Opening up Internal Discussions to the Public

We've been thinking about shutting down several internal technical discussion aliases and forcing these discussions into the public space so that every developer can benefit from the Q and A that occurs on these aliases.  I know this would be a HUGE win for the community and 95% of the traffic on these lists doesn't contain any Ip we'd be worried about since it's generally questions that all developers have. 

For now I’d love to just have our internal MS blogger DL discussions occur publicly on a moderated forum.  I actually think that people would then refrain from some of the flame tactics that have become so prevalent on our internal DL.  Gretchen has already unsubscribed and my own participation in a recent thread has me unwilling to post almost anything there.  I’ve decided that the following equation was probably true from day 1 on this alias. 

A + B +C = (X+1) * Potential for Disaster


  • A = Everyone at Microsoft that’s opinionated enough or feels self important enough to have their own blog.
  • B = A non-moderated free for all way for group A to communicate easily with each other and an audience that spans most products at the company.
  • C = Innocent person sending mail to group A through medium B to inform or ask them about FOO. 
  • X = A 0.00 to 1.00 scale of how likely the topic FOO in e-mail C is to generate a legitimate constructive discussion.  I add 1 because even if you think this is 0… it’s not. 

This equation is based on <Potentially Offensive Content Warning> prior research </POCW> completed by the Penny-Arcade folks.  I know, everyone on this list is not to blame, but there are some that seem to wake up on the wrong side of the bed way too often.  I'd say they are just naturally this way, but I happen to know some of them in person and the "alter-ego" that shows up on this DL amazes me.   They are normally great people to have conversations with, but with this DL...I’d rather talk to angry customers. 

Comments (9)
  1. My one objection to that would be that it would swing in the other direction, and force people to overly self-censor. Some people need to think out loud to work their way through problems and issues. Putting it all out in public makes it much more likely that some people who honestly need help will simply stay silent.

  2. gretchen says:

    You are a braver blogger than I. 🙂 You have just said what I (and many others) have been too frightened to say for the last several months. 🙂 Right on!

  3. josh ledgard says:

    Carmen: The Dl’s are big enough that it might as well be public. I’d rather have a culture where people aren’t afraid to ask for help in the public space.

    Gret: Thanks! I’m preparing my flame proof suit now.

  4. Adam says:

    Can’t we have any internal discussions without involving the community? Internal DLs are full of those frank discussions about the mistakes that people externally are making and what we need to do them. I mean *extremely* frank. What happens when some guy from PSS posts that his customer is doing something particularly inane. Will the customer feel they’re being libeled essentially since its in the public rather than on a private alias that they’d never see themselves. Heck, what is the point of PSS if we just move everything to public conversations with maximum noise and less personal handholding and investigation.

    How do you keep accidental exposure of internal projects? How often have you had to yell at people just on the "recreational" public folders/lists that aren’t full of full-timers, etc?

    Why the answer to every problem has to be to involve the *ENTIRE* community is completely beyond me. Seems like a dumb idea to me.

  5. josh ledgard says:

    Adam, if you’d like more information feel free to contact me internally. It’s easy to talk without the public knowing.

    I don’t think I would advocate this for every internal DL, but the ones where there are just customer like questions about C#, for example, would be ripe for exposing the knowledge to the public. It’s frustrating to see 95% of these questions just repeated in the C# newsgroups because the answer was trapped inside our firewall. There shouldn’t have to be two answers to these questions given by the product teams.

    I’m more joking about opening up the blogger DL, but hey, why not?

    About your other concerns:

    The PSS guy shouldn’t slander a customer internally or externally on a DL. Internal can likely be brought into the public for testimony anyway.

    Accidental Exposure… Are you on these technical DL’s? I rarely ever see anyone reference their project. It should be made clear that the posts are being made to the public. If they need ultra-private support they should seek out the internal team directly.

    Recreational folders are not what I’m talking about.

    Reasons: The #1 driver of customer satisfaction is participation in online/offline communities. This is ahead of product quality.

    One of the key elements of the value proposition is the users ability to find help resources. This would be a community and a help resource.

  6. Eh. I keep the REALLY cranky mornings for the "Un-Cool Stuff" alias 🙂

  7. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    "It’s frustrating to see 95% of these questions just repeated in the C# newsgroups because the answer was trapped inside our firewall."

    May be unrelated, but in a community like codeproject, the dev forums are flooded with the same questions, over and over again. What is needed is a better way to show and persist answers to those questions.

    My pet peeve with blogs is their lack of built-in search engine. How is it that you guys are expecting google to index? The way google works make this assertion contradictory.

  8. josh says:

    Yup, we need a blog search engine. 🙂

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