Some of you may have noticed that I've started blogging for ZDNet. As of next Wednesday, I'll have my own blog section, so expect to see more of me. For those who come to ZDNet regularly for news, though, this is not the first time the name "John Carroll" has been applied to commentary that is far longer than it's supposed to be (as this one is).
I've been participating in ZDNet Talkbacks for a long time. Just to put into perspective how long, I made my first post in late 1997 or early 1998. Back then, Talkbacks were a bit more free-form. There weren't hierarchical response trees, much less titles, so people engaged in an argument had to prefix their responses with "To So and So" to keep a thread going. Email addresses were also displayed for all the world to see, which is why the address I used then is now my permanent spam email address.
I started writing articles for ZDNet when they introduced "Talkback Central" sometime in 2000. ZDNet dangled a call for articles written by Talkback participants. It was unpaid, but the attraction was that it would be listed alongside other articles on ZDNet. Being the opinionated SOB that I am, I bit, and posted my first article for ZDNet (which seems rather primitive from a writing standpoint, but practice makes perfect, I guess). Well, some people get addicted to jogging, others to video games, and others to heroin. I got addicted to writing, and I bit the ZDNet writing lure more than 50 times over the past four years, continuing after Talkback Central disappeared.
My opinions have always been more "pro-Microsoft" than is typical of readers of ZDNet (or rather, those moved to post to Talkbacks). Perhaps it's due to my economics background and the self-taught nature of my computer education, or perhaps I'm just ornery. Either way, it's a fact that I prefer programming for Microsoft technology, and that is clearly reflected in the opinions I espouse on ZDNet.
I've also had an interest in film and media. The company that drew me to Switzerland in May of 2000 was involved in "Interactive Television." I filmed and edited two documentaries while in Switzerland, and was the director of photography, editor, foley artist, and music editor / creator (among other roles) for a film produced in Limerick, Ireland.
Now, imagine that a) you enjoy programming, b) you prefer programming with Microsoft technology, and c) you have a strong interest in video media, when Microsoft suddenly offers you a position helping LA-based content creators and telcosto integrate with the IPTV platform. IPTV is, essentially, a solution for broadband networking companies to offer cable services over that same broadband network.
Kind of hard to turn down, don't you think? Well, maybe not for those with an instinctive hatred for everything Microsoft, but I'm not afflicted with that disease. I accepted their offer, and as of May 23, I will be a card-carrying Microsoft employee.
How will that affect what I write on ZDNet? IPTV is a beta product, and so there will be limitations on what I can say about it (if anything). On the other hand, IPTV is deep in left field relative to the topics I tend to discuss. So, I don't think it will affect much.
Remember though, that I will not be an official spokesperson for Microsoft. Granted, a Microsoft blogger on ZDNet is a bit like finding a Cassowary wandering around downtown Los Angeles. That doesn't make the Cassowary a business executive. Likewise, my placement on ZDNet does not make my posts the gospel according to Bill Gates.
Will I be biased? I've been programming professionally for more than 11 years. During that time, I've used a wide variety of computing technology, and had opinions on all of them. I found that I preferred programming with Microsoft technology. So, if by "bias" you mean I will rely on 11 years of computing experience to guide my opinion, then yes, I will be biased.
Bias does not imply lack of reason. It just means that you have weighed the alternatives and come to your own subjective conclusions. People with opinions are better sources of information than those who lack them. Who do you think is a better source of information, some milquetoast generalist who feigns disinterest or an enthusiast whose affection for his favored technology drives him to understand all he can about it?
I prefer Microsoft solutions, and now I'm a Microsoft employee. My preferences, however, don't imply lack of reasons for those preferences, reasons that even a dyed-in-the-wool penguinista might find useful.
So, fasten your seatbelts, here we go...