MS Openness and MVPs/RDs/trainers/authors…


I just happened across this blog post from Randy Holloway (http://weblogs.asp.net/rholloway/archive/2003/11/04/35707.aspx)


 


I’ve been thinking about this from a slightly different perspective.  As we do a better job in being open with information about upcoming products, responding to feedback, getting bits out earlier, I wonder how it impacts our “special” customers – MVPs, RDs, writers, trainers.  


 


The perspective I’ve been thinking from has to do with “privileges”.  Think of a spectrum with MS-internal at one end and the public at the other.  As you move from internal to public, you have fewer privileges.  Internal people can read/write product functionality from day 1, the public gets to read it historically very late in the dev cycle.  Same with things like specs, bug reporting, etc..  “Special” customers (sorry, I can’t think of a better word – best isn’t right, top – vs. bottom?, influential – sometimes) fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, with more privileges than the public but less than most internal people.  


 


In many ways what we’ve done in recent months is taken the privileges that “special” customers had, and make them public.  We’re being much more open about product features, we’re moving towards making pre-release builds publicly available, etc..  And I don’t think we’ve replaced what we’ve “taken away” from this group with new privileges that only internal people had before.  (Although there are a few examples, for example there are C# MVPs contributing to the C# FAQ on the MSDN Dev Center).  


 


I’m currently assessing our community priorities for the next year, and I think addressing this “special” class of customer is one of them.  Some of the ideas we’ve talked about include:


         moving more internal privileges over, e.g. maybe MVPs can see test cases (or if everyone can see them, MVPs get read/write access)


         being more responsive.  Presumably, as we give people better mechanisms for contacting us, submitting bugs/suggestions, etc., we’ll get to a point where we have to prioritize/triage who we respond to first.  We could consciously be more responsive for this group.


         Giving people roles in implementing some of the more challenging ideas.  For example, I posted earlier about possibly having MVPs vote on daily builds, to give customers more information when trying to decide whether builds are worth installing.


 


These ideas are mostly MS-centered though – how these people can be involved in what we’re doing.  I’m excited about them, and we’ll do at least some of them.  But Randy’s post helped me recognize how MS-centered I was being.  What are the ways that we can help these customers be more successful?  These are incredibly capable people and I want to make sure they continue to have opportunities around MS products and technology (so they don’t go Elsewhere).  Here’s one random idea along those lines – they get to have MS personnel accompany them on a sales call (or at a training), no-questions-asked, once a year.  I’m sure people outside can come up with much better ideas than I can though, hence the post.  


 


So, at a broad level, here are the two questions:


         has the openness (what Randy called The New Microsoft) been uniformly positive, or have there been unintended/unforeseen negative consequences?


         When bits/info/contact info are generally available, what other things can we do to make MVPs/RD/trainers/authors successful?  


 


P.S.  I apologize if you’ve tried to contact me in the past few weeks and I’ve been unresponsive.  We went on a two week driving trip down to Joshua Tree National Park, and I’m just digging out.  That’s a very cool place, and really fun after my sons realized that stepping out of the car didn’t mean instant rattlesnake bite/scorpion sting.  I’d love to spend a couple months climbing there sometime.  This time I got to do just enough to get scraped knees and remember how important getting my forearms in shape can be.  I also stumbled upon the Gram Parsons “memorial”.  I knew it was there somewhere but I literally happened upon it wandering around one of the rock formations.  I wonder how many grievious angel fans are reading this – can’t be many 🙂  … 


Comments (8)

  1. Steven Collier [MVP] says:

    As an MVP I find your query quite bizare. The implication that MVP’s might see a downside in the ‘insiders’ talking publically is weird, I certainly don’t see my MVP award meaning I’m a go between, and any credibility does not come from inside knowledge. At the moment we infrequently get allowed access to NDA material, but this is totally useless, disclosing stuff is what we do.

    Where I think MS Product teams miss on opportunities is in using MVPs as sources of information INTO your product teams. We are generally geeky rather than businessy, but the community has a huge insight into using your products in the real world.

  2. Chris Garty says:

    The new openness is excellent for everybody. I can’t see any downside other than competitors being able to keep up easier. But Microsoft has such great momentum that I don’t see that as a problem.

    Just keep incresing the frequency of the previews. Doing so allows solutions providers to ramp up even before the official release.

    Be sure to check out how the guys at JetBrains run their EAP for ideas (http://www.jetbrains.com/resharper/) 🙂

    – Chris

  3. Mark Cliggett [MS] says:

    Steven: I agree on the point about doing a better job pulling info into the product teams from MVPs. We are inconsistent on that – some teams do better than others. But overall we can all do a lot better.

    Sorry to ask bizarre questions 🙂 What I’m doing is extrapolating out to a time when all customers have clear mechanisms for providing feedback/input throughout the cycle, and we’re doing a good job being responsive to that input. (Admittedly, that’s a ways in the future.) In that world, what extra things should we be doing for MVPs? Raising the bar higher on what we do with their bugs/suggestions (e.g. if it’s a marginal fix/postpone, maybe we just fix it because it is an MVP – and track to ensure that fix rates for MVP-submitted bugs are at least as high as for bugs coming from the public). Responding faster? Giving them very clear escalation paths and encouraging free use of them?

    The basic question is "what do you want more of, and if we give that those things to the public, are there still more things?"

    Chris: Thanks for the pointer to jetbrain – it’s at least the 2nd one. I’m going to go look now.

  4. Amr Essam says:

    I develop with both C# and VB.NET, but I like VB.NET to be better because I am old VB developer.

    I just installed VS.NET 2005 (Technology Preview), and this my prompt feedback

    ——————————————————————————

    I surprised that I found productive feature in C# and not

    in VB.NET, this features:

    1) Refactoring

    I tried Refactoring in C#, It is really very productive

    feature.

    2) IntelliSense/Auto Completion (Keywords)

    Now only in C# debugger feel the Language keywords like

    (private, public, foreach …), and auto complete it to

    you.

    However VB.NET have longer Keywords such as (MustInherit,

    NotInheritable,.)

    —————————————————————————-

    I dreamt that I can find these features in VS.NET, but

    unfortunately I frustrated when I found this feature in C#

    not VB.NET ?

    Microsoft always say that it concentrate on Productivity

    features in VB.NET, How does VB.NET 2005 lack these

    very productive features ?!

    Looking forward for your reply.

    Amr Essam

    http://www.Verizon.com

    Consultant & Team Lead

    MCSDT + MCT

    Dallas, Texas

  5. Steven Collier [MVP] says:

    My personal opinion is that we MVPs take information that is publically available and use it to help our fellow customers with their issues. In many cases we can bring real world experience and opinion, unfettered by what the correct thing to say from MS would be.

    Also remember the MVP award is retrospective, there are plently folk answering questions and helping others who have not been awarded yet, they require the same level of access to material as MVPs.

    You are correct that the interaction from product groups is patchy, my speciality really seems to keep us at arms length, while others engage in a great level of dialog. I do get annoyed when a service pack gets released and the like without them even send us a message to let us know about it. The first we hear can be when someone asks about it in a news group.

    There is a bigger and more important issue around the early release of code and how this effects MVPs ability to help customers of released products through the appropriate newsgroups. When SharePoint 2 was released to public preview there was no route provided for discussion or comment, so the newsgroup was packed with people asking V2 questions, my personal knowledge was about 6 months short of being able to help.

    I don’t know what gain MS get from these preview releases, but to me it’s not worth it.