Fun times ahead at SXSW 2011

•March 1, 2011 • 2 Comments

I’m happy that I’m going to SXSW again this year – although, partly due to my job transition, I won’t be speaking on any panels this year (maybe next year I’ll get to be on the Browser Wars panel again :P).

There are two events that I’m helping run, though – The League of Extraordinary Hackers, presented by Google, and SuperHappyDevHouse. The former is a series of lightning talks covering Google APIs, tools and services, including a talk on Google TV given by yours truly, along with a developer lounge for more low-level talks and discussions with Google peeps. The latter, for those unfamiliar with SuperHappyDevHouse, is an evening of hacking and revelry, including a LEGO MINDSTORM contest.

So, of course I’ll be there talking up the living room platform, and hooking web developers up with Google TV. Hope to see you there, and around SXSW!

Keynoting at Web Directions Unplugged, Seattle May 12-13

•February 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m really pleased and excited to announce that I’ll be keynoting at the Web Directions Unplugged conference here in Seattle, May 12-13 2011. I’ve spoken at a couple of Web Directions conferences before, both North and South, and I’m happy to see they’re bringing the party to my home town; in fact, I think this marks the first time I’ll be speaking at a public event in Seattle! (I know, shocking, since I’ve been speaking at public events for around 15 years; but I can’t remember anything large than Microsoft MVP events that I’ve spoken at here at home).

It will be a busy week for me, since I’ll have to rush home from Google IO, but I’ve always been impressed with the speakers and the audience at the Web Directions events*, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Want to attend Unplugged in Seattle May 12-13th? tell ‘em @cwilso sent you – use code WDWILSON for $50 off. Also, keep an eye on my Twitter feed – I’ll have a contest for a ticket shortly.

-Chris

* In fact, one of my favorite speaking engagements was at Web Directions South 2007. Great crowd, great location (I love Sydney), and great speakers (the other ones, I mean).

Six Weeks at Google

•December 13, 2010 • 6 Comments

I started working for Google six weeks ago today. It’s been an interesting experience, and since I keep having the same conversation repeatedly, I figured I’d share all at once.

What are you working on, anyway?

I’m in the Developer Relations team for Google TV. In practice, I spend most of my time working together with external companies, helping them build and optimize their web applications and contents for the 10-ft user interface scenario – that is, the experience of their web content and applications a user will get when they’re sitting 10 feet away from their screen, and interacting with a “remote control” rather than a desk-based keyboard and mouse.  It’s not so much “optimize for Google TV specifically” than it is “ensure your UI can work well in this scenario”.  We have an optimization guide that gives you some idea of what I’m talking about – things like supporting arrow-key navigation, limiting scrolling, color differences on the TV, etc.

One of the great things about this role is that it’s already given me the opportunity to dive in and actually write JS/CSS/HTML code again, as well as spend a bunch of time looking at how other people construct their UIs in HTML/CSS/JS.  The other fun thing is that it’s continuing my passion for the web platform extending to alternate scenarios and environments – the mobile scenario was the first big one, but the 10-ft space is an important one too.  For years, I’ve seen the web platform as the underlying platform that bridges from the very small environments – like my mobile phone – through the medium-size (my iPad, netbook, and laptop) to the large (my 27-30″ high-powered desktops and my TV).  Aside from the display, there are obvious differences in the interaction capabilities too (like, no touch interface on my TV :) ).

What do you think of working at Google?

Love it. I didn’t think that I would like working in a cubicle rather than an office (at Microsoft, nearly all full-time employees who have been there more than three or four years usually have an office to themselves; at Google, nearly everyone has a cubicle).  However, it’s actually been great, because I’ve met a lot of people (particularly as I have a couple of Google TV devices sitting right next to my cube), and people tend to be very respectful of space and noise.  There are lots of old friends and a few new ones working here, which has definitely helped me adjust.   More on the culture in my next post, as I think that deserves a post by itself.

It HAS been a little odd to no longer use Windows on a daily basis, though. :)

-C

On to a New Stage

•September 21, 2010 • 66 Comments

Today was my last day at Microsoft.

I started working for Microsoft over fifteen years ago – in fact, switching into the IE team fifteen years ago this month.  It’s been a tremendous learning experience for me; I can hardly begin to describe how much I’ve learned, how many different experiences I’ve had, and how many fantastic people I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with (both inside and outside the company).

As I reached the conclusion that I’d helped IE along as much as I could, I felt it was a good time to reassess where I ultimately want to go with my career, and I realized that I really needed to stretch my wings beyond Microsoft.  After all, I’ve stolen as many office supplies as I possibly could*.  I’m now going to go take a month or so of well-deserved time off, and in November I will begin a new role with a new employer – I’ve accepted a position as a Developer Advocate with Google.

I’ll spare the minor details of my decision (other than how excited I am to turn my Office Space style commute into a 6 mile bike ride to Google’s Fremont office), and just say I’m very excited to work for a company that invests so much in making the Web platform better for developers and consumers, and I hope that I can use this as an opportunity to not only do no evil, but to actively do good.

I would like to thank all the wonderful friends I’ve made at (and through) Microsoft, and actively express my desire to keep in touch. For anyone wishing to reach me, my personal email remains the same – cwilso@gmail.com – and of course, I’m always available on Twitter (Twitter.com/cwilso).

-Chris

* Just kidding**.

** I could have stolen more if I’d really tried. ***

*** sheesh.  Seriously, just kidding.

The “IE plateau” – a history lesson

•April 30, 2010 • 42 Comments

Yeah.  More frequently posting on my blog != once a year.  I get it.  More on that later.

Since I mostly share on twitter, I usually don’t get around to writing out longer posts – it takes time to be interesting and sound coherent when you’re not restricted to 140 characters.  But sometimes I want to say something that I just can’t sanely fit into 140-character blocks, no matter how hard I try.

One thing that cropped up in a conversation yesterday was “what happened to IE after IE6″.  I was a little aghast at the wild rumors of engineers fleeing the team due to political issues, since that wasn’t what happened, and since I’ve said this publicly before (e.g. my keynote at the Ajax Experience in Boston in 2006), I figured I might as well reiterate.

As we were finishing up the product cycle of IE6, the engineering team was still really excited by the technology and innovation we’d been doing in the web platform. (Newbie, before you go bothering entering random IE-bashing in that comment box, go find someone who was around on the web in 2000.  IE6 *WAS* the best.  Well, okay, maybe IE5 Mac.)  However, we’d been seeing very little adoption of the rich client platform we’d built; it was hard to build rich, sexy applications, and Flash was starting to take off.  Outlook Web Access was the “biggest” rich web app around.  The dot-com bubble was bursting.  There were a few experiments with “Web OS” – that is, building a desktop on top of the web platform – but they were slow and lacked functionality (probably because they also lacked a business model).  Finally, we were also getting mired in backwards compatibility – it’s all very well to say you should fix standards bugs, but we kept breaking current pages.  People get upset about that – both developers and customers. (As an aside, I’m a big fan of the IE compatibility mode solution we implemented in IE8; I only wish we’d done it in IE7.)

And, of course, we were pretty far ahead of the competitor’s released product at that point, and sadly, Microsoft does seem to work best with strong competition motivating it.

At the same time, Microsoft really needed to invigorate the Windows API.  We’d learned a lot of lessons from our experience with the web platform – e.g. that markup is a great tool for developers to use alongside code, and that managed code languages are easier in many cases than C++ – and we wanted to bring those tools to building Windows applications.  This led us to start working on the platform re-think that eventually became WPF/XAML/.NET3.0 – and that’s what most of us moved over to work on in that timeframe.

On top of that, that time period was also when Microsoft (and the broader industry, but Microsoft in particular) started getting hammered with security issues, since hackers started realizing they could get PAID for finding ways to insert software into users’ machines.  This took a tremendous effort to address, and a sea change in writing secure code; it was quite impressive to see the response to that challenge internally, but that’s a story for a different day.

So, unfortunately, this was a perfect storm that led to the “IE plateau”.  Happy it’s over.  Glad to see that the web platform isn’t in too much danger of becoming homogenous again any time soon.

-C

Leaving Las Vegas (er, the IE team)

•May 18, 2009 • 38 Comments

After many years, and a lot of releases, I have left the Internet Explorer team.

As IE8 was wrapping up, I realized that a more compelling role for me was mapping out where Microsoft as a whole needs to go with the open web platform, rather than being one of the people who focuses on delivering Internet Explorer on a day-to-day basis.  I remain, as ever, super-passionate about the open web platform; focusing on delivering IE versions was not always aligning with that passion.

Luckily, I found a great team to work on – I’ll be working in the Developer Division (a first for me), on the team that works on JavaScript but also has a broader charter to help make the open web platform great. 

What does this mean?  From the outside, some things will certainly change – I’m no longer an appropriate person, for example, to give talks on specifically about IE – but a lot of things won’t.  I still expect to attend and participate in a fair number of web conferences, and still plan to speak at a number of them – but not just about IE.  I still intend to continue as HTML WG chair, at least for the time being – in fact, as part of focusing more holistically on the web platform as a whole (and defocusing on IE product delivery), I expect I’ll start participating more in a couple of other groups.  I will still maintain a close relationship with the IE team as part of my new role, as well.  There are some amazing people on the IE team, and although I’ll miss being a part of that team, I’m comforted by knowing that I’ll still be working with them on a weekly if not daily basis, as we have a shared goal of making the web platform great.

I’m optimistic that this new role will give me some freedom to focus on what’s really needed in the open web platform, and the freedom to be more open about what I’m doing as my role evolves.  Part of that includes posting more frequently on my blog.  :)  So feel free to comment, ask questions, whatever, and I’ll answer as best I can.

-Chris

Sam Ruby

•March 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As he announced, Sam Ruby (my co-chair on the HTML WG) is expecting an offer to work for Microsoft.  As a couple of comments have mentioned, this raises the question of both HTML WG co-chairs being Microsoft employees.

Contrary to what Lawrence commented, I don’t think Sam was targeting me with his post.  Sam discussed this with me prior to interviewing with Microsoft; obviously, I think it would be great for Microsoft, and I’d be delighted to work even more closely with Sam, but I did not originally suggest this to Sam (or canvass him).

That said, Sam and I did broach the subject of both co-chairs working for Microsoft, and I think we both agree that it wouldn’t be a great idea beyond the short term.  I think we are both planning to see how this works out, and resolve that issue if Sam does come to work for Microsoft.  I don’t have a particular bias on what plan we work out, so I’m looking forward to resolving that if/when it’s an issue.

 
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