Rob Relyea


  • Job search brought me to Microsoft R+D

    I ran across a blog post complaining about the site.  I found it because my feedster search for WinFX found it.

    I commented on his blog, he used my Contact link to email me, and I just fired off an email that might be useful by others?  (of course, now that I start to post it, I spend more time on it...)

    Todd said that he was thinking more about the advice I had left in my comment of his original blog:

    "My tip: figure out the set of products or problems that you are passionate about and look for jobs on those teams. (As you mention, it isn’t always easy to map from a product to the job listings…)"

    He said:

    "...when your passion is developing any and all software and you're relatively open minded around what you want to work on, you're bound to get a lot of results. I was just hoping that there was an easier way to narrow down my search results."

    I replied:

    Groups are going to think you are more attractive if you have more background, expertise or passion in their area. You know about their product, you have ideas on what they do well and what they can do better, etc...

    I had similar problems when I got my first Redmond based job at Microsoft...

    After college (B.S. '93 Computer Science at Michigan) I started off as a Systems Engineer in the Microsoft field (worked in the Chicago Office.) I was lucky to be in the first round of hiring that Microsoft had ever done out of college for that position. That position is now called Technical Specialist. I worked with a variety of customers and on a variety of technologies. I built a great set of skills dealing with customers, public speaking, and learning many technologies.

    Although I knew a good amount about a lot of things, I wanted to get closer to product development.  I had a bunch of exposure to Program Managers...and I yearned for a role like that.  I wanted to be the absolute expert in an area.  I wanted to help build great products. I didn't exactly know which group to go after.  I decided to start with Visual Studio as I was very interested in developer technologies.

    2 interviews in the Visual Studio group didn't pan out - the product manager interview said I was too technical...the program manager interview said I was too marketing.  :-)

    I realized I had to do some more preparation.  My coding skills were 5 years rusty, so I went online, did a few C++ projects from a Computer Science class at some school, and re-read a few books about COM/OLE2.  That preparation sharpened my skills for the next job I would go after.

    I understand Todd's frustration with the job site.  Back in 1998, I wrote a tool to keep track of jobs posted in an access database, because the internal online system was inadequate.

    I rolled up my sleeves and continue my search for a great role for me.  I found two great jobs where I had strong knowledge and passion:

    • program manager in the COM group
    • program manager in the IE group

    In my Systems Engineer role, I had become an Internet Specialist.  At the time, I was giving 3 hour training sessions to midwest developers about DHTML, IIS programming, MTS and more.  Both areas excited me...and I was fairly deep in both areas.

    I pursued both of those jobs and ended up getting an offer from both groups.

    I chose the IE job...and spent 1998-2001 working on DHTML in IE5 - IE6.  I've been working on the Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon") ever since then.  I love buidling software.  I love working with a bunch of hard working, brilliant people.  I love working at Microsoft.

    Some lessons I took away:

    • Do soul searching as part of any job search.  What do you want out of your job?  What are you passionate about?
    • Learn from failures, don't give up.
    • If you don't have all the right skills, go find roles where you can grow in that area.  Or go polish your skills on the side.
    • Follow your passion.

    Good Luck!

  • Many manifestos about URLs since 1999

    As part of my thinking about Urls, I dug a bit more into Url Rewriting as a way to have nice URLs.

    More Details on Good Urls

    I found a good summary of the issues and solutions here: next generation urls.

    It included a list of other articles on the subject dating back to 1999:

    Numerous articles have been written about the need for clean URLs. A few of the more prominent ones are cited here.

    It summarizes:

    At this point, the main thing standing in the way of the adoption of next generation URLs is the simple fact that so few developers know they are possible, while some who do are too comfortable with the status quo to explore them in earnest. This is a pity, because while these improved URLs may not be the mythical URN-style keyword always promised to be just around the corner, they can substantially improve the Web experience for both users and developers alike in the long run.

    Searched for the term Url Rewriting and found this: Ryan Farley about Url rewriting in ASP.NET
    Url Rewriting is possible in several ways with ASP.NET, but should it be that hard??

    Ryan points to Scott Watermasysk's comments about Url Rewriting not being that important.  Some of his blog comments don't agree with him.


    Will another Url Manifesto help?

    Given all this writing about this topic for the past 6 years, how come it hasn't gotten easier in that time?  If you use normal authoring tools and normal web servers, you still have to do a bunch of work to make this work.  Unless we make it the default experience, users won't get good urls.

    I need to think if adding another manifesto to this space will even have an impact.  Lots of people have been writing about what should be done, about how to go do it.

    Or is it that URLs don't matter that much?


    How to make better progress?

    It appears that nobody has tried to fix this by fixing the web servers, authoring tools, etc...

    Microsoft could invest a bit across many of its products to make big improvements in this space.

    What could Authoring Tools (Frontpage, Office, VS, etc...) do better?
    What could Windows do better?
    What could Web Infrastructure (IIS, IE, etc...) do better?

    As always, there are tons of things that those teams need to focus on.  Tons of priorities.


    Many ways to influence teams at Microsoft

    As one voice among many, how should a Microsoft employee influence other teams at Microsoft?
    How does one of our customers influence teams at Microsoft?

    I believe it depends on the number of teams you want to influence.  This problem likely takes effort from many...


    Would I be more effective working internally over email and through meetings, or via a blog and manifesto?
    Are you most effective asking management to say something is important, or working individually with teams?

    Is it worth my energy?

  • E-Manuals could make consumers happier

    Early this morning, I'm spending a little time organizing my home office.

    There is so much paper, so much to manage.  Many things can improve this...I'm going to focus this quick post on consumer product manuals.

    This is yet another post that related to the ideas brewing in my head for a url manifesto.

    My New LCD TV
    I bought a new TV recently for use in my office.  I unpacked it a few weeks ago.
    Now, I need to figure out what to do with the manuals, warrantees, etc... that came with it.

    Documents that came with it
    Television Users Guide
    Manuel D'Instructions (french version of Users Guide, i now realize that this tv was meant for distribution in Canada...not sure how I ended up with it).
    Warnings sheet - warning you not to scrape your belt buckle on the screen as you unload the box.
    Product Registration Card

    Things I could see Improving
    Documents that might be worth saving should have an electronic version available on the net.
    Manuals should have their digital location url listed on the back cover.
    In my case, I'd love to see something like: Electronic Version:
    I would generally ditch the paper version, and download the electronic version.  It is easier to store, find, etc...

    Printed documents/manuals should generally also be available on the net.
    Printed documents should indicate (in a standard way) the url of this document.
    The Url for a document should be a simple, descriptive, unique, longlasting url.

    How do you deal with the different language versions of a manual?
    A) encode it in the URL
    B) make the URL provide links to all the language versions
    C) detect the users language at the URL and redirect to the right document

    What format do you publish the document in?
    PDF, HTML, Word, etc...
    Many choose PDF today...When Windows Vista ships, XPS (Xml Paper Specification) and WPF flow documents are 2 new options to consider.

  • Do you find intellisense for XAML useful

    Filed under:

    I've written in the past about the Avalon schema that one gets installed with VS 2005 Extensions for WinFX.

    Now that VS 2005 is final, I'm excited to take advantage of some bug fixes made in the Xml Editor to make the schema more useful.

    Before I bother to go do that, I had sent mail out internally asking what our plan should be for installing the schema (should the Windows SDK distribute it also?  if it did, where would it install it?  etc...).

    Somebody chimed in with the opinion that we shouldn't even ship the XSD because it currently gives both false positives and false negatives.

    I'd love to hear opinions from our customers:

    • if it is more trouble than help?  should we stop shipping it?
    • if we keep it alive, what we should focus on improving?
    • what are the most common false positives (things that fail to compile, but things you don't get warned for)
    • what are the most common false negatives (things that compile, but were warned for by the schema)

    Thanks, Rob

  • Simpler Urls Get Used More Than Hideous Ones

    In the background, I've been collecting a list of issues I have with the way that we all use Urls.  I'm working on a Url Manifesto.


    Here is another bit of supporting information about why people should care about how they use Urls:

    I wanted to see how the markets reacted to our last quarterly earnings.  Happy to see we went up a few percent.

    I started at MsnSearch (really at, but supports, typed in MSFT.

    Got a sponsored link and a high link to msn moneycentral.

    The better of those 2 urls looked like this:

    I browsed around some other sites to see what the Urls look like for similar pages.

    I like Yahoo's the best.


    Using Technorati, you will find that:

    Coincidence that the one that people use the most is the simplest URL, I think not...

    Are there also other factors, probably...


    What about Search?

    I updated this post after a quick look at 3 main search sites.
    Google has some state in the Url (language) but puts the parameter that the user is likely to change at the end.
    MSN passes some state in the URI having to do with where the search was conducted.
    Yahoo has a lot of state.

    Google (9,322 links)

    MSN (1,016 links)


    Yahoo (1,466 links)

  • Great XAML and Cider information

    Filed under:

    In case you haven't seen other pointers to Chuck's blog, please make sure to visit him regularly.  Chuck describes his role in the development of XAML in his first of several posts describing XAML.

    Thanks to Chuck's influence and focus, XAML is evolving into a language that is generically useful.  WPF's usage of XAML is huge, but we'll see other teams (like Windows Workflow Foundation today) begin to use it as well.

    Chuck spends most of his time currently working "Cider", the designer for WPF that will ship with Visual Studio "Orcas".  He has several posts pointing to msdn, channel 9 and pdc videos of Cider.

    I've learned a lot from Chuck.  Whenever I meet with him I usually realize I still have much more to learn from him...

  • Next WinFX CTP will work with final VS 2005/.Net Framework 2.0

    Filed under:

    I already see many queries about a build of WinFX that works with the just released VS/.Net Framework: 1 2 3 ...

    I've updated the information in my blog post about our installing our current CTP with the text in bold:

       Sorry, there is currently no build of WinFX that is compatible with RC or RTM builds of VS!
       The first CTP of WinFX after September 2005 will be in sync with the final VS 2005 and .Net Framework 2.0.

    The WinFX team is very happy to see VS 2005 and .NET Framework 2.0 ship.  Current internal Windows Vista/WinFX builds work with these final builds.  Once we get this build to a previewable state, we'll ship it out as a CTP.  We realize it is in high demand.

    Understand the Ramifications of Installing if you are doing WinFX Development
    If you are doing active WinFX development, don't install the final VS or .NetFramework on your WinFX development box unless you want to pause your WinFX development for several weeks.  If you are building applications targetting the .Net Framework 2.0 and not the rest of WinFX then Go, Go, Go!

    What about Applications built on WinFX?
    Any applications or tools that require WinFX's September CTP, won't work on the final .Net Framework until we ship an updated WinFX and they ship updated versions of their apps/tools.  Microsoft Max, Mobiform Aurora, etc...

    Why can't we make it all just work on the same machine?
    I blogged back in March 2005 about why these dependencies exist.

  • PDC2005 Session Videos Available

    Filed under:

    Filipe created a useful list of links to the online videos of all the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)-centric sessions that our team did at the PDC.

    I've updated my PDC2005 Event Page with links to my video and to Filipe's list.

    Please watch the videos you are interested in to get geared up on WPF.

  • Script for building the healthcare app demo

    Filed under: ,

    I've updated my page that points to the healthcare app demo that I did at the PDC.

    I've added a pointer to a demo script and the starter files.  If you find it useful, or have questions/comments/suggestions about it, please comment here.

  • Building your own VS Templates

    VS 2005 has a much improved way to build Project or Item Templates.

    If you don't like the templates we have provided for Avalon applications, modify them, share the new ones.  (Make sure you tell us what you don't like also).


    Here is the documentation on the project templates.  (Thanks Prasadi for the pointer.)

  • Windows Vista 5231 doesn't (and won't) have a matching WinFX release

    Filed under:

    If you are doing WinFX development with the WinFX September CTP you should stick with Windows Vista 5219 (PDC release) or XP or Server 2003 for now.

    Windows Vista 5231 released yesterday to msdn members (and other beta participants) is not compatible with the WinFX September CTP.  Unfortunately, we don't have a matching WinFX build for this build of Windows Vista.

    The good news is that we have since fixed this problem, so all future Windows Vista public releases will include WinFX with it.

    I've added this information to my post about installing the PDC CTP and added this description:

    Our goal is to balance getting customers fresh bits with getting them full-featured bits. With this particular build Vista, the WinFX components didn’t line up with the Windows Vista build. But post build 5231 we integrated the WinFX components into our main Windows build tree and our intention is that going forward every Windows Vista build will include the WinFX components.

    Sorry about the inconvenience!

  • Nice rescue from demo hell

    Filed under:

    I enjoyed reading Chris' recap of the presentation that he and Doug Purdy did at the PDC.
    I forget who grabbed me or called me, but I was able to grab one of the WPF team's demo machines and bring it to Chris.  It turns out his machine came to life in time.

    On the last day of PDC, I enjoyed their talk a lot. They can riff!

    The great thing is that they are running with the issues they found...documentation, tooling, platform...they all need work.  And this experience uncovered a number of things.

    Just yesterday, Namita, Elliot, Mark and I met to discuss:

    • Integration of Services into a WPF application (how to have a WPF app also expose a web service to other clients or the server.)
    • Project and Item Templates in VS Extensions for WinFX

    I learned a bunch about WCF & we found a number of things that we can do to improve the experience.

  • Transient Broadcast vs. URL Addressable

    I spend much of my time creating or finding information.  I'm always motivated to publish the information I create for better findability.  I've got a bunch of random thoughts in my head about how this can be done...I need to get them down in a more sharable, digestable form over time.  Until then, here are a few random thoughts...

    Transient Broadcast vs. URL Addressable Information

    Many problems come about because information publishers have to know to create a bridge between broadcast technologies which are transient (email) and publish technologies which are URL addressable.

    Users receiving email absorb as much information as they deem necessary at the time, but more importantly, they understand what type of information it was and where they can find it in the future if they need it.

    Often times, users only remember who knows something, so the first thing they do is ask that person for the information.  Clearly, it is advantageous if a publisher of information can avoid most of these simple "where is" or "what is" requests.

    Given that a user knows the owner or expert in an area, how can we make sure that the correct information is published and findable? 

    Some guidelines

    • When publishing information using transient broadcasts, users should refer to the long living URL addressable form of the information. 
    • Publish a URL that allows people to find the things that you know and work on.

    [Should that URL be human readable or machine consumable?  "Topic Maps" (just stumbled on this morning The Architecture Journal) may be an idea worth exploring]

    I'm trying to explore my thoughts around information, links, and urls for my Url Manifesto

  • PDC2005 Slide Content

    It took me a bit of trying to find the right page with all the slide and demo content from PDC2005. is the quick link. is the main PDC site.


    I've added those links to and I'm trying to have somebody make them a bit easier to find...


  • Url Guideline - Avoid "www."

    I stumbled on this morning.

    "Succinctly, use of the www subdomain is redundant and time consuming to communicate. The internet, media, and society are all better off without it."

    This will be just one piece of my Url Manifesto.


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