speaking engagements

Keynoting at Web Directions Unplugged, Seattle May 12-13

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.


* 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

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. 🙂



On to a New Stage

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).


* Just kidding**.

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

*** sheesh.  Seriously, just kidding.


The “IE plateau” – a history lesson

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.



Leaving Las Vegas (er, the IE team)

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.



Sam Ruby

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.


Seven Things About Me

I was tagged for the “seven things about me” meme by my friend Daniel Glazman.

  1. I’m painfully shy. No, really, I am. I’m uncomfortable taking up the sales clerks’ time. Fer reals, yeah. Public speaking took a little while for me to be comfortable with, but somehow after the first couple of times of getting up in front of a hundred+ people, it’s not hard anymore. But I still don’t like calling people on the phone, because I always feel like I’m interrupting them.
  2. The hair DOES mean I was in a rock band. Before our daughter was born, I played in a band, in which my wife was lead singer. Bonus points if you can tell me 1) what instrument I played, and 2) what instrument I was actually trained on.
  3. And speaking of the hair – I wear my hair long for two reasons: 1) My mother always cut my hair when I was a kid and a teenager, and since she was the one with the scissors, she got to cut it whatever length she wanted. I’m still rebelling against that.  For her part, she still says “you know, I still have the scissors…I could just give you a little trim…” every time I see her. 2) I’m just too lazy to go get it cut. It’s been six years or so since my last haircut. I’ll probably try dreadlocks before I ever get it cut short.
  4. My wife and I don’t own a microwave. We had one in the apartment we lived in when we got married, and when we moved to Seattle, we just never got one. We really don’t miss it, despite tons of people expressing incredulity that we could have a young child and NOT have a microwave. (Note this is probably national – Americans love their microwaves.) We keep a tea kettle on the corner of the stove at all times.
  5. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer back in 1996, which is why I have the scar across the base of my neck. Thankfully, thyroid cancer is the kind you want to have if you have to have cancer, because it’s very treatable, but I do have to take thyroid hormone replacements daily.
  6. I actually started my career working on a pioneering open source project – NCSA Telnet. It gave me some grounding in the good sides as well as the challenges of open source; but despite this, I don’t actually believe open source is always the right answer.
  7. However, I DO believe being open about goals, priorities and plans is nearly always a good idea.

Anyhow, tagging people – hmm.

  • MsCyra because she needs to get out more. 🙂
  • PEte LePage because, well, just because.
  • My cousin Tim because he pointed out I hadn’t blogged in the two-week timeline.
  • Molly because, well, we can ALWAYS use new anecdotes from Molly. And I miss seeing her more often.
  • Matt Crowley because I’m gonna drag the IE team out in public one at a time if I have to.
  • Arun from Mozilla because I’ve gotta reflect some love back at my Mozilla friends.
  • Geoffrey Sneddon because he’s crossed me one time too many. 🙂 (Okay, not really, he’s got at least a few dozen crossings left.)

A New Year, a New Leaf

Seriously, I know I’m awful at consistently blogging.  A lot of that is because it requires me to be in “public filter” mode, which is very time-consuming and stressful.  But if you want to see consistent updates, then you should be following me on twitter.

But I’m going to take a stab at blogging again, anyway.  I thought I’d lead in with my goals for a new year – I hate the term “resolution”.

  1. Get in a happy place work-wise.  It’s been no real secret that I’ve not been happy professionally for a while; I’m working on addressing why that is.  I can’t (obviously) say a whole lot more about it right now – but if you see me next year, and I’m still bitching about the same things, smack me.  🙂 
  2. Dive more.  It’s been hard for me to get out diving consistently ever since my main dive buddy Don had to stop diving for health reasons – he and I made such a great buddy team that my bar for a good buddy is very high.  I’m rarely happier than when I’m diving, though; so I really need to make it happen.  Unfortunately I caught a cold and had to bail out on last weekend’s dive boat, but I’m kicking that into gear with a trip to my favorite site on January 24th.
  3. Take more pictures.  I love photography, and I especially love that feeling I get when I am happy with a picture I took.  Other people may think it’s crap, of course.  Maybe I should call this one “take more creative risks.”
  4. Be more open.  This is hard (see above), but it can be easy to forget that those outside Microsoft have to (and do) make up their own stories (about actions and motivations) if those inside don’t share.  I’m going to try to do better at this; for starters, I have a goal of writing a blog post here at least once every other week.  (I’m hoping to do a lot better than that, but we’ll see.)
  5. Lose weight.  You knew I’d have to throw in a standard NY Resolution sooner or later.  Seriously, though – my weight is tied to my stress level, so this in some ways is a symptom rather than a cause.

Overall, I’m not writing this (publicly) because I like the attention – I’m writing it to reflect on it myself, and more importantly, to have it to look back on next year.  A few weeks ago, I ran across a post I made back in May of 2006 (http://blogs.msdn.com/cwilso/archive/2006/05/11/595536.aspx), and it helped a few things click; I’d like to set myself up for another of those.  So this is really functioning as my diary.

Hey!  Stop reading my diary!

ground rules

Ground rules for commenting on my blog

For my own benefit, I’m going to define the rules a little differently than on the IE Blog, or than my previous blog.

  1. No obscenities.
  2. Don’t be a dick. I get to violate this one if I feel like it, though I shouldn’t; but then, it’s my blog.
  3. If you want to make snide comments about Microsoft, I invite you to do them on your blog. If you’d like to offer constructive criticism – say, about how we can all move the web forward, and what different action you’d want from Microsoft to make that happen – I’d love to hear it. If you just want to bitch, or your post falls into the category of “personal abuse,” I will delete it.
  4. If you’re obviously just trolling past – say, if you enter an obviously fake email address with a snide comment – I will probably delete your comments. I look at this pretty much every day; I don’t need that.

That’s it.  I don’t expect commenters to be Microsoft fans; I do expect you all to be civil and have good intentions of making the web better.  So far I’ve only deleted one comment – I feel pretty good about that.