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Microsoft is seeking 20 volunteer bloggers to help it promote Longhorn, an effort dubbed "Team 99," says a vocal Microsoft employee, evangelist, and blogger.

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Microsoft wants to tap 20 volunteer bloggers to help it promote Longhorn, an effort dubbed "Team 99," Microsoft employee, evangelist, and blogger Robert Scoble wrote on his blog, which is widely read by Microsoft workers and Microsoft watchers.

Rather than hand-pick the 20, Microsoft is asking the Longhorn enthusiast community to nominate from its own ranks, Scoble wrote. "Microsoft can't deal with millions of people all at once," Scoble wrote explaining why the company wanted a small number. "It's impossible to listen to that loud a crowd." The group, he went on, would be asked to "tell us where we're screwing up, what we're doing well." All Team 99 members will have to sign NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) said Scoble, but because everyone must be a blogger, they'll also be a conduit for Microsoft to proselytize Longhorn as it reaches beta this summer, and moves toward a late 2006 scheduled release. Analyst Joe Wilcox of JupiterResearch wasn't keen on the idea. In his blog, Wilcox took issue with the small sample size of Team 99. "I would rather see Microsoft engage real enthusiasts within their own [user group] organizations rather than draft select people for a project like Team 99," wrote Wilcox. "The company would get broader, more useful feedback, too. Twenty people is just too small a collective for giving meaningful feedback." He also blasted the idea for being about two years too late. "Why so late in the development process -- after all it's been almost four years since Windows XP shipped -- is Microsoft looking for detailed user feedback? I would have expected something like this in 2003, when Microsoft execs couldn't say enough about Longhorn." The open invitation for Team 99 nominations comes less than a week after Microsoft http://www.techweb.com/wire/software/161601694 came down hard on bloggers attending WinHEC by demanding that they remove screenshots of the latest Longhorn build from their sites. Microsoft said that the screenshots risked ongoing patent applications, but critics claimed that Microsoft wanted to put a lid on criticism. There is no formal nominating process, but Scoble asked those interested to drop him a line on Microsoft's Channel 9 blog site. Some active in the Microsoft enthusiast community, such as Amsterdam's Steven Bink, have already tossed their names in the hat.

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