go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

January, 2010

  • go ahead, mac my day

    participants needed for Messenger:Mac study


    In light of all of the questions I get here about Messenger, I thought that maybe some of y'all would be interested in participating in a Messenger:Mac usability study.

    My team is conducting a usability study about corporate use of Messenger:Mac. The study will be the week of February 15, and will take place at our offices in Redmond, Washington. For this usability study, we need users who meet the following criteria:

    • use Messenger:Mac at work
    • connect their Messenger:Mac to Office Communicator Server at work
    • are able to come to our lab in Redmond, Washington

    If you meet these criteria, please contact me. In your mail, give me your full name, email address, and a daytime telephone number. You'll hear from one of our recruiters, who will call and ask you a few questions.

    If you're a Messenger:Mac user and don't meet these criteria, don't fret: we've got more studies coming up in the future. To be considered, please sign up to participate in our usability studies.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    job opening: user experience manager in the Macintosh Business Unit


    My team, the User Experience team in the Macintosh Business Unit, is looking for a User Experience Manager. The UX manager oversees UX research (including me!), UX design, and user assistance for all applications (present and future) in the Macintosh Business Unit.

    There's a whole job description here, and you can read that to hear what my senior management thinks about this position. From my position as a researcher on the team, what particularly resonates with me as a need for this position is someone who can develop and direct a research strategy across a variety of methods. I want a manager to help me extend the breadth and depth of my research here in MacBU, so that I can deliver research that is even more meaningful and impactful.

    We're looking for someone with at least 10 years of experience in software UX, managing design and research as well as managing people. Since the MacBU is split between Redmond, Mountain View, and Beijing, you should expect occasional travel.

    If you want to learn more about the position, feel free to contact me. You can also apply for the position (in case that link breaks somehow, you can search Microsoft Careers for job ID is 708677).

    We have other positions open on the team as well, but none of them are as near-and-dear to my heart as this one. You can search on Microsoft Careers, select "Mac Office" in the "product" drop-down list. Currently, we're also looking for developers (SDE, Software Development Engineer), testers (SDET, Software Developer in Test), and an architect.

    Joining us now means that you'll help us wrap up the next version of Office:Mac, and you'll get in just as we're starting to kick off our work for the following version too. It's a great time to join the team and be able to make your mark on software that's used by millions of Mac users worldwide.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    tablet rumours


    It's a few days before the next Apple announcement, and I'm really surprised at how the blogs have absolutely exploded with rumours, conjecture, hyperbole, and heaven knows what else. There's a part of me that hopes that Apple goes on stage on Wednesday, pretends to be completely unaware of the bandwidth devoted to all of these rumours, and announces a minor update to the Mac Pro. Or maybe a new version of that ugly iPod speaker thing they did a couple of years ago. Or just OS X 10.7, which I've decided should be named Tipsy (he's a big kitty!).

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: How do I book a conference room in Entourage?


    I got this one via email:

    How do I schedule a meeting room in Entourage?

    Assuming that my anonymous questioner meant "how do I schedule a meeting room in Entourage using Exchange?", the answer is pretty simple.

    There are two components to this. One is something that needs to happen on the Exchange side, one is what you do in Entourage. On the Exchange side, your Exchange admin should turn on the Auto Accept Agent for your conference rooms. The Auto Accept Agent does exactly that: when it gets a request for a meeting, so long as it's not conflicting with something already on its calendar, then it accepts the meeting request. Technically, your Exchange admin doesn't have to do this; if they don't, then you'll need someone who manually manages the room to accept/reject meeting invites. I think that many organisations simply find it easier to let the Auto Accept Agent do its thing.

    On the Entourage side, you just treat the conference room as another attendee: add it to the "Invite" line in your invitation along with everyone else. You'll see the conference room's free/busy information in the scheduling tab along with everyone else's, so you can see whether the room is available. When you send the invite out, if your Exchange server has the Auto Accept Agent enabled, you'll get a response back from the conference room pretty much immediately.

    When I send out invites with conference rooms, I make sure that I put the room's location in the "location" field. That way, my other invitees don't need to look at the invite line to see where the meeting is being held. (And neither do I: I always forget which conference room I'm going to, and rely on my iPhone to get me there.)

    Microsoft, as you can imagine, has hundreds of conference rooms across the company. But there are only a handful that I use on a regular basis. I've added that handful to my Entourage address book so that I don't have to remember the somewhat-arcane way they're listed in the Global Address List, and I give them a nickname that corresponds to what we call them. For example, the conference room that I use the most often is named "Conf Room SVC5/pacific" in the GAL, but it's just "Pacific" in my address book so that I don't have to type out all of that other stuff.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: how do I sync my BlackBerry with Entourage?


    I noticed a comment go by on twitter:

    Finally sat down and set up Microsoft Entourage on my iMac. I absolutely love it!! Would love it more if I could sync my blkberry though.

    I saw that tweet and pointed towards both Missing Sync and the BlackBerry Desktop for Mac. In doing some more research, she found that the folks at BlackBerry describe using BlackBerry Desktop Manager version 1.0 to synchronize a BlackBerry smartphone with Microsoft Entourage on a Mac computer.

    Looking over their instructions from my perspective on the Entourage side of the fence, it looks mostly in order. They do say that "By default, Sync Services is not installed within Microsoft Entourage 2004", which isn't quite accurate. Entourage 2004 came out before Sync Services was part of OS X, so we added support to it in a service pack. So long as you're using Entourage 2004 SP2 (11.2) or later, support for Sync Services is included, and you won't need to do anything special to install it. You'll just enable it as indicated in the screenshot in the BlackBerry link above, which is the same way that you do so in Entourage 2008 or Entourage for Web Services.

    As always, if you're interested in what I'm up to on a more granular level, you can follow me on twitter here.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: don't usability studies violate your NDA?


    In response to my blog post offering up a sneak peak of Outlook:Mac via a usability study, I got a question via twitter:

    does that violate your NDA?
    i understood that MS had strict NDA to not show off upcoming software. Sure I'd love to see it. Show me what you've got! :)

    If it violated my non-disclosure agreement (NDA), I would've been fired ages ago! I've showed hundreds of people our early designs for Outlook:Mac, not to mention the work that I've done for unannounced features in PowerPoint, and some of the new coolness coming in the form of [redacted].

    Microsoft does show upcoming software to our users, but we do so carefully. Specifically, for my usability studies, each study has about ten people who come into my lab to see potential future designs. Each participant signs a NDA. Since I'm doing so much of my work early in our efforts, they're not actually seeing live code, they're seeing prototypes that might or might not reflect what actually ends up in the final product. After all, I'm doing this research before coding begins for a reason: I want to see how usable it is, and sometimes it means that my team has to go back to the drawing board.

    There are other ways that we show our upcoming software to our users, also under NDA. For example, February is the big Microsoft MVP Summit, and our Mac MVPs will get to see lots of details about the next version of Office, and have an opportunity to provide plenty of feedback about what they see.

    If you can keep a secret and want to see what might be coming in Office:Mac, you can sign up to participate in usability studies. If you can't keep a secret, then you can just follow me on twitter here, where you'll see what I can publicly say about working here (and whatever else might spring to mind).

  • go ahead, mac my day

    the thing I hate the most about my job


    For the most part, I love what I do. But there's one thing that continually drives me crazy about my job.

    I've been living and breathing the next version of Office:Mac for the past couple of years. I've done mountains of research on it. Since it's coming out in time for your holiday shopping pleasure later this year, we're coming up on the home stretch, certainly for the user experience. My work on the UX is done early, long before coding begins. I know exactly what's in the pipeline and how it will work.

    Today, I'm working on a PowerPoint deck [1]. This deck is a collaboration with my peers across the MacBU UX team. I'm working on it in PowerPoint 2008 because today's dogfood build isn't happy with a deck of this size. This, of course, is why I dogfood: when we find issues like this through real usage, we get to solve them earlier and it makes for a better product overall.

    My issue isn't that today's dogfood build doesn't like my huge deck. The problem is that there's something new coming in PowerPoint that would make the particular thing that I want to accomplish today so much easier. I can't tell you what it is yet (which is why I'm also being cagey about what I'm actually trying to do in my deck) -- ask me again when we start revealing the coolness about PowerPoint and I'll tell you all about it, how we got here, and why I want it so very much.

    I know how well this new awesomeness works as it's designed. I've done a lot of research related to this, and users in my lab have told me how much they like it. They even asked me when they could get the new PowerPoint with this new awesomeness, because they have to do a task similar to the one that I'm trying to do today frequently. But the actual code for this feature is being written as I type, and it's not even ready for me to dogfood yet.

    And that's what drives me crazy about this job: I know what's coming in the future, but I can't use it today, even though it would solve my needs as a user of my application. I'm not living in the future, but I know what the future holds, and I want it now!

    [1] I have to note that it feels a bit odd to write a deck that has content about the next version of PowerPoint when I'm using the current version of PowerPoint. It's very meta.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    want a sneak peak of Outlook:Mac?


    Edited on 21 January 2010: This study is now filled, so please don't contact me directly about it. You can sign up to participate in future usability studies here. Thanks for all your interest!

    As we've already announced, Outlook is coming to the Mac. I can't post details about it here yet, but I can offer up another way for you to see what Outlook:Mac might look like. My team is conducting another usability study of Outlook:Mac. The next study will take place in Mountain View, California, during the week of January 25. For this study, I need users who meet the following criteria:

    • use a Mac for work purposes
    • connect to an Exchange account
    • use mail and calendar several times a week

    If you meet these criteria and are available to participate the week of January 25, please contact me with your name, daytime telephone number, and email address. I'll forward your details along to my recruiter, who will call/email you to ask you a few more questions and hopefully get you signed up.

    If you don't meet these criteria, aren't in the Bay Area, or aren't available that week, there's still more opportunities. My team is doing lots of work, so this isn't your last chance. You can sign up to participate in usability studies to get onto the list of potential participants.

    And if you don't meet these criteria, but you know someone who might, please don't hesitate to send a link to this blog post to them. :)

    Edited on 14 January 2010 to clarify some things.

    The study is being conducted at my lab in Mountain View, California. You must come to my lab to participate. Due to the nature of this study, I cannot conduct it with someone who is not physically in my lab. If you are not in the area and thus cannot participate in this particular usability study, my team does conduct studies elsehwere, and you can sign up to participate in them here.

    This is a usability study and not a call for beta participants. When we have beta plans to share, I'll do so here, and I'm sure that we'll post over on Mac Mojo, the team blog, as well. Please don't mail me at this time telling me how great of a beta participant you would be, because I can't do anything with that information right now.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    the spiffy new Microsoft blog


    There's a spiffy new Microsoft blog, and this is some of what they have to say about themselves:

    This official Microsoft Blog aims to cover and add context around the top level news from the company and industry. It is intended to compliment the Microsoft News Center, where you’ll find a steady stream of news and information about the company, as well as some of our partners and customers. On the blog, you’ll see the company’s perspective on the news, along with the thoughts and opinions of some of our employees and executives, and our reaction to what we see happening in the industry. The blog is managed by Microsoft’s Corporate Communications team but you’ll see posts from interesting people across the company.

    They give our Mac Mojo blog some link love, so they're obviously good folks. :)

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Macworld Expo rocks for software developers


    I noticed a post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog that is contemplating the uncertain future of Macworld Expo.   My friend John Welch offered up his dissent. For me, as a software developer, I'm with John: MWSF is very much worth my time. As I said in the comments there, the one-on-one time that I get with my users at MWSF, whether they're asking me how to do something, telling me how they want to use my apps, or showing me an issue, is worth its weight in gold. But there's much more to it than that, at least for me in the course of doing my job as a software maker.

    Before I begin, I will say that I know nothing about the cost side of MWSF for my organisation. I'm on the technical team, and all of the magic of putting together our presence at MWSF is done by our marketing folks. I have neither the information nor the expertise to be able to do a cost-benefit analysis. This is my view from the trenches, and I don't claim to speak for anyone other than myself.

    MWSF gives me networking opportunities that don't exist elsewhere. It's only at MWSF where I get such a broad range of people together. MWSF is for everyone, whereas the other venues are specialised. Sure, I get to talk to other developers and IT folks at WWDC. I get consumers at MUGs. I get feedback from universities and big companies via internal mechanisms. But it's MWSF where we all come together, and we all talk to each other. 

    While I love MUGs, and I talk at MUGs whenever the opportunity presents itself, they're a very different beast. MUGs are heavily weighted toward consumers.  When I'm there, I'm giving a presentation. It's not a two-way discussion, they're there to listen to me talk and give a demo. And when I'm there, I'm usually by myself. So if I do get to have an interesting discussion with someone, it's only me who hears it. I take what I hear back to the team, of course, but secondhand information isn't as compelling as hearing it firsthand.

    Working in the booth is one of the things that I love to do. I learn a lot as a result of the questions that are asked of me, especially when I take a step back and consider the aggregate. I also learn where the holes in my knowledge are, and so I get an opportunity to fill them. I learn more about my team, too, when I get questions for applications I don't work on. I walk away from every MWSF with a deeper understanding of where the expertise on my team lies, so I now know that if I've got a question about pivot tables in Excel, this guy is the one who did the original development work on them. If someone comes up to me in the booth at MWSF and asks me a question about Word, I try to walk them over to the right Word guy and then hang around to hear the answer so that I learn about it too.

    The conference tracks are likewise important to me. The folks at Lynda do great online training (in fact, their stuff is so awesome that we include it with Office 2008 Business Edition). There's other venues for training, too many for me to list. But I come to MWSF and I get it all together, all in one place, and all at one time. There are plenty of sessions that are only produced for MWSF, that I'd never be able to get anywhere else. I get more information, from a more varied group of people, than is generally available elsewhere. Plus I get it all in one week, instead of having to pick up one piece of information this week, another piece of information three months later, and a third piece of information several months after that.

    For me as a presenter, the conference track is still important to me. I learn a lot from my audience in the Q&A -- I often tell people that I get more out of the Q&A than the questioners do. I learn what matters to the people at my session, and I get a lot of detailed information about it. I also usually get contact information for them so that I can follow up with them in the future.  I usually end up spending a few weeks after MWSF following up with contacts that I made at the show to learn more about their experiences, and I've been able to use my contacts to conduct additional in-depth research that impacts the products that my team makes.

    I think that some overstate the importance of online communities. I do love online communities, and you'll see me taking part in plenty of them. (I'm a long-time poster to the MacRumors forums, after all, and of course there's twitter and other forms of social media.) But the interaction that I have online is different than that in person. Online, it's more focused, and it's more formalised. In person, it's more casual, and the conversation is more likely to go off on tangents. Those tangents are important, both to them and to me.

    This conversation about the importance of online communities is one reminds me strongly of conversations that I've had asking about why I travel up to the mothership so often. MacBU is distributed across multiple countries. We've got people working on our products in California (including me), Washington, China, Japan, and Ireland. We rely on email and IM for every facet of our day-to-day lives, not to mention video conferencing and phone calls. But we also make it a point to get together in person. One of our goals is to be one MacBU across multiple sites, to have everyone strongly identify with our group. You get a stronger connection in person than you do online or on the phone. When I'm in Redmond, I can run into my manager in the kitchen and talk about our cats, whereas I would never email her from my office back in Mountain View to ask her how her Abbys are doing. That's not relevant to our work, but that relationship-building helps us have better communications and overall feel like we're part of a team.  I'm more likely to do a favour for someone I know in person as opposed to merely via email, and I'm more likely to ask someone I know in person for something when I need it.  In-person communication makes subsequent online communication so much easier. 

    After every conference that I attend, I write up a trip report to share with my team. I take some time to reflect on what I've learned and how to best share that with others, and I always read the other trip reports that my colleagues produce.  Our experiences at the conference and our reports about the conference spark ongoing conversations when we're back in the office, and I often hear us referring back to our MWSF experiences throughout the year.

    I don't claim to know what the future holds for MWSF. I do know that I hope that it continues so that I can continue to take part in it. I'm proud to be a part of both the conference and the expo this year. I look forward to seeing y'all in February.

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