Takeaways from the MVP Summit

Another MVP Summit has come and gone.  Maybe it was the fact that I was busy moving the weekend before it started, but wow, it just seemed to fly by!  I had the opportunity to meet with some great MVPs that I've been working with in the forums, sit in on the Microsoft.com community team's discussion about forums (thanks Alan!), and attend a few C# community sessions (thanks Charlie!)  Here are a few takeaways I got from listening to MVPs talk about community (and online discussion in particular):

  • Offline Support in Forums Must Happen - Many, many MVPs love NNTP--they've been using newsgroups for over a decade, and they weren't thrilled with my insistence that forums are the wave of the future.  Why not?  Because MVPs contribute a huge volume of posts to online discussions, and the "click-and-wait" style of our web forums is awful for them to try and be as prolific.  I agree.  First step:  we're fixing the broken RSS feeds in the forums.  Longer term:  the Microsoft.com Communities Team heard the message loud and clear...I'm hoping there's a real solution for offline support in forums in the future.
  • Our community channels are disconnected - The MSDN Forums don't integrate with the Developer Centers on MSDN.  You have to go to Connect to file a bug and the forums to ask a question.  Only Microsofties can have blogs on blogs.msdn.com, but there are MVPs that have blogs on weblogs.asp.net.  Channel9 is completely separate from the MSDN Forums.  What's going on here?  It was clear after hearing this a couple of times that integrating the channels more closely is wanted.  We also need to talk more to the other teams doing "community"...
  • I'll give you feedback...but you better act on it - I'll thank Nick for this feedback.  We've asked for feedback on the forums time and time again--for the NNTP sync that we had setup, for a never-really-released offline client solution for the forums, and for the forums themselves.  We have done a terrible job looping back with the people who have given up their own time to help us make our products better.  If we are going to fix a bug in the forums, we should let people know when and how.   If we aren't going to fix the bug, we should say why.  Simply saying "thanks for the feedback, we hope to fix this soon" is just a polite way of telling somebody to buzz off.  If we expect to build trust in the community, the first step is taking real action on their feedback.