So Valentine's Day is almost upon us, and before people start singing odes to their XBoxes or significant others (or both) I think I have to pay tribute to that most funny Valentine of all, Gotdotnet.

People have speculated as to whether Gotdotnet.com is a male or female Web site.  I've seen blog/rants calling it "Dear Dot" like it was some jilted chick <eyeroll>, but I've always seen this site as male because of the logo. With all apologies to Chris M. since he's not had the chance to redesign the thing since it was last up there, that's a way dude logo in my eyes. No I'm not going to say why. Think about it.

As we all know, from reading the last blog post and others, my job is not only to fix Gotdotnet, but to answer every email that comes through the GDN feedback email, except for porno, spammers, and the occasional crazy person. Setting aside the epistles I don't answer, the ones I do answer have this amazing resonance to them. I've worked in newspapers and I can deal with expletives, even in foreign tongues. But contrary to what you might think, Gotdotnet's mail is not all cranky. And even the ones who start off cranky, sometimes don't end up cranky.

This has been covered before in this Thanksgiving-related post so I won't go in-depth into the mailbag, but I am also convinced that there's something going on out there - where YOU are - that goes beyond customer service typical interactions. (And folks it has nothing to do with me - I'm sure if they put me through customer support perky training I'd flunk royally. This is all about you and your mojo. You are doing something and interacting with something bigger than "just a Web site," and we over here at Microsoft need to know more about that).

I've answered  the ContactUs email from MSDN, and it can be irritable too, but it has nowhere near the level of personal offense that people take when they talk about Gotdotnet - nor also, the level of personal thanks. MSDN, let's face it, is a Microsoft-branded site and has been a bastion of technology education long before Gotdotnet hit the scene. If customers are going to be offended that  Microsoft is not doing its job, you'd think they'd scream louder when MSDN fails in some way to meet their expectations. But it's Gotdotnet that rides the rollercoaster, it's Gotdotnet that sparks the flywheel. People are MORE offended - from the anecdotal evidence - when Gotdotnet falls down, both inside and outside the company. And not like the hardware/server stuff hasn't given them fodder for disappointment...but there's a passion around this site that's very different.

Here's my theory, and I'd welcome feedback on it since at this point I'm just a brain in a vat - you guys know best. My theory is that perhaps reluctantly, mysteriously, quietly, perhaps exuberantly (at the beginning), giddily, sorrowfully, humorously/ruefully (that one's me btw), angrily, rampantly - people fell in love with Gotdotnet, in spite of themselves, perhaps against better judgment (since it's always run beta mode since the beginning), or perhaps with the secret confidence that sites like these are what change the world - or very large software companies.

The Great Loves of our lives are never the simple ones. The One We Will Always Remember wasn't one like any other one out there, perhaps a person who never played things safe, perhaps a person who had erratic moments, perhaps a person whose personality peeled back like an onion, always new complexities as you go down the stack(you didn't think I'd give all this poetry without giving up some for the geek contingent did you? think again).

Yes, me and the team are working on fixing Gotdotnet, whose servers' capriciousness have already caused late nights and heartache. Since for me GDN's a he -- "He" will stop being such a bad boy, be much reformed in the months to come in terms of reliability and er, performance. (Ahem).  But I suspect that the fire and heart put into the site from the beginning - and the fact that it's taken largely grassroots support to keep it going both inside and outside Microsoft - is what carries Gotdotnet to a new possibility of relationship. With you, the customer, developer, and friend. It's going to take all of us to put Gotdotnet back together again. Hope you are up for it, 'cause that's where we are going.

Live it vivid!

B