C# Community reviews

One of my responsibilities on the team is to manage our community process. In C# we put an emphasis on having our team interact with the community – external customers, MVPs, internal users etc. We find that this brings our team closer to the customer – we understand their pain points more and eventually help push their feedback into the product more. We’ve seen this a couple of times already from our PM’s in conversations that go like: “Hey guys, the schedule is looking tight, can we think about cutting those changes to the widget feature?”. “Shaykat, you are out of your mind. Our MVP’s have said they want more kerfuffles on widgets plus its got 34 votes on the feedback site. Its a major pain point for our customers-  Cyrus got at least 25 comments on his blog posts about the internal anatomy of widgets.”. Theres not much you can say to that.

Anyway, its still an interesting process on how to do a great job on community, since we have a large community and a small team. We have broken out the community into areas owned by individual PM’s, with one overall driver (me). So one PM owns our relationship with the MVP’s, another owns our Newsgroups responses, a third our overall blogging story etc. In addition we work with Marketing and the MSDN team to make sure our marketing initiatives and the MSDN C# page are all in sync with our pushes.

To really emphasize community we ask PM’s to set montly goals – and we collect these at the end of the month and communicate what we’ve done. Additionally we have a quarterly review with our PUM Scott, where we discuss what we did the last three months, and where we plan to go. This review is coming up next week and Im working on putting some slides together for it. One of the big items we want to do this time, is get metrics that track our community goals. In general we tend to say stuff like “We want to blog more”  but its hard unless we have a specific measurable goal to strive for. No goal would be fully accurate or imply that we are doing the right thing, but we are pretty sure we can pick something that gets us in the area of customer goodness.

One thing I’ll try to figure out for this review – our team doesnt really scale to do community well. We have limited resources and a huge number of community tasks we can do- what do we do? As Scott Nonnenberg on our team suggestswe to prioritize our community work. I’m looking to come up with a plan of prioritizing certain community activities for certain parts of the product. For e.g. – with the upcoming B2 release, it makes sense for us to focus on cool content for customers.

Anyway, back to collection and ordering of slides.


Comments (4)

  1. Jeff Parker says:

    You know as an avid fan of the blogs, all msdn blogs not just the C# ones, C#, .net in general and a .net user group board member. I have a concern about this.

    What makes the blogs great I think is the freedom for the guys to do what they want and talk about what they want and to interact with us. What concerns me is when you start putting metrics on blogging and blogging becomes part of your job then it is no longer fun and not something you do because you want to, but because you have to.

    I think that is one of the attractions of blogging and the especially the C# team blogs is they do it because they enjoy it, they enjoy talking about the things they do the are excited and no one really grades them on it but the readers. I am on the board for my local .net user group because it is fun. I enjoy it. We do not make money at it. It is just us guys that love code love .net getting together every month and talking about it and learning new things. That’s why I read the blogs as well. Because they are fun and full of knowledge. Also using Cyrus as an example his posts on building models is interesting as well, and I replied there as I build models as well. Us geeks do other things and well and every time I see an interruption to my normal blog reading of technical details I see real people. So please be careful when "Grading" or making blogs part of reviews.

    I have been an avid fan of the MSDN blogs for well over a year this is one thing I think might well be left alone by marketing, reviews, what ever. Just let your bloggers do their thing. Encourage new bloggers, and encourage blogging but don’t make goals and grade and scores for it. While it is my opinion but I think it then might not be fun anymore.

  2. Can I sit in on your review? I promise I will say nothing but nice things =)

    *fingers crossed*

    See you in two weeks!

  3. Joku says:

    I agree with Jeff. Of course some generic measuring is good, but I think that if anyone is doing community interaction on the premise of being ‘forced’ or looked negatively upon if they do not, then communication from people who feel that way may come out sounding like that too.

    And I am not that sure what good will setting monthly goals in community related stuff will do. Perhaps MS knows what they are doing, but there certainly are examples where short term goal driving has not been beneficial to long term goals.

  4. Tod says:

    Jeff puts it very well, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. Just suffice it to say that as a person in the process of learning C# I find the team’s blogs very interesting. I appreciate the simple fact that they write them and are so open-minded to questions/suggestions/requests from readers.

    I also think it’s interesting that your group puts so much emphasis on communication with your user community (blogging, msdn, etc.). This is a great example of where we need to head as a company versus as individuals who work for MS. Keep up the good work!