Choices Choices Choices for Whidbey Beta 1 Discussions

If you read my blog then you know I've been doing a bunch of work that will hopefully result in a more unified, trustworthy, threaded discussion solution for Microsoft as a whole.  Your comments have been helping a lot so far, but until we have a swanky new system up to show you I would love to get your feedback on how you would like to discuss the Beta 1 release and future pre-RTM releases. 

Here are some of the short term options that could be done in time for Beta 1. 

  1. Do nothing and continue along with the current “semi-private” newsgroups.

  2. Close down the semi-private newsgroups, assume that future tech previews and Beta releases will only become more publicly available, and just let people talk in the public newsgroups that exist today.

  3. Close down the semi-private newsgroups and create new public newsgroups dedicated to talking about unreleased products.  Think “”.

  4. Close down the semi-private newsgroups and create set of Web-Forum only discussions focused on Whidbey technologies ala the Asp.Net Whidbey Groups. Hey, they have e-mail list support! You can't reply via mail yet though. 🙁

  5. ???

Personally its been suggested to me that we shouldn't mix discussions of future products in with discussions for released products because it interferes with people just trying to get their work done on the current releases.  Internally it is nice to keep a separation for the sake of ensuring we hear all the feedback related to Whidbey, but I worry that if releases are more public there won't be much we can do to prevent people from just taking their discussions to the public newsgroups anyway.

I also believe that NNTP access is a requirement, but I've been told that, despite the fact we give the user name and password away to the private groups, they are not public enough. Has this been a true barrier to anyone?

Let us know your thoughts!!!!

Comments (24)
  1. David Cottrill says:

    I’ll cast my vote for Option 3. It seems in keeping with Microsoft’s developing trend toward openness while giving people the option to avoid info they don’t want.

  2. Todd Spatafore says:

    The only time the private newsgroups are a barrier is when I wonder if I can write about something in another group. Like talk about Beta Product X in Beta Product Y’s newsgroup, or even if I can talk about it in Public Group Z (obviously the NDA prevents that last one).

    I like the private newsgroups, it seems to keep people focused on the product (aside from the "when are we getting a new build" topics) and keeps out a lot of the "Microsoft sucks" topics.

    Whatever direction you go, please be sure that the MS people are active in the groups (or blogs). And have some live chat sessions.

  3. Daniel O'Connell says:

    While a public group for the product will get spam and trolls…the biggest problem will be people who post there about things that don’t matter. In the public c# groups, 90%(if not more) of the questions are about .NET, not C#. In a group, I’m pretty sure 90% of those questions will be about .NET instead of C# That may be the biggest problem of opening up the newsgroups to the public(although even the private groups are showing this to some extent) and that may be reason enough to keep seperated, private groups. I don’t know however.

    Also, the passwords probably do make it less public, even though they are freely available. On the plus side, however, it does keep out the riffraff who are just interested in being annoying but too lazy or disinterested to find the passwords.

    As for #4..well, you probably know my opinion of web based solutions by now, ;).

  4. AT says:

    You are missing single fact. There was at least two kinds of beta programs – Big Beta vs. Small Beta.

    Big Beta use as much as possible people. But as result receive too many duplicate or useless feedback and not every report reviewed – bugs categorized based on duplicate reports volume.

    Small Beta use a limited set of participants. As result feedback amount is much lower. This allow to investigate every report.

    Each kind of beta has some advantages and disadvantages.

    IMHO, It’s possible to mix them and take advantage from both. But currently I know nothing like this in Microsoft.

    By exposing beta process to public you can lose attention to some valuable feedback and waste too much resources resolving duplicates.

    Also you will be unable to force people upgrading previous beta with new one. Current private beta process solve this problem by increasing pool of participants with each milestone.

    You are trying to solve wrong problem. Opened or private newsgroups – anyway the people using them are the same. The same limited subset of people who has DVD, CDs or has downloaded your product. They will be able to put password in correct place of newsreader.

    Even more – not everyone who has your product interested in installing it and using newsgroups for support.

    Also newsgroup support is not that perfect currently. Posts can be ignored by Microsoft staff for a weeks.

    If you wish to spend more resources – provide phone support or guaranteed response time for beta requests.

    You will loose customers by ignoring their problems with beta products as they can assume that the same level of support will be for released products. Opened beta mean more people will join "Microsoft always producing buggy software" trend.

    As for suggestions for future products – follow Windows team way – or better use/improve process dedicated for this – MS Wish (;EN-US;114491 )

    P.S> BTW, What about list of current support/communities options you agree to create ( ) ?

  5. I recommend the status quo (#1) for Beta 1. In my opinion, opening the "semi-private" newsgroups will result in excessive chaff and will slow or suspend replies to important issues/questions with the CTPs and Beta 1.

  6. Carl Daniel [VC++ MVP] says:

    I’d stick with #1 for this and future betas (of this product and others). #3 is a distant second place in my opinion and the others not even worth considering.

  7. jledgard says:

    David: Do you worry that the system will become spammed and overrun to the point where people won’t get help?

    Todd: That is our internal worry about volume is that up until this point we’ve been ensuring that there are responces to almost everything in the private NG space. But I’ll chalk up your vote to keeping them more private.

    Daniel: Yup, I know your thoughts. I had to put it up there since it is a cheap immediate option. 🙂

    Can I cast your vote towards keeping the private ones the way they are?

  8. jledgard says:

    AT: I can’t comment more, but there is a better solution for managed bugs/feedback that we are working on. That part of the process should be improved by beta 1. The part that I’m talking about is more the discussion space. There is a difference between reporting your issues and having a discussion about the issues. Can I imply, from your comments, that you would lean towards keeping the private ones to avoid the mass chaos and keep MS responce time?

    Also. I’m working in the list internally first. I don’t want to post my pro’s/cons publically without getting a chance to meet with all of the teams. Its been a daunting task.

  9. jledgard says:

    Carl: Thanks for the feedback!

    Roger: Thanks as well!!

  10. AT says:

    Yep. I would like to avoid chaos.

    I can be wrong, but I was thinking about newsgroups as the only support option offered by Microsoft for beta programs. This is my understanding of "discussion".

    There is no any other way to get solutions for your problems (you are not always sure if this is your problem or actual bug). As result of increased access to newsgroups for people who has no actual product it will be harder to get valid support.

    Just as example – Windows beta used two levels of newsgroups – for techbeta and for customer preview. IMHO, It was reasonable as core groups keep low traffic and high valid/noise ratio.

    Free idea: Give password to access newsgroups other that microsoft.private.MyProduct.install (for solving problems with installation process only) only after install complete (think about EULA accepted) and product registration wizard add product in person Passport account.

    This way you will get rid off spammers and have valid people in newsgroups while keep them open to everyone (including CDs giveaway at PDC, WinHEC, MSDN). But I’m unsure if this worth the effort needed to implement.

  11. Daniel O'Connell says:

    Josh: Yes you can. Upon a little more reflection I think I like things as they are, actually.

  12. josh ledgard says:

    Glad you confirmed. Since I was going to have to update the count I made otherwise. 😉

  13. Jeff says:

    If you want to do the semi-private thing, you need to keep the people codesnobs consider pee-ons in the loop. They’ll use the stuff too, just as my mother might have to use Word someday. They’re customers too.

  14. josh ledgard says:

    Jeff, to be clear, anyone can currently get to these newsgroups. We give the password out on the web site. The goodness of having them private is that it prevents a bunch of spam and does reduce some chaf to focus the discussion on whidbey.

  15. Pieter van Kampen says:

    I like to leave my mail address when posting, so that discussions can continue via mail. However, on a public news group these get searched and included in spam databases.

    Therefor make it a semi private newsgroup, require a login that is available to anyone that registers through or through the "Free idea" posted above

  16. Keith Hill says:

    I’d stick with #1 until the product is released.

  17. jledgard says:

    Seems to be the predominant winner.

  18. Weblog says:

    If you are playing with ADO.NET in Whidbey, this little piece of information is for you. If you…

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