Communities @ Microsoft

Aaron Overton, the Windows Server community guy, has
a blog
. I particularly liked his
of the state of microsoft communities compared to linux communities -
we have a ways to go.

I think that Microsoft-related communities will always
be different and approach things in different ways from those of our competitors.
We have things like the MVP program,
which I think makes sense for us, but doesn't for the linux model. The MVPs are
an incredibly important part of our community - I've seen linux advocates spurn the
program and talk about how it's just Microsoft's way of avoiding listening to customers.
Quite the opposite! The MVPs are a focused channel for us to help understand our customers more -
each MVP touches hundreds if not thousands of customers, and can act as 'human aggregators'
to help us better understand what problems our customers are having. It's not scalable
for me to talk to each of those thousands of customers myself, but I can talk to my
few dozen MVPs and get their feel on what's wrong and what's right.

I was in an executive review yesterday discussing communities,
and he kept emphasizing an important point: Participate not just to answer, but
to ask
. At first, I didn't really get this - after all, isn't it better if I'm
helping the customers by answering their questions? But later in the day, I had an
opportunity to practice what he preached - in the middle of helping a customer on
a mailing list with an Exchange question, I asked a question about how his
users felt about something... I am looking forward to the response, and plan on taking
advantage of other opportunities in the future to ask questions and get more feedback
in this way.

On a related note, Church
of the Customer
 and John Porcaro are
two other blogs I regularly read related to customers and community.

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