Employee blog as a tool for product evangelism

by Lee Hopkins on March 23, 2006

in miscellaneous

Chris PratleyAnyone looking for a great example of how an employee blog can serve as a tool for product evangelism need look no further than Chris Pratley’s OneNote blog.

Chris has cunningly, almost cryptically, named his blog Chris Pratley’s OneNote Blog — those crafty ‘Microsoft types’.

In his own words:

I am the Group Program Manager for Office “Authoring Services”. That means I manage the teams that design Word, Publisher, and OneNote (the “authoring” applications). I co-founded the OneNote team back in early 2001 and have been part of it ever since. At the same time I have been part of the Word team since 1995, starting on Japanese Word95 and growing to be the manager for the whole Word program management team.

This is a blog I have been reading almost since its release, because I wanted to understand OneNote and why it was different from, say, Notepad. It is, remarkably so, but the first release’s Introduction file wouldn’t have given you any clue.

I am a fan of OneNote, despite using perhaps only 2% of its capabilities — like MindManager, I figure that if I keep using it the ‘light bulb’ will eventually go on for me and the jigsaw fall into place. Regular readers of this blog will know that I avoid clichés like the plague — but I digress.

Chris very obviously loves his product. He describes the various new features coming up in OneNote2007 (which is going to be part of many Office2007 configurations, as well as a ‘stand-alone’ retail product) with tender loving care; he shows how to use these new features, what the implications are in ‘real world’ examples. He shows how he uses, for example, the new simple calculator built into the 2007 release. Not from a theoretical standpoint, mind you, but with real world examples. And Origami is a new ‘must have’ on my tech toys list for Christmas.

Now, as a developer, he has a privileged position to protect. Not only does he work on ‘cool’ toys but he also has certain non-disclosure obligations to his employer. Many of my clients would have apopletic fits at the freedom he seems to have to talk about his product. Indeed, in one post (the very last paragraph) he describes a possible feature of the Windows desktop in the release *after* Vista. In doing so he demonstrates that his employer is not just a rigid empire but one where “bringing a smile to a user’s face” is also important.

Chris shows, through his choice of words and his writing style, that the OneNote developers and managers actually do listen to customers, that customers do shape the product and make it better.

THIS is what blogging can do — bring a community of users and developers/designers together, via a common interface (the internet), in an open and transparent medium (a ‘social media’ tool, in this instance a ‘blog’), to develop and design and improve and generate further understanding and productivity improvement.

Bravo, Chris, and Bravo your employer.

[Update:] Great OneNote template for diary management – download link at the bottom of the page, along with a link to a great streaming video explaining how to install and use it. Thanks, Doug and Tracy. Other useful stationery and how-to items over on the official OneNote site

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