The Value of Making Yourself Available to the Community

One goal that my team is looking at pushing within the Developer Division is that every PUM (Large team leader) make themselves available to their customer communities through having a blog.  In addition to the feeling that blogging is really the industry standard for cooperate transparency there is value in simply making yourselves available to your community.  I offer the following, shameless self promotion, as a good example of the value of becoming available to the community.
...I sent an email to Josh Ledgard through his blog contact form. I had noticed him promoting the Visual Studio power toys (which are covered throughout the book) and in general trying to promote the community around Visual Studio. Josh responded to my email and from that point was an invaluable asset while writing this book. Just a short list of some of the things Josh helped me with:

  • Reviewing the outline and providing valuable feedback and suggestions.
  • Reviewing a large portion of the book, providing corrections, feedback, and suggestions.
  • Answering every email I sent him, and if he didn't know the answer he referred me to another person who did.

One of the cool side effects of so many Microsoft people blogging is that Josh could point me to a blog instead of having to provide me with a direct email. Why does this matter? I know when I was in a large corporation I was always hesitant to pass other's email address out to external people... but with a blog I could use the contact form.

I was also able to use blogs to contact a large number of other Microsoft people, including Andy Pennell , Scott Nonnenberg , Sara Ford , Adam Nathan , and more. I can't tell you how valuable it was to be able to talk to the people who wrote the feature or tool I was covering, especially since some of the features I was writing about were still under development and changing. (One person sent me the one note notes from their meeting on upcoming changes, how cool is that?)

Even though my experience with Microsoft on this started out on a sour note, it ended very differently. The fact that these people were blogging made them available to me, without the blogs I would have struggled on and wrote the book without any of this support from Microsoft. So the next time someone asks me why it is good for companies like Microsoft blog I have a real answer.

I also feel that, as a result, the book that James would have published regardless... ended up being a much improved resource for it's intended audience and Visual Studio customers in general.