It began with a tweet: "Does anyone know if there's any dedicated #MSExchange podcasts? If not, who fancies joining me in starting one?" Microsoft Exchange Server MVP Steve Goodman had been thinking about the idea that became the UC Architects Podcast for a few months before putting it out into the Twitterverse. However, once he did, the podcast formed and grew quickly into one of the best sources of news an analysis of the Microsoft unified communications (UC) environment available.
In case you haven't heard of it, the UC Architects Podcast is published roughly biweekly and is available free from the iTunes Store and the Zune Marketplace as well as directly from the group's website. Each episode covers a variety of topics spanning the Exchange and Lync world, including news about updates released from Microsoft (and what might go wrong with them in your environment), information about implementing these technologies, Microsoft tools you should know about, and reviews of related third-party products.
Goodman had already been thinking about webcasts for his own blog last year when Richard Campbell invited him to be a guest on RunAs Radio. "Between being asked to be a guest and going on Richard's show, I thought if I'm going to be on a podcast I might as well start one," Goodman said. "So I asked the community via Twitter and emailed Mahmoud Magdy and Michel de Rooij, who I’d been talking to about making webcasts, and things went from there."
The Twitter response was immediate, and a group of like-minded experts quickly formed, consisting of Exchange and Lync MVPs as well as Microsoft Certified Masters (MCMs) in these areas. One of the first details to work out was how they would record the podcast. For a show that would focus on Microsoft UC technologies, using Lync seemed like a good idea. In fact, Lync MVP (and former Exchange MVP) Pat Richard said, "I was hardcore about using Lync because it just makes sense."
The group has members all around the globe, but Lync itself is a unifying technology that lets them connect and talk tech -- while also demonstrating that technology's capabilities to some extent. Some of their stories about members recording while sitting in a car or on a street curb in front of their house in order to avoid distractions demonstrates both the promise and a bit of the limitations of UC.
They don't broadcast the podcast live, which lets them edit the recording -- in case someone slips up and mentions something they shouldn't based on privileged Microsoft NDA knowledge. Each member of the group can suggest topics to discuss in an upcoming episode, and from these they'll develop their agenda for each episode. Steve Goodman and Pat Richard take turns acting as host, with the responsibility of keeping the group on topic.
When you listen to the podcast, you'll hear some of the experts in each of these fields talking casually about the technology. As Richard said, "The podcast is a bunch of guys having a discussion." To which Lync MVP Ståle Hansen added, "Yes, but it's an authoritative discussion." One of the benefits of this being an independent discussion is that you get unglossed viewpoints. But you can also get contradictory viewpoints -- each member has his own ideas and experiences and is willing to share them.
Members of the UC Architects group at the Microsoft Lync Conference (l-r: John A. Cook, Ståle Hansen, Pat Richard, and Tom Arbuthnot)
"The great thing about the group is that it feels very much like a team," Goodman said. "Everyone pulls together to help with ideas for topics, social media stuff, producing and editing." At the Microsoft Lync Conference last month, I chatted with several members of the group who all echoed Goodman's sentiments. Pat Richard, Ståle Hansen, and Exchange MCM John A. Cook all believed that one of the reasons the group has worked so well is that there are no egos -- they all just enjoy sharing ideas about technology, even if they don't always agree. And as listeners, we all benefit.
One of the most interesting things to me was how the group came together through social media, and the podcast is promoted primarily through social media, and yet they've been able to grow, in less than a year, into a well-respected and recognized source of UC information. This is a social media success story. Of course, it only works because what the group provides is of value to the community: IT pros in the Microsoft world need good, real-world information about UC technologies, and that's precisely what the UC Architects provide. Be sure to check out their website for more information and the latest episode.
Learn More: Lync 2013 Moves Closer to the Cloud for UC