Recently, I was talking with colleagues about how Microsoft buzzwords and terms become catchphrases inside Microsoft and in the industry. A couple of years ago, I couldn't sit in a meeting without hearing that something needed to be "crisp" (as in, "Make sure that slide is crisp"). Then everyone started mimicking Steve Ballmer's distinctive rendition of "blah, blah, blah." Another example of jargon was "community." How often have your read that word in connection with Microsoft lately? Heck, "Connecting the IT Community" is even the mission of this magazine.
The funny thing is that the spread of such jargon clearly indicates that "community" exists among IT pros. You talk the same talk and have ways of reaching out to one another to solve problems—newsgroups, blogs, publications, and user groups. You learn to trust certain sources (or not) and tell one another which sources are worthwhile. You help one another sift through vast amounts of data to get to answers.
But this networking isn't always efficient. Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don't. Enter Microsoft's Stefan Weitz (director, Windows Server Customer Connection) and Bob Rebholz (a program manager on Stefan's team). Their job is to improve customer satisfaction. One way they'd liek to do so is by creating vast trusted networks of IT pros by using the latest Internet tools and technologies. They believe that trusted networks are the most effective means of personal information management.
Bob's brainchild (actually, he'd call it a sparkle in its daddy's eye at this point) is www.theworkingnetwork .com. TWN is a one-stop-shop that shows users how to join trusted networks by explaining what they are, which tools are necessary, and how to get started. One new service TWN describes is social bookmarking. Wikipedia says, "Social bookmarking . . . allows users to save and categorize a personal collection of bookmarks and share them with others. Users may also take bookmarks saved by others and add them to their own collection, as well as subscribe to the lists of others—a personal knowledge management tool. . . A useful feature is RSS feeds per category (tag) that you can subscribe to—alerting you to new links in your areas of interest." Bob emphasizes that, "any time an expert you're interested in uncovers new and useful information and tags it, you're automatically informed." It's like hiring your own team of researchers. As a result, you can discover potential issues before you suffer their effects rather than live in constant reaction mode, trying to find solutions to fix things that have already broken.
If you want to be a part of a Microsoft project in its earliest stages, www.theworkingnetwork.com is your chance. "This is the ground floor—but that may be overstating it," Bob admitted. "It's more like a bunch of us are in the forest with axes. We'd love more lumberjacks and builders to help us. We want anyone that blogs about Microsoft technology to let us know so we can get their blog plugged in and available—and start tagging immediately."
"Community" might be a clichè in some cases, but TWN shows how value can be derived from community. The amount of information to sort through just to determine what feeds you want is daunting. But it's also fascinating to filter information by looking at other community members' choices. Check it out, and let me know what you think.
Surviving and Thriving in IT
The community theme dominates this issue of Windows IT Pro, as we present the findings of our annual salary and job satisfaction survey. We learned that IT pros responding to our surveys got better average pay increases this year than IT pros overall, as you'll see in Jason Bovberg's report, "The Money You Make, and How It Compares," page 27. Surprisingly, we also found that respondents to the Windows IT Pro survey seem less satisfied with their job than respondents to the SQL Server Magazine survey. See what our editors make of those findings in Dianne Russell's "Are You Satisfied?" page 31, and Dawn Cyr's SQL Server Magazine article, "It's What You Make IT," InstantDoc ID 48229.
We also highlight the solutions submitted by our IT Innovators award winners. (See Anne Grubb's article on page 37.) Congratulations to the winners. We hope the solutions these community members created will help you solve problems for your company. And we hope you'll enter next year's competition.