A History of Microsoft's Scripting Guys, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1...

Ed Wilson spent five years as a member of Microsoft's Premier organization, delivering workshops on scripting. He traveled all over the world, wrote books, and generally spread the good word of scripting and automation. His first year was mainly VBScript, then WMI, then advanced VBScript. In year four he focused on PowerShell, and moved on to advanced PowerShell. He was working on a PowerShell Best Practices book when he got the call.

Informational Interview

Ed had done an "informational interview" with Microsoft's Scripting Guys, who had a position on the team and were considering him for it. A problem at the time was that Scripting Guys were required to live in Redmond, and Ed didn't want to leave his home in Charlotte, NC. But he contributed more than a few guest articles to the Script Center, essentially making him an honorary Scripting Guy since August 11, 2008, the date his first article went online.

A year later, and the relocation requirement had gone away. The last two Scripting Guys, Greg Stemp and Jean Ross, were being rushed over to the newly-formed Lync Server team, and the Script Center needed a new custodian. Would Ed step up?

Well, Ed sure wanted to. He managed to have his remaining scheduled workshops reassigned to other trainers, but was stuck with one last workshop. The customer was so insistent on Ed delivering the training that their Microsoft Technical Account Manager escalated the issue to a Microsoft General Manager. Normally, Microsoft rules require employees to start their new job within 30 days of accepting it, but that rule was waived for this customer. Ed was clearly an in-demand scripting expert - and the perfect new Scripting Guy.

Sink or Swim

Fortunately, the outgoing Scripting Guys had left things in good order, and Greg was just an e-mail away to offer advice in the beginning. Ed's first challenge was figuring out how to organize his once-per-weekday articles. The Scripting Guys' "blog" isn't really a blog: A blog entry is a few hundred words, but Ed pumps out a daily article of 1500-2500 words - a full-length magazine article requiring up to six hours daily. Yes, it's a full-time job, especially when accompanied by 3-5 pictures, 1-5 script files, and other assets that need to be organized, stored, and edited. Ed, the consummate scripter, wrote a PowerShell script that copies his templates and creates the articles' folder hierarchies. 

Ed not only survived the transition, he thrived.

Three Years and Some Changes

Ed immediately shifted the focus of the Script Center to PowerShell. The outgoing team had deliberately kept VBScript in the mix, not wanting to fall into the usual Microsoft habit of immediately abandoning people in favor of the shiny new toy. Ed felt that PowerShell had become firmly entrenched, and was clearly the company's way forward, and made it his mission to make the shell more accessible to administrators. It was a big gamble: The Script Center had a huge following, primarily around VBScript. "I've inherited this very successful property, and I don't want it to die on my watch. That would be a career-limiting move," Ed thought at the time. As it turned out, the world was ready for PowerShell, and the Script Center's popularity has only grown.

With the article management well in hand, Ed expanded the Scripting Guys' blog to a full seven days a week, 365 days a year. In part, he wanted to provide a way for people in the community to get published on a Microsoft Web site - resulting in more than 100 guest articles in 2010 alone. Ed also wanted to try and eliminate some of the USA-bias in the publishing schedule, since more than half of the Script Center's traffic now comes from non-US sources. "When the Australians go in to work on Monday, they deserve a fresh article, even though it's Sunday in the US," Ed said. "And just because I'm off on the Fourth of July doesn't mean folks in Japan are off."

Ed says his articles probably have less banter than those written by the first-generation Guys, but they're still friendly and approachable. He also tries to stick to a single theme each week, enabling him to provide deep coverage in easily-digested chunks. 

The Scripting Guy(s), Revealed

Initially, Ed was paired with an editor, Craig, but both found writing in the third person to be difficult. Referring to oneself as "The Scripting Guys," when in fact there's only one of you, got awkward. So Ed started introducing himself at the top of each article as "Ed Wilson, the Scripting Guy." This was the first real time that the Scripting Guy(s) were routinely identified as individuals in the articles. It adds a face and personality to the articles that many readers enjoy - and makes Ed quite the celebrity at events like TechEd, where readers line up for photos and autographs.

Identifying himself by name became more important as more guest writers began submitting articles, since those guest authors weren't technically "Scripting Guys." Keep an eye out, though: Ed plans to recognize his best and most frequent contributors, perhaps as "honorary Scripting Guys."

The Scripting Wife

Ed had gotten into the habit of writing a "Weekend Scripter" article focusing on using PowerShell for something fun, rather than for work. He was also launching a new season of the ever-popular Scripting Games, when he started to get a bit overworked - and when those two facts came together.

Ed's wife, Theresa, is a former accountant - with all the organizational skills that implies. She pitched in to help Ed organize the Games, helping to keep in touch with sponsors and vendors, track prizes, and so forth. She sat in the kitchen one day, working on her laptop, and commented that the Games, "look like fun. I could probably try this." Not wanting to give her a chance to back out, Ed immediately announced, via Twitter and Facebook, that the "Scripting Wife" would be participating in that season of the Games. While not an admin, Theresa is computer-literate, and set out to prove that anyone with some basic computer knowledge could master PowerShell. She challenged Ed to re-think the way he taught PowerShell, too, helping him better understand the perspective of a total beginner. Before long, The Scripting Wife started writing the Weekend Scripter articles, and a new part of the Scripting Guys legend was born.

Theresa is still hugely active in the scripting community, appearing with Ed at events like TechEd, participating in chats during the PowerScripting podcast, and much more.

What's in Store

Ed's continued to expand the Script Center, most recently introducing a Community tab that brings together the various PowerShell user groups worldwide. He hopes to expand that into an RSS feed that includes upcoming user group meetings and, if travel budget can be found, offer to present in person at user group events to help them grow and prosper. Ed feels that community is an incredibly important part of professional IT; while developers benefit enormously from their user group contacts and resources, admins have been more reticent to participate. "Find a user group!" Ed encourages. "Start one! Participate!"

It's obvious that the Script Center, and the Scripting Guys legend, is in good hands. There's a bright future ahead.

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