On June 10, word began to leak across the blogosphere that Robert Scoble, Windows technology evangelist and well-known Microsoft blogger, had decided to leave the Microsoft mother ship and join startup PodTech.Net.
Scoble “swallowed the red pill” and joined Microsoft in 2003. He was already blogging before becoming a “Softie,” but he rose to prominence because of the blogging he did once he arrived in Redmond, Wash. Scoble was instrumental in helping Microsoft build out its Channel 9 community site. Earlier this year, Scoble and co-author Shel Israel published “Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Business Talk with Customers.”
Microsoft Watch Editor Mary Jo Foley had a chance to ask Scoble five final questions via e-mail. (She threw in a sixth bonus question, for good measure.) Here is the transcript of her last conversation with Scoble as a Microsoft employee.
What was your biggest surprise about working at Microsoft?
That theyd really just let me walk around with a camcorder without having a PR person or a lawyer along. Even after quitting I have the entire run of the place. Thats not typical even in the technology world. At Apple, my brother-in-laws badge only works in his building.
Another surprise? That every bad decision that I thought was bad had a logical explanation behind it. I didnt always agree with the decisions, but there was always a decent thought process behind every decision and, most of the time, after hearing the circumstances behind a decision, I usually came to the same conclusion that they did. Its not easy building software that hundreds of millions of people use.
Did you ever think youd be fired? What was the closest you came to it? (I was betting, myself, youd be fired before youd quit.)
There were times when I knew I was taking risks. I didnt know what would happen when I told Steve Ballmer that his leadership on the gay rights bill wasnt good. When he changed his mind within a week that impressed me a lot. Since then Ive learned that great leaders listen more than they talk. Its a skill you rarely think about or talk about in the press.
Actually, I broke a few rules. I wasnt supposed to talk to reporters and I always did anyway. But I was scared about that in the first year.