I thought it might be fun to try a little interactive design experience. There's been a lot of discussion about blogging from OneNote, and how it would make a good tool for managing posts, etc. So it is easy to say "hey, add support for blogging to OneNote!". But if you've read my previous posts on how software feature decisions get made (link), then you know it is not as simple as just wanting something. The feature has to be justified on several levels: value to customer, development/test cost, completeness of solution, appropriateness for the application, likelihood of being competitive with alternatives, etc.

So I thought it might be a fun exercise to take y'all through this process for something that I am sure most of you can relate to: reading and consuming blogs. Now, I want to be clear that as we do this, I am not foreshadowing or promising anything about future versions of OneNote. This is only an exercise - however, I am going to apply the same rigour we would use for any proposed feature for OneNote.

First a word of caution - don’t let your enthusiasm for blogging carry you away. We're a business, so we don't do stuff because "its cool", or "I'd love it" or "blogging and RSS *rules* so all apps must support it". Or "Blogging is the answer. Now what was the question?" You have to make a business justification for the feature and your approach.

So, let's dive in. How should blogging from OneNote work? Is that even the right first step? Maybe we should instead subscribe to RSS feeds and consume blogs rather than produce them? Why are we even considering this? Where's the value in any of this vs. single-purpose free software tools? Is it in integration with the rest of your info in OneNote?

Is the power of OneNote that you can "blog offline" then sync up later? If so, is this automatic or a manual "publish now" button that only works when online? Or is it just a pretty good text editor (not as good as Word though, so why use OneNote when Word is there?)

What's the scenario? Are you writing single entries in OneNote and publishing them, then forgetting them (like Word docs)? Or are you keeping a OneNote section that matches your blog one page per entry, so at any time you can change or update past entries and upload the changes in bulk? If we are consuming RSS, do we have a feed going directly into a OneNote section? If so, does that scale to hundreds or thousands of items? Are we blogging for fun, or for business? If the latter we can hope to generate much more revenue than for pleasure, but it is harder to show that blogging is viable in an organization. What's the business case you would make to a customer if we did this for business users? Do we need to integrate with portal software, etc...

Well, that's enough questions. I'm curious to hear what you think. I've created a new category for this discussion, so we can continue it while the main part of my blog meanders on...