emails of people registered at the conference if that is available to you). So each code has one or more email addresses registered to it. And once an email is registered against one number, it cannot be registered against another. So an individual is tied to one number and one number only.

At the end of the conference, the card number with the largest number of emails registered is the winning number. You then hold a random drawing from just those email addresses and the winner gets $6,283.18. This is what makes this work so well – anyone registering their email address now wants others to register. To win, they need the most emails registered against the number. So they will pass it on. And that person will pass it on.

The end result is everyone at the conference has registered, because they first have been encouraged by someone else to register, and they are then in and will pass it on asking another to register.

What killed it for us? It wasn’t worth 6K to get the email of every attendee at any of the conferences we exhibit at. It’s gotta be worth that. But if you are at a conference where it’s worth 6K to get all the attendees emails, this will do it. And you don’t have to be an exhibitor to pull this off.

If you do this, please let me know how it worked.