Charles Carroll complains about Microsoft employees (ASP.NET folks) not posting to his forums yet admits that they were overcommitted even for their own developer community website. Being one of the developer community oriented folks for my team I know what the situation looks like from the other side. The major problem is that we have way too many users and way too few people with enough knowledge to answer certain classes of questions. In some situations only the devs, testers and PMs can answer in-depth questions about how the technology works but once you spread them out to answering questions on internal lists, Microsoft newsgroups, Microsoft websites, et al then their a significant part of their time at work is just spent answering questions instead of doing their regular jobs.

Various teams have been experimenting with different ways to tackle this issue including having the whole team rotate on answering questions or having dedicated question answerers. Even then neither of these approaches can handle covering every possible forum about Microsoft products or participating strongly in many communities. Thus teams have to pick and choose where they spend their minimal resources in participating in developer communities. I personally wish it was otherwise and have been doing my part internally to get more folks on my team active in our developer community but there is only so much that can happen.

Note that the situation I am describing is a completely different dynamic from paid support whose workings I am completely ignorant off.

Charles Carroll also rails against the Microsoft MVP Program which I've had significant interactions with recently while [successfully] getting the XML MVP Category added. The bias in the MVP program which he points out may exist and if it does it probably is for a reason related to my previous points. Keeping track of the quantity and quality of the posters to all Microsoft newsgroups is already a significant activity and stretching that to include all sundry mailing lists about Microsoft products is asking to overtax resources. The best thing to do in such situations where people feel their contributions in an unmonitored forum is worthy of MVP status is to a.) get in touch with the product team [this may be hard but there is always at least one MS employee on a related MS newsgroup] and b.) demonstrate how they've been active in the developer community. The latter may be tougher part. Simply sending an email with "I'm active in mailing list foo but there's no online archive so you have to take my word for it" is an example of what not to do.

Finally and much to my surprise, the MVP program likes people who've been consistently active over time and is unlikely to award people based on two or three months of activity. At first I was annoyed by this since there were many excellent posters who don't qualify but later realized that this makes sense because when building a community you should go for rewarding longevity in participation not flashes in the pan.

Disclaimer:The above comments are my opinions and do not reflect the opinions, plans, strategies or intentions of my employer



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