Actively Listening @ Tech-Ed to Customers on Community

I attended Tech-Ed for the first time this year. My mission was to talk to as many people as possible in person about the community tools Developer Division has been leveraging to converse with customers.  I just finished posting the quotes and notes I was able to take away from these discussions. In all I'd guess that I had good conversations with around 30 separate people. 

I would have liked to have had a chance to get them in the same room at the same time, but the word of mouth approach to focus group advertising let me down a bit.  So I instead made sure to accost as many people as would talk to me as possible while I was walking around the event.  If you are one of those people I thank you for your time. I'm horrible with business cards and names so you'll have to settle for this less than personal thank you. :-)

Here are the links to the detailed notes and some choice excerpts from entries. 

Tech-Ed Notes on Customer Perception of Microsoft

  • “Windows stopped work on longhorn to service XP with XPSP2. Where was the same effort from developer tools to stop work on Whidbey to fix pain points in 1.1/VS2003?”
  • Maybe it’s because this was a Microsoft sponsored event, but people I talked to didn’t agree with the “evil empire” image.  The consensus seemed to be that those days are over for most customers that don’t include Slashdot posters.
  • We don’t do a good job of highlighting the innovations we do make. 

Tech-Ed Notes on Multimedia Community Content

  • “I showed my boss the Channel9 site and he couldn't believe it was an official Microsoft site and that you would let crazy people run up and down the halls scaring people with a video camera “
  • “I like the 5 minute how to information you get in some screencasts and demos”

Tech-Ed Notes on Employee Biographies

  • “If I read an MSDN article I enjoyed I might click on the authors name. At that point it would be cool to see that persons list of other articles, their blog posts, their forum posts, and the bugs they’ve fixed in the product. If they had that information they would be more worthwhile”
  • “I didn’t know they existed”
  • “They need to be more visible if you make them useful”

Tech-Ed Notes on the MSDN Product Feedback Center

  • Our responses; the time to, quality of, etc have the ability to completely color the experience above any of the end results.
  • “Why don’t you put the current expected wait for replies and recent bug fix % on the site to set expectations?”
  • “there really needs to be more emphasis on putting these bugs into service packs for the product after you ship” 

Tech-Ed Notes on Community Tech Previews

  • We need a faster, more scalable, solution for users that want to play with our builds more frequently. Most people agreed that they would be willing to support a P2P distribution model, but not a pay-for download model that they perceive the current MSDN subscriber limitation as.  The third pain point is the install process. Its too long and old builds don't uninstall.

Tech-Ed Notes on the MSDN Forums

  • By far the biggest gripe was around the lack of a good offline story for reading the forums with all of the meta-data they contain.
  • “The Q/A tagging makes it really easy to filter out the signal from the noise in a thread.”
  • “Lurk before you leap is dead” We need to do a better job heading off duplicate questions that people perceived as having a negative impact on the newsgroups.

Positive Blog Impressions

  • "The employee blogs are the most innovative thing out of Microsoft in years."
  • "If we didn’t know about upcoming product changes (like in the past) we wouldn’t know what suggestions to offer Microsoft"
  • "I’ve connected with several people at Microsoft through their blogs and it has made a real difference in the work that I do"

Negative Blog Impressions

  • "What are blogs" or "I don't have time to read all the posts every day" - This is discoverability. IMO the lack of good post discoverability is something that creates a high barrier to entry.
  • "Blogs are great, but you should focus on answering people's questions"
  • "The awe will die down - a lot of the initial hype of "ooohhh" I can talk to MS people will dissipate as it becomes more common." At that point we'll be judged more our content and usefulness than the uniqueness that we get kudos for today. 

I did my best to accurately capture your statements as close as to how you spoke them to me with my pen and paper.    If you know you are someone that said one of these things to me and you think I misunderstood what you said… please let me know.  In hindsight I should have used my smartphone to record the conversation, but that’s something I learned for next time.

I also moderated a BOF discussion with a few individuals on Microsoft’s role in the community, but I didn’t take notes because I didn’t want it to be a focus group. I was more interested in the discussion that we had and it would be hard to accurately represent that and impossible to recreate it. :-)

What I’m going to do, hopefully soon, is set up an online survey to get some of the more quantitative feedback that I think this type of ad-hoc analysis is missing.