Welcome to Pete Brown's 10rem.net

First time here? If you are a developer or are interested in Microsoft tools and technology, please consider subscribing to the latest posts.

You may also be interested in my blog archives, the articles section, or some of my lab projects such as the C64 emulator written in Silverlight.

(hide this)

How I use Twitter in my Job at Microsoft

Pete Brown - 27 March 2010

As a Windows Client (WPF, Silverlight, Windows Phone, Native, XNA, Surface) community guy on Scott Hanselman's team at Microsoft, I am constantly on Twitter. I've found twitter to be pretty indispensible for keeping up with the community, and for keeping myself sane while working from home.

First, a little on my working setup

I have three displays and two computers that I use daily. I also have my touch tablet that I use if I need to do some touch work, or I am preparing to go on the road. Due to the shape of my desk, I have one 24" display on my left, dedicated to my Microsoft PC (quad core, 8gig machine), A 23" display right in front of me, as my home PC's main display, and then an old 20" display above the 23" display, dedicated primarily to Twitter or to reference material for whatever chapter/blog/article I am currently writing. When I move my desk, I will have more displays (preferably a 30 and a couple 24s) :) I use Input Director to share my keyboard and mouse between my main PC and my Microsoft PC.

Here's a picture from last year.


My Microsoft PC typically has my MS email open, some internal sites, and often times, Premiere Pro encoding some video content.

Twitter Columns, Groups, and Searches

Every day, I check my direct messages and my mentions for any conversations I should reply to. I'll also check the latest in my "all friends" feed, but won't make an attempt to really catch up with overnight stuff. If it's below the fold, I pretty much write it off and only deal with new items as they come in (I often attempt to do the same with email, but that doesn't go over well <g>). These are my Twitter in-boxes.

So far, my columns (from left to right are)

  • Direct Messages
  • All Friends
  • Mentions

I then have a few different searches and groups that I keep open and check at a few points throughout the day. From Left to Right (currently) they are:

Search or Group Use
Group: Extended Microsoft Team This has all my team mates, plus some key product group folks.
Search: windows client stuff This is a search for keywords like "wpf" and "windows forms" (it's a long search). I use this to find out what people are doing, what new blog posts have come out, and where folks are running into snags.
I'll often reply to interesting tweets here. In fact, you'll sometimes see a blog post or three from me where I have found an interesting challenge in a tweet in this search, and then decided to write a quick post about how to solve the problem or otherwise help the person out.

In addition to all the blogs I subscribe to, I often mine this search when putting together the weekly Windows Client Developer Roundup.
Search: c64 This is a search for several commodore 64 keywords. You'd be amazed at how many daily tweets pop up in this search.

Mostly this is a fun search, but I also use it to check to see if folks are saying anything about the C64 emulator I wrote.
Group: Local This is a group of local tweeps, including influentials, friends, former coworkers at AIS, and DEs in the area. I use this to keep up with current local events and local friends.
Group: Fun A group of several fun folks I follow, like Darth Vader, OMGFacts, alyankovic etc. Little to no business value here, but good for off-topic stuff, and for the types of things I include in the "Fun" section in the Windows Client Developer Roundup
Search: Pete Brown Vanity search. This is a search for my name, common variations on it, and my domain names. I use this to find out what folks are saying about me (or any of the other zillions of Pete Browns) even if I'm not actually mentioned. It also helps me when someone response to @PeteBrown instead of @Pete_Brown

BTW, if you like beer, follow @petebrownbeer :)
Group: WPF at Microsoft This is a group I set up for all the WPF product team folks that are on twitter. Good for additional news about the products, although I don't typically find out new things here. I'd hope I already know about it by the time it shows up on Twitter :)


I've been on Twitter now since 2007, and it has pretty much replaced my public IM usage (I still use Office Communicator within Microsoft for private chat). I use Twitter to communicate with people, share things I find interesting, and keep up with the goings-on in the community. It has helped reduce the frequency of short single-link posts on my blog (I simply share the link on Twitter now) as well.

One final use for twitter is making folks aware of new blog posts I put out. I don't believe Twitter should be used as a replacement for RSS. However, I feel it's ok to mention your blog posts as long as that's not the full extent of your conversation on Twitter.

Twitter, however, can also be a real time sink, especially if you're not really in the mood to work seriously. When I really need to concentrate (writing when I'm not in the mood to write, for example), I shut down my Twitter client, close my email, clear my desktop and just focus on the Word document and any supporting materials.


First, let me say that I hate that word. Religious icons and world leaders have "Followers". The rest of us just have interested peers. I'm not sure which word is more distracting: the complete devaluing of the word "Friend" thanks to Facebook, or the change in the meaning of "Followers" thanks to Twitter.

That said, I manage my followers pretty closely. When I get a new follower notification, I always check out the profile. If the profile is a spammer, a social media…person, an "internet marketer", or otherwise someone who doesn't look like they're interested in actually having a conversation with me, I'll typically block the account right then. I like my follower count to be representative of the community of folks interested in communicating with me, or learning about the things I tweet about. I'm not about increasing the count just for the sake of seeing a higher number.

If the person who follows me is someone I've met who interests me, has really good stuff in their timeline, or is an influential person I recognize, I'll typically follow them right then. If I don't know the person, I'll see what conversations crop up in the future, and perhaps follow them at that point. I don't follow a ton of folks because I like to keep the number that still allows for meaningful conversations -- well, as meaningful as you can get in 140 characters.

Use Twitter, it's Great

If you're not on Twitter, I absolutely recommend it. If you follow the right people, you won't be getting the feared "Just went to the bathroom" or "Had peas and leftover hotdogs for supper" posts you see chatted about. Twitter is an essential way to keep up with what key folks at Microsoft are doing, and what the leaders in the community are up to.

In fact, Twitter is even good for support. My last Verizon service call was initiated all via Twitter. Nice!

Interesting? Follow me on twitter. :)

posted by Pete Brown on Saturday, March 27, 2010
filed under:      

3 comments for “How I use Twitter in my Job at Microsoft”

  1. smithsays:
    And your last tweet was -

    I need to go to bed. Way too much fun coding a Wallpaper extension to umbraco tonight, to allow me to retire that section on old site

  2. Petesays:
    The main things that have changed since this post are:

    - May main display is now a 30" (and my machine is a 6 core with 12gig and an SSD)
    - I use Seesmic Desktop 2 instead of Tweetdeck.

    Otherwise, the rest of Twitter-related stuff is the same.


Comment on this Post

Remember me