Migrating from BlogEngine.NET to WordPress

WordPress FTW! After too much pain with both BlogEngine.NET and GoDaddy hosting I moved this site over to WordPress (on DreamHost) last week.

I’ve been using WordPress and DreamHost for years on my other sites, so it was only a matter of time before my personal blog finally made the move. Recent issues with BlogEngine.NET – including Search and Comments not working after a recent update – were the final straw.

I’d been dreading the work involved to make the move, but it turned out to be pretty easy. I basically followed the steps Merill outlined, with a few tiny additions that I’ll outline below. The process even includes a CSV with the required redirects to add to your .htaccess file, so you won’t lose any hard earned Google juice.

Note that the import only imports posts (ie no pages) from BlogEngine.NET – so make a manual backup of the pages from your site (eg copy the source HTML).

Here’s a summary of the steps:

  1. I’ll assume you have a blank WordPress site set up. Make sure you’ve set the Permalink structure you’d like before you do the import – the import will honour those settings.
  2. Export from BlogEngine.NET to a BlogML.xml file.
  3. Copy all the images from your old blog up to the new blog (eg into the /wp-content/uploads/ directory)
  4. Make some replacements in the BlogML.xml file (eg the images paths – BlogEngine uses image.axd?picture= re-directs that you can replace with the direct path name you used in point 3)
  5. Edit the categories in the BlogML.xml file (you’ll need to replace the GUID-like IDs with the actual category names – both at the top and throughout the file)
  6. Download the wonderful BlogML import script for WordPress by Aaron Lerch (get it here) and FTP it up to your /wp-admin/import/ directory.
  7. You may need to make some changes to the settings if you have a large file. Add these to the start of the BlogML import script just after the require_once(‘XPath.class.php’);
    ini_set("max_execution_time", "300");
    ini_set("max_input_time", "300");
    These set the memory used to 146M* (up from a default of 8MB) and the timeouts to 300 seconds (up from a default of 30). If you import has errors you may need to up these values even more. My import had 913 posts and took roughly 4 mins (ie 240 seconds). Yours may be more if you have a big site to move.
  8. Import the file in WordPress (from Tools -> Import -> BlogML)
  9. You may discover after the import that some things aren’t quite right (eg image paths), and need to import again after fixing (it took me about 5 imports until I got it all right). Before doing so, you’ll want to delete all the imported posts. You can easily do a bulk delete using the Bulk Delete WordPress plug-in.
  10. Download the CSV file of redirects. Open your .htaccess file and add them in. You’ll need to manually add any category re-directs.
  11. You can then do all the usual blog stuff (updating your FeedBurner feed source, submitting your sitemap.xml to Google Webmaster tools, etc)

Hope that helps. If you’d like any further details, leave a comment/question and I’ll update the post.

* Note: I have a Virtual Private Server on DreamHost, so I can increase my memory to 146MB no trouble – depending on your hosting package, you may limits less than this.

Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational You’ve probably heard of Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational by now. It seems to be garnering a cult like following of late, and will likely be one of those books that everyone has an opinion on (along with The Tipping Point, Freakonomics, Purple Cow, and of course Twilight :-))

Aaron Wall put me on to the book a few weeks ago and I have to agree it’s well worth reading. The book covers the irrational behaviour we all seem to exhibit, and looks at how to both insulate ourselves from the ‘tricks’ played on us, as well as how we might use them to our advantage. It works both ways I guess.

I was pleased to see that Jeff Atwood has viewed it through ‘how can I protect myself and others’ glasses, whereas most other reviews I’ve read have reinforced the lessons we can use to our own advantage.

I won’t pass judgement on the book (except to say that it blew me away!), nor even try to review it (check out the Amazon reviews here and here for the best coverage), but I will say this: As a developer, it’s easy to imagine that psychology, irrational behaviour and marketing are foreign to our line of work. But they’re not. They become more important and pronounced everyday. And whilst you may not want to action any of the ideas in this book yourself – I’d strongly recommend you at least be aware of them.

BTW, if you don’t have time to source the book and read it, then at least put aside an hour to watch this video of Dan speaking at Google last year:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) at SBTUG

Sydney Business & Technology User GroupNext Wednesday (Sep 30) at SBTUG we’re lucky to have Kristin Rohan from SassySEO along to give us a Beginners Guide to SEO For Business.  Make sure you RSVP here.

It kicks off at 6pm next Wed 30 Sep at Microsoft, North Ryde (full details and map here).
(We ask for a $5 donation to help cover the cost of pizza.)

SEO for Business

She’ll be covering a number of areas including:

  • Why it is relevant
  • What tactics you can use both internally (ie on page) and externally (ie off page)
  • How to optimise using ‘white hat’ techniques
  • Plus dispelling a few myths about SEO (you’ve no doubt received those spam emails from companies claiming they can ‘guarantee’ top 3 rankings)
  • She’ll also cover social media briefly (Twitter & Facebook) with a focus on how it can improve your website’s visibility and brand strength

Kristin has more than 16 years of Marketing, Media, Sales & Publishing experience, including three years doing Search Engine & Website Optimisation.

After the pizza break…

That’s not all though. After the pizza break we’ve got Jodie Miners and Tatham Oddie presenting on Web testing. Tatham will giving an overview of where testing fits in the business/development cycle, and then Jodie is taking us through her adventures with Selenium and Automated Web Testing.

It’s going to be a good night.

Hope to see you there. :-)

CodePlex.org versus CodePlex.com

At one time in the not-too-distant past, the mention of ‘open source’ carried a stigma with it. Perhaps an inkling that it was not high quality. Or managed by socially inept geeks. Or not well supported.

But those days are long gone, and the adoption of open-source in the enterprise is high. And while this in itself is not particularly new, what is new is that it is finally being acknowledged by major closed-source companies. Microsoft is an obvious case in point.

The recent announcement of Microsoft’s CodePlex.org is welcome news to many, and seeks to be much more active than previous initiatives – but what does it really mean?

CodePlex.org versus CodePlex.com

CodePlex.org is Microsoft’s new foundation:

“The CodePlex Foundation, a non-profit foundation formed with the mission of enabling the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities, launched today, September 10, 2009.”

By contrast, CodePlex.com is project hosting for open source software (created in 2006).

If you’re confused by this, you’re not the only one, and Microsoft’s Mission FAQ does little to clarify the issue.

Even posts from developers I respect give little clarity:

Scott Bellaware, in a very positive post, raises some interesting issues and focuses (rightly) on the opportunity this presents – but is more a message of hope than anything concrete.

Scott Hanselman’s post – complete with non-evil assurances :-) – gives a good overview and outlines the board, but still doesn’t clarify the mission of the foundation nor the benefits to common folk (that’s you and me). And, perhaps because of some pretty aggressive blowback MS have received over the announcement, he’s taken a slightly defensive stance. Probably wise, given the comments that resulted on the post, most of which are negative.

Going further, Scott’s podcast (download links here) serves largely to magnify the confusion – and illustrates how unsure everyone is.

Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing a little bit of back-pedding from Microsoft with comments to the effect of the announcement being a ‘soft launch’ (see Bill Staple’s comment on Scott’s post).

But let’s be fair, ‘the org’ haven’t really worked out the full plan yet, and it will take shape over time. After all, that’s their 100 day plan.


It has to be acknowledged of course – without getting too cynical – that ‘open source’ is a powerful marketing angle, and Microsoft has been wise to take a bigger stake in the mindshare (along with Facebook, Google, Apple, Atlassian and plenty of others joining the likes of Mozilla, GNOME and OSI).

Everyone wants to be ‘involved’ in an open source initiative these days, and if you can’t leverage an existing one, then creating your own is the next obvious step.

So the question is whether a commercial entity (Microsoft), creating a foundation (CodePlex.org) is a bad thing. Is it? I don’t think so. Sure Microsoft stands to gain a lot, but as long as others do as well, then it can be a good thing right? Time will tell…

Advantages of CodePlex.org

There’s a number of advantages that a foundation can provide, and whilst it is still unclear exactly what Microsoft (ahem – I mean, “the board”) will focus on, the obvious three revolve around providing:

  • copyright protection
  • patent advice
  • licensing services

There’s also the perception benefit of something being associated with a protective foundation. As Scott mentioned in his podcast, jQuery is a good example of a project that gained much wider acceptance in enterprise once it was embraced by Microsoft. The technology didn’t change, but the perceived trustworthiness of it did. And hopefully projects that come under the CodePlex.org umbrella will gain this intangible benefit also.


The main issue with CodePlex.org is that they’ve come in half-cocked and made a confusing mess – and just when CodePlex.com was starting to gain momentum (eg they just hit their 10,000th project earlier this year).

People are loving CodePlex.com, but now they’re unsure what is going on. In fact, some people are so confused by it all I’ve seen a few wondering if Windows 7 is going to be made open-source on CodePlex.org. LOL!

Be Patient

But give them time. The current problem with CodePlex.org is simply a matter of poor timing. It was launched too early (most likely forced by the Marketing departments in response to a competitor’s launch around the same time) and has not yet worked out what it wants/needs to be. That’s why they need high-quality participants to come on board.

Aside: Whenever a half-assed product/service/announcement comes out – don’t get too confused. Just apply the ‘look over there’ test. Google, Apple and Microsoft love playing this game of seeing who can divert the most attention away from a competing vendor’s release (I’ll see your Bing announcement and raise it with a Wave diversion, etc, etc). For those playing along at home, see if you can work out what the CodePlex.org announcement was a response to…

And thus…

Come back in 3 months when the board isn’t stacked with Microsoft & ex-Microsoft staff, and they’ve got their mission fully sorted, and I think we’ll all be pleased with the initiative.

Virtualisation Smackdown next Wed 26 August

I’m pretty excited, I gotta say, about this month’s Sydney Business & Technology User Group meeting – we’re having a Virtualisation Smackdown! It’s this coming Wednesday, starting at 6pm.

Here’s the details: SBTUG - High level clarity

  • Date: Wed 26 August 2009
  • Time: 6pm – 9pm
  • Location: Microsoft, North Ryde (map)
  • Web: www.sbtug.com
  • Phone: 0413 489 388 (call me if you get there after 6pm and need to get it)
  • RSVP on Facebook (or email me)

Smackdown, Schhhmackdown!

What this means – for the smackdown uninitiated – is that we have a panel of speakers (6 in our case) each present on a different virtualisation product. We’ve got Citrix coming along, VMware, and Microsoft each presenting on a few of their products. The smackdown term came to be used because… well, actually I’m really sure why it is used – it just sounds good I guess…

I think the concept is along the lines of them going ‘head-to-head’ in a contest to demonstrate the ultimate virtualisation champion! Or some such.

Who’s the night for?

Virtualisation is a big field, and there are literally hundreds of offerings out there. We can’t possibly cover it all. So, instead we are focussing on the big 3 vendors, with the aim of providing an understanding of what virtualisation is, and the benefits. Plus a chance to understand what each of the main players offer.

Citrix VMware Microsoft

We’ll be covering developer, IT Pro and business owner scenarios, and as per the SBTUG matra, our aim is to provide ‘high level clarity’. You may not come out with a technical understanding of how to configure a loopback network adapter on your chosen platform – but you will understand which platform to look at if you need to say run 64 bit programs in a virtualised environment as a developer (<- that’s just one example).


We’ve been very lucky with our speaker line-up (and a big thank you to Kathy Hughes for organizing this). Here’s who’s going to be ‘on stage’:

  • Kathy Hughes – Microsoft SharePoint MVP – covering an overview of virtualisation, plus the developer scenario
  • Steven Gross – VMware Asia-Pacific Product Manager – presenting on VMware ESX Server
  • Dino Soepono – Citrix – presenting on XenServer
  • Scott Lindsay – Citrix – presenting on XenServer with Dino
  • Jeff Alexander – Microsoft IT Pro Evangelist – presenting on the Microsoft Strategy and Hyper-V
  • Nick Rayner – Windows User Group Leader – presenting on Virtual PC and Virtual Server

I don’t have proper publicity photos of our presenters for the night, so the following ‘likeness’ will have to do:

This is not what the presenters look like

(Image source: WWE.com)

Actually, perhaps its more akin to a body building competition than wrestling. In my mind, it’s not so much about fighting each other, but rather presenting the muscles of your technology. I’ve asked the speakers to focus on demonstrating their strengths (as opposed to criticising their competition).

In fact, I’ll be asking the crowd to boo any speakers who take cheap shots at their rivals :-). This will be a no vendor bashing zone!

Format for the night

The format is pretty simple. Each presenter has 15 minutes to highlight the features and benefits of their product and outline the usual usage scenario (ie a desktop tool has different uses to a server product). Plus 5 minutes for questions. Given that we have an intro + 5 slots, I’ll be pretty strict with the time.

At the end of the night we’ll be having a 30 minute panel session with all speakers up the front, taking questions from the crowd. And of course feel free to hang around at the end, network, ask more questions of the speakers etc.

Here’s the agenda:

6:00pm : Welcome + News: Craig BaileyAre you a Virtual Geek - a Veek ?
6:15pm : Introduction to Virtualisation: Kathy Hughes
6:30pm : Virtualization for Developers with VMware Workstation: Kathy Hughes
6:50pm : VMware ESX Server: Steven Gross from VMware
7:10pm : Hyper-V + Microsoft strategy : Jeff Alexander from Microsoft
7:30pm : Pizza
7:45pm : XenServer + Citrix strategy: Dino Soepono and Scott Lindsay from Citrix
8:05pm : Virtual PC + Virtual Server: Nick Rayner
8:30pm : Panel session – ask the panel any virtualisation questions
9:00pm : Finish

Plus we have some great prizes – including a special-edition VEEK T-Shirt (a big thank you to Jon Harsem for the design) for one lucky attendee. These shirts have been specially designed and printed just for the night!


I ask for a $5 donation from attendees to cover the cost of pizza. Donating is optional of course, but I’ve noticed that the people who do donate are far and away more attractive, of higher intelligence, and the most interesting to be around. I suspect it is a causal relationship…

See you there

It’s going to be a big night. Make sure you’re there. Either RSVP on our Facebook event page, or send me an email to let me know you’ll be there.

Please spread the word.

We start at 6pm sharp!

Windows Marketplace for Mobile

I was a little disappointed to read Microsoft’s Developer Strategy for the Next Generation of Windows Phones.

Windows Mobile Development Unveiled last week, this PressPass piece indicates that Microsoft will be sharing 70% of sales revenue with developers for any Windows Mobile 6.5 applications sold through Windows Marketplace for Mobile. (Note: 70% is the same as Apple shares on their AppStore)

Put another way, Microsoft is charging you 30% of your sale, for giving you the opportunity to make your app available via Marketplace for Mobile. This seems high to me. Of course, having access to a huge international market is fantastic (and well worth the 30% commission I’m sure), and the promised feedback to developers on whether their apps meet certification requirements is extremely valuable.

But in a catch-up strategy (which Microsoft is definitely in), and with established channels such as Handango already in play (although to be fair they charge a whopping 40%), I was hoping for something spectacular from Microsoft.

Microsoft may still have significant market share in the mobile space, but it is eroding, and thus the success of endeavours like Marketplace for Mobile is vital for the platform. Microsoft needs to be attracting amazing mobile developers and encouraging the development of amazing mobile apps.

Ideally we’d be seeing Microsoft offering 95% share, with weekly competitions, awards for exceptional apps (as judged by their certification committee), special promotions of quality apps, etc.

Obviously there is significant infrastructure (and thus costs) required to facilitate the Mobile Marketplace, but extracting this from developers is not the way to proceed.

No, in this catch-up-to-the-iPhone-App-Store climate, Microsoft needs to view Mobile Marketplace as a marketing expense, not a monetization strategy.


Aside: In some ways this reminds me of the mistake Microsoft made with the early versions of its developer tools for Office (VSTO).  Initial versions required special ISV partnerships, followed by versions charged at a hefty license fee. Not until recent years has VSTO become part of the Visual Studio install, and even now it still has some hurdles, since it is only included in the Professional Version and above. IMO, putting the VSTO tooling in the Express versions is long overdue, but that’s a topic for another post…

Photosynth and Location

Photosynth Map Explore

Perhaps you missed this little gem: Photosynth Map Explore.

I hope not, because I think it represents an interesting insight into the future of location.

A little while back I was underwhelmed with Photosynth, but I did look forward to improvements with location being tied in. Photosynth Map Explore is the answer. It’s early days, but the potential here is huge. I love it.

I was, and still am, looking forward to every photo being geo-tagged and angle coded. But here’s the obvious tipping point I missed. At some point we’ll get to a point where we have enough geo-tagged photos that we’ll be able to go in reverse. We’ll be able to upload an older photo, and with technology like Photosynth, be able to reverse calculate where it was taken.

You can see where I’m heading right? With enough photos catalogued in a site like the Photosynth Map Explore site, we’ll be able to slot in a photo and have it tell us where the photo was taken.

And the beautiful thing… every new photo that gets reverse located, adds further to the overall database, and makes the coverage even better.

The possibilities are endless. We haven’t even discussed the overlaying of timestamp data on the coverage. You’ll be able to reverse not only a location, but perhaps even the time it was taken (as landmarks, seasons and other characteristics change). And then the obvious step is to be able to do this for any frame in a video.

I’m actually pretty excited about this. And intrigued. Just as Google Maps and Live Maps has brought national security considerations into the conversation (and with just satelite imagery), imagine how potentially disruptive technology like this could be. 

Find out more about Photosynth here.

(For a good overview read the LiveSide post.)

The Twitter Popularity Contest

Twitter has changedI’ve been wondering what’s next after Twitter. Where are all the cool kids heading these days?

After all, it has become so mainstream now that the inevitable transformation from intimate community to marketing broadcast is all but complete. The vibe on Twitter has changed.

Yes I know, that’s what the Un-follow option is for, but that doesn’t stop the fact that Twitter has changed. And for me, I guess I’ve become a little disillusioned of late. Here’s a few thoughts.

Warning: tongue-in-cheek *analysis* follows:

People follow you to be followed back

Can you spot our next contestant?Has this been going on for a while, or has it just started in the last few weeks?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I have to say it is a shame to see that some of the ‘interaction’ on Twitter has changed to promotion and micro popularity contests. I realised this recently when I started getting followed by a lot more people than normal. Strange, I thought. Perhaps I’ve got something useful to say :) Think again.

The giveaway is when you get a whole bunch of new followers each day, and yet you finish the day with less followers than you started. Why is that?

Here’s another giveaway: you get followed by someone, and then they follow you again a few days later. Yep, you were quickly un-followed, and then they’ve had another go, not realising that you were a previous attempt.

I suspect that a fair proportion of my new followers are simply following me in order to get a follow back. Why? Because… if you have a lot of followers you must have something important to say, right? And if you have a whole bunch more followers that you follow, then you must be particularly important. And (so the logic goes) if you’re important then people are more likely to buy your stuff.

Now, a few months ago this was probably true. In my usual circle (technology), if you had a lot of followers you probably did have something worth hearing. But since moving into additional circles recently (SEO, social networking, small business, media, etc) I’ve seen much different behaviour. It seems as though ‘conversation’ has been replaced with ‘competition’.

Gee, I’m starting to feel a little left out in this competition…

How to feel more popular

Take my profile as an example. I’m always following new people, as well as following back probably 70% of people who follow me (the interesting ones). As such, here’s my profile as of Thursday 12 March.

Craig Bailey Twitter profile 

You’ll notice I follow more people than follow me. Ooops. This represents a major no-no in the popularity stakes. Fun little tools like Twittergrader will help me see the light. For example, here’s how Twittergrader grades me:

Craig Bailey Twitter Grader

Time to make amends. I need to improve my followers-to-following ratio.

No problem, I’ll just go through and un-follow a bunch of people. Here’s the results after some purging.

Craig Bailey Twitter profile 

Let’s see how Twittergrader rewards me:

Craig Bailey Twitter Grader

Awesome. I’m now ranked 2,000 positions higher and my grade has improved slightly. See, ranking higher is as simple as cutting back on the conversations you engage in! My online engagement experience is poorer, but I have the warm fuzzy feeling of being just a little bit more popular.

With a bit more purging I reckon I can improve my grade into the 99 percentile and fool myself into thinking I’m actually interesting!

(btw: wouldn’t it be good if Twittergrader added some categorisations too: <80 = you’re boring, >90 = scintillating, >99 = The sun shines from your…, etc)

How to be popular

A quick start guide for the newbies – here’s how to fool yourself into feeling really popular:

  1. Find someone that actually is popular (example)
  2. Go through their followers list and start following
  3. Wait 24-48 hours – you can probably expect at least a 20% follow back response
  4. Un-follow just about everyone
  5. Inspect updated Twitter grade
  6. Enjoy warm fuzzy feeling
  7. Find someone else that is really popular and repeat

Advanced strategies

Here’s a few advanced tips for newbies, particularly those working in marketing departments or small businesses, who have just heard about this new ‘Twitter phenomenon’:

  • Do: buy in to the whole ‘Twitter is an un-tapped market’ philosophy
  • Do: treat every follower as a potential sale (as opposed to a conversation)
  • Do: send out marketing messages almost straight away (hey, people can’t wait to buy your stuff)
  • Do: assume that you are one of the first to discover this Twitter thing, and that you have a wonderful window of opportunity to do nothing else but promote your products
  • Do: promote yourself as a social media strategist/expert even though you’ve only just joined Twitter this week


Don’t underestimate the change

Hey, look, obviously I’m just having a bit of a light-hearted look at things here, so don’t take it too seriously. Sure, promotion and marketing are important – don’t get me wrong – of all people I’m especially aware of this as I build a new business with my wife.

And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having lots of followers, or a good ratio.

The problem is when the pursuit of followers changes behaviour, conversations and engagement on what has been a wonderful, intimate, ego-less ecosystem so far. It’s a subtle change, but one that’s growing.

Am I over-reacting? Perhaps. And yes, quite possibly this is just a case of sour grapes because I’m not very popular :-)

But here’s my prediction: give it a few months and the release of soon-to-be revealed Twitter monetization strategies and I think many of the foundational Twitter members will be moving on.

And thus my opening question: Given that Twitter has changed, where are all the cool kids heading to now? Any thoughts?

Suggestions for Microsoft – Engage the Developer Community better

Image of an engagement ring - lame I know - sorry, it was the best thing I could think of to evoke the need for better relationships with developers. Relationships are nothing if you never connect...This was originally titled: “Frustrations with Microsoft – Part II” and is a follow on from my post in January. But I decided to change the title so that it comes across more positive. I don’t actually like complaining (seriously!) and my real aim is to provide constructive thought, so tweaking the words a bit will hopefully help.

That said however, I do see a problem with how Microsoft engages with the wider developer community, both here in Australia and globally. I’ve been chatting through these ideas with a few people over the last months, and whilst I get some occasional nods of agreement, I realise for the most part I’m on my own. But I’ll put it out here anyway. Let me know your thoughts…

It’s about discoverability

The issue as I see it is that Microsoft still hasn’t worked out how to engage with the wider developer community. I’m sure they know this is a problem, but I don’t see much initiative from them in solving it.

Here’s the reality: You reach developers via a Google search result.

That is, the majority of developer engagement is via a useful search result link.

And thus, Microsoft needs to work on SEOing their massive cache of developer resources (MSDN, TechNet, blogs and product sites) in order to provide appropriate content to search savvy developers. It’s about discoverability.

Before we go on…

An aside: You may or may not know that I was laid off from my job at nsquared in January. This isn’t the post to discuss why, however the reason I mention it is because for the past month I’ve been working on my wife’s site at Get Organized Wizard*. During that time we’ve been getting our heads around SEO, Social Networking and Google AdWords (amongst other things like product creation and general website development).

Here’s the biggest lesson we’ve learnt: People must be able to find you!

Obvious right? Yep. You might have great products, but if people can’t find them, then what’s the point? It’s absolutely crucial that every business understand just how important discoverability is. And by discoverability we mean two things:

1. Knowing what people are searching for, and

2. Optimizing our sites to be found for those terms (ie Search Engine Optimization).

The wonderful thing: most of our competitors have really bad SEO. By tweaking our site, we are climbing up the search results pretty quick. For some of our terms we are now on page 1. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And don’t get me wrong – it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s really hard. I guess that’s why there’s a whole SEO industry doing really well now…

Why do I mention this experience? Simply because I think this is a micro-shot (that’s kinda like a micro snap-shot :-) of the problem Microsoft is facing with developers.

Microsoft and Developers

Back to Microsoft engaging with developers. Microsoft has lots of great content, but it’s just not in a format that is easily found by the “majority of developers”. Keep in mind that the “majority of developers” are those still working in .NET 2.0 and SQL Server 2005. They aren’t the minority who are well informed on the latest tools, attend user groups and follow prominent bloggers. No, the majority are the back room guys and girls who provide and maintain the bulk of enterprise software infrastructure out there. Let’s call them the normal developers :-).

Microsoft’s problem is how to engage with these normal developers.

Here’s an example of the kinds of things a normal developer might search for:

Silverlight compared to WPF

I’ve spoken to many people who are still confused about WPF. Here’s a common question: I’ll get asked if WPF is a good strategy for web development and if it’s better than Silverlight. Silly right? Well no, actually. Because it indicates the message isn’t getting communicated well. That’s valuable feedback. And is it any wonder? Take a look at the search results – if you’re unsure what WPF is, then you’re probably still going to be confused after looking through the first page of links**. There’s an opportunity for developer engagement here.

[For the record: WPF is not a web technology, it is client side only (although it can be deployed as an XBAP). And for some clarity on Silverlight, here’s my post from 2007: Flash versus Flex versus Silverlight).]

Long tail searches

Here’s another example, this time on a longer tail term:

Microsoft is always going to rank 1 for generic terms (eg a search for SharePoint is always going to show a Microsoft site first), but it’s the longer tail terms that developers are really searching for. Take a look at this search term: “how to install SharePoint services” and tell me if you think the results** are high quality. These kinds of things are another big opportunity for Microsoft to engage really well with developers.

Damage control

And taking it a step further, it’s not only developer engagement, it’s also damage control. Take an example from my own blog:

One of the more popular posts on my blog has been this one: How to Uninstall IE8. These days (almost 12 months after I originally wrote it) it still gets a reasonable amount of traffic. Why? Because it ranks well. Here’s yet another opportunity for Microsoft – this time to capture an angry audience and soothe their frustrations. If Microsoft could rank number 1 for this search term, and then take the user to a friendly page that walked them through not only how to uninstall, but also offered solutions for common frustrations with IE8 they might just win back a few users they’d otherwise lose.

So, how do they go about this?

The solution: dedicated SEO specialists at Microsoft

As I mentioned earlier, the solution to discoverability is two-fold:

1. You need to know what people are searching for

2. Once you know what they want, you need to make the right content rank well for those terms

This is essentially internet marketing 101. Sounds easy of course, but it’s really hard. It’ll take time. 

In my opinion Microsoft needs to do this if they are going to engage successfully. Instead of developers being directed to advert-laden, dodgy IT forums and years old sites when they search Google (eg see the earlier search example results), they need to be directed to appropriate content on Microsoft sites. 

Each product team needs to have a dedicated group of Keyword researchers and SEO trained content authors. If they aren’t already, they should also be providing training to all their higher profile bloggers on how to target and rank for specific search terms.

Keyword researchers should be using feedback from the developer evangelists and technical specialists to narrow in on what terms normal developers are searching for (point 1 above). And then use SEO specialists with their technical writers and product managers to create/format the content appropriately (point 2 above).

Let me stress: this isn’t about lack of good content. I’ve been really impressed with the initiatives Microsoft has put into providing excellent community portals, full of rich, useful information. The problem isn’t lack of content. The problem is getting it to the right people.

Microsoft PDC - awesome stuff for the minority developers - but how to engage with the majority?

Some final thoughts

The days of flashy events, road-shows and other extravaganzas are pretty much gone for the next few years. Microsoft needs to spend its marketing dollars really strategically now.

Perhaps most importantly, Microsoft needs to optimize for Google ranking (which is quite different to Live Search ranking). With things like Universal Search mainstream now, LSI pretty much a requirement, and the growing importance of micro-formats for SEO, Microsoft needs to plan strategically for Google result dominance (as well as understanding that ranking in Live Search is not going to guarantee any results in Google).

Divisional structure will be a problem

Microsoft is a big company so I’m sure there’s a ton of different departments and divisions working out how best to spend marketing and advertising dollars. The problem is that there’s often no real unified strategy for targeting developers. Each division has its own KPIs. That’s why expensive banner ads and trade magazine pages seem to be the standard approach for many marketing efforts. I’m guessing the conversion rates on these are very low, and achieve little more than brand awareness.

But if some of those marketing dollars were spent on proper SEO initiatives and driving developers to the right pages, I’m sure there’d be much greater buy-in from users, and a much higher willingness to be cross-sold to.

But hey, I’m not a marketer so I realise I’m speaking from ignorance here! So consider this last point less as a suggestion for how to do it, and more as feedback as to what I, a developer, would prefer to experience.

Conclusion: Developer engagement

Coming full circle now and back to engaging with developers, it’s pretty simple to see how Microsoft can improve their reputation significantly and foster deep developer satisfaction: Find out what they want, and make sure they can get to it! But it’ll take a change in approach from both marketing and technical teams, and with it a re-working of the incentives and KPI structures in place.


* Get Organized Wizard provides organizers and systems for organizing your life, personal organization and goal setting

** Note that your search results might be different to mine – Google tailors results based on your search history – but hopefully the results you see will be similar to mine and you’ll understand my point.

Silverlight 2 update gets it right

Last month I lamented the complexity Microsoft was imposing on products. Today’s Silverlight refresh is a simple example of them getting it right – it’s, um, simple.

Here’s the upgrade screen you see when hit the Silverlight install page. I especially appreciate the message (marked in the red box). One big button. Simple.

Silverlight upgrade screen

(Of course if you’ve got the developer tools installed, you’ll need to install the new developer version.)

(via Tim Sneath)