I talked to a Really Smart GuyTM at Microsoft yesterday about community and Microsoft’s efforts in the community.
The question I was trying to get answered was–is Microsoft approaching community in the right way? Would a Microsoft employee’s time in the community be best spent connecting directly with the customer via blogs or newsgroup postings, or would it be better for a Microsoft employee to establish a closer working relationship with the top external people in the community–MVP’s and other top question answerer type people in the community? The idea is that if I spent say two hours of my time with an MVP or other leader in the community that is already answering a lot of questions and helping a lot of people, I can have my two hours greatly leveraged as that community leader goes out and spreads any information I’ve given him or her to the broader community.
The analogy he came up with was a bear and the berries analogy. MVPs and other top question answering people are the bears of the community. They go along picking the berries off the bushes, answering questions and resolving issues, and the ecosystem is happy. But if a Microsoft person comes in and starts picking all those berries off the bushes instead, the bear is unhappy and moves to a different ecosystem. If instead, I point the bear at the right bushes but let him go harvest those bushes, the bear is happy and stays in the ecosystem.
What do you think? Are Microsoft people in their desire to participate in the community actually hurting existing ecosystems?