A conversation with Jon Udell about his new job with Microsoft

On January 15, I'll become a Microsoft employee

For today's podcast I decided to interview myself about my upcoming new gig. It's a short episode, under six minutes, and the transcript follows.

Note: I actually meant to push this to the server later today, to synchronize with a message that will be forthcoming from Jeff Sandquist. But a mis-click on my part pushed it sooner, which means Jeff will be a bit surprised when he wakes up. Trust me, though, this is something I've been thinking carefully about for a long time, and it's very real.

Your new job is with Microsoft?

That's right. My last day at InfoWorld will be Friday Dec 15. On Jan 15, after a month-long sabbatical, I'll become a Microsoft employee. My official title will be Evangelist, and I'll report to Jeff Sandquist. He's the leader of the team that creates Channel 9 and Channel 10, websites that feature blogs, videos, screencasts, and podcasts for Microsoft-oriented developers.

What will your role be?

The details aren't nailed down, but in broad terms I've proposed to Microsoft that I continue to function pretty much as I do now. That means blogging, podcasting, and screencasting on topics that I think are interesting and important; it means doing the kinds of lightweight and agile R&D that I've always done; and it means brokering connections among people, software, information, and ideas -- again, as I've always done.

Why are you doing this?

I'm often described as a leading-edge alpha geek, and that's fair. I am, and probably always will be, a member of that club. But I'm also increasingly interested in reaching out to the mainstream of society.

For those of us in the club, it's a golden age. With computers and networks and information systems we can invent new things almost as fast as we can think them up. But we're leaving a lot of folks behind. And I'm not just talking about the digital divide that separates the Internet haves from the have-nots. Even among the haves, the ideas and tools and methods that some of us take for granted haven't really put down roots in the mainstream.

Over the years I've evangelized a bunch of things to the alpha-geek crowd: Internet groupware, blogging, syndication, tagging, web architecture, lightweight integration, microformats, structured search, screencasting, dynamic languages, geographic mapping, random-access audio, and more. There's a purpose behind all this, and Doug Engelbart saw it very clearly a long time ago. The augmentation of human capability in these sorts of ways isn't just some kind of geek chic. It's nothing less than a survival issue for our species. We face some really serious challenges. The only way we're going to be able to tackle them is to figure out how to work together in shared information spaces. I've chosen to align myself with Microsoft because I think it has the scale, the resources, and the business incentive to help me empower a lot of people to learn how to do that.

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Jon Udell

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