Creating an Atmosphere of Accountability

No really, Frans wants a multi-line search in VS.  I think his indictments are a little harsh, but statements like this worry me and prove that we still have a long way to go towards improving customer perceptions:

“A year ago I joined the Whidbey Alpha program because I thought it would give me some, maybe even a little, influence on the future version of VS.NET. Apparently not. What's the use of joining these kind of programs then? The thrill of being able to peek into the kitchen where Chef Microsoft bakes 'the next version' ? Why bother? Why invest time testing versions, supplying suggestions while all you are really able to do is looking? If you want feedback Microsoft, do something with it or tell the community to not provide feedback at all.”

And this one made in his comments.

“Microsoft uses Betas and Alphas to get your feedback on their ideas. Not that your feedback really matters very much unless it is in line with their plans and ideas. Every single beta tester could say "that sucks" about a feature and be told "the decision was made before we told you about it". That happens often, as I am sure you know.

I could offer example after example of things that have been changed based on user feedback from alpha or beta participants. And yes, I could give examples that go beyond bug fixes.  Believe me, we get TON of user feedback and a mountain of feature requests with every release.  And it doesn’t get any easier the more open we are.  This is why we are going to have to rely on the community of users to use tools like the feedback center to help prioritize feature requests based on user ratings and votes. We’ve never had a system like this before and it will take some time to get used to it.  Even in this case I’ve spotted at least one hole.  Sean resolved the suggestion as “Won’t Fix”. To me, and most users this sounds like “We could care less and won’t ever get to it.”  Internally I know that Sean is keeping spreadsheet of these suggestions for the next cycle that he can use for planning, but the bug does not reflect that unless you dig into the comments. 

If you are a community member then I encourage you to constructively complain as loud as possible and continue to file and vote on your requests. It will only get better from here. 

If you work at Microsoft I encourage you to be accountable to your user feedback and offer reasonable explanations in the cases where you can’t meet the needs of your customers.  Early stages of relationship building can be tough.

Comments (17)

  1. Roy J. Salisbury @ VsDevCentral says:

    Since I got the very first Aplha, I participated in the discussion groups and voiced my opinion on a few new features that were added, and some that would be nice to have. I have no idea if the features that I (and others) suggested/discussed where added becuase we raised them, or if they were already "planned/expanded", but Microsoft DOES listen to the comments/suggestions. I have even see one feature go through a few "round-trips" of implementation based on alpha feedback.

    I even brought up an issue that someone else posted on there blog about cross-langauge compiles or something, and got a very quick response back about it (and the MS developer even made it the topic of a detailed blog entry of his own).

    I for one am VERY happy with the VS Alpha/Beta process and communication.

  2. josh ledgard says:

    Thanks for sharing. Its heartening to see the positive responces as well.

  3. How many votes would it take to get someone to add support for closing a document tab by middle clicking it added to Visual Studio 2005? It is the kind of thing that is really tricky to add in an add-in (I tried, see but would probably need only a few lines of code in the Visual Studio code base. I really like being able to quickly close documents using the mouse and it saves a lot of time. It seems like it should be the simplest thing to implement but it would make Visual Studio so much easier to use. Perhaps if someone from Microsoft is reading this (even if they aren’t a Visual Studio developer) they could sneak in a quick code change and fix this – what would be the harm? If anyone found out, they would probably instantly promote you for adding such a cool feature. And remember, you shouldn’t just think about yourself – think of all those Microsoft shareholders. Think how happy they would be when their shares go up and up after the huge ingress in Visual Studio sales. And while you are there, you could think about adding all the other nice features from WndTabs (especially showing related files on a single tab).

  4. Also, is there any way to get hold of the full version of the Visual Studio 2005 beta? I would like to see if some of the bugs/unexpected features in the automation model that I came across when I was writing VSFileFinder have changes at all in the new version but I can’t test them with the Express versions as they do not have MFC or ATL.

    (I was going to update my web site with a new version of VSFileFinder that installed itself for all the new flavours of Visual Studio. I had everything working just by adding a few extra registry keys to the installer. Then I moved the keys to the User/Machine hive section as it seemed to make more sense (so the user could deploy the app for the whole machine or just for themselves and I set all keys (like the ‘VCExpres’ key) to have ‘False’ for ‘DeleteAtUninstall’ so it wouldn’t do anything bad. Then I tried installing it for the local machine for all the version of Visual Studio and it worked. Then I tried uninstalling it and it wiped out all the registry entries for Visual Studio under HKLM. Then I had to reinstall Visual Studio and I will have to download C# Express and C++ Express again. I searched for ‘DeleteAtUninstall’ on and it turns out this feature is by design and there was at least one other person there trying to recover a big chunk of their registry that had been ‘uninstalled’.).

    Sorry, this post was long and tedious and only has a tenuous connection with the topic but now you have read it you won’t make the same mistake I did.

  5. jledgard says:

    If you where one of the alpha customers or are an MSDN subscriber you should have, or soon be getting, the full version. If not send me mail privatly.

  6. David says:

    Since you talked about the ranking feature in the new MSDN feedback centre, I want to draw your attention to the fact that the way the ranked list is compiled is completely nonsense. You rank by number of votes * average score, which any person with just some knowledge of statistics will tell you is completely wrong.

    I filed a bug here. Please support it and help it to leave the lower ranks of the suggestion list, where it wouldn’t be if the ranked list was compiled correctly 😉 Here is it:


  7. jledgard says:

    David. I’ve forwarded your reqest to the PMs that own Ladybug. This is one of those things that I’m sure we could adjust over time if we needed to since we are just starting in on this. You should feel free to use this contact form to get to them directly.

  8. Frans Bouma says:

    " Sean resolved the suggestion as “Won’t Fix”. To me, and most users this sounds like “We could care less and won’t ever get to it.” Internally I know that Sean is keeping spreadsheet of these suggestions for the next cycle that he can use for planning, but the bug does not reflect that unless you dig into the comments. "

    That’s all nice, but my MAIN point is this:

    – it was reported a year ago

    – it received positive feedback from MS and fellow alpha participants

    – a year later it turns out that it isn’t added

    – I get as reply: "We LOVE the feature".

    Now, why on earth is a feature you LOVE (in caps!) then and NOW not added to the tool? Because of time restrictions? A multi-line searchbox? You can’t be serious if you really believe that.

    So how should I read the reply I got? I honestly don’t know anymore. I not only find this annoying at best, I also wonder if you ever think through what you build: if you’re completely redesigning a search/replace box (which was the case), and feedback is reported AT THAT TIME (!) to make it multiline enabled, and you completely ignore that, to me one of the following things happened:

    1) you forgot about it

    2) you found out it was too much work and dropped it

    3) you didn’t think it was a great feature to have

    I can’t think of any other situation. Now, when I take the reply I got ("We LOVE this feature"), it can’t be 3). So it has to be 1) or 2). 1) would be a shameful act, but can happen and 2) is bogus as with a carefully crafted regexp I can already multiline search/replace (but that’s awkward at best).

    What’s the real truth? I just want to know the truth. I don’t want to be lied to with "We LOVE the feature" and at the same time drop it and move it to a future release somewhere around 2007 or even later.

    If MS doesn’t want to tell the truth, fine, but then don’t ask me for true feedback either.

  9. Frans Bouma says:

    The same goes for another suggestion I made (and others have in the past (!)) to make dialogs resizable in VS.NET. I suggested it again with the 2005 beta, and got a similar reply as with the multi-line searchbox. "It’s a limitation of the framework, it’s at the top of the list for the next (2007) version)".

    I was stunned. People have reported this a long time ago, years have passed but it is simply not fixed, however it is at the top of your list. That doesn’t match. It is a fact that I wasn’t the first one reporting this. So it is definitely not something you’ve learned just recently and it was too late (I could have lived with that). I then wonder: do you actually care? You can say all you want that you really do, but fact is that stuff which is reported for a long time is simply moved aside and then labeled ‘top of the list for the next version’.

    It just makes me feel dissapointed with the complete process. I know you can’t expect everything to be added, I don’t include all features customers request either. However I do try to stay honest with them why features won’t get added when they’re requested. MS however doesn’t do that, or at least not good enough.

    That’s all I wanted to say about this. People have called me a whiner and a crying baby because of this, well, that’s life I guess. At least I tried to get something changed. Next time a ‘feature’ is absent or behaves badly, I’ll just shake my head and step over it, because taking the time and effort to report it is likely to be wasted.

    This is definitely not the first time I have a bad experience with reporting feedback to MS, my bugreports on .NET 1.x haven’t resulted in 1 single reply. I hope in the future MS will learn how to interact with a community: be honest. Really, if MS now tells me: "Sorry Frans, we totally forgot about the feature and when we ran into it again, it was too late", it’s stupid but I can really live with that. It’s honest. People make mistakes and this can happen.

  10. josh ledgard says:

    Frans: I’m sorry you feel this way. In this particular case I’ve asked Sean to follow up and explain the editor team’s position.

    I’ve been involved in discussions about the dialogs. That decision truly is based on the amount of work. There are several hundred different dialogs to be found in the shell. It was a painful cut, especially with a dialog like the tools options page that desperately needs to be resizable. You’ll notice that most new dialogs in the shell are, but going back and adjusting code for dialogs that have been working for 5 years was not an overhaul we wanted to make this time around. We did it for some (Windows->Window dialog) that were in need, but not nearly enough. I agree.

    I recognize that we still have room for improvement when it comes to fully listening to customers. Its part of the reason I wrote the post. People internally read my blog and I wanted to make sure they saw your complaints. There have been some big changes in the last couple years when it comes to listening to customers. This switch does not happen overnight. I wish it did. But in the 1.X timeframe we responded to some very miniscule percentage of the bugs, fixed a similarly small number of reported issues, and implemented an even smaller number of suggestions. For this release we are dedicated to providing a response to every reported issue and request and fixing a high percentage of customer bugs (higher than the % we fix that are reported internally). Where we are lacking is exactly in the area of suggestions. We know this is a sore spot and the only thing I can say is that if you stop filing issues now you will have missed out. We are dedicated to getting better across the board.

  11. Frans Bouma says:

    Thanks Josh, for this explanation! 🙂 I understand now the issue with the resizing dialogs. It’s this kind of feedback that simply tells me: indeed, I asked for it but it’s understandable they made the current choice. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to Sean’s follow up! 🙂 Thanks for taking the effort.

  12. josh ledgard says:

    No problem. I’ll go by and bug him today.


  13. AT says:

    Josh: If users become unhappy because of lack of information – give them additional information and reward them.

    Collect stats about bugs/suggestions numbers already resolved for each Alpha customer and reward them a few.

    Keeping good morale is a must.

  14. AT: Actually, plans are in the works to reward a substantial number of people that have been testing since the alpha, people who are using Ladybug, and anyone else (in general) that has been helping with the Whidbey release. That’s really all I know right now.

  15. Frans Bouma says:

    *Sob* Still no answer from Steve… Josh, did you hear any more information? Thanks in advance for the effort.

  16. josh ledgard says:

    Just pinged him again. We’ll see.

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