The Role of Microsoft Employees in our Forums

Recently, a forum moderator asked for some clarification from me in the moderators forum, and I'd like to respond to his question publicly.  His post was quite eloquent and long, but his question could be summed up with:

Why are there tons of Microsoft employees in certain technology forums and none in others? Why are the product support technicians only in particular areas, while other forums suffer with even lower answer rates?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and try to answer this in the most transparent way I can.  Here's the answer:

Role of Product Support Technicians

Yes, we have started a team in our product support group that is tasked to just help out on the forums.  Unfortunately, we only have the headcount and expertise on that team to cover the "major" technology areas--things like the programming languages (C#, VB) and UI technologies (ASP.NET, WinForms).  They are hiring for some of the other forums, but we can't hire for every possible forum we are creating (we're still nearly at one new forum a week!)

Developer Division Forums v. Others

Developer Division has a formal commitment around the health and quality of the forums.  I personally send out biweekly status mails and do whatever I can to try and bring teams that aren't answering questions in the forums back into the fold.  Forums that aren't owned by Developer Division teams don't get that "stick" approach, and my team doesn't always have enough cross-divisional muscle to make sure they are participating.  Sometimes they are great, sometimes they are not so great.  And, once again, the product support technicians are currently only concentrating on the Developer Division forums with the highest volume of questions right now.

Product Cycles

This is the hardest one.  Different teams go "heads-down" at different times as they push to make a release.  Sometimes things are sane, and teams have the bandwidth to spend a few minutes in the forums every day answering questions.  If things get a little bit nuts, well, they might not think about the forums for a few weeks.  It's lousy, but it's a reality that we've all dealt with from time to time--sometimes you're so swamped that it's everything you can do to just keep your head above water.