A look inside ASP.NET product management

Scott Guthrie posted a very interesting post giving great insight into what is going on inside the corridors of the Web Platform and Tools product team – it really is quite amazing the size, scope, and rigor that goes into building a product as complex as ASP.NET and Visual Web Developer.  Reading that spurred me to give my view on the world, what happens inside the product management organization.  What the heck do I do anyways?


My primary focus right now centers around three things (which I’ll explain):


1)      ASP.NET research/evidence

2)      ASP.NET 2.0/VWD Beta2 readiness

3)      ASP.NET ecosystem/community


So lets break this down –


Research and Evidence….

Right now we are in the process of doing message testing – in simple terms, looking at the words and statements that we use to describe ASP.NET 2.0 and Visual Web Developer and doing discrete, World Wide testing to make sure the way we talk about things resonates with our constituents.  I’m chest deep in this stuff, breathing it day-in and day-out – stepping outside is hard, and conducting this type of research helps us put into perspective the way people interpret what we say about ASP.NET.  We look at things like believability, simplicity, clarity, and excitement.  We also look for common patterns and cultural anomalies.  Once the qualitative research concludes we will revise our messages and get really granular about word choice and localization (for different markets) and do a depth quantitative study to figure out what really works, what kinda works, and what really doesn’t work.  In the end, this research will drive all of our outbound communication – MSDN, www.asp.net, conferences like TechEd and ASP Connections, the BOX itself, and more.  I think of it as fixing bugs, just on the way we talk about the product and position the product, instead of the product itself.  I can’t get too deep into the evidence piece, but the simplest way to put it is to think about what we look for in messages: believability, simplicity, clarity, and excitement. 



I spend a lot of my time making sure the ASP.NET community is healthy and growing.  We are really lucky – our community is thriving, and full of the most passionate, intelligent, and dedicated people I have ever seen.  I personally am very passionate about our community, but that is because of the excitement they have for what we do.  Some of our near-term goals here include:


Completely re-vamping www.asp.net to make it more usable, more attractive, and more up to date, while retaining its personality and depth of knowledge in the forums.  There is lots of great stuff in the works here, and hopefully we should see some changes before the end of the year! 


European RoadShow – last year ScottGu and recently departed Rob Howard traveled around the US delivering free ASP.NET Exposed events.  This coming year Scott and myself will be traveling through Europe delivering over 5 hours of great ASP.NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005 content.  We are also looking at ways to expand this to touch other parts of the globe.


I’ve been spending a lot of time with Starter Kits lately as well.  I’m working with folks internally to build out a great set of Microsoft Starter Kits – we’ll have at least 3 new ones in addition to the Personal Web Site Starter Kit for Beta2 and even more for RTM.  Beyond our Starter Kits, the we have been driving a lot of contests for you all to build SK’s and seed the world with awesome, pre-built apps.  The Summer of Express contest recently ended (should we do another one?), and we have other similar activities in process or planned.  The more great Starter Kits we have, the better      !


Beta2 Readiness

Last but certainly not least is readiness.  My job is to make sure everyone, both internally and externally is ready for Beta2.  What does ready mean?  Having the presentations and demos ready that you’ll see delivered at conferences and usergroups.  Making sure our WW developer evangelists have everything they need to show the value of ASP.NET in their local markets.  And making sure our customers, both current and future, at all levels, have the content they need to be successful.  Online demos, whitepapers (we have lots of technical content already, but there is more on the way, and everything needs to be revised for beta2!).  There is a lot of awesome new content in the queue to help educate and inform about VS 2005, Visual Web Developer, and ASP.NET 2.0. 


Exciting stuff in my opinion.  I don’t think I ever answered my own question of what I do – this is certainly a huge part of it, the part I think matters now.  There is a lot more involved that I’m happy to share if anyone is interested… I think the way to continue this is to start talking in depth about specific initiatives.. I dunno – I’m open to suggestions. 

Blogging on an airplane is dangerous huh? J


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