It's been nearly a year since I started this blog, and unfortunately as of late, I've been pretty bad at keeping it updated. I'll blame it on the craziness that was December 2006—between traveling for the holidays and Washington's recent string of weather-related maladies, it's been difficult to find enough time to really sit down and write. Well, I'm sitting in an airport in Cleveland right now, waiting for my first connection to get home to Seattle (Houston? Why do I have to go all the way south to Houston?) Good time to take a look back at the past year and see what really stuck out from this year.

Power Toys

Obviously the biggest change for me in 2006 was my team's shift to creating Power Toys for Visual Studio. (Sara's told me that isn't a brand name, but it sure looks like one, doesn't it?) This entire year, the team's been cooking up Power Toys, and I've been working on the effort as well, at least part of my time. Although I've enjoyed working on the TFS Administration Tool and Best Practices Analyzer Engine, my personal favorite Power Toy over the last year is the Snippet Designer. Yes, yes, I know, I didn't really have much to do with creating the tool (I just made the installer), but it was fun to watch Matt, our intern, figure out VSIP and proclaim nearly daily at our Scrum meetings that he was stuck on an impossible problem, only to solve the problem later in the day. This is obviously because Matt watches too much Star Trek and idolizes Scotty way too much. I can't push her much harder Cap'n…I don't know how much more she can take!

Scrum

I just mentioned Scrum, which is the "development methodology" my team has been using for the past year. I really have mixed feelings about Scrum—I love the rhythm of monthly releases and goal setting, but I absolutely hate trying to estimate how long a given Program Manager-style task is going to take a month ahead of time. (For example: "Convince Josh that Scrum estimates are really difficult to come up with. Estimated time: 4 hours." Yea, you get the picture. One fun thing for Scrum has been the daily 10 AM status meeting. Fun status meetings? Well, yea, kinda. My team enjoys conversation (about everything), so status meetings sometimes get a bit off track. I'm all for off track (as long as I have coffee in hand.)

Starbucks Machines

Thank you, thank you, thank you Microsoft for getting rid of that awful coffee and replacing it with Starbucks coffee machines. Huge upgrade. Thanks again to whoever brought lids for the little orange cups—a tall coffee from those machines did fill the cups up to the brim with hot, fresh, caffeine-filled goodness.

Forums

I have mixed feelings about the forums this year. On the plus side, this was a giant year for the MSDN Forums. We've grown to nearly 5,500 questions per week, have kept answer rates at fairly healthy levels, and seen the creation of many, many new forums and topics. I personally have enjoyed watching the off-topic forums start to grow and become interesting. On the other hand, 2006 brought my first taste of flame wars, and a struggle with keeping enough eyeballs on the forums to keep them healthy. I also had the opportunity to attend my first conference (Online Community Camp) in San Francisco, and learned that this is all about par for the course—no online communities are problem-free.

Dogfood

What's the best thing and the worse thing about being at Microsoft? Dogfooding all of the cool new software that we are building, and getting to try it out before everybody else. It's great because I'm a nerd at my core, and I love playing with new software, but using pre-release versions of products like Windows and Office for your day-to-day work can be painful. I'm happy to say that I'm using the final versions of Word 2007 and Windows Vista to blog right now—and it's a pleasure to use compared to the stuff I was using last December… J

Microsoft in General

2006 was an interesting year to be at Microsoft. Windows Vista, Office 2007, Xbox 360 (yea, it was 2005, but *I* didn't get one until 2006), Zune, and a ton of other cool products were finished. I also saw the campus continue to grow—even more buildings are being built, and traffic is by far at an all-time worst in Redmond and Seattle. (Please, please, please—stop growing the Redmond campus! The roads in the Eastside can't handle the people!)

I'll probably spend some time in the next week looking out at 2007 and trying to make some predictions at what I'd like to get done (New Years Resolutions…yuck.) But for now, my plane is boarding soon. What sticks out in your head about 2006?