The video below was made with the Trustworthy Computing Team at Microsoft. As we learned, there is a debate brewing in the world of software security. It's a debate about how to report problems that are discovered in software - what the industry calls "vulnerabilities". I'll let the video speak for itself on covering the issues.
For this post though, I want to talk about the use and power of visual metaphors, which was a big challenge for this project. Here's a question for you: how do you visualize software? We've used box like you see in a computer store, DVDs, binary code, etc. These still aren't the best, but it's an ongoing challenge. Now, if software is hard to visualize, what about software vulnerabilities? That's a whole-other can of worms.
This project, like many that we do, prompted us to come up with a symbol that is used throughout the video. This is risky because if the symbol doesn't work for the client, it means taking two steps backward and completely rethinking the visuals. For the idea of software vulnerability, we chose to use a chain metaphor. Software is a system that works together and a vulnerability is essentially a crack in one of the chain links - it compromises the power of the whole system. By making this point clear early in the video, we were able to establish a visual symbol of vulnerability that we could use for a lot of scenes.
Thankfully, Ken and the Trustworthy Computing Team liked the chain idea and the video. See what you think:
While licensing our videos is still the focus of our business, we have taken on a few custom projects this summer. The first to be published is a video we were hired to produce called "SharePoint in Plain English," about Microsoft's enterprise collaboration tool. The focus of the video is to introduce Sharepoint and illustrate the old way (project info exists on multiple computers) vs. new way (project info lives in SharePoint).
Updated: Microsoft has made this video available for download so you can share it easily on Intranets, presentations, etc.
One of the things that attracted us to this project was the potential to expose our work to SharePoint users. We were so happy to work with the SharePoint team, who was flexible and very open to our interpretations. It was one of the smoothest projects we've completed to date and we appreciate their focus and dedication. Plus, it's always nice to work with local organizations.
Over the last few weeks Iâ€™ve been working with the folks at Microsoft, like Bill Reid, Korby Parnell and Jonathan Grudin, to learn more about blogging at Microsoft for a related project at the company. Here are some of my broad observations:
Microsoft is serious about blogging. They have support from the very top and the biggest reason for the support is the increasing value of transparency and putting a human face on Microsoft. See this video of Steve Ballmer.
The demand comes from individuals. More than a couple of times, Iâ€™ve heard quotes from employees saying â€œIâ€™m tired of Microsoft being called an evil empireâ€??. Employees see blogging as a way to show Microsoft is a different and more human company.
External blogs outnumber internal blogs 3-1, which is vastly different than other large companies that are blogging like Sun, IBM and Intel. Why? See point #2 above.
Blogging at Microsoft is very hands off. The biggest policy is â€œDonâ€™t be Stupidâ€?? and the PR and Legal teams have adopted a very open and supportive approach to blogging.
There are people within the company like Betsy Aoki and Korby Parnell who are driving the blog strategy and working every day to educate and inspire people to understand blogging.
Two Microsoft blogs that represent the most popular forms of blogging are the personal bloggers, like Raymond Chen and the Team blogs like the IE Team Blog. A number of teams are looking to follow in the footsteps of the IE team.
Microsoft Research has been studying blogs and how and why they are used within the company. See Lilia's posts about her internship at Microsoft Research.
Itâ€™s working. The company is seeing the blogs play a positive role in public relations and communications with the market at large. This is adding to the executive support.
There are very few, or perhaps zero fake bloggers or blogs.
You can see for yourself. The majority of external Microsoft blogs are found at MSDN and TechNet
Despite what some may think about Microsoft, I see the blogs as a demonstration that the company is trying to change. Blogging is becoming a part of the way they do business and if you ask me, they are doing it the right way through organic growth and openness.
Iâ€™m just starting a new project that should be really interesting. Iâ€™m working with Bill Reidâ€™s group at Microsoft, which does IT Solutions. Like so many other teams at the company, they are interested in using blogs as a way to support and connect more personally with customers.
When we first started talking about the project, it was about using blogs as a feedback loop, where the blogs would facilitate customer feedback that could be used to improve products, in this case, IT solutions. What we found was that this was putting the cart before the horse. This was about the time I wrote the Wiki This post.
Now, weâ€™re focusing the project on the blogging first- understanding best practices for building readership, listening to the blog world, writing for a blog, etc. Overall, we hope to increase the blog literacy of the IT solutions group so that the team can identify the ways in which a blog may help them achieve their goals individually and as a group.
I'm also excited to be working loosely with Lilia Efimova (Mathemagenic), who is doing an internship at MicrosoftResearch studying how they are using blogs. Like her, I hope to blog what I can.